A Shiny Life For Me!

a personal review blog by Bianca

Bridge Command

Bridge Command
04 May 2024
Vauxhall
3.0 out of 5.0 stars

This one is a very difficult review to write, for a myriad of reasons, but mainly because experiences will greatly vary depending on your group size, the role you pick, and the mission you choose. But let’s start at the beginning.

Bridge Command is the hotly anticipated new immersive experience in London, where guests get to become the crew of a starship, being tasked with a variety of missions to challenge their skills and team work. A dream come true for any science fiction geek!

Your visit starts with being given a uniform (flight suits that range from size XS to size XXXL, or t-shirts and bomber jackets as an alternative) before being transported to the mess hall. Guests can grab a drink flask before heading to the briefing room where roles are discussed ahead of stepping onto the ship. This is where the first cracks began to appear, as there are only 9 roles up for grabs, while we had booked out a full time slot with the maximum team size of 14 people, so there were 5 people with support roles that seemed more of a catch-all than a properly assigned role. This is probably the largest issue with Bridge Command, the team size is just too big so leaves some people with nothing to do. But more on that later.

Once the air lock to the starship opens, a magical world is revealed. The set is absolutely stunning and fully immersive! A beautifully constructed set with sliding doors, air locks, an accessible toilet (the entire venue is fully accessible), several side rooms, battery and engine access points for engineering officers, a shuttle for out missions, and of course the most important room, the bridge. The bridge is fully outfitted with several stations for science, comms, operations, and engineering officers along the sides, two navigation stations at the front, and of course the captain’s seat in the middle. In total there are 8 stations that each have their own computer to work with, as well as the captain’s station, so really a maximum of 9 people who actually have useful and important roles on the starship.

Once we were are settled in our positions (and five of us standing around not sure what to do as there were no assigned positions for us), we received introductions into all the systems. One screen at a time. This introduction does feel a little tedious and long winded, and takes about half an hour in which most team members have nothing to do while one officer receives their introduction to the particular system they are going to be working on. Surely there is a better way to get people comfortable with a computer system they’ll be using for about an hour in their upcoming adventure. Perhaps even a little test game for each station before the actual mission starts. Standing around for half an hour while one computer at a time is being explained to one person at a time just led to some deflation of the excitement of being on such a gorgeous set.

As there are many different missions teams can experience, I won’t be speaking to the particulars of the mission itself, just the experiences of the team I travelled with. Of course experiences will greatly vary and preferences for levels of immersion are different from person to person as well, so this is by no means a one size fits all review. But I do feel the need to mention that out of 14 people in the team, more than half felt they did not get their money’s worth due to the limitations and under-utilisation of their assigned role. I for one was second officer and had precisely nothing to do for the entire duration of our adventure. And definitely not for want of trying, but there’s only so many batteries and fuses that need replacing and if you do not have a screen assigned for your role, there really isn’t much you can do other than wander around and admire the set.

There were a few moments where it felt like the action would finally get going, but there was another hurdle with this large a group: there is no way to communicate across the ship easily, so if you’re not on the bridge when something important happens, you just miss everything and need to be filled in by the rest of the team as there’s no way to hear what’s happening in another room. This does technically make sense for a real-life starship experience, but does lead to confusion and missing important information.

This experience is so difficult to rate because I can definitely see the vision, I can see what they’re trying to do and how this could be a fantastic experience under the right circumstances, but there are also quite a lot of teething issues and the ever present London problem of making immersive experiences dependant on groups larger than is actually good for the immersion of each participant. I would say if you prefer kicking back and watching others get involved while doing nothing yourself, this one could work very well for you! If you’d like everyone on your team to get involved heavily, book a private slot with a MAXIMUM of 9 players, though 7 players would likely be ideal even if that means one person has to take over more than one station. This would definitely help balance things out as some stations are continuously needed, while others like comms or weapons only get a little action here and there while spending most of their time doing nothing at all.

So in closing, the best things about Bridge Command are definitely the fantastic set, the full immersion, the variety of missions (teams can build up a track record through several missions, though each mission can be played independently), and the enthusiastic staff; the worst things about it is the way too big group size, the excessive introductory speech that could likely be helped by info sheets or test screens, the lack of communication links throughout the ship to keep everyone updated on what is happening, and the imbalance of officer roles with some being extremely immersed and involved throughout while others only have small bits of action here and there.

For the hefty price tag, I would definitely expect a better balance of roles with everyone being fully challenged and involved. Hopefully they can fix the issues and create a more streamlined, inclusive, balanced experience for everyone, there’s definitely potential!

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