Note: This experience was reviewed at a complimentary media event.
The Void at Disney Springs has teamed up with Walt Disney Animation Studios to create “Ralph Breaks VR” – a lively virtual reality adventure staring the characters from the “Wreck It Ralph” film series.
A lighthearted affair, this experience benefits from lessons learned from the previous (and still available at Disney Springs) “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire” while also finding itself somewhat in its shadow.
In the story, you and a team of friends embody digital disguises to travel into the Internet with Ralph and Vanellope Von Schweetz for a tour of the best games on the web. You have a choice of six distinct avatars to play as. Unlike Star Wars with its identical stormtroopers, you get to see the faces of the other player’s avatars. Best of all, when a fellow player speaks, you see their character’s mouth move.
Aesthetically, “Ralph” is a real charmer, with lots of video game Easter eggs, especially in (SPOILERS) one scene where you fly above the bustling skies of the Internet (END OF SPOILERS). There is a vibrancy to the colors and the use of larger spaces overall brings about a more expansive world than the tight corridors of the Star Wars experience.
That said, from a narrative perspective, this is a bit of a step back. While “Secrets of the Empire” has an urgency to its pacing, “Ralph,” even at its most active, is a little slower and its individual scenes (what happens in a single room in the real world before you move on to the next) are far more disjointed. At times, it feels like mini-games interspersed amongst the story and, in one moment, that’s quite literally what happens. This breaks the immersion as you are both in VR and in the real world simply playing a game.
A case could be made that it’s not proper to even compare the Ralph and Star Wars experiences as they can draw completely different audiences. That said, for those that have done Star Wars, it’s near impossible not to. Our culture’s library of VR adventures remains quite small and, until we have a vast array of these, we can only critique them based on a handful of previous experiences.
So is “Ralph Breaks VR” worth it? Absolutely. It’s an entertaining romp that remains in moments awe-inspiring and shows why The Void remains one of the best VR companies in the now overcrowded industry. It’s also an excellent primer for VR newbies who are doing this for the very first time. For old VR pros, it’s a ton of fun if you take it for what it is and not for what it lacks.
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