NEW worlds of adventure are now available to experience in Woking town centre, writes Mark Miseldine.

The Animo virtual reality centre provides immersive gaming, from family-friendly escapades to battling a zombie hoard – all from the food court in the Peacocks Centre.

Having opened in time for the Easter holidays, the arena, a square of metal rigging, offers a futuristic industrial feel, with lights, pumping music and helmets suspended from cables in each player’s segment.

Flat screen TVs offer a view of the action to watching spectators, switching from players’ perspective to a general overview, but giving a flavour of what’s going on behind the VR visors for the steady flow of customers arriving to play.

“It’s doing really well,” said Adam, kitting us out with hand controllers and headsets as we took our places on the numbered spots on the gaming arena.

“It’s definitely a big hit with all the family. Parents are the most competitive, particularly the dads,” he added. “They act like they aren’t bothered, but when the visors go on, it all changes.”

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d feel competitive or just self-conscious – the gaming centre is an open environment in full view of the food court, where everyone can watch your every move.

But then the headset lowers and I’m instantly in another place, waving at computer avatars of my wife and son standing before me. I’m totally oblivious to all else. Sound and visuals sweep you up. You’re fully in the game, whether that’s shooting laser cannons, punching asteroids or cooking meals for hungry pirates.

For us, it was Cold Clash, a snowball fight setting that also involves penguins and a territorial yeti. You move your little base around the ice, collecting coins and trying to avoid getting hit while firing off snowballs.

I’m outgunned by my eight-year-old son, who is much quicker to grasp how to build up rewards than I am, swiftly gaining himself a better snowblaster and racking up a winning score. I content myself with firing snowballs at my wife to take some of her points.

It’s definitely a unique type of gaming experience. There’s a big difference between moving a figure on a screen in front of you while you’re sat on the sofa, and actually being that figure as you move around inside the game. You feel much more invested – particularly when a yeti starts firing a huge snowball blaster at you, and you’re trying to find a place to hide.

For a change of pace, we also tried Captain Cook. It’s a co-operative game, working as a team to prepare food for a hungry pirate crew. You’re set on the deck of a ship, each with your own food prep area, a flaming grill and most – but not all – of the ingredients you need close to your virtual hands.

It doesn’t sound complicated, and yet I find myself spinning round, grabbing and chopping food, grilling steaks and pouring drinks, trying to keep up with the never-ending stream of orders.

Leave a steak on the fire too long and it burns, and you have to start again. If you don’t pass over ingredients to other members of your team, they can’t complete their food orders. If the food isn’t properly chopped and prepared, it won’t be accepted. Get too much wrong, and you’ll have to walk the plank – which in virtual reality seems even more pressure than those TV cooking shows where the worst that happens is you get shouted at by Gordon Ramsay.

It feels intense. More intense than blasting each other with snowballs, but also hugely addictive fun. We’re laughing throughout, a proper family bonding experience. Just as I feel I’m beginning to master the grill, the game ends. It’s not a bad score – good work, team! But I’m sure we can do better next time.

And there will be a next time, as there’s much more still to explore, from the dance-off challenge of Groove Guardians to some longer lasting escape room options.

But mostly, I want to see if we can improve our place on the Captain Cook leader board.

* FIND Animo Gaming at the food court in the Peacocks Centre. Booking your slot is recommended, but walk-ups are accepted. For time slots, pricing and more information, visit