I am standing on a wobbly platform between two space crafts, molten lava bubbling below, stormtroopers shooting at me and my kids. I try to shield my littlest one but Jed steps forward and unleashes a torrent of fire at our enemies. Just when we think we’ve made it to safety, a gigantic lava monster pops up and threatens to consume us.
Scary? Nah, I’m having the time of my life.
More thrilling than a theme park ride, more realistic than any 3D or virtual reality I’ve experienced, Star Wars Secrets of the Empire at The Void is an epic journey that lasts 20 minutes, tops. But boy is it worth your time and money.
On arrival at The Void headquarters at Westfield Stratford City, we’re strapped into our heavy battle armour, comprised of a body vest and VR helmet. We enter a small cubicle where we test our audio and visuals.
‘Look at Jed!’ Ezra cries and as soon as my vision comes into focus, I see both my boys transformed into mini stormtroopers. It’s a weird, somewhat disorienting sensation to wave your arm in front of your face and see a stormtrooper’s arm waving back.
We watch a short film featuring Diego Luna’s character from Rogue One who tells us about our mission. We have to infiltrate an Imperial base, disguised as Vader’s minions, and recover something crucial to the rebel forces’ survival. To be honest, the details of what we were doing escaped me. All I know is once the doors opened, and we grabbed our blasters, we were thrust into the Star Wars universe.
It’s an incredible simulation that felt so real at times, I had to adjust my headgear to remind myself this was all, essentially, in my head. It helps to be able to talk to your team mates throughout. Ezra took charge of our unit, although he had some difficulty keeping up with instructions from droid K-2S0 (see the babes’ review below).
The adventure is brief, but the action and intensity never let up. And I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to mention that you will confront the dark force of Darth Vader.
I wasn’t sure if Secrets of the Empire would be too scary for Jed, but he absolutely loved it, saying it was one of the best things he’s ever done. If you’ve dreamed of travelling to a galaxy far, far away, don’t miss this trip. It’s truly out of this world.
Star Wars Secrets of the Empire (Babes Review)
Jed, age 9
‘I loved it. When Darth Vader was coming at us, I thought he was actually going to slice us. I wasn’t scared but it was really realistic. It was really funny because when I shot someone they literally just fell of the platform and went right into the lava. It was also funny that when Ezra was meant to put in a code to get us out, he kept messing it up. In the end, he got so frustrated that he just shot the machine! We were disguised as stormtroopers and we had to escape from the Empire. I liked it when you got to shoot everybody. I would recommend it to my friends or anybody age 9+. Definitely 5 stars.’
Ezra, age 12
‘I was super hyped for this event, because one) I love Star Wars, and two) I love virtual reality. To be honest, this experience skyrocketed above my expectations. As soon as we put the headsets on and stepped through the doorway, everything was completely different from the plain room we were in before. My little brother was a mini stormtrooper. I could see my own stormtrooper glove and hand! It was completely involving and immersive. It was so much better than every other virtual reality thing I’ve ever done, because in most of the others you can’t see your own hands and feet as you move around. It made me completely feel like an awesome stormtrooper (even though they’re the bad guys). I’d give it 5 out of 5!’
Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire (A HyperReality Experience) is at The VOID at Westfield Stratford City, Montfichet Road, Olympic Park, E20 1EJ (Stratford tube/rail/DLR/overground). Best for kids ages 10+ (minimum height 4ft or 122cm). 10am-9pm (timed slots); £30 (Mar 29-Jun 20)