REVIEW: THE RIFT, Exit Reality – Midvalley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur

Not that I have this escapist urge to exit reality but if a place is going to make that promise I ought to check-it out. So this was on my to-do list this past Chinese New Year long weekend. I made it to Midvalley Megamall to exit reality and enter THE RIFT.

This new generation Family Entertainment Centre (FEC) by Aquawalk – the team behind KLCC Aquaria – replaces what used to be MegaKidz and offers a variety of AR/VR-based experiences, mostly for our millennials.

Here staff members are called Rangers, the theming is industrial dark (maybe a bit too dark to my liking) and the music is pumping. Visitors are climbing up and down the two sets of stairs to explore this three-storey venue and participate in up to 20 attractions offering different levels of mix between physical activity and technology (AR/VR).

The layout is effective with a central hub immediately behind the ticketing counter and visible from the mall to attract people inside. The Aquawalk team thought of everything with a café, some lockers, The Rift Junior (simple play area for kids under 12yo) and some party/event rooms.

The Rift brings world-class technology and game-play with some much talked about experiences such as Zero Latency’ free roaming VR shooter, Terminator X laser battle, Trio-Tech’s 3D shooter and Polymorph’s VR Maze.

But what the Rift failed to bring me was joy and happiness. I know I am probably asking for too much but isn’t it why people go to amusement parks? I felt like the additional layer of lenses (cameras, projectors, etc) and gear (VR set, guns, harnesses, etc) kept me away from connecting with people and letting go. As I looked around fellow visitors were either waiting in lines, trapped in their gear or taking pictures of friends trapped in their gear! No one laughing. Few people screaming.

In short I would say the Rift is a very welcome attempt to bring a new generation of FEC and a well designed/operated venue with high quality experiences but maybe not for me. After all I did mention I didn’t feel the need to exit reality! But if you do, you should try it, it’s only RM68 (US$17.5)!


Sekaten: probably the biggest carnival fair in the world

So I happened to be in Yogyakarta for Prophet Mohammad SAW birthday, which is a big muslim holiday, and so I managed to catch the last night of Sekaten. This Night Market celebration is a well-preserved tradition in Yogyakarta. The North Alun-Alun Square turns into the biggest carnival fair you could imagine filled with dozens of rides and endless food kiosks and clothes/gifts stalls.

What struck me was how busy it was and how excited people were about the amusement rides, and yet the rides were very old (borderline antiques) and many of the same sorts. But for IDR10,000 (0.75USD) per ride you could find all your classics: pirate ships, carousels, trampolines, bouncing castles, small trains, big wheels, flying chairs, motorbike cylinder, water boats and even a mini-motorcycle track. And everyone was happy, from your families with young kids to your teenagers and your young adults friends/couples.

For someone in our industry it is always fascinating to see that many people and that much excitement. It’s almost daunting. Because isn’t it what we all aspire to: driving huge attendance numbers and high levels of excitement/satisfaction? So it made me thinking and wondering what learnings to take out from it.

  • Classics work: be it the fear of falling off a rocking boat, or the gentle ride with your loved one on a ferris wheel
  • Size matters: it’s because there are lines and lines of rides, stalls and kiosks everywhere (to the point it’s hard to walk) that people are attracted in the first place; they feel it’s worth it
  • Simple and affordable pricing is king: can you think of anything better than IDR10,000 per ride?
  • Don’t overthink segmentation: families, teenagers, couples, they all live together anyway so they’re happy together in a park/attraction too
  • Fun is contagious: because of the proximity of the rides (safety? oh well not so important!) people see other people have fun and they also want to have fun

These were just a few simple thoughts I wanted to share. It’s always good to go back to basics and remember how our industry started. An now a few pictures of this amazing carnival fair. Enjoy!

PICTURES: Planet Hollywood Observatory

Among the exciting new developments in Orlando is the new Disney Springs, which is Disney’s remarquable foray in retailtainment anchored by none other than the World of Disney store. The two-year redevelopment made way to one of the most interesting retail experiences, which draws big crowds of theme park goers every night.

Interestingly Disney decided to keep some of the ‘classics’ from the Downtown Disney days such as T-Rex, Rainforest Cafe and Planet Hollywood Observatory, which I decided to check out to get an idea of how this institution reinvented (or not) destination family dining.

The building is still as impressive with its huge observatory dome. Only it looked a bit more modern with a new visual identity and lighting. Once inside its a real anthill with people everywhere waiting for a table. And everyone wants to eat inside for the dome experience because we were offered a table outside and we didn’t have to queue!

Some of the new movie displays include videos built-in the glass windows; very cool. My favorite thing in the new decor is the very 80’s cosmic carpet.

But what the 700+ diners distributed on 3 different floors are here for is the massive projection onto the dome, where birthdays are celebrated and occasionally karaoke songs played for a massive sing-along.

The music is blasting, disco lights are flashing, waiters are running everywhere with huge plates of food, this is destination family dining at its best!



PICTURES: Montréal en Histoires

I have always thought that museums were ahead of theme parks in experience design; and it’s not that they have more money but rather that they have to be more creative to drive visitorship with less money. Museums are not afraid of bringing new technologies and new disciplines to deliver their messages to a wider audience.

Montréal en Histoires is another example of such multi-disciplinary team creating an amazing experience for visitors and tourists to discover, explore and celebrate Montréal’s history.

On a visit to Montréal I downloaded the app and ventured in the city’s Old Port at night to discover the history of Montréal differently by strolling through the largest outdoor projection circuit in the world. My favorite installation was a projection on a cobblestone street telling an old Indian story, which interacted with people when they walked over. Very cool, very immersive, very memorable.


REVIEW: Fear the Walking Dead Survival, Fremont Street Experience, Downtown Las Vegas

On my recent trip to Las Vegas I headed up to where it all started – Fremont Street – to experience their newest attraction: Fear the Walking Dead Survival.

For those who don’t know Vegas this is an area a bit less glitzy than the Strip (a lot less actually!) but which has been undergoing major redevelopment in an attempt to attract young adults. Fremont Street Experience consisted in covering the entire street with a giant LED canopy, which comes alive at night with music, live performances and all sorts of events. It houses the famous Slotzilla zipline, which takes people the whole length of the canopy. And Fear the Walking Dead Survival is by the same operator.

When I checked online the website offered to buy tickets for one of the 20min slots running from 1pm to 12am (clearly nobody would want to go to Fremont Street before 1pm!). All slots showed still available (total 36pax) before heading out so I figured it would be OK to buy on the spot, and it was. I paid $32.

There were a total of 15 people in our slot, that’s almost half of full capacity. Not bad for 4.30PM on a week day. And it was all young adults in groups of two or four. Right on target audience!

After splitting us in two groups, the experience started with a briefing by a military personnel followed by picture taking and QR code reading (for us to buy pictures at the end of the attraction), sanitization and scanning before the next briefing by military personnel. Our group was then split again into 2 small escape rooms where we had to solve a simple challenge to open the door. A nurse was waiting for us to rush us to a lift (a moving platform) after which we ended up in the dark following a few ‘haunted’ corridors to the final room: the 3D shooting game (by Triotech). Once complete we exited where we started and of course we were offered to purchase pictures.

Sorry that was quite a quick description but that’s basically what happened: a succession of proven attractions concept (escape room, haunted house, 3D shooting) to support a simple (but effective) storyline and leave you on a high with the feeling it’s worth your $32!


Surprisingly I did have a good time! I had no idea about the Walking Dead franchise but I thought the live actors and the excellent theming delivered an experience that felt genuine. I liked the fact that I had some interaction with other people in the group that I didn’t know before. I liked that technology was used to serve an immersive experience. Overall Triotech successfully found a new way to sell their 3D shooting game, which otherwise can feel quite dated and a bit boring.


PICTURES: Jakarta Aquarium Opens

Reception_1Entranceimmersive tunneltouch tablesnakeamphibiansmini rainforest_1digital rivermangroverivers of indonesia_1pitanhasrivers of indonesia_2swirl tankreef tankjewel tankstouch pool_2dragonbig tank


PICTURES: Millenium Park, Kolkata, India

Recently I went to India for a holiday. This was my fourth trip to this amazing country. When in Kolkata I was lucky to visit the popular Millenium Park by the Ganges river, which was full with families having fun on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon.

Here are a few pictures and some of my thoughts.


Millenium Park is in the heart of town, next to the administrative centre, and therefore very easy to reach for middle class families who solely rely on public transportation. It is where small boats depart on cruises on the river, an experience not to be missed with singers performing classic Indian tunes.


The robust children playground is one of the most popular attractions. No matter how rich or poor, how developed or not, active play and interaction with other kids always work!


Lots of families with kids, parents and grand-parents enjoying watching each other have fun, this is the recipe for success.


Some mild thrill as leveled playing field for kids, teenagers and adults. Feeling a bit scared and dizzy and sharing it with other people is one good way of creating lasting memories, something our industry is built on.


I loved watching these teenage girls race these bumper cars with so much passion and laughter.


The best for last. This rocking boat is handled manually by this man who uses a wheel on a driving belt to push the boat and give it speed, very DIY. Who said our industry had to be high-tech!?