The last few years have seen a rise in virtual reality (VR) technology, especially in the landscape of immersive and interactive experiences. I’ve been incredibly lucky to experience a slew of VR experiences that ranged from DIY set-ups to the real-deal (outfitted with an Oculus headset, controllers, etc). Very few have blown me away, not for lack of trying but because I believe that the technology is still something people are learning. However, that all changed when I had the chance to check out MWM Immersive’s latest experience, CHAINED: A VICTORIAN NIGHTMARE.
Combining virtual reality, immersive elements, and live actors, CHAINED: A VICTORIAN NIGHTMARE gives participants the opportunity to experience Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol in a way unlike anything imaginable. Upon arriving, I was told to sit in what was designated to be an art exhibit outfitted with beautiful paintings that directly correlated to what I was about to experience. When my time came, I was led to an opening where I was told that once I entered the space that I was to knock on the door three times. Not knowing what I was about to experience, I nodded in agreement and entered the space only to be met with one of the most ornately beautiful doors I’ve ever seen in a production such as this. I grabbed the large knocker, knocked three times, and was instantaneously transported back to the mid-1800s.
I don’t want to give away too much because the surprises should be kept a secret for each person to experience, but WOW. Wow. Wow. Wow. I’ve done immersive VR in the past but NOTHING at the level of what I experienced with CHAINED. Not only do you feel completely immersed in the setting but the characters are able to fully interact with you through the use of motion capture technology, allowing the actors (and subsequently the characters) to physically connect with you through touch. It truly felt as though I was in the world that the creators had designed and had I not been wearing the VR headset I would have absolutely believed that I had somehow traveled back in time. Aside from the realistic feel that was supplied by the immersive elements, the VR itself was astounding. At no point did I experience any glitches nor was there any issue with the picture quality. No matter where I turned my head, the image never faltered but instead stayed consistent in showing a 360 view of my surroundings. The best way I can explain what I was seeing if if you’ve ever been on the attraction “Soaring” at Disneyland. It’s like that on a smaller scale but instead of the image being cut off at the top and bottom it encompasses the entire space.
I’m making the assumption that we are all familiar with A Christmas Carol, but if not, I would suggest going HERE to read up on it before proceeding with the review. A Christmas Carol has been ingrained in my brain from a young age and I’ve always had a preconceived idea of what the ghostly spirits looked like that visited Scrooge. However, in CHAINED, they were nothing like the ones I had imagined or remembered from past film and television iterations. I appreciate that the creators designed these apparitions in a way that was unique to them but still included familiar nods to Dickens’ classic. I also really loved how terrifying some of them looked, especially the last one, which if you are familiar with the ghost of ‘yet to come’ then that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Having the chance to interact with these spirits was truly one of the highlights of the entire experience because again, it felt SO REAL. When the moment came to face the future I began to feel a lump form in my throat, made even more obvious when the unexplained appeared (again, I don’t want to give it away so you’ll have to see for yourself!).
My only critique is that I wish the experience was longer so that I could spend more time exploring, but that’s just me. Regardless of the length, this experience is absolute perfection and that’s something that doesn’t come around too often. When the show came to a close, I was guided to another room where I was instructed to take as much time as needed to collect myself. I greatly welcomed the respite which allowed my brain to fully comprehend what I just experienced and as the seconds ticked by a smile began to emerge on my face as I came to the realization that what I had gone through had deeply impacted me on an emotional level, something that only one other experience has done. CHAINED: A VICTORIAN NIGHTMARE is the real deal, the best VR/immersive combination I’ve ever done, and is an experience that should not be missed. I’m ready for whatever comes next!