Legoland Malaysia’s new virtual reality rollercoaster brings a rather niche form of entert ainment to a more mainstream audience. The Great Lego Race, as it is known, attempts to blend the thrill of a rollercoaster with the charm of Lego; and does so with some reasonable amount of success.
For the most part, the Great Lego Race resembles Legoland’s older X Racer rollercoaster. And that’s because it happens to be built on the same set of tracks. All that’s actually been added to the ride are the VR headsets; and that turns it from a rather mediocre ride into an interesting virtual reality tech demo.
The entrace of the ride has been updated with a new archway that proclaims the name of the Great Lego Race. Sadly, the marketing department also built a canopy in front of that arch for the official launch, reducing the impact that it could have had. Directly inside is the waiting area. Now updated with murals of the five racers (Pirate Captain, Wizard, Surfer, Pharoah, and Trendsetter) that will be competing against those wearing the VR headsets.
These five are drawn from various Lego themes, including Pirates, City, and Kingdoms. Each vehicle is similarly reflective of the associated theme; and look like something out of the Lego Movie. Combining creative designs with a certain sense of childlike wonder. Older visitors might get a sense of the Hanna-Barbera Wacky Races cartoon here. Which is probably something that will go over the heads of the children this is aimed at.
Visitors on the ride are set in a literal race against these five virtual opponents. Most of which are not above cheating and using every sneaky trick in the book to gain an advantage. Which would be upsetting if they had learnt to drive in a straight line. It’s a very compressed racing story that goes by at breakneck speed; making it rather difficult to digest the explosions of colour with only one pass.
If there was one common complaint to be had among the media, it would be that the experience ends far too quickly. Which is perhaps something that Legoland can live with.
Samsung enters this equation by supplying the VR headsets, which are somewhat customised for the needs of a rollercoaster. Including the addition of a modified backstrap to secure it to the wearer’s head. They feel extremely comfortable, and were in no danger of flying off at any time. It’s little different from the regular Samsung Gear; being intended to grip the head a little tighter to compensate for the extra force of going round bends at high speed.
The VR portion of the ride certainly alters the very essence of a rollercoaster. Gone is the slow anticipation of watching the cars slowly ascend the tracks. Replaced by the sensation of surprise when a sudden drop happens, or when the virtual race car makes a sharp turn to avoid obstacles. In all, it really feels less like an amusement park ride and more like one of those 4D cinema experiences. That said, it’s a really, really solid example of using VR to turn a mediocre kids’ ride into something far more enjoyable.
It would seem that Samsung has learnt quite a lot from its partnership with the Six Flags theme parks in the US. And Legoland really benefits from those lessons. Right down to the complete absence of motion sickness.
Despite the ride being new, there were already some cracks in the hardware. One of the VR headsets had visible dead pixels, while others complained about problems with the audio. The visual problems didn’t quite hinder our enjoyment of the ride, but it was a reminder that there will be a lot of wear and tear on the equipment.
Overall, there’s many good things to be said about the Great Lego Race. It’s a fine example of what how VR can be deployed to transform an experience. The only thing to get over was suddenly feeling the heat of the real sun while looking at a world made of Lego.
The Great Lego Race is now open in Legoland Malaysia, and is set to open in Legoland Florida and Legoland Deutscheland next year.