Just in time for relatives who overstay the holidays, there’s a new high-tech arcade opening today at Mall of America. Smaaash—dubbed America’s Adrenaline Arena—brings go-kart racing inside the mall, along with several one-of-a-kind virtual reality games developed by the Smaaash team, which has five similar arcades in India. Mall of America marks the company's U.S. debut.
At a preview Monday night, the Finger Coaster seemed to evoke some of the biggest buzz—and loudest screams. Riders start by designing their own coaster with one finger on a screen. Then they get to experience it in a virtual reality ride that produces actual thrills, fear, and—beware—potential motion sickness.
For another VR attraction called Vertigo, participants get harnessed into a vest on a cord to walk a tight rope between buildings high in the sky. The sensation is real enough to induce a cold sweat. There are sports games as well—a hockey shot against a computer operated goalie that responds to movements, a basketball shot that gets aimed at goblins, a football takedown challenge that lets you experience what it would be like to go up against actual NFL players. And there are some more typical video games mixed in.
The go-kart track winds around, over hills and into tight curves, making drivers forget they’re in the mall—and on the fourth floor, no less. With the addition of the 40,000-square-foot gaming center, the MOA's chronically under performing fourth floor is fully occupied for the first time in years, and perhaps with its best shot of drawing a crowd.
While really small children will be challenged to do many of the games at Smaaash, my (smallish) 8-year-old cleared the height requirement for go-karting and had no problem putting the pedal to the metal on his own (I however, found those curves surprisingly difficult to navigate!). The thrills, level of challenge and group aspect to some of the attractions would make it fun without kids as well. Smaaash also has a full bar and restaurant…although judging from the food served last night, don’t expect dining to be the highlight. Probably best not to try that coaster on a full stomach anyway.
Go Karting is $22 for adults; $30 for kids (including an additional training surcharge) for a 6 minute drive. Most virtual games are $5 each, or $30 for an unlimited pass. Other packages and deals are listed at smaaashusa.com.