(Note: I have no idea which category to put this one in, and I don’t think I’ll write about enough of these attractions to make a new one.)
I like to talk about a lot of indie or otherwise non-mainstream stuff on here. But when talking about the mainstream side of things, I’ll admit to being interested in anything with a superhero in it, including Marvel Studios’ superb line of movies. So when I heard that Marvel was bringing a touring attraction to Dallas, I knew had to check it out. Looking up The Marvel Experience on Yelp, I found my expectations lowered by a cavalcade of bad reviews. But again, as a fan of anything Marvel, I couldn’t let that deter me from going.
So what does The Marvel Experience consist of? Well, it’s comes in a structure made up of seven inflatable domes made to look like a sort of high-tech quarantine area. The domes contain everything from an arcade-type place to a simulator ride, but we’ll get there.
The “story”, by which I mean a loosely held-together premise meant to set up the attraction, places you in the role of a recruit for S.H.I.E.L.D., the fictitious secret intelligence agency of the Marvel universe. A briefing with S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury and the Avengers lets you know that your city has been under attack by something Spider-Man dubs the “Super Adaptoid”, a giant robot that can mimic the heroes’ superpowers, but the robot has been deactivated and contained within the dome structure. Your job is to go in and analyse the remains of the robot to figure how much information it’s obtained, while completing a chain of training exercises.
This leads you to the “training area”, the part of the experience where you’ll spend most of your time. The area is surrounded by several mini-games and a food stand. Allow me to talk about what I went through, piece by piece.
First, I took a turn on the Spider-Man themed activity, a rock-climbing wall descending on a treadmill-style setup, meant to resemble the experience of Spider-Man climbing up a skyscraper. As someone who hasn’t done a lot of rock-climbing, I found this exhausting. But it was pretty fun nonetheless.
Next thing I tried was was a “holo-blaster simulator”, probably the most S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent-y thing to do there. Essentially, this is a virtual shooting gallery where you get to pick up a laser gun and shoot a bunch of supervillain-y targets on screen. It can be a little over-whelming with 24 people shooting at once, but again, fun nonetheless.
Finally, I tried “Black Widow’s Agility Maze”, my favorite mini-game at the attraction. You move through a hallway, doing your best to avoid touching the laser trip-wires, as you hit a series a checkpoints from front to back. Through the use of various ninja poses that I imagine didn’t look half as awesome as I felt, I managed to make it through after breaking only one laser, which is more than I can say for a lot of the other recruits.
I counted only three activities that I didn’t try: an “Avengers Encounter” where you can watch yourself interact with virtual Marvel characters, and two video games where you lean left to right and fight as Iron Man or Hulk. All three of these activities use the Microsoft Kinect in very basic ways. If you’ve played any Xbox games using the motion sensor, you know how these work.
After you’ve had your fill of S.H.I.E.L.D. training, you can enter the Quinjet (the high-tech super jet of the Marvel universe,) to proceed to the next segment. This is where things get pretty cool.
Before you enter this part, you’re warned by staff that you’ll be going 30 to 45 minutes without access to restrooms, so make sure your bladder is emptied out before proceeding. You enter a 360-degree projection dome where you tag along with the Avengers on a secret mission. This 3D footage completely surrounds you, meaning you can turn around and look in any direction and still see something happening.
I thought this was one of the coolest parts of the attraction, and if nothing else, I’d recommend you go to this just to see this part. Without spoiling too much, things go awry in the plot, and this segment leads you to the big finale, a motion-simulator ride aboard a Quinjet, where you help the Avengers face off against the big bad-guy of the story. I’m always a fan of these type of rides, and this one was pretty awesome. After all is said and done, you’re deemed a full-on agent, and are free to take on your most daring mission yet: the gift shop.
Pretty awesome, but where are the flaws. Well…
What Went Wrong
Okay, so a lot of the things you’ll see people complain about are things that, by my experience, are pretty typical for stadium events. You’ll be charged for parking, there are lines for everything and the food items are somewhat overpriced. The real problems for me come in the technical difficulties.
For instance, I waited for nearly an hour in the crowded staging area at the very beginning of the experience. As an enthusiastic staff member tried his best to keep guests entertained, I watched as the tech support hard-booted the computer several times before getting the video presentation to work. We were supposed to be given RFID bracelets for use during the attraction, but none of those were working at all and weren’t present at any point. Finally, the motion ride at the end was supposed to be in 3D like the dome before it, but apparently that wasn’t working either.
But those last two issues did little to take away from my enjoyment. At the end of the day, I got to play in a neat looking Marvel-themed playground, go on a fun ride and pretend to be an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a couple of hours. For a Marvel fan like me, there’s a lot of fun to be had in that. The production values for this are impressive and there are a few fun surprise cameos here and there.
Unless you’ve never been to a theme park before, none of this is going to blow you away. But if you’re a Marvel enthusiast (or if you have a kid who’s one), it’s a fun and unusual way to spend the night. Is that worth $40? I’ll leave that up to you.
You can find out more about The Marvel Experience by visiting the official site.