On a recent trip to Sydney, I had the opportunity to visit Hyper Karting, a go-kart and VR centre in Moore Park. It had been a while since I’d gone go-karting. There were a couple of places in Perth that do it but as I got older it wasn’t something I really did anymore. While I have the Oculus Rift S for my VR needs, I wouldn’t say I’m a big VR user, or even a casual one to be honest. I do remember going to a VR place in my childhood, but that experience was closer to the much maligned Virtual Boy than modern experiences.
The venue takes up the whole 5th floor of The Entertainment Quarter’s parking complex, which means that while it’s under cover, it is open. If it’s a particularly chilly day gamers will want to bring warm clothes, particularly when using the karts.
Exiting the lift, the first thing that struck me was the absence of everything knew about go-karts. There was no roar of engines and no exhaust smell. These are RiMO electric karts, none of those messy emissions. If it wasn’t for the occasional sound of someone bumping into the barrier or wheels squealing as a driver took a corner too fast, you’d be hard pressed to know exactly what was going on.
While the Hyper Karting go-karts were of interest to me (I’ll be talking about that in a bit), they weren’t what I was interested in the most. Hyper Reality, the venue’s free roaming VR setup, had me excited. My previous VR experiences had all been corded and the idea of just wandering about without having to worry about cables was very appealing.
The other drawcard of Hyper Reality is the haptic feedback vests, crucial for knowing the direction players are being attacked from. I was a little worried about the one-size-fits-all vests fitting my ample frame, but after a quick moment of adjustment it fit me perfectly. The headset fit well around my head, with an adjustable knob to ensure it sat comfortably. Lastly there were the controllers, which were standard VR fare, one for each hand with two trigger buttons on each and a couple of buttons for player’s thumbs.
Hyper Karting’s Hyper Reality has three games on offer: the zombie survival Death Squad, the Overcooked-style Kitchen Panic, and the competitive Cyber Clash.
For my visit I played Death Squad. This game had me facing off against waves of zombie hoards. With each zombie felled I accumulated money which could then be used to purchase better weapons and to open more space to move. The corridors were tight and quite often zombies would sneak up on me (especially when they dropped from the ceiling). This is where the haptic feedback vest came in handy. Knowing the direction that an attack came from made responding that much easier.
The starting weapon (a pistol with unlimited ammunition) appeared in my right hand when the game started, and I just continued using that hand for all my weapons. Halfway through my session when I’d built up a decent cash reserve, a thought suddenly occurred. I have two hands. Can I get a second weapon? The answer to that is yes. Yes, I could. New horizons in zombie slaying lay before me.
The free roaming ability of Hyper Reality really added to the immersive experience. Before my session I wondered what would happen if I just decided to walk through the walls. After all, there is nothing physically stopping me from doing that. But I never got to act on that thought as I was absorbed in the frantic action of Death Squad, and I never thought to try. My eyes were telling me there was a wall there, why wouldn’t I believe them?
I had so much fun with Hyper Karting’s Hyper Reality. I found myself wanting to load up and go again as soon as my session finished. But there was something else to try out: the go-karts.
I mentioned earlier that the karts were electric. The technology has come a long way over the years, and I was impressed with how high-tech they were. During the briefing a Hyper Karting expert took us through all the settings of the karts. They have a system to get you used to racing that prevents you from jumping in and going full speed from the get-go. The karts start at a reduced power rate until the driver gets below a certain lap time, indicating that they are driving well and can handle the extra oomph. There’s three times to beat before you can access the kart’s full ability.
Safety is big for Hyper Karting. In addition to some standard rules, such as enclosed shoes and no loose clothing, stewards are scattered around the track and will warn drivers if they are bumping into other karts. If the stewards need to enter the racetrack, the karts will have their top speed lowered. Stewards will also alert slower drivers if someone is looking to pass so they can get over and let the faster driver overtake.
It was fun racing around the 410m track, but I was surprised at how taxing it was. My arms became sore from steering. I thought it might just have been me and my lack of upper body strength, but the FAQ on the Hyper Karting website mentions that doing back-to-back races isn’t advisable because of the physical demands of racing.
There’s an area for the little ones too, with a Mini Track available for them.
Overall, I had a blast at Hyper Karting and Hyper Reality, and the number of attendees when I was there say that it’s a hit. The staff are very attentive and friendly, as well as helpful when it came to explaining safety features. With pricing from $19 to $59 (dependant on busy periods) for Hyper Karting sessions and a special introductory rate of $19 for Hyper Reality sessions, it’s quite affordable too. I highly recommend anyone visiting Sydney to check out this amazing VR and karting experience.