Rex and I were initially skeptical of the virtual reality upcharge attraction called “The Repository” at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando, FL. After all, we had yet to experience a VR attraction that did not leave us nauseated and frustrated. But hey, this was Halloween Horror Nights – surely this would not be your average, run-of-the-mill, cheapo VR gimmick in order to make a few more bucks…right?
Absolutely right. We were thrilled with the experience.
It all began by exiting Universal Studios to find the entrance to the Blue Man Group where The Repository attraction was located. In all of our years attending the Universal Orlando Resort, we had never made the walk back into the Blue Man Group area, so this was new territory for us. A small sign pointed us in the right direction and we were led into a medium sized room about thirty minutes before our scheduled time.
We were escorted to a round table – number five to be exact – where a few other folks were already sitting and reading a piece of paper in front of them. When we sat down, we realized the paper was a liability form we had to sign and soon learned that the scareactors in The Repository were able to touch you – something that is a big no-no over in the HHN mazes. Along the wall of the room were posters sitting on various easels that described historical items and events of a supernatural or grotesque nature. It was actually quite a bit of reading, and we were hoping this wasn’t material that needed to be memorized! A chalice laced with arsenic, a skull of a pirate that is cursed, a series of bells that are accompanied by ghosts, and so forth.
Finally, it was time for us to begin. We were given only one instruction…only one. If you get sick, lift up both of your hands. That’s it. That’s all we knew about The Repository.
I am going to refrain from writing specific spoilers about the attraction because that would ruin the fun. So, without giving too much away, here is what happened next…
We were led into a detailed room with two live scareactors waiting on us. From the first second of the experience, it was game on. I discovered very quickly that attentiveness would be absolutely key to surviving The Repository. The “host” of the first room was an excellent actor but talked incredibly fast. The soundtrack playing in the room was quite loud, so the microphone the scareactor was wearing barely allowed his voice to raise above the music, and even then it was difficult to hear. But that might have been intentional. Were we supposed to hear everything he was saying? Hard to say.
There were 10 of us in the room divided into three teams. Our team was the “green team” and as we found out, “green always goes first,” so off we went into the next room with a new host. Again, the acting was very good and there was a small, simple puzzle to solve in this room, although for timing purposes, the host did not really even let us be “stumped” as he pointed out the answers just as soon as he asked the questions.
We were probably 10 minutes into the experience at this point and the big question still remained – what the heck were we supposed to do? No clue.
Off to the next room with a female host this time dressed in riot gear. Again, she was a great actor and the room was beautifully detailed. At this point, each member of the team was holding a different colored light and were picking up on the idea that we were supposed to remember the order of colors. Now keep in mind, we had still heard no mention of virtual reality, headsets, or anything. We knew very little, but we were still having a blast.
And then it happened – we were taken into a square room that seemed to have padded walls. Rex and I were told to stand back to back. Headsets were placed over our heads and earphones were placed on us. Not to beat a dead horse, but we had no clue – absolutely no clue – what was about to happen.
With our headsets securely in place, everything faded to white (which in the horror genre typically means you have entered into the afterlife) and then the first “scene” appeared right in front of our eyes. It was a library/study. The virtual reality was incredible and I wasted probably 15 seconds just standing in awe of what I was seeing. I could even see Rex through my VR headset, albeit he was a freaky looking mask character surrounded by a flame.
I started to see some of the images and colors we were instructed to look for, but still didn’t know what was going on or what I was doing. For a moment I thought I had to figure out how to survive as ghosts and grim reaper looking specters started closing in on me. But then I realized it wasn’t a matter of surviving as much as it was observing and memorizing patterns. But I didn’t even know how to process what I was seeing. It was sensory overload, but in a good way.
After three different scenes of virtual reality, including a rather terrifying stage where I was perched on top of a high tower and the floor was collapsing beneath me, the headsets were taken off and we were swept into the final room. Our task was to arrange 6 colors in the proper order. Do you remember the piano playing scene in the classic 1985 film “The Goonies?” This final scene reminded me of that. If we got the order incorrect, we were blasted with smoke and had to try again. Our time limit was two minutes and unfortunately, we didn’t survive.
We were then given a sticker for our effort and led to an outside gathering area to discuss with our team what went wrong. That was part of the fun as we talked about the things we should have done and attempted to make sense of what just happened.
So, the question of all questions is this – was The Repository worth the $50 upcharge to an already expensive Halloween Horror Nights experience? RexandtheBeast.com believes it was absolutely worth it. Here are my pros and cons of the attraction:
Wonderful actors who never broke character and helped immerse you into the thrill of the experience.
Beautifully designed sets and superb attention to detail.
Outstanding virtual reality, the best I have ever seen by a long shot.
A tension-filled climatic final scene that gets your heart racing.
My biggest complaint is the incorporation of the Repository items (such as the aforementioned chalice, skull, etc) into the objective of the virtual reality game. Although I understand the desire to keep things mysterious, I felt that the underlying story and the objective of our mission were not defined clearly enough. It required lots of hindsight conversation with multiple team members to try and discern all the various information, and even then we still aren’t sure how everything pieced together. Again, it would be equally disappointing if everything was completely clear and nothing was left to the skill of the team to figure out the mission, but too much was left unknown for us to fully appreciate the backstory and its incorporation into the attraction as a whole.
At the end of the day, it seems The Repository ultimately came down to figuring out the order of 6 colors through three virtual reality scenes. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not complaining because the experience from beginning to end was thrilling and fulfilling. This is not really a “haunted” attraction in the sense of traditional “jump scares” and those kinds of things, but felt more like an “escape game” with live actors and superb virtual reality. If spending an extra $50 is within your means, then RexandtheBeast.com recommends The Repository as a unique, fun, thrilling experience that will be one of your favorite memories at Halloween Horror Nights 26. We have tried upcharge attractions at haunted events before (for example, the “Alone” experience at Howl-O-Scream) and this has been our favorite upcharge experience to date. As with anything, it is not without its faults, but for the first year, we were certainly impressed. Rex and I hope to see them again – next time we will be ready.
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