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A Flea in the Desert


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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't think the attractions I tried were using StarVR - had very limited time so I couldn't try everything.


This indoor theme park replaced Sega Republic in Dubai Mall (which I didn't know much of - I knew there was some kind of park but didn't have much desire to visit). From the few pictures I've seen of its former self since, they look to have kept a couple of rides but totally revamped everything else... and what a brilliant job they've done.

We sort of stumbled upon PVRK after walking past KidZania. The entry is incredibly impressive - it's a giant floor to ceiling curved LED wall with a top-down animation of Dubai. Physical 3D models of the buildings pop out of the screen which make for a really effective, almost imposing upside down view of the city.

Quick video of it below, along with a few others in the post - forgive me for the vertical format and shoddy recording, didn't really have a trip report in mind at the time haha

The park itself is split over two levels and is big - you could easily spend a half day here. Unfortunately we only had an hour spare before dinner so we decided to scope the park out and choose 2 attractions (approx $15 each).

For a "VR park" I wasn't expecting much in the way of theming, but each attraction has it's own stunning themed area. I can't explain how much this adds to the overall experience of VR. The only thing that's stopping it from being super immersive is the staff - would be great if they were in costume (and even acted the part a little), but instead they're surprisingly disinterested for a park that's only been open for a few weeks.

Right in the middle of the park is a huge upside-down model of Burj Khalifa. The majority of the ceiling inside also has the top-down view of Dubai, but this looks to be projected so isn't as impressive as the entry.

First up was Dubai Drone, the Gerstlauer spinner they kept for the revamp. The majority of the coaster is hidden inside. There was around 20 people in queue but, as with any coaster with VR, it crawled. 3 cars were running but ops were stacking for lengthy periods. The coaster itself is fun - surprisingly punchy layout and not as disorientating as I thought. The VR is ok but it was stuttering a lot. I'm not totally convinced on the effectiveness of fast motion paired with VR... Arkham still remains the best iteration of it though.

Here's a lights on POV of the coaster when it was known as Sonic Spingear

Payday: The VR Heist was up next. Up until this experience I was really sceptical about VR and the hype surrounding it... everything I tried lacked immersion and focus seemed to be a big unavoidable issue (for me at least).

The attraction is set in a bank and is actually very well done - attendants greet you behind teller counters and then lead you to one of 9 vaults.

Everyone gets their own vault. I think the headset was a HTC Vive - there were a number of sensors and the room was fairly big, allowing for a decent amount of space to move around and not feel too restricted. Once the headset is on you're placed into a very intuitive tutorial while waiting for other players to join.

The game itself was very, very fun. Essentially you break into a bank, shoot cops and load bags of cash into a van. The sensors allow you to move a few steps but any further and you need to press a button with the controller in the direction you want to "teleport" to. Regardless this strangely felt like a natural way to move around in the space of the game and quickly became insanely immersive. The whole experience lasts around 15 minutes.

PVRK is a seriously solid attraction in Dubai and is a must visit - even if you only have an hour spare.

Ferrari World up next.

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