With only two Saturdays before our new article series begins, I have a ton of games I’d like to discuss, so this week’s choice might feel a little odd. Sure, but here’s the thing: I’ve had friends over to check out the VR setup and one thing that stands out time and again is Richie’s Plank Experience. Everyone loves it. Most recently, an great friend of nearly 25 years (John) came over and he tried it. He repeatedly commented on how real it felt. He even tensed up as he fell to… wait, I get ahead of myself.
First, some background. A few years ago, I was visiting family in Ireland. My kids and I were wandering the town of Clonmel waiting for my wife to be done looking at, well, whatever it is that my wife looks at, when we found a VR place. We went in, but I’m reluctant to spend money on gimmicks, and the guy must have been able to read that on my face, because he gave us a complimentary app to try. We each walked into a space, maybe some 10 foot square. On the floor was a plank. The guy had me stand up against the wall, put the headset on me, and said “some people don’t even get out of the elevator.” (I scoffed at this! The man must have been an oaf!) Once I could see the surroundings, I was in an elevator with 3 buttons on the right hand wall. He told me to press the top-most button. The elevator doors closed leaving the slightest gap by which I could see my ascent. I was heading up a large skyscraper. Then, the doors opened and a wooden beam lay before me. I couldn’t get out of the elevator! Damn that man! My legs felt weak. Who was the oaf now?!
To be fair, I did step out, but it took me a moment to realize I was not where my eyes told me I was; I was still in that 10 x 10 area, in a room, in Clonmel. I stepped onto the wooden beam on the ground which gave it more realism. It also made me I realize that my sense of balance sucks when I think I’m standing outside a skyscraper. I walked to the edge of the plank… and I say walked, what I mean is shifted my foot 1 inch at a time until I made it to the end… and then forced myself to step off. As I plummeted to my doom, my legs clenched and I braced myself for the impact, just as John did when he came over this past weekend. You win this round, VR-Salesman! We then spent about an hour playing other games in that place. I knew that when I returned to my home I would need to get a VR system.
Upon return, I looked up Richie’s Plank Experience. I picked it up for a whopping $8 and every one of my friends has tried it and loved it. It now retails for $15 and I would still have bought it. “$15?!” I hear you say, incredulously! “But it’s hardly a game at all! You just walk out on a plank and do nothing? How could you even pay $8 for that!?” No, no, my friend! Like a late night infomercial, just wait… there’s more!
So when you buy Richie’s Plank Experience, it’s true, the main attraction is in fact just a high rise experience that puts you on a plank. But there are two other buttons on the right hand side of that elevator. One brings you up to a platform wherein you fly around the city making art in the sky with multicolored “pens”. It’s neat for a few minutes but the little kids love it, because you do get to “fly” around town without any trouble with that pesky thing call gravity. But there’s also a “fire deck” option that puts a jet pack in one hand and a fire hose in the other. You fly around town like Ironman, putting out fires. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t care less about the fires. Burn baby, burn! With a flick of the arm (bringing it behind you head and then back), the hose becomes another handheld jet pack and moments later, Stark’s your uncle, you fly around the city at some speed, getting dizzy and feeling like a true superhero! Yes, when John tried this, he too staggered like a drunken sailor all about the room.
But for the price, developer Toast, gives you more than these three offerings. Frequent updates offer extra fun. There’s a field where one can play soccer, hitting a ball into a net, if you’re especially good. For Christmas, they released a Santa’s Sleigh patch – ring a bell while in the elevator, and Santa’s Sleigh picks you up and you have to deliver gifts down chimneys as the reindeer fly you about. (This nearly lead to a broken nose from a would-be Santa, when I accidentally allowed my head to get in the way of a package being tossed into a chimney!) And perhaps most exciting of all was the Halloween patch. On the left hand wall, there are numbers. Pressing 6 three times brings about a new range of terror. When I pressed it…
Let’s just say, I’m not good with spiders. I can tolerate any bug you can think of with that one exception. So when I pressed the button and spiders began to come down the elevator walls in full VR brilliance, I felt myself start to sweat. A lot. I tried to be calm. I started to remind myself where I was… but then I looked out and saw a giant spider slowly approaching the open elevator door that I could not close… I couldn’t do it. I cast off the helmet. Yes, I went back and can now do it without a problem but that first time… I was simply not ready! After the spider attack, you are thrust from one deadly scenario to another. Clowns, dentists, heights… all in full VR brilliance.
Is Richie’s Plank Experience a great game? Nope. Simply because it’s not a game. It’s an experience. I’ve delighted my friends time and again. I’ve made my kids and my nephews happy with it, and every time someone comes over, they want to fly around the city for a bit. And sometimes they spot something we never noticed before, like that mysterious “portal” in the side of a building. I can’t wait for the patch that shows me where that goes…
I leave you with a clip of the game/app/experience. Enjoy! ML