The Lost Pyramid puts a virtual reality spin on escape rooms, and creates a whole new level of fun and interaction, writes Ronan Jennings.
There's a popular theory in modern culture, stating that the pyramids were built by aliens. But if you want a real alien experience, look no further than Ubisoft’s Escape The Lost Pyramid.
The Lost Pyramid is an ‘escape room’, an experience in which a team of players must work together to escape an area by solving puzzles and reaching a pre-determined goal. For example, the team might find themselves locked in a prison cell and can only ‘escape’ by using clues to unlock codes and by thinking outside the box in order to open the prison door.
The Lost Pyramid is an escape room with a twist — it all takes place in virtual reality. This means the creators aren’t limited by the confines of a real physical space and can let their imaginations fly. In other words, if aliens really had built the pyramids, the result would be something like Ubisoft’s vision of giant revolving platforms, lasers and death-defying drops.
The Lost Pyramid experience starts in a crypt of a different kind — in the bowels of Dublin’s Curved Street at the Future Shock VR arcade, where a blacked-out room below street-level creates the perfect environment for virtual reality experiences.
Inside, myself and three friends each place virtual reality headsets on our head, and we can’t help but feel like these are modern-day ‘pshcents’, the ancient crowns of the Egyptian royalty. The Egyptian rulers were considered supernatural, after all — and we were just about to travel to another world. It doesn’t get much more supernatural than that.
Like all virtual reality experiences, the initial feeling is one of giddiness, as your senses adjust to the sudden difference in perception and space. Then, the real fun kicks in — most of us have extensive experience in VR, but not in a shared environment. This is the first time we have seen each other in a truly virtual space, and it’s just brilliant.
The first task is to choose what our character will look like and what they will wear, which also acts an introduction to the basic controls. Instead, it devolves into each of us high-fiving, making lewd gestures and throwing hats at each other. We definitely weren’t walking like an Egyptian, unless Egyptians used to flail their arms about and laugh hysterically. Something tells me Ra would have been sceptical of our lineage.
I spend at least a minute telling my friends to ‘draw’, as I hunch over imaginary guns on my hips, with a Stetson on my head and a trigger finger waiting to pull. There are no guns in The Lost Pyramid (though there is a superb bow and arrow) but it’s fun to make believe in this virtual world.
That initial setup screen is like playing around in the prop room of an Indiana Jones movie, except when you look in the mirror, you are an ebony-skinned female warrior instead of a pasty-skinned Irish nerd.
We all enjoy the fun, but it’s time to start the real deal. The scene fades to black and each of us arrives in a new space — the pyramid itself. It soon become clear that we are all in isolated rooms, small chambers of our own, and we need to work our way out from there. We can hear each other, but not see each other.
The initial stages bring some technical difficulties, where our host needs to give us some friendly clues and picking up a torch is far harder than it should be, but once the adjustments are made, things go smoothly.
We quickly escape our chambers and The Lost Pyramid starts to show its unique value. Upon escaping the ‘traditional’ small space of a physical escape room, the vista of the Pyramid opens up to us. We are all impressed. We seem to be at the base of the structure, with towering statues all around us, and each player in their own corner of the pyramid.
The benefit of the virtual space isn’t just scale, although that certainly helps. VR also completely changes how the team interacts with each other and the puzzles that need solving. While The Lost Pyramid is never particularly challenging from a logical perspective, especially for experienced gamers like ourselves, it does allow for fun physical activities that could never be replicated in a physical room.
For example, in the early stages, players much exchange certain items through small gaps to help each other. If you ‘lose’ one of these items or make a mistake, it simply reappears in the world. Later, players must throw items a long distance to hit targets, but the same logic applies. You don’t have to worry about ‘messing up’ the design of the room.
But the real fun comes in being part of the ‘living puzzle’ that is the pyramid itself. It soon becomes clear that your goal is to ascend to the top of the structure, which means plenty of shifting platforms, moving parts and even climbing. In fact, the most impressively-designed part of the puzzle comes in how players must help each other reach new heights, though we won’t spoil that here.
We all love the time spent in this virtual world, and we manage to complete the experience in just 35 minutes, testament to our previous gaming knowledge. The limit is one hour. There is a real sense of working together and exploring this new world as a team. Unlike traditional gaming, it feels like being a kid again.
Whether non-gamers will feel the same is open to question, especially those new to virtual reality. Simply getting comfortable in a VR world will likely take 20 minutes, never mind solving gaming-logic puzzles. However, with Future Shock’s helpful assistants on hand, you’ll never be stuck.
Ultimately though, Escape The Lost Pyramid serves much the same function as was intended for the real pyramids, as a portal to another place. The pyramids might be ancient history, but this experience is the future– and for that alone, it’s worth the price of admission.
Ubisoft’s Escape The Lost Pyramid is a part of the Assassin’s Creed world. Future Shock VR arcade host the experience at their centre on Dublin’s Curved Street, along with many other cool VR experiences. The price is €30 per person and teams of two to four can pla