I've been watching the original "Star Wars" trilogy since I was a little kid. I can recite many of the lines and know the names of many of the characters and not just the famous ones -- by heart. Never did I think I'd ever get to feel like I was starring in a "Star Wars" film of my own, but that's exactly what the Void, a virtual-reality experience attraction at Disney Springs, feels like. It was one of the most exhilarating, exciting attractions I've ever experienced, and not just because I'm an unabashed Jedi wannabe.
The Void is located on the north end of Disney Springs, an area you might not even find easily, as this part of the shopping, dining and entertainment district has barely been touched by the renovation. For just $30, you'll don a virtual-reality headset, vest and a blaster gun like the ones Storm Troopers use in the films for a thrilling 20-minute walk-through called Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire. The objective: recover Imperial intelligence vital to the survival of the Rebellion.
The experience is a cross between laser tag and virtual reality (VR) video gaming. In the briefing room, players receive their instructions and some information about the mission. You'll pick your team's color so you can recognize other players through the VR visor. Then, you'll be escorted to put your belongings in a locker, and put on the helmet, visor, vest and blaster. If it feels like you're headed into battle, you're not wrong.
As soon as you flip down the visor, your friends and family are transformed into storm troopers (you're rebels in disguise), and you can see yourself in full regalia, too. As you continue through the game, you'll be able to see each other complete the tasks and fight battles together.
It's not perfect. In the first scene, K-2SO, the droid from "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," is transporting you to the molten planet Mustafar. You're instructed to take a seat for the journey, and if you look down at your legs when seated, you won't see them.
That said, once the transport arrives at the planet, you'll walk across a lava river on a drawbridge, the smell of ash and the heat of the lava on your cheeks. It's surreal and multisensory in every sense of the word. It's definitely disorienting to trust that you're not going to walk into a wall or fall flat on your face, but rest assured, the virtual reality element is seamless. The small maze players walk through is exactly as it appears on your visor's screen.
As the game progresses and players walk through the rooms and hallways of the imperial base, each scene presents challenges like memory puzzles to open doors and access information. Once you're discovered by your enemy, you'll have to shoot at Storm Trooper guards and even have a duel with Darth Vader in the finale before escaping back to the transport and K-2SO's comforting British lilt. Success! You've saved the galaxy.
The Void is an individual entity, unaffiliated with Disney (the space for the attraction is leased from Disney), and tickets are available at TheVoid.com. A new VR experience at the Void just opened on Nov. 21, and it's themed after the new "Wreck-It Ralph" sequel, so there's an option for those who aren't fans of the intergalactic franchise.
The only snag for families is the height requirements: Players have to be at least 48 inches tall to participate. But tweens and teens will love the immersive experience, proving that one way to get their noses out of a small screen is to put them in a bigger one.