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Carowinds debuts 3-D Plants vs. Zombies warfare experience

Zombies are everywhere these days, it seems.

Carowinds unveiled its Plants vs. Zombies 3Z Arena attraction during a media event Wednesday, highlighting what it referred to as the “world’s first intra-active 3-D digital experience.” The park opens for a new season Friday.

The attraction, designed for Carowinds, is based on the Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare video game franchise. The project is a collaboration between PopCap Games, Electronic Arts Inc. studios, and Cedar Fair Parks (the company that owns Carowinds). The ride will open one month after the latest game in the series, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, released on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC platforms to positive reviews.

Gearing up

Players are able to join the video game battle with new characters based on the game. The “intra-active experience” means the game allows players to interact with the opposing team’s screen. Guests will step inside a high-tech complex with 3-D technology, massive screens, surround-sound and motion-based seats during the nearly five- minute backyard battle, where they’ll shoot screens with blasters and track their scores.

At the demonstration event, players were greeted by a video that explained the plot of the game, as zombie leader Dr. Zomboss is attempting to take golden gnomes from the plants and their leader, Crazy Dave. The game is deliberately zanny and over-the-top – mirroring the video game context where plants and zombies are interlocked in a war for supremacy.

“We are thrilled to bring the world’s first intra-active 3-D digital experience to the Carolinas,” said Brad Marcy, vice president and general manager of Carowinds. “With digital attractions becoming an increasingly popular part of the modern amusement park, partnering with a renowned electronic games company like EA makes great sense.”

Players mount up on one of the 68 motion-based seats, which rock forward and backward nearly eight degrees in each direction, and shoot from a hand-held laser device at a 14’6” x 26’ screen. 3-D glasses provide added effects for players. The game arena is in the newly renovated Action Theater in the County Fair section of the park.

“Creating fun memories from unique moments is what the Plants vs. Zombies franchise is all about, and the 3Z Arena is another way people will get to take part in the eternal struggle between the plants and zombies,” said Jeremy Vanhoozer, the franchise’s senior creative director. “We’re thrilled to partner with Carowinds and can’t wait for people to dive into this innovative digital experience.”

The Herald was among media invited for an early peek at the new ride.

The objectives were simple: Shoot the enemies that pop up on the screen, and try to collect golden gnomes by shooting them as well. The team with the most gnomes and points at the end of three rounds wins.

Inside the 68-seat venue, visitors donned 3D glasses on the way to their motorcycle-style seats. The seats are motion-controlled, in that they buckle and move as the game takes players across time and space, and have a holsters for either a laser gun for the zombie team or a hot sauce gun for the plants.

The ride

The ride itself was a rather interesting venture.

After taking a second to calibrate the guns, the seats began to lean forward, and off we were to our first destination. The three levels shown in the game were based on historical eras mixed with pop culture references (i.e. the medieval level had a sign that read “Game of Thorns”).

A Herald reporter on the plant team found the moving seats weren’t much of a bother to game play, given that they were always facing the screen.

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The verdict

The game was a little confusing in terms of being confident of aim.

The franchise

PopCap Games is the creator of Plants vs. Zombies, a video game series published by Electronic Arts Inc. Premise: Plants are the last stand against an army of zombies looking to take over. The attraction is based on Garden Warfare 2, which released last month on the Xbox One, Play Station 4 and PC platforms to generally positive reviews from critics and fans alike. The title sold just under 400,000 units worldwide in its first month.

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