Electric Playhouse [Review]

Atari 2022

Location:  Albuquerque, NM

Date Played: December 14, 2021

Team size: 1-Β―\_(ツ)_/Β―; we recommend 2-4

Duration: About 2 hours – more if it’s crowded, or if you really want to get good at any of these games

Price: $18 per adult (less for children, military, and seniors)

Ticketing: Public

Accessibility Consideration: To fully take advantage of the games, you need to able-bodied and willing to run, jump, dance, or otherwise move

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Electric Playhouse was a projection mapping gaming facility with a restaurant and bar.

At 24,000 square feet, the facility was covered in projections with an aesthetic that I can best describe as corporate psychedelic. By that I mean it has clear influences from EDM; its color palette and vibe all feel like they are of that world, but it’s all cleaned up so that a company’s HR department would feel comfortable bringing a holiday party there.

The games were all motion- and body-controlled. For the most part they felt like modernized versions of games from the Atari and Apple 2e era… which was smart. These games are largely intuitive and cross-generational. Throughout the facility you’ll find variants on games like Snake, Breakout, and the like. Additionally, there was a dodgeball-meets-Space Invaders game where we threw balls at aliens projected on the wall to destroy them. (This mostly served to demonstrate to me just how out of shape the past 2 years have made me.)

A person playing a projected version of Snake.

The food and drink at Electric Playhouse were good. We didn’t consume anything particularly special, but we enjoyed everything. The inclusion of a bar/ restaurant made it a great place to hang out and play for a few hours.

If you’re in the area and looking for something a little different, Electric Playhouse is a fun place to check out. I’d suggest setting aside 1.5 to 3 hours depending upon how into it you think you’re going to get. Also… we were there on a Tuesday night when it wasn’t busy. I imagine that the weekend experience might be different.

Who is this for?

  • Tech fans
  • Gamers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The projection mapping games were fun and different
  • Between the games, food, drinks, and vibe, it was a fun place to hang out

Setting

Electric Playhouse was set in a 24,000-square-foot facility that featured two bar/ restaurants, and many large spaces covered in elaborate projections. The ceilings were also incredibly tall, making the space feel even larger.

A clean, psychedelic look carried throughout most of the facility. The lower light also helped ensure that the projections rendered clearly.

A large room with a court projected on the floor and feet symbols on either side.

Gameplay

Electric Playhouse offered a collection of interactive games where the projections responded to our movement.

To play these games, we ran, jumped, ducked, threw, reached, or otherwise moved our bodies. The minimal equipment we needed (like a ball) was provided.

Most of the games were fairly intuitive, but some were a little more obtuse. We watched one group struggle on a few different games, trying to determine whether they were supposed to dodge an obstacle or touch it in order to score points.

Some games were collaborative, others competitive, and a few were non-competitive motion installations where we had fun creating art through body moment.

Someone running on a projected course.

Analysis

βž• After purchasing a ticket, we went through an Instagrammable tunnel and arrived at a soccer-like game, created with projection mapping. The game was immediately recognizable. Everyone knew what to do. Any number of people could play… and they could come and go at any time. This was a great introduction to what we’d experience in the main game area.

An elaborate tunnel glowing purple.

βž• We can’t play these games at home… at least not with this environment and control scheme.

βž• The tech behind the games was incredibly responsive, with limited latency. Occasionally we felt delay causing confusion or problems, but for the most part, things worked quite well.

Two people playing a projected video game.

βž• The games were pretty intuitive. They started out simply and then became increasingly more challenging.

βž– Some of the games didn’t provide enough player feedback. For example, we watched one group play a game wrong repeatedly. They had no idea they were doing the opposite of what the game intended. Because they needed to look at the floor to play, but the scoreboard was on the wall, they didn’t realize they weren’t scoring any points.

βž• The games had mechanics to get players to move on to something new in a reasonable amount of time. Either the player could complete the game, or the challenge became increasingly more difficult, verging on impossible, until the player made enough mistakes for game over.

βž•Β The venue was set up so that the largest gamespace – the one that invited multiplayer competitions – was viewable from the bar and restaurant area. It was like a big stage.

βž• Our favorite game was the team-based Breakout. We played 2 on 2, controlling our enormous projected paddle together by running back and forth across the floor.

βž–Β After a while, there was a bit of sameness to all these games. They relied on the same tech and similar mechanics. The novelty wore off.

βž– The flooring was made of concrete, which had a lot of practical benefits for the projections, but was harsh on the feet.

βž• We liked the vibe of the venue. The music added ambiance without being overpowering. We enjoyed the food and the drinks.

❓ We visited on a Tuesday evening when the venue was almost empty. There were maybe half a dozen other groups of 2-6 in the space. We really enjoyed the discovery of walking up to a game and figuring out how to play it. If we’d been waiting in line, watching others try first, we’d have had a different experience. Your mileage may vary.

Projection of the words, "SPACE RECON"
I don’t know why, but this projection spoke to me.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: There is a parking lot.
  • Food: There is a full restaurant and bar on site.
  • Wear sneakers.
  • Athletic clothes are recommended. You can work up a sweat.
  • Bring as little stuff with you as possible. You don’t want to be carrying a purse while playing these games.

Book your ticket to Electric Playhouse, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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