Since it opened a month and a half ago, everyone who has been lucky enough to walk into the limited-capacity Harry Potter store in New York has received a visually stunning experience. But starting July 15, two new sections of the store will open to explore them in situ, but in virtual reality: Harry Potter: Chaos at Hogwarts and Harry Potter: Wizards Take Flight. I was invited to take an early look at these experiences and learned what it takes to build these experiences for such a wide audience.
Add VR to the HP NYC store
While the middle floor of the department store is dedicated to shopping, upstairs and downstairs there are a couple of rooms dedicated to virtual reality. If you go up the stairs, you will find Chaos at Hogwarts. If you look down, you’ll see the hallway leading to Wizards Take Flight. Each experience is designed to support up to six people at a time, although during this initial release the games will be limited to four people at a time.
Warner Bros. has partnered with Dreamscape, the Dreamworks Dragons Flight Academy team and Curse of the Lost Pearl, among other popular attractions, to build these games. Start each one by entering a stage room, where you equip yourself with limb trackers andto power the headphones. For these games, Dreamscape uses HP Reverb G2 headphones with HP Z VR PC backpacks. Add in all this technology and each person carries about $ 4,000 in hardware before counting the combat rod and broom sitting to fly.
Harry Potter NYC staff allow participants over the age of 10 or over 48 inches (~ 1.2 m) tall to participate in 10 to 15 minute VR games, each of which requires an additional ten minutes of preparation. to prepare. When you book an appointment for one of these games, you are allowed to skip the generally long line to enter the store and shop at your disposal. If you are under 13, you must be accompanied by an adult with their own ticket. According to the website, both games are wheelchair accessible, but only one wheelchair can be accommodated per trip through the game.
Mechanically there are a lot of things here, but the staff is more than ready to resolve any questions or help if something goes wrong during preparation or play. If you have ever experienced a Dreamscape or Void VR installation, this process will be very familiar to you.
Hands with Harry Potter: Chaos at Hogwarts
As soon as the ticket is accepted to enter, you will be driven up a flight of stairs (or invited to use the elevator on the Floo network if you need to) and found at a King’s Cross station. The iconic clock, lighting and control panel with the upcoming trains are immediately familiar, with some magical references spread out. This selfie area eventually leads down a hallway to a staging platform where the game is set up.
The chaos at Hogwarts requires a tracker on each foot, a tracker on each hand, backpack and virtual reality headset, and once in the room, you’re handed a wand. Like the rest of the actual Dreamscape VR room, I was not allowed to take photos of the wand. Before you put on your headphones, it’s clear that this dark room full of little blue lights is set up to offer a lot of different sensory simulations to enhance what you see.
As its name and King’s Cross entry suggest, the game begins with you on platform 9 3/4 with the cart, where you find Dobby, the house elf who needs help. He directs you directly to Hogwarts to help him capture a handful of creatures he accidentally let out of a suitcase that closely resembles Newt Scamander’s suitcase from the Fantastic Beasts movies. From Cornish Pixies and a troubled Niffler, to a big grumpy dragon, your purpose in this game is to walk around Hogwarts and cast spells to help Dobby put these creatures back on.
As you stroll through Hogwarts, there are a couple of fantastic real-world things you can feel to make everything look more real. The wind blows when you are in secret corridors, the ground shakes as the stairs move you from place to place, and if you are near water, there is a real chance of feeling the spray hit you. a little. There are many small and subtle things that come together to really attract you to the game.
Unlike interactive wand experiences at the Wizarding World theme park or even the Harry Potter universal television remote wand, you cast spells reaching the wand over your shoulder and then nailing your arm forward as you shout spell you want to cast. Because Dreamscape manual trackers sit in your hand and aren’t something you grab, you never feel at all that you’re holding the wand in your hand if you look down. Also, my experience was masked because COVID-19 exists even in the world of magicians, so my muted speech had a gentle but noticeable impact on my ability to cast the right spell every time.
While the other three wizards in my group were capable on their own, the end we reached together was not a resounding victory. In fact, there are multiple endings in this game depending on the performance of your team. My only useful advice is to work together as much as possible and communicate to succeed the first time.
Hand in hand with Harry Potter: the magicians take flight
Once your ticket is accepted, you will be taken from the Harry Potter store to the Quidditch locker room to be installed. Take manual crawlers out of the closet and place your personal items in place before they are brought into the VR space. As soon as you walk through the door, you’re greeted by six brooms so you can sit with the VR headphones next to you. Each broom has a comfortable chair to sit on, and the broom bar can be pulled up or pushed down to aid in inclined navigation. Once the headphones are on, it’s easy to see that there’s a wand hidden under the broom for later use.
The virtual reality game begins with the invitation to fly through the Hogwarts grounds to get your pad and learn to fly your broom, and this little introduction is worth the whole trip. You can explore entire terrains, from Quidditch Field to the Astronomy Tower, and even risk being hit by the Womping Willow. It doesn’t take long to lean left and right as you pull up or push down on the broom handle to feel quite natural, which is great because one or two minutes after the Dobby’s house experience hijacks your trip.
You are then transported to Knockturn Alley, where Dobby meets with Hagrid to check out this secret project. Hagrid has grabbed something special and has to deliver it to Hogwarts, but there are dozens of Mortifers who arrive quickly to stop him. Fly to his side, get ready and quickly defend him with a combination of Stupefy and Protego spells. Wave after wave of villains fly your way and you must continue to cast spells through real wind, rain and enemy fire until you finally reach your destination. Before the game is over, Hagrid makes it clear that he needs to run and help Dobby with a different problem, which you will understand perfectly if you have already played Chaos at Hogwarts.
As much fun as the beginning of this game is with all the freedom of movement, much of the real story puts your broom flying on rails. This lack of freedom is not only restrictive, but is likely to cause mild motion sickness in sensitive players because it is not what they control. And, like the other Harry Potter VR game, playing with masks can cause problems with accurate spelling.
Add whimsical to detail
All parts of the Harry Potter NYC store are a lot of fun, but these two virtual reality games make the trip worthwhile. The store charges $ 34 per person to book one of these games and can only book one at a time. Groups of four can book together and booking an appointment means you can skip the line, but you probably won’t experience both virtual reality games at the moment. Strange thing, as the two games relate directly to each other in fun ways and really encourage the strongest fans to jump from one to the other.
If I had to choose, I would probably go with Chaos to Hogwarts. While riding a broom is great, the overall Wizards Take Flight experience needs constant work. On the other hand, if you have someone younger and younger to accompany you on this virtual reality experience, the Chaos backpack at Hogwarts can be harder than sitting on the broom.
Either way, the level of detail is amazing and the fun you have is likely not to be forgotten any time soon.