Review: Harry Potter New York Store Virtual Reality Experiences
The Harry Potter New York store is about to become a lot more magical as virtual reality experiences open to the public today, July 15, and MuggleNet had a chance to try them out. If you’ve always wanted to use the holodecks from Star Trek, this is your opportunity. The two experiences, “Wizards Take Flight” and “Chaos at Hogwarts,” bring the wizarding world to life in truly immersive, enchanting ways. Perhaps the closest comparison is 4D theatrical entertainment, but these activities take it to a whole new interactive level. General spoilers for the experiences follow, with more specific details in the toggle at the end.
In “Wizards Take Flight,” which is located on the lower level of the store, participants gear up in a Quidditch locker room, where personal belongings can be stored. You’ll strap sensors onto both hands, select an avatar from four options with different skin tones, and tell the staff your Hogwarts House. You proceed into a dimly lit room with six broomstick seats stationed in a circle, where you take your place at your assigned number, mount your broomstick, and put on your headset, which includes goggles, speakers, and adjustable straps.
First, you can fly your broomstick around the castle and grounds, steering by moving it up, down, and side to side, and even wave to your fellow participants, who appear in their House robes and scarves. I could spend all day just soaring over the landscape, but Dobby and Hagrid take you on an adventurous flight through a misty London, where you’ll have to defend yourself using your wand, located under your broom. Spells are cast by raising your arm back and flicking it straight forward along eye level. The effects become truly stunning as you feel wind, rain, and turbulence.
The entrance to “Chaos at Hogwarts” lies up a flight of stairs from the creatures section of the store. You’ll find yourself at King’s Cross station, complete with ticket machines and a departure board. The gear room looks like a train compartment, where you’ll sit down to put on foot and hand sensors, your headset, and a backpack. You’ll choose an avatar and House before standing at your number in the next room. The adventure begins as you push your trolley through the barrier to platform nine and three-quarters. This is the first of many “wow” moments of feeling like you’ve covered an impossible amount of ground for this small room.
Once you get to Hogwarts, you’ll grab a wand and wander the castle. It really feels like the staircases move. Dobby, carrying a suspicious suitcase, will need your help rounding up some magical creatures, taking you to the corners and depths of the castle and allowing you to try out a few different spells.
In both experiences, it’s easy to get lost in the atmosphere and find yourself screaming incantations at the top of your lungs, gasping as you’re sprayed with water, and marveling at the visuals and simulated movement. It’s incredibly satisfying to see the results of your spells, whether you hit or miss the mark – it really adds to the sense that you’re in control. If you can only do one experience, “Wizards Take Flight” may be less appealing for those prone to motion sickness or who don’t like feeling somewhat out of control since you have power over your direction and altitude but not speed. If you love roller coasters or thrill rides, the movement is exhilarating. For those who want more variety in the visuals and would love nothing more than a tour of the most famous wizarding school, “Chaos at Hogwarts” is the way to go. Either way, you’ll have an unforgettable experience.
These virtual reality experiences are like a combination of theme park rides and video games, and the results are stunning. They truly provide a new, unique way to interact with this beloved universe. The next question is, when can we get these in our own homes so we can spend hours on end exploring the wizarding world?
For more specific details of the experiences, check out the descriptions below.