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‘Variant 31’ review

Theatre, Interactive Space 18 , Holborn Until Tuesday December 31 2019
2 out of 5 stars
1 out of 5 stars
(8user reviews)
Variant 31
© Tom Grace

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

This immersive zombie-killing experience misses by a long shot

There’s a lot of big talk around ‘Variant 31’. It’s billed as an incredibly complex fear-fest, as close as you’ll get to gaming IRL, so much so that its opening was pushed back twice. And since 90 percent of my friends refused to join me prior to my visit (wimps), surely, I thought, this had to be good. And by good, I mean shit-your-pants terrifying.

As we approached for our midweek slot, green lights shone through the windows with a menacing glare. Smoke bellowed from the tattered New Oxford Street building complex it’s housed in, congealing with blobs of rain and fogging up the street below. It would have been creepy if we hadn’t been waiting out there for 45 minutes while it ran behind schedule. 

Still, once you’re inside things ramp up. Sour-faced ‘lab staff’ thrust you into hi-tech geara light-up military vest with a pretend gun. Then a safety briefing happens (goal: collect points by tapping your bracelet on hidden scanners and kill zombies) and then you’re thrown into the belly of the beast, along with a burgeoning dose of hyper-vigilance. 

There’s a husk of a plot here. A (not so) brilliant scientist has concocted a serum to reanimate the dead. What could go wrong? Well, everything, it turns out – because his experiment went tits up and now the undead are gonna getcha. Oooooo.

But despite the actors putting up a good fight (often having more fun with their elaborate deaths than we do), things are mostly one-note. Your actions don’t seem to make any difference, scares become predictable, the tech didn’t work properly and we didn’t see any sign of the promised bars, nightclub or aerial performers within. In fact, as we neared the 70-minute mark, I wished I had my own poisoned syringe so I could join the brain-dead hordes.

The real tragedy is that there’s potential to this immersive adventure. The end scene plays out with some much-needed urgency. The shadowy building is eerily easy to get lost in. But for now, the novelty factor just doesn’t cut it. ‘Variant 31’ may have already postponed its opening twice, but to survive it’ll need another reboot. 

Details

Venue name: Space 18
Address: Space 18
39-41 New Oxford Street
London
WC1A 1BN
Transport: Tube: Holborn
Price: £55-£65. Runs 1hr 30min

Dates And Times

    • Space 18 £55-£65. Runs 1hr 30min

      Entry every half-hour until 9pm

    • Space 18 £55-£65. Runs 1hr 30min

      Entry every half hour until 10pm

    • Space 18 £55-£65. Runs 1hr 30min

      Entry every half hour until 10pm

    • Space 18 £55-£65. Runs 1hr 30min

      Entry every half hour until 10pm

    • Space 18 £55-£65. Runs 1hr 30min

      Entry every half-hour until 11pm

    • Space 18 £55-£65. Runs 1hr 30min

      Entry every half-hour until 11pm

    • Space 18 £55-£65. Runs 1hr 30min

      Entry every half-hour until 11pm

    • Space 18 £55-£65. Runs 1hr 30min

      Entry every half-hour until 9pm

    • Space 18 £55-£65. Runs 1hr 30min

      Entry every half hour until 10pm

    • Space 18 £55-£65. Runs 1hr 30min

      Entry every half hour until 10pm

  • Show more

Users say (8)

1 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

1.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:5
LiveReviews|8
1 person listening
1 of 1 found helpful

I attended with friends and was shocked by the both the level of security and the attitude of the security staff. 


When I asked other staff members why the security was so strict, I was told that some previous 'guests' had smuggled in gas cartridges and ammunition for the air guns that you're issued with. These had been used against the staff and other paying customers. This made me feel extremely unsafe. How could I know if that had happened again? 


I think Variant 31 should be much more honest about these violent incidents, so that people can make up their own mind as to whether they wish to risk their personal safety. 

1 of 1 found helpful

I agree with the Timout review, but I'd go further: 

- Rude staff

- Poorly organised. 

- Massively overpriced. 

- Boring. 

1 of 1 found helpful

I've got a young familty so don't get to go out so much. A friend suggested we do this game as it looked fun, but really you'd have more fun eating cardboard! Lots of waiting around, then running up and down stairs, with these stupid bracelets that don't work. I actually mentioned to the woman at the counter at the end that I didn't think it was so good and she said, 'Well don't come back'. Don't worry, love. I won't!


We have booked as a team twice and they have cancelled with very little notice on both occasions due to 'technical problems'! If you book with them, be ready for them to cancel last minute.


I'd have to agree almost 100% with the main review. The setting and the acting are outstanding - I was pretty terrified for the first half of it, and on the whole I still enjoyed it almost to the end. But there's a lot missing from the hype they build up in their promotional materials - including the need to develop the "escape room" concept bit but more, as there was a distinct absence of puzzles to solve and so the novelty wears off once you acclimatise to the setting and limitations placed on the actors.


I'm a gamer and I love first person shooters - especially shooting up zombies with cool weapons. I had high hopes for Vartiant31, but it was a major fail for the following reasons: 

- We were kept waiting for ages. 

- Door staff were rude and the manager really does think he's the bees knees (yeah right!)

- The guns you're issued with just go 'click'. That's it. Seriously. Nothing more. This is 2019 people! Surely it isn't beyond the wit of woman/man to fit some frigging laser beams to these things? WTF?

- The venue is big, but there's nothing worth seeing inside - just lots of stairs. 


At £50 a pop, they're taking the Michael. Big Time. I wish I'd saved the cash for the new CoD Modern Warfare. 

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