“Your assignment is simple. Find the key!” barked the official in the orientation video. As it turned out, it wasn’t so simple.
My fellow recruits and I were preparing to enter The Repository, an add-on virtual reality experience that Universal Studios Florida is offering as part of Halloween Horror Nights through October 31. Borrowing the concepts of interactive theater, haunted houses, collaborative escape rooms, and featuring VR technology, the small-group experience costs $49.99. Reservations are required, and participants must also purchase tickets to Universal’s Halloween event.
After signing a release in which, among other things, we agreed not to bring any claims against Universal for personal injury or mental distress (which made me wonder was about to happen), my group of four made its way to The Repository to begin our journey. For those who might be thinking about trying the experience, I suppose I should warn you about the spoilers that will follow. Honestly, however, I’m not sure I could share salient details even if I wanted to.
I was fully prepared, eager even, to find “the key.” I was especially excited about donning a VR headset and seeing how Universal would incorporate the emerging technology into the attraction. After making my way through the 30-minute experience, I can say I did not suffer any mental distress. But I left confused and wondering what just happened.
Don’t get me wrong. The Repository included some wonderful things. The physical sets were lavishly detailed, and the live actors that interacted with us were great. The first room was crammed with vintage artifacts. Under the watchful eye of a military officer, an eccentric curator encouraged us to examine the props. Other scenes included a dingy room presided over by a key-obsessed lunatic and a research lab headed by a sadistic scientist.