This past Tuesday, I had the chance to experience a new form of interactive entertainment in the form of a 2-hour immersive experience for the release of 20th Century Fox’s upcoming film, Alita: Battle Angel. ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL – PASSPORT TO IRON CITY allows guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in the futuristic dystopian world from the upcoming film and become players in a large scale, interactive game in which you and your team are competing against others for the top prize.
PASSPORT TO IRON CITY is described as a place where guests have the chance to explore the movie’s Iron City, which has been recreated down to the last detail by the film’s production designers, where they will interact with the City’s gritty residents, earn credits by completing puzzles and challenges, experiment with custom technology built for the retro-future Alita aesthetic, and uncover hidden clues to determine their fate with the city’s controlling force. After their journey, guests will receive a unique post-experience Iron City assessment that assigns them to their individually tailored role within Iron City, based on the decisions they made while exploring the city. Each winning team will walk away with a unique Iron City souvenir.
Upon arriving, we were led into a room that is an exact replica of the historic Kansas bar, a pivotal location in the film. Placed throughout the bar were tables with iPads that corresponded to a specific team color, which guests are notified of upon entry. I was on team Black, so once I found my color, I took a seat and started messing around with the iPad. It’s important to read everything on the device as it gives the participant information about Iron City as well as clues that may help in collecting more coins. I was immediately taken aback by the amount of detail that went into the design of this bar, from the large neon letters that spelled KANSAS, to the interactive “Wanted” Posters that showcased some of the nefarious hunter-warriors on the loose, there was so much to take in and appreciate. Roaming about the space were Iron City residents who were quick to chat with anyone interested in learning secrets about their “beloved” City. But take heed that this City has many unsavory aspects, most of which come from what is known as The Factory. You’ll be quick to learn that THEY are always watching you…
Once our entire team arrived, we were all brought to Iron City. Inside this space there was 10 teams, all of different colors, with six people on each team. Our objective was to collect as many coins as possible through various means, and whatever team won would be worthy of ascending to the city in the sky, otherwise known as Zalem. With 40 minutes on the clock, we began our adventure with the goal that we were going to conquer the shit out of this experience. For the next 40 minutes we solved puzzles, interacted with residence of the City in exchange for coins, rummaged through a cyborg scrapyard, and bet on racers at the Motorball Stadium. Everything was incredibly interactive and fast paced which made the rush for the ultimate win that much more exhilarating. Prior to entering Iron City, guests are given a pamphlet which has a map of the entire space that includes markers that corresponded to the areas you could visit. This pamphlet is like the Bible and you’ll want to study it while you are hanging out at the Kansas bar as it’ll help you when it comes time to navigate the city. Also, don’t worry about having not seen the film, no spoilers are given out during the experience and there is enough information provided to fill you in on what to expect prior to entering Iron City.
From a designers perspective, my mind was blown with what the creatives geniuses at iam8bit accomplished. The level of detail was unparalleled, allowing everyone who entered to feel as if they were transported to a whole different world. Whether it was the bar or the actually city, everything was constructed to make you feel like you weren’t in Los Angeles, and that’s something that I deeply appreciated. As someone who enjoys immersive experiences, this particular event was unlike anything else I’ve done, though it did combine familiar aspects seen in a lot of immersive events. Most interesting to me was the idea of us making our decisions through a non-linear path instead of being told exactly what we needed to do. I think this will take some fine-tuning in order for the experience to be more seamless, but I think what the Alita Experience is trying to accomplish through this is highly ambitious and it makes me excited to see what the future holds for more interactive media such as this.