Wreck-It Ralph takes his wrecking ways online in Disney’s new movie sequel, Ralph Breaks The Internet. In a fitting addition to that story, video game characters Ralph and Vanellope get a chance to do some damage to virtual reality in The Void’s new tie-in VR experience, Ralph Breaks VR–and participants get to join them in the digital world of the internet that feels like a little more than a video game.
Ralph Breaks VR goes beyond what headset owners at home experience. The Void is a room-scale VR platform built on stages that incorporate real objects into its virtual worlds. That means when you step on a virtual tram and ride the information superhighway to the digital city that is the movie’s version of the internet, you’re enclosed by real walls that you can reach out and touch. In addition to wearing a VR headset and carrying the necessary tech to render its images in a backpack, participants also wear haptic vests that vibrate when something touches them, providing another level of interaction between your real body and the virtual experience. The Void’s mix of real and virtual takes the idea of VR to a different level, and it’s perfectly suited to the Wreck-It Ralph franchise.
Ralph Breaks VR starts with participants disguising themselves as Netizens, the colorful folks who live in the internet in the movie, each with a different bit of personality–such as a stuffy nerd or surfer dude. With your new identity in place, you head onto the real stage, which matches the images you see in the headset. So as you move through darkened rooms or cross walkways high above the city streets, you’re walking through physical places that you can actually run into.
The four participants in Ralph Breaks VR meet up with Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), who take them on a guided tour of the internet, although it’s mostly an experience of playing games with and against the other people in your group. Look at your virtual wrist in the experience and you’ll see a watch displaying the names of everyone in the session, along with the points they accrue as they play, giving the whole thing a light air of competition.
The first stop is a TRON-like area of the web, called Dunderdome, that is dedicated to video games, where you play a version of arcade classic Space Invaders. But instead of running the game on a screen and battling extraterrestrials with a controller, participants find themselves at the ground level of the game, using a control panel to move around the tanks normally found at the bottom of a Space Invaders screen. Broken into teams of two, one player controls the tank’s movement and fires its main gun, while the other controls air strikes and protects the tank from attackers.
Once the game of life-size Space Invaders is over, things take a turn–the software that protects the internet flags the humans as viruses and sets out to eradicate them, while Ralph and Vanellope work to try to get them to safety.
In practical terms, that means players are quickly moving from room to room as they try to find their way out. Before long, you find your way into the mobile game Pancake Milkshake from the movie. In the film, Ralph invades the game, which is about feeding pancakes to a bunny and milkshakes to a kitty, where he overstuffs the rabbit to the point of explosion. Ralph Breaks VR expands on the concept with the bunnies and kitties out for revenge as they whip their favorite treats back at the participants. Luckily, you can pick up a blaster that fires both foods, so you can return fire as you dodge incoming sweets. The scenario even gives an extra nod to the film by awarding you with more points if you zap the right food at its corresponding animal. With Ralph and Vanellope’s help, participants fight their way out of the internet and back to safety.
Ralph seems like a unique fit for The Void’s VR experiences. That’s what both the Void team and ILMxLab, Lucasfilm’s immersive experience company, thought as they began working on the project, which is part of a six-experience deal with Disney.
“[It was] serendipity, and it’s such a great property, as far as how it fits into what The Void as a platform can do,” said Curtis Hickman, co-founder and chief creative officer at The Void. “There’s something that I think is really fascinating about putting on this equipment and going into VR. You are stepping into a video game in a sense, and what story really encapsulates that? Wreck-It Ralph.”
The experience is also full of Easter eggs for Ralph Breaks The Internet fans. The Void and ILMxLab worked closely with the movie’s screenwriter, Pamela Ribon, who wrote the experience’s story as well, to keep Ralph Breaks VR true to the movie on which it’s based. The VR world is full of visual callbacks from the movie, such as the signs scattered throughout the internet cityscape. And Reilly and Silverman reprising their roles as Ralph and Vanellope deepens the experience even more.
VR technology is breeding a lot of interesting ideas like The Void, but is still developing its hardware to be less expensive. While it’s not clear exactly where VR will go in the future, experiences like Ralph Breaks VR offer something that doesn’t exist anywhere else. It’s particularly fun if you’re a big fan of the Ralph series, but you don’t have to be: beaning cute animals with pancakes is a good time no matter who you are.