* * * *
Interactive ride with laser weapons
Time: 4 minutes
Our Take: This one gets addictive
Men In Black, the ride, is a bit like stepping inside one of those video arcade games, with the element of competition thrown in just to make things interesting. The experience begins when you visit “The Universe and You,” a science exhibit left over from the New York World’s Fair of 1964. Soon you discover that it’s just a cover to enable you to apply for admission to the elite corps of MIB. You are not alone and the wait can get lengthy. Fortunately, snaking your way through the MIB building is an entertaining experience and devotees of the film will find much familiar here. A lengthy and amusing orientation film featuring Rip Torn and Will Smith is worth watching in full even when there’s no line. Farther along, a training film starring two amusingly retro cartoon characters, Doofus and Do-Right, provides safety instructions for the testing vehicles that await you.
Tip: If you don’t mind having your party split up, look for the single rider line after your first trip through. It is invariably much shorter than the main line and a real time saver.
Eventually, you are assigned to a vehicle with five other recruits. At each seat is a laser gun and a personal scoreboard that keeps track of hits. You are cruising through a target range, testing your marksmanship, when an urgent bulletin announces that a Prison Transport full of nasty space bugs has crash landed in the middle of Manhattan. At once, you are reassigned to a dangerous but exciting mission. You and another team are dispatched, side by side, to do battle with the aliens through the dark and gritty streets of a cartoon New York.
What follows is a few minutes of chaotic fun. Aliens in every imaginable buggy shape pop up from garbage cans and taxi hoods, from around corners and in shop windows. It’s a super-sized sci-fi version of those old shooting galleries down at the boardwalk. Your job is to zap them before they zap you. When the bugs score a hit, your vehicle is sent into a tailspin.
At one point, you discover that aliens have infiltrated the vehicle of the other team and you must fire at your own comrades. Finally, your MIB trainer (Will Smith from the movie) appears on a giant screen to warn you that a particularly nasty bug is bearing down on you. Suffice it to say that it’s big enough to swallow two MIB training vehicles. Gulp!
Tip: The guns auto-fire, so hold down the trigger the entire time; you’ll score higher and avoid finger cramps. And hit the same target multiple times to boost your score.
The vehicles are not simulators but they do allow for sudden swoops and 360-degree spins, which are both thrilling and discombobulating. And while the two vehicles depart at the same time and cruise along side by side for most of the ride, their progress can be affected by the direct hits scored by the aliens. As the battle progresses, every rider builds an individual score based on their success in targeting the enemy (you will see the tiny red dots of the laser guns dancing on the alien targets); the individual scores contribute to the overall team score. There is a sneaky way to significantly increase your score that you’ll have to discover on your own.
Tip: The maximum possible score is 999,999 and, yes, it can be done.
At ride’s end, both vehicles are once again cruising side by side as Will Smith appears on another screen to announce which team came out ahead. The combined scores of each vehicle are posted for all to see. Then, Smith breaks the news on how your team did: Galaxy Defender, Cosmically Average, or Bug Bait.
In a final clever touch, Smith uses his neuralizer to erase your memory of the whole experience and you emerge to discover that you have just completed your visit to “The Universe and You,” which turns out to be about the possibility of life in outer space. “Are we alone?” the sign asks. “Of course we are,” is the reassuring answer.
MIB is a lot of fun and it’s hard to imagine anyone having serious complaints. Video game addicts will probably want to ride again and again to improve their scores. Obviously there is at least some skill involved in wielding the laser guns because individual scores in a vehicle can vary by as much as several hundred thousand points. On the other hand, the experience is so chaotic that it is hard to know how well you are doing or get the kind of visual feedback that would help you fine tune your aim.
The best seats in the house. Riders on the outside of the vehicles (i.e., in the seats that are the farthest from the loading platform) have the first view of targets and greater freedom of motion for aiming.
On the way out, you can pause to purchase a photo of your laser-gun-wielding team in the training vehicle.
Note: This ride requires that you stow all your belongings in nearby electronic lockers that are free for a short period of time but charge a hefty fee if you overstay your welcome. For more information, see Good Things To Know About...Lockers in Chapter One.
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