Collier’s Weekly: What’s It Like to Enter a Virtual World at Sandbox VR?

The new VR gaming parlor in the Terminal Building makes for a fun group outing — just prepare for a sensory riot.
Keyart Sots Fortress


Reality — whether virtual or actual — moves quickly.

One of the first things you’ll notice about a modern virtual-reality experience, like the one now available at Sandbox VR in the Strip District’s Terminal Building, is how fast it feels. In a normal video game, things aren’t exactly slow, but you can see them coming; 40 years into home gaming, we’re more than used to seeing enemies approach from a distance or anticipating when a threat in the corner of the screen will be on top of us.

When you’re frantically whirling your head around, trying to keep track of the life-size goblins or zombies that are sprinting towards you, there’s no such anticipation.


It can be harrowing. It’s also very, very fun. The small-group games available at Sandbox VR task you and your friends with quests ranging from Tolkien-esque fantasy to gritty horror; there’s also a branded “Star Trek” game available, and more game options are on the way. Throughout the 30-minute experience, you’ll be wearing an enveloping (but not too heavy) VR helmet, light bands around your wrists and ankles to track your movement and a vest that will buzz and pulse to let you know when you’ve been hit.

Beforehand, you’ll choose your equipment and be handed laser-tag-style implements; there are no controllers here. You’ll feel as though you’re actually swinging a sword at the baddies rushing at you. (And don’t worry about accidentally striking a friend; your instinct takes over pretty quickly, with your brain mapping “that’s a real one” onto the avatars of your companions. Make sure you don’t actually chuck your weapon at anything, though.)

Keyart Sots Tomb

At the end of the experience, you’ll learn who posted the best score — why yes, I did outperform my companions each time, thank you for asking — and complete a playful minigame that will add to the video you receive at the end of your session. (You can see our video below, as Pittsburgh Magazine was invited to sample two of Sandbox VR’s games. Please note that some of my companions did let a few vulgar exclamations fly in the frenzy of the moment.) The video is a nice touch; while the game itself is on the short side at about 30 minutes, you’ll laugh over your awkward movements and alternate-reality antics long after the action ends.

Provided that everyone in your party can handle the overstimulation — it may not be appropriate for those with sensory issues or neurodivergent folks — it’s an excellent group activity. Other outing-style games can be a mixed bag; less thoughtful escape rooms end up with one or two overachievers doing everything, and axe throwing is a lot more fun if you’re good at it. These games, however, reward all participants in equal measure and encourage you to work together.

My favorite detail occurs when a member of your group is injured; you have to physically walk over to them and place a hand on their shoulder to revive them. It’s a genuine moment of support and connection in the virtual space, and that’s lovely.

At about $55 per person, Sandbox VR is more of a special-occasion trip. But it’s a lovely one. Pair it with a meal in the Strip and it’s a great afternoon outing.

Maybe eat afterwards, though. You’ll be jumping, scurrying and swinging quite a lot. Traditional video games park you on the couch; this one helps you work up a sweat.

Watch our trailer⇓


Categories: Collier’s Weekly