Hands-on with the Holodeck: Ready Player One – Escape Room

The motion-picture release of Ready Player One has, unsurprisingly, a number of virtual reality (VR) tie-ins to accompany it. One of those which home users may not get to jump into any time soon is NVIDIA’s own Ready Player One – Escape Room, which premiered at the company’s GTC 2018 event, San Jose.

Ready Player One HeroAs the name suggests, Ready Player One – Escape Room is a puzzle challenge set in a single room. In the version available at GTC 2018 up to three people could enter the space at one time, playing with HTC Vive Pro head-mounted displays (HMDs), with the idea that they would work together to solve a series of puzzles by interacting with objects within a virtual recreation of an area from the Ready Player One universe; namely a living room with a decidedly 1980s feel.

The objects players can interact with are limited; if you can touch it, it’s likely part of a puzzle you will have to solve. The team of players has 10 minutes to search the room for the correct objects at the correct time, and with even a small amount of knowledge of 1980s popular culture the challenges are relatively simple.

To begin with, there are a group of VHS cassette tapes laid on a counter with series of chalk outlines for those which are missing, with the task simply being to find and place the remaining tapes. Solving this clue makes a Batman symbol project from a Rubik’s Cube, requiring you to insert the VHS cassette tape of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman motion-picture into the VHS player, which then makes a poster fall off the wall to reveal a Thundercats logo. As you can tell from this short explanation (which sadly is about half of the experience) the puzzles are far from challenging.

Ready Player One - HolodeckOf course, with NVIDIA’s Holodeck it’s less about the pre-designed experience and more about the player interaction. To that end, Ready Player One – Escape Room is one of the most enjoyable co-operative VR videogames around. With full voice communication and the ability to hand objects to one another, Ready Player One – Escape Room’s game of what is essentially an Easter egg hunt is most certainly collaborative. Six eyes are better than two, after all.

Ready Player One – Escape Room is also a visual treat, aptly showcasing the additional clarity in resolution between the HTC Vive Pro and the HTC Vive. Being able to read the text on posters and magazine covers as well as make out incidental details in the environment – showcasing the attention to detail of the artists who worked on the project – makes a huge difference to the level of immersion. A question has to be asked regarding the design of the players’ avatars – the clean white-and-green visage is certainly a modern interpretation and ill-fitting with the 1980’s aesthetic prevalent elsewhere – but it’s unlikely that many partaking in Ready Player One – Escape Room as one of their first VR experiences will suffer much umbrage from this disparity.

With social VR having become a key talking point within the industry of late it’s important that co-operative experiences such as Ready Player One – Escape Room take centre stage, showcasing that even the simplest of experiences can be improved by the added human factor. It’s a shame then, that NVIDIA doesn’t currently have any plans to showcase the piece within the public domain. This may of course change down the line, and VRFocus most certainly hopes that in time an expanded version of Ready Player One – Escape Room will be offered to VR’s early adopters at home.