A new free roam VR concept, Sandbox VR, has opened in the Bay Area’s upscale San Mateo Hillsdale Shopping Center. I had an opportunity to experience one of the two adventures it offers, “The Curse of Davy Jones,” on a visit to the Bay Area a couple of weeks ago. The other title is a haunted house, “Deadwood Mansion.” Both experiences are 30 minutes and priced like an escape room, $36-$42. It’s stuck with me for a few reasons. It’s fun. And it really forces activity and interaction with others in the simulation.
Sandbox VR recently opened in the San Francisco suburb San Mateo’s Hillsdale Shopping Center.
The General Manager of the recently opened San Mateo, CA location, Yassir Abirou, told me “Deadwood Mansion,” is the more popular adventure, but that he prefers “Davy Jones” because of its innovative interactive strategies. Both of the free roam experiences Sandbox VR currently offers place up to six people guests together in a simulation. Guests suit up with a Vive Pro HMD, MSI backpack PC. We strapped on hand and leg trackers, which were delightfully moist from the sweat of the exuberant group of kids that preceded us. When the simulation begins you choose your full body avatars, which was one of the highlights of the show. I chose the Peg Leg Long John Silver avatar. It’s a thirty minute, multi-part experience that has many qualities of an escape room, and is priced accordingly. $36-$42. Guests get four: 30 souvenir videos by email to remember and share their experience.
Sandbox VR’s two titles will soon be joined by a sci-fi adventure based on a popular IP.
Sandbox VR was founded by Hong Kong-based games entrepreneur Steve Zhao, who previously bootstrapped Blue Tea Games in 2009, a Hong Kong developer of PC and mobile games. SandboxVR’s First location opened in Hong Kong in late June 2017. There are currently 6 locations. Two company-owned stores, in Hong Kong, and San Mateo, a franchise location in Singapore, and a deal with IMAX to put Sandbox VR in LA, New York, and Bangkok. Zhao told me in an email the company plans to open at least sixteen locations by end of 2018.
My personal experience had me slipping into a simulation at the last minute with Guide-in-training Susan Washburn. She was starting her second week but said it’s been so busy she hasn’t had a chance to try “Davy Jones.” We’re teammates, pirates, looking through a haunted ship for Davy’s treasure. You send a lot of time dodging fireballs and shooting zombies. The haptic vest vibrates when the undead kill you, but you can be revived by the human touch of your teammate.