The golden age for amusement-arcade owners – when multitudes flocked to play Pac-Man and Space Invaders – is long gone.
Nowadays, when even the video games on your mobile phone boast state-of-the-art graphics, why would anyone be compelled to visit such a place?
Well, the Magic Planet games centre at Mall of the Emirates may have the answer to lure the punters back.
It has just installed the XD Dark Ride, a multidimensional experience that is part video game, part movie and part fairground ride.
The action takes place behind a curtained-off area of the arcade, in a small cinema-like space with eight seats.
Wearing a pair of 3-D glasses, you sit down alongside the other hopefuls, belt yourself in and grab the yellow pistol holstered next to you.
The gameplay is like a scene from a particularly frenetic action movie. The seats are mounted on a moving platform that tilts in sync with what is happening on screen. Apparently it can perform up to 400 movements per second and can mimic top speeds of up to 2G in acceleration.
As your seat lurches around in a nausea-inducing manner, you’re tasked with shooting hordes of enemies who emerge from all corners of the screen.
If this wasn’t disconcerting enough, they have thrown in puffs of smoke, sprayings of water and gusts of wind to add to the realism.
There are four different scenarios to choose from: a Wild West game where you fight bandits, a forbidden mine full of monsters, a post-apocalyptic zombie battle and a pirate adventure.
First up, I play the lost-mine game. As the curtain parts, up pops a terrified dwarf who outlines our mission. The tunnels have been overrun with hordes of monsters and we must help the dwarf destroy these infiltrators.
Then, all eight of us gamers are suddenly hurtling down a track at breakneck speeds on a rickety cart, before plummeting down mineshafts and smashing through wooden walls.
All this time, skeletons, goblins and an assortment of other evil creatures leap from all sides as we frantically try to gain composure to gun them down.
For the next round, we’re in the Wild West shoot-out, where we all ride through canyons, surge through white-water rapids and hop from carriage to carriage on a runaway train.
Our enemy this time is an army of robot bandits, whom we take out, before having to kill the mad scientist behind all this mayhem.
It’s exhilarating stuff, and as you stagger off the ride at the end, your heart will be racing.
Just like many real fairground rides, you’re even given the chance to buy a mid-game photograph of yourself. I chose not to purchase the photo of myself looking somewhat flustered.
Adham Badawy, the marketing manager for Magic Planet, believes the XD Dark Ride represents a giant leap forward in the video game experience.
“I think this is the future of gaming. It offers the kind of experience you just can’t get from your home games console,” he contends. “You have excitement and you have some scary moments. You can really see people are affected when they play.”
It also tests even the most adept gamer.
“It requires a new skill set. You have to be a good shot, but you also have to use your brain and not be affected by the movements and the noise.”
It definitely adds a degree of excitement to the gaming experience. I’m not sure I could fit the contraption in my living room though.
XD Dark Ride is at Magic Planet, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai. It costs Dh20 per game. For more information, call 04 341 4444
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