Out of this world: Reporter tests Luna Park’s new virtual reality ride

Out of this world: Reporter tests Luna Park’s new virtual reality ride
Photo by Erica Price

It’s virtually the next level!

Thrill seekers can take one of Luna Park’s high flying rides to the next level with virtual reality headsets. The WindstarZ already lets riders soar above the Boardwalk as if they were hang gliding above the People’s Playground, but the newfangled tech puts adrenaline junkies at the helm of their virtual adventure, said a rep for Luna Park.

“You’re able to create your own experience,” said brand manager Angie Mooris. “It’s interactive, so depending on how you push the lever in front of you, you can fly up and down and it will help you navigate this new world.”

It’s a cutting-edge thrill that could be the future of amusement park rides. In fact, last summer neighboring Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park jumped on the futuristic bandwagon with similar gear in the XD Dark Ride, which puts park-goers in the thick of a post-apocalyptic battle between zombies and raiders.

The WindstarZ makes a more lighthearted use of the graphics and lets riders steer their way through a whimsical town, caverns, and waterfalls all while shooting for coins in a vaguely “Super Mario World”-esque reality.

This reporter had a vague idea of what to expect from trying out 3D zombies shooters. But I quickly learned that flying through the air with a virtual reality headset strapped to your head is a whole new ball game — you are peering into another world while your body becomes a whirling dervish. It’s a surreal sensation.

And if you’re a pro at multitasking this ride is for you. Pilots must steer through the virtual sky with a lever that affects how high or low you go in the real world, too, while tapping the side of your headset to shoot rainbow balls at coins — and you aim with the subtle shifts of your noggin.

It was a bit disorienting at first, and all the moving parts made me feel like I was soaring in a high-flying contraption out of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” But once I got the hang of it, it was quite a spectacle, though the roar of the wind drowned out most of the sound effects.

Call me old fashioned, but I’m partial to watching the world spin by rather than entering a new one in the air. But if you’re looking for a new twist on an old classic, this might be up your alley.

At the moment, WindstarZ has six of its 24 seats equipped with Samsung headsets that sync to each two-seat hang glider.

The park plans to roll out the remaining headgear throughout the summer and has its sights set on incorporating engrossing graphics into other rides like the heart thumping Thunderbolt roller coaster.

“WindstarZ” at Luna Park [1000 Surf Ave near Surf Avenue in Coney Island, lunaparknyc.com, (718) 373–5862] Times vary. $5. Must be at least 12-year-old.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Somebody had to do it: Our reporter Caroline Spivack took the ride for a spin on June 2.
Photo by Erica Price