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Chester's first virtual reality centre open for business

Chief reporter David Holmes has a sneak preview of centre that opens on Saturday, September 9

Given the state of the real world it’s great to escape to a virtual world that is nothing but fun and mind-blowing...an almost hallucinogenic experience (I imagine), reports David Holmes.

Putting on the headset in the new Virtual Reality Escapes centre in Upper Northgate Street, Chester , means entering a 3D cartoon world but one that feels natural in which you move instinctively.

Wow!

Business owner Matt Caplan warms me up with an archery game in which I have to stop invaders getting into my castle by firing at them with my bow and arrows. I quickly learn how to draw back the arrow on the bow using the left and right hand controllers and within seconds this is my world.

The Virtual Reality Escapes centre in Upper Northgate Street, Chester, opens on Saturday, September 9, at 10am.

Virtual reality tricks the brain into thinking what is in front of you is real – the clue is in the title – so much so that it can be quite scary a times. In Richie’s Plank I walk into a lift, press the button using the controller and the doors open to reveal a plank jutting out from a skyscraper hundreds of feet above the ground.

Matt then makes me ‘walk the plank’ in what in hindsight feels like a secret personality test. I prove myself a coward as I cautiously edge myself out on the plank – in actuality I’m shuffling along the floor in the former Royal House pharmacy. But I daren’t go to the end. Matt invites me to jump off. But I won’t. I’m rigid and I eventually make my way back towards the ‘safety’ of the lift. Next please!

Alex Robinson, manager of the Virtual Reality Escapes centre in Upper Northgate Street, Chester.

But he’s not making it any easier. Now I’m aboard a roller-coaster that is so realistic I’m wobbling as I try to keep my balance. I sit down to steady myself, worried I will fall over, but it doesn’t end well as my head gets decapitated cartoon-style.

It’s not all scary by any means. In Fruit Ninja all you have to do is chop fruit that pops up and momentarily hangs in the air as you win points for slicing it with imaginary Samurai swords. Tremendous fun.

There are video experiences where you are immersed in a new environment – for example, deep under the ocean and eyeball-to-eyeball with sea creatures like the blue whale. Other films even allow you to interact with your surroundings.

There is something for everyone here.

The unusual and fun nature of the experience may be enough for those of us not into ‘shoot em up’ style games. While thrill-seeking teens may want dinosaurs, zombies and space battles and the centre has such games in abundance.

Alex Robinson, manager of the Virtual Reality Escapes centre in Upper Northgate Street, Chester, with business owner Matt Caplan.

The Virtual Reality Escapes centre is the first such place in Chester and one of the largest in the region with six booths where gamers can either play individually or be networked into the same game. This means it’s great for corporate events like team-building.

Owner Matt, who used to run a travel company aimed at festival-goers, said: “As soon as I put the headset on, you know. You know it’s the future, you know it’s the interface that everyone will use to interact with their computers in future.”

The centre opens at 10am tomorrow (Saturday, September 9) and will be open from 10am until 10pm seven days per week. The introductory offer price during the first week is discounted by 50% – £10 for half a hour and £20 for an hour. There will be offers for students.

For more details, visit the website by clicking here .

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