We now live in a world where virtual reality is more accessible than ever. You can put on a pair of goggles with a computer built into them and interact in a fully digitized world with fully rendered graphics, the illusion of depth perception and directional sound at home with an Oculus Quest or HTC Vive headset.
VR seems to be following the same challenging path as the movie industry. The more portable and accessible the technology becomes, the harder developers have to work to offer something that makes customers are willing to leave their house to experience.
Sandbox VR is one of the latest attempts to correct the mistakes the movie theater industry made during the rise of streaming services. The VR gaming experience opened branches in Dallas at Mockingbird Station and Fort Worth in Crockett Row.
Augmented reality has always been one of the biggest challenges in VR, and Sandbox addresses this obstacle by making players' arms and legs just as responsive in a virtual setting as the Pico Neo 3 headsets. Each player is given a VR headset and special tracking equipment that can pinpoint the movement of players' arms and legs with a four-point tracker worn on their wrists and ankles. Players also wear special haptic vests that can respond to the environment, whether you're being scratched by a zombie or shot by the undead skeleton of a pirate. Of course, they don't leave as much permanent damage as the real thing, but it helps to know when you're being hit outside of your field of vision before your enemies can down you for good.
A Sandbox VR team member helps a player into a haptic vest during a virtual experience demo at Sandbox VR's newest location in Mockingbird Station.
Each game also lets you interact with physical objects such as guns, rifles, swords and torches, which you hold in your hands. Home headsets such as the Oculus Quest and HTC Vive simulate weapons and objects through special controllers. Sandbox VR uses the same tracking devices as the wrist and ankle bracelets. It feels like you're holding, swinging and wielding these objects as you see them in the virtual world.
Sandbox VR offers six different experiences in a variety of genres for teams up to six players. The majority of them are shooter games in survival situations, but some of the titles go beyond just blowing away sprinting ghouls in the face before they can scratch your eyes out of your sockets. Each one lets you choose a unique character that serves as your avatar during and after the game.
Deadwood Valley and Deadwood Mansion are two of Sandbox VR's zombie horror games. You and your teammates are plopped into a rundown setting as waves of undead are dead-set on turning you into dinner. Both games also have a storyline with five different endings depending on how well you score and the choices you make with various interactions throughout the game.
Curse of Davy Jones is a pirate-themed wave shooter in which you fight armies of the infamous pirates' undead including skeletons, ghosts and what looks like the Tarman from The Return of the Living Dead. The majority of the action involves shooting and slicing at enemies with swords, but some of the bigger bosses require some puzzle-solving skills to bring them down. The game also allows you to heal fallen comrades by touching their shoulders and using torches to light certain objects.
One of the more interesting options is an experience called Star Trek: Discovery, based on the famed Paramount+ sci-fi spinoff series. It's a mix of an escape room and shooting game in which you take on the role of a Starfleet team transported to an alien world. You'll interact with some of the franchise's most iconic gadgets like phasers and tricorders.
Unbound Fighting League is a unique two-on-two fighting game that attempts to open a new avenue of competition for esports. It's a simulated gladiator-fighting challenge in which two players fight to the virtual death with a wrist shield and a variety of melee weapons set in a futuristic arena.
The experience does not stop when the game is over and you're wiping off pools of sweat. Each game tracks every player's score from an account you create during check-in and posts the highest scores on the franchise's website by teams and individual players. There are also cameras placed around the gaming floor that track your movements in the game and the real world and splices them together in a special movie-style trailer.
You're not just playing a singular game in a linear fashion. You're competing against your teammates and other teams to actually achieve something in the real world.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE...
Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune,Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.