Halloween virtual reality experience Hospital of Horror at Smartypantz is, frankly, terrifying

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      As the first escape room to open in downtown Vancouver, Smartypantz has a reputation for being ahead of the curve. The same is true for its latest offering: an empty room dedicated to a terrifying virtual reality experience.

      The company offers daredevils the chance to enter the Hospital of Horror: a multi-level, immersive VR game. Shattered glass, dirty streaks, and a worrying amount of body bags litter the floors of the building. Incorporating a number of scares from heights (yes, it really feels like you’re precariously dangling above a 40-foot drop) to shadowy figures appearing out of nowhere, bloody, broken furniture scattered around spider-filled corners, and terrifying blackout scenes, the experience transports individuals into a sordidly creepy world that the user controls. Armed with only a flashlight, a glove, and a gasmask, players don’t try to escape the hospital, but rather hold their nerve as they search around it. It’s easier said than done.

      While other VR locations like the Richmond-based UNIVRS have popped up around the Lower Mainland, Smartypantz is the first to offer players the chance to walk around in the virtual spaces at will. Wearing the computer as an adjustable backpack, users can move freely around the terrifying room and interact with objects in all corners without being inhibited by the headset’s five-meter cable. As a result, players can explore a much larger area than those typically offered by VR booths.

      Hospital of Horror is a two-person experience—which is just as well, because (trust us) you won’t want to be alone. Reassuring as it might be to see your partner’s avatar in the blood-splattered rooms, however, their floating, hazmat-mask-covered face is almost as creepy as the scares that hide in the shadows. Don’t get us started on how terrifying it is when they accidentally trip a hidden switch that introduces a new terror into the level.

      Hospital of Horror uses the HTC Vive hardware—widely considered in the industry as the best platform for virtual reality—and the optics, courtesy of developers vrCAVE, are first-class. Significantly more convincing than prop-filled warehouses and tired actors, the VR experience is a great alternative to pop-up haunted houses. It might only last for 10 minutes, but it feels like much longer.

      The Hospital of Horror is a temporary experience that will run across the Halloween period until November 6. Organizers advise booking in advance, as it often sells out. Primarily targeted at 16- to 30-year-olds, individuals 60 and older have already braved the game, although it’s not recommended for children under 14. We don’t blame them.

      Check out Smartypantz’s website for more details, and to book a session.

      Lucy Lau

      Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays