July 1, 2016

The latest Ghostbusters film is set to arrive in theaters this July 15th, giving a whole new generation of filmgoers a taste of the paranormal world. Growing up in the 80s, the Ghostbusters film and cartoon franchise helped to sprinkle in a little bit of that comedy relief, to make those spooky ghosts, monsters, and poltergeists somewhat more tolerable to swallow. These paranormal experiences, whether there’s some sort of scientific validity behind them or not, will make some people question their reality either way.

What would you think if you suddenly came across an apparition? Well, that’s almost the same response that newcomers to virtual reality have when experiencing VR for the very first time. You know it’s not real, but the mind has a habit of playing tricks on you. For any of those Ghostbusters fans out there, they’ll get a kick at the new Ghostbusters: Dimension experience over at Madame Tussauds New York.

In this one-of-a-kind experience, you get to experience what it’s like being a member of the Ghostbusters team. From strapping on the suit, to being slimed by Slimer, and wielding the all-powerful proton pack, Ghostbusters: Dimension is billed as a sensory overload experience that combines interactive physical environments, real-time effects, and virtual reality, for an immersive experience like no other.

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In preparation for the highly anticipated new Ghostbusters film, Madame Tussauds New York will be opening its latest exhibit and experience starting on July 1st to the public. Through the collaboration between Sony Pictures, Ghost Corps, and The Void, Ghostbusters: Dimension is the ultimate Ghostbusters experience for fan boys – and we managed to get a sneak peek of it ahead of time.

Essentially, this “multi-sensory space” is best described as virtual reality blended with some 4D elements in an attempt to make you feel like you’re actually in the Ghostbusters universe. Before checking out this new experience, we were able to walk through the brand new Ghostbusters experience exhibit where wax figures of the new Ghostbusters crew were featured. Adding to the whole Ghostbusters theme, we’re lead through corridors filled with paranormal activities – such as wall paintings staring at us while we walk past them, a rocking chair that rocked itself, and various props used in the new film.

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Setting up the mood for the “hyper-reality” that’s to come with Ghostbusters: Dimension, the exhibit was actually put together quite well. Meticulous detail was put into the props and interactive elements, providing for a compelling atmosphere that absolutely fit the mold of the Ghostbusters franchise. At one point even, we came across our favorite green colored spud in Slimer, who was created realistically as a hologram. This interactive exhibit, in addition to the others, does a nice job of setting up for the ultimate experience.

Before suiting up and diving into the Ghostbusters: Dimension experience, a video that’s played offers up some tips about what to do in the experience. First and foremost, we were required to “suit up” by strapping on this backpack, wearing a VR helmet, and holding onto this giant-sized firing weapon – used to simulate the proton pack in the VR experience. While we would’ve loved to actually strap on a replica of the proton pack for this experience, it really didn’t matter because it was visualized as one in VR. Looking back on it now, the backpack and weapon featured brightly lit sections that we suspect are used for tracking movement.

As for the headset, it reminded us a lot of the Playstation VR headset, mainly due to how the back compartment rests on some track to quickly and easily adjust for a comfortable fit. Once we got situated with all the gear, the headset turned on and we were able to see our fellow Ghostbusters crew in VR, which in this case were two other people, making it a total of 3 people going through the experience at any given time.

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In terms of movement, we felt a little bit light footed initially, which we suspect has something to do with either the framerate or latency of the entire system. For most people, they probably won’t notice it, but we can tell that there was just a slight delay with what we were seeing in VR through the headset – versus us actually moving our legs to get to a point somewhere. It’s not bad, but something we notice nonetheless. Despite all of that, though, we never felt sick or nauseous from the experience.

This isn’t just strictly a VR thing, seeing that there’s a level of interaction that’s available throughout the experience that supplements it. For starters, there’s a door swinging slightly open before entering the first room – wherein we can see it in the VR world, as well as reaching out with our hand to actually feel it. Of course, this wouldn’t be an authentic Ghostbusters experience without using our proton packs to blast all sorts of apparitions that come up.

There’s some haptic feedback on the weapon itself as we fire it, which again helps to cement that hyper-reality experience. Interesting enough, there are also haptic motors embedded into the vest that we have on, because at one point, Slimer ends up moving towards our direction and we can “feel” him going through us. It felt more like a buzz than anything else, but we thought that it would’ve been cooler if we were “slimed” in the process.

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Without spoiling too much about what transpires in the experience, the team over at The Void supplements the experience by blowing gusts of wind, sound effects, and even smells to immerse the experience to another level that standalone VR can’t do on its own. They’re nice additions to complement the VR experience, but the graphics used by the VR game doesn’t scream anything realistic to the degree of making us feel that it was reality. In fact, the graphics reminded us a lot of the Ghostbusters: The Video Game from 2009, which at this point would look quaint in comparison to what we find in current games.

Ultimately, we face off against the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, crossing the streams of our proton packs to blow him up to kingdom come. Even with all of the sensory overload, we did notice some glitches with the game. During an encounter on a fire escape exit, we didn’t realize that we (all 3 of us), bunched up towards one side while blasting these apparitions, so due to this, my weapon seemed to float in free space in front of me. We’re guessing that we were probably close to the boundaries of the sensors in the room, or out of it entirely, which would explain this glitch.

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Okay, I’ll admit that I’m a bit jaded, having been exposed to some phenomenal VR experiences before. For the uninitiated, however, they’ll probably find Ghostbusters: Dimension to be a fun experience due to how it blends all of those alternate sensory elements with the VR world. Now, if you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum, you might come away yearning for more, feeling a bit unsatisfied. When we look at what’s on the horizon for VR, it makes the VR-only experience here elementary by comparison.

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Those eager to check this out can do so starting on July 1st, where pre-sale tickets can be fetched for $49.75 online. This includes the general admission ticket to the Madame Tussauds exhibit, the Ghostbusters experience exhibit, and the Ghostbusters: Dimension Hyper-Reality Experience. So, how can we sum up all of this? Well, it’s what we’d like to classify as the 4D experience of VR.

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