The Ocean Explorer, a virtual reality submersible, gives the viewer a deep sea experience – without getting wet. Photo: The Star/Zhafaran Nasib
Teaming up with a sharpshooter like Datuk Seri Richard Koh in Spacetime Squad can be really rewarding.
The horde of robotic destroyers flying all around does not cloud his judgment and, through the virtual reality visor, his avatar can be seen coolly picking them off systematically with his laser cannon.
This two-player game is a first person virtual reality shooter where the players are transported into a space hangar. Standing on platforms hundreds of metres in the air, the players try to wipe out whole armies of cyborg invaders and their bosses while keeping an eye out for bonus capsules that pack a wallop if they can be shot too.
Koh would, of course, be familiar with the game, since he chose it.
The chief executive officer of Only World Group (OWG) is a designer of amusement parks and attractions, a passion he has been practising for over three decades.
His latest preoccupation is turning Level Five, Komtar, Penang, into a giant amusement park for all ages. As shoppers traipse past this section of Penang’s oldest modern urban centre, accessible via the grand staircase in the Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong side of the complex, they will find fun and games tucked into every corner.
OWG CEO Datuk Seri Richard Koh testing the Spacetime Squad, a virtual reality game at The TopKomtar. Photo: The Star/Wan Mohizan Wan Hussein
Spacetime Squad is off to a side right after Japan Food Street, an alley of sushi, teppanyaki and many more Japanese delights.
Koh made it a point to install loads of gun games. From high tech virtual reality shooters to inexpensive infrared guns that feel like the real thing, visitors will have the casual chance to pick them up and pull the trigger.
“People of every age need a break from our daily affairs. Everywhere in the world, people need to de-stress. Amusement games help us to relax without going to too much trouble and preparation,” says Koh in a recent interview in Penang.
Koh’s company won a 45-year lease to revitalise Komtar. The project began with 5,574sq m in the complex and they are now using about 28,000sq m of floor space to turn Komtar into a leisure destination for Malaysians and tourists alike.
The official opening is today.
“It’s a big challenge. Komtar was conceptualised in 1962 and the tower was completed in 1985. It was the first urban renewal project for Penang that touched many lives but for the younger generation, this is an old place.”
Instead of duking it out in straight fights with other modern shopping complexes on the island, OWG capitalises on Komtar’s venerable status and unbeatable height.
Koh melds evergreen amusements with Komtar’s agelessness. There is a musical carousel full of colourful and intricately made horses, reindeer and a myriad of animals.
“A carousel has been around since the late 1800s. It was in every fair throughout Europe and the United States. For children, riding a carousel is an experience that stays with them for years,” adds Koh with a smile.
Not far from the revolving animals is the Magic Mirror Maze, a disorientating puzzle full of mirrors that will fill kids with suspense.
Games like these, says Koh, are classics which are getting harder to find as people race after the high-tech and the new.
“When it comes to delighting the senses, old school amusement is the best. Something has to be sacrificed when we rely to much on computer graphics and virtual reality,” he adds.
Elsewhere, the Ocean Explorer 5D, 7D Discovery Motion Theatre and Jurassic Research Centre are clear examples of his observation. They engage visitors with other sensory perceptions such as motion and touch to supply an immersive experience.
All the fun and games on Level Five, however, are only precursors to a Penang destination that, previously, could only be reached by a few.
Only a small number of people have ever been able to reach The Top@Komtar, nearly a quarter of a kilometre above the ground.
From Level Five, a special external elevator will take visitors to the top and OWG has prepared a surprise for them.
The observatory deck on Level 65, Komtar, offers visitors almost an all-around view of Penang to a distance of around 150km. Photo: The Star/Zhafaran Nasib
The old roof was just a helipad – 65 floors up. OWG has topped it up with three more floors and made the highest man-made attraction in northern Malaysia.
The tallest glass skywalk in the country now juts out of the building, and Koh has readied a host of more attractions atop the highest point of George Town.
“I’ll only give you clues to what’s up there. Surprise yourself by going up. Expect to see rainbows, gold coins, an orchestra and sit on the luckiest chair in the world,” says Koh.