Two VR games are now available in the Harry Potter NYC store, and here’s how they work
Since, anyone who was lucky enough to walk into the limited capacity Harry Potter store in New York was treated to a visually stunning experience. But from July 15, two new sections of the store will open to explore on location, but in virtual reality – Harry Potter: Chaos at Hogwarts and Harry Potter: Wizards Soar. I was invited to take a look at these experiences and learned what it takes to build these experiences for such a large audience.
Adding Virtual Reality to the HP NYC Store
While the middle floor of the huge store is devoted to shopping, on the upper and lower floors there are two rooms dedicated to virtual reality. If you go up the stairs, you end up in Chaos at Hogwarts. If you look down you’ll see the hallway to Wizards Take Flight. Each experience is designed to support up to six people at a time, although during this early rollout games are limited to four people at a time.
Warner Bros. has teamed up with famous virtual reality creators WeVR and Dreamscape, the team behind Dreamworks Dragons Flight Academy and Curse of the Lost Pearl, among other popular attractions, to create these games. You each start by entering a prep room, where you equip yourself with trackers on your limbs and ato power the headset. For these games, Dreamscape uses HP Reverb G2 headsets with HP Z VR PC backpacks. Add all of these tech together, and each person carries around $ 4,000 worth of gear before counting the Combat Rod and Sitting Broom to fly.
Harry Potter NYC staff allow anyone over the age of 10 and over 48 inches (~ 1.2m) to participate in the 10-15 minute VR games, each taking about an additional ten minutes to prepare. When you make an appointment for any of these games, you are allowed to bypass the long queue to enter the store and shop at your leisure afterwards. 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 installed per trip through the game.
Mechanically there is a lot going on here, but the staff are more than ready to answer any questions or help you if something goes wrong during setup or in-game. If you’ve ever experienced a Dreamscape installation or Void VR, this process will sound very familiar to you.
Practice with Harry Potter: Chaos at Hogwarts
As soon as your admission ticket is accepted, you are led up a flight of stairs (or instructed to use the Floo Network style elevator if you need to) and find yourself in a model King’s Cross station. The iconic clock, lighting, and ticker board with upcoming trains are immediately familiar, with a few magical references scattered around. This selfie area eventually leads down a hallway to a staging platform where you settle in for the game.
Chaos at Hogwarts requires a tracker on each foot, a tracker on each hand, the backpack, and the VR headset, and once you’re in the room, you’re handed a wand. Like everything else inside the Dreamscape VR room, I was not allowed to take photos of the wand. Before you put the headphones on, it’s clear that this dark room full of little blue lights is set up to offer a ton of different sensory simulations to enhance what you see.
As the name and the entrance to King’s Cross suggest, the game begins when you cross platform 9 3/4 with your cart, where you find Dobby the house elf on the other side who needs some help. ‘help. He takes you straight to Hogwarts to help him capture a handful of creatures he accidentally let out of a suitcase that looks a lot like Newt Scamander’s suitcase from the Fantastic Beasts movies. From Cornish Pixies and a troublesome Niffler, to a big grumpy dragon, your goal in this game is to walk through Hogwarts and cast spells to help Dobby get those critters back.
As you walk around Hogwarts, you can feel some fantastic things from the real world to make everything feel more real. The wind blows when you are in secret hallways, the ground shakes as the stairs move you from place to place, and if you are near water, chances are you can smell the spray. hit you a bit. It’s a lot of subtle little things that all come together to really get you involved in the game.
Unlike the interactive wand experiences at Wizarding World theme park or even Harry Potter’s universal remote, you cast spells by reaching the wand over your shoulder and then snapping your arm forward while calling the spell. that you want to launch. Because Dreamscape hand trackers sit on your hand and aren’t something you hold, you never really feel like you’re holding the wand in your hand if you’re looking down. Also, my experience was obscured because COVID-19 exists even in the Wizarding World, so my muffled speech had a slight but noticeable impact on my ability to cast the right spell every time.
While the other three wizards in my party were quite capable on their own, the end we reached together was not one of resounding victory. In fact, there are several endings to this game depending on how well your team is performing. My only advice here is to work together as much as possible and communicate to get it right the first time.
Practice with Harry Potter: Wizards Fly
Once your ticket is accepted, you exit the Harry Potter store and enter the Quidditch locker rooms to get settled. You take your manual trackers out of the locker and put your personal belongings in their place before being brought into the VR space. As soon as you walk through the door, you’re greeted with six brooms that you can sit on with a VR headset next to them. Each broom has a comfortable saddle you can sit on, and the broomstick can be pulled up or down for easy tilt-based navigation. Once you put the helmet on, it’s easy to see that there is a wand hidden under the broom so you can use it later.
The VR game starts with you being invited to fly over the grounds of Hogwarts to get your bearings and learn how to fly your broomstick, and this little intro is honestly worth the whole trip. You can explore the entire terrain, from the Quidditch pitch to the Astronomy Tower, and even risk getting run over by the Womping Willow. It doesn’t take long to lean left and right while pulling or pushing the broom handle to feel completely natural, which is great because a minute or two after starting the experiment, Dobby the house distracts your stroll.
You are immediately transported to Knockturn Alley, where Dobby meets Hagrid to verify this secret project. Hagrid has picked up something special and must deliver it to Hogwarts, but there are dozens of Death Eaters arriving quickly to stop him. You fly alongside him, wand ready, and quickly defend him with a combination of Stupefy and Protego spells. Wave after wave of baddies fly towards you, and you must keep casting spells through real and real wind and rain and enemy fire until you finally reach your destination. Before the game ends, Hagrid makes it clear that he needs to run around and help Dobby with a different problem, which you’ll fully understand if you’ve played Chaos at Hogwarts before.
As fun as the start of this game is with all the freedom of movement, much of the actual story puts your flying broomstick on track. This lack of freedom is not only restrictive, it is likely to cause mild motion sickness in sensitive players because you are not the one in control. And like the other Harry Potter VR game, playing masked can cause issues with spell accuracy.
Adding whimsy to retail
Every part of the Harry Potter NYC store is a lot of fun, but these two VR games are definitely worth the trip. The store charges $ 34 per person to reserve one of these games, and you can only reserve one at a time. Groups of four can book together, and making an appointment means you can bypass the line, but you’re unlikely to experience both VR games in a single day at this time. Which is odd, since the two games directly reference each other in a fun way and really encourage die-hard fans to switch between them.
If I had to choose, I would almost certainly go with Chaos to Hogwarts. While riding a broomstick is super cool, the overall experience of Wizards Take Flight requires some consistency work. On the other hand, if someone smaller and younger joins you in this VR experience, backpacking in Chaos at Hogwarts can prove to be more difficult than sitting on the broom.
Either way, the level of detail is amazing, and the fun you will have probably won’t be forgotten anytime soon.