The Empire Gets Interactive!
I was on a mission! My 16-year-old son and I jumped on the Jubilee Line, zipped across to Stratford tube station for our first visit to Westfield Stratford City. the pioneering shopping and leisure destination. It’s right next to the Olympic Park and has more than 300 stores as well as being famous for its immersive experiences. It’s a good thing our train wasn’t delayed as the forces of good in the Star Wars world were relying on us…We had been asked to visit The VOID, an amazing and innovative family destination that combines physical sets with real-time interactive effects in a Hyper-Reality playground. We were booked in to review Secrets Of The Empire, a Star Wars spinoff developed by ILMxLAB, Lucasfilm’s Immersive Entertainment division. What could be more exciting than getting down and dirty with stormtroopers and droids!!After leaving coats and bags at the cloakroom and signing a liability waiver, we were kitted out with a computer backpack and helmet – based on Oculus Rift technology according to my son the boffin – and a digital gun. And then we were whisked in for a quick briefing and given our mission.I don’t want to give too much away but our task was to capture an item from an enemy ship. We had a friendly droid leading the way and what was extraordinary was that not only did we become fully disguised as stormtroopers – but we dodged bullets that had real impact, took out the enemy as well as taking a few hits ourselves, felt the heat from the lava sea and touched things that were appearing in this VR wonderzone.As we worked our way through the various scenarios it was hard not to feel totally immersed in the world; it was even a bit scary at times but in a good way and the most fun I’ve had in a long time.It’s great that the technology has got to the point where you can inhabit these virtual environments and as my son commented: “it’s immersive, exhilarating, fast-paced, and feels like you’re in one of the films“.As with most attractions of this type, it’s not for anyone under 10 years old or under 122 cm tall, and you need to be in good health and not have high blood pressure or hypersensitivity.
Pricing varies depending on which time of day you come so if you have a large group, off-peak might make sense. Our weekday morning tickets were priced at £30 each and for an experience as enjoyable, well-designed and innovative as this, I felt it was good value. And for a family day out there are lots of places to eat and things to do at Westfield.