While neither my co-editor Deborah nor I are what you would call hard-core gamers, we’ve done our time on the Wii, Nintendo DS, and assorted arcade games. We were game to be among the first customers at Natick Mall’s new first-floor Immersive Gamebox entertainment venue, which is now open.
(We first reported about the business’s pending arrival back in December.)
Our sneak peek started with signing a waiver and then entering one of the 6 illuminated—and accessible—Gamebox rooms, which at 12 feet by 12 feet are plenty big for anywhere from two to six players to maneuver within as the game gets going. You can make reservations online or walk up to play.
Our helpful host, General Manager Eric Collins, instructed us each to don a different color visor that allowed the room’s corner cameras to keep track of our motion. The visors fit well… I forgot I had mine on. Collins said he was happy to have Immersive Gamebox’s new visors at this location.
From there, a British voice—the company started in England in 2019—walked us through the basics of playing games and warned us not to keep anything on the floor, assuring us that we would trip and fall. Lockers are available to store your stuff.
Immersive Gamebox has licensed games with familiar names like Angry Birds and Squid Game, though also has developed its own games, some of which might remind you of classics like Pac-Man. Collins says he loves a game called Alien Aptitude Test that has a fun ’80s vibe, complete with tunes.
We went with Squid Game, based on the popular and disturbing Netflix series out of South Korea. I’ve watched the show, which was memorable to say the least. Deborah hasn’t watched more than a few snippets, and assures me she never will go beyond that.
The venue’s Squid Game entailed a mix of physical and mental challenges. Nothing that overexerted us physically, but it did take some body control, following red or blue dots on the touchscreen walls just so, so as not to “hit” prohibited lines or run into bad guys, on our way to achieving goals (and earning billions!). Among our favorites was navigating Squid Game’s notorious Glass Bridge, which involved us working together to remember images projected on the walls, and then moving one way or the other to indicate answers to progressively more difficult memorization tests. We almost made it across before plunging to our demise just one step away.
“You can never have touched a video game in your life and you easily figure out how to do this,” says Collins, who has hired a staff, though continues to seek employees. “This is not virtual reality, this is completely different.”
Other activities within Squid Game involved avoiding the stare of that big creepy doll as we moved around the room and tracing different shapes without cracking the virtual honeycomb. And oh yeah, you’re racing against the clock. We had a small audience of Collins and a rep from general contractor Ridge Construction Corp. (New Brunswick, N.J.), watching us newbies through a clear wall on one side of the gamebox. During regular operations, Immersive Gamebox employees will have camera access via computers to monitor how things going in the game rooms
Collins has come to open the Natick Mall’s newest attraction from Chicago, where he oversees a location at an outdoor mall. He’s optimistic that Natick Mall will be a strong spot for Immersive Gamebox, which he says is very popular for date night, but also will scoop up mall shoppers, including parents with little kids.
This is something that people can do as part of a day or night out, popping in for an hour, and grabbing a meal before or after.
Immersive Gamebox currently aims for customers ages 5 and up, but a new Paw Patrol game will attract even younger players.
Currently, you need at least two people to play, but when asked if there might be any possibility of individuals coming in and then connecting with others, Collins said to stay tuned.
Immersive Gamebox will also be a new birthday party option for locals, and a venue for corporate outings. We’ve already seen Level 99, the interactive gaming venue that opened upstairs at the mall two years ago (see our sneak peek), become a big attraction for camps and other groups.
Play at Immersive Gamebox typically lasts either 30 or 60 minutes, with prices ranging from about $20 for 30 minutes for kids to about $40 for an hour for adults. Discounts will be available for those obtaining purple loyalty cards.
While some Immersive Gamebox locations offer food and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, none will be available at the Natick Mall location for now.
Players are encouraged to ham it up and take photos while in their gamebox. A phone stand will be set up so that you can even record yourselves playing. Our game wrapped up with an invitation to celebrate our small victories and have that immortalized in a GIF.
Immersive Gamebox comes from the same creative mind that co-founded Tough Mudder obstacle course races, and the goal is to put various versions in dozens of locations, from airports to movie theatres to gyms across the United States.
It adds to the increasingly amusement park feel of the Mall, with Level 99 and Dave & Buster’s on the second level, and Puttshack mini golf on the way.