In the line of fire

Mischa Allen has a go at Laser Quest.  Picture: Steve Reid (121618-727)
Mischa Allen has a go at Laser Quest. Picture: Steve Reid (121618-727)
Picture: Shutterstovk

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I’m in complete darkness and feeling disorientated as I hear helicopters whirring overhead.

The scene is the bridge of a container ship that is now a pirate stronghold – and the rest of my team are nowhere to be seen. Armed with my gun pack, I keep an eagle eye out for the enemy.

Nick Hewitt, head of attractions and collections for Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust

Nick Hewitt, head of attractions and collections for Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust

Ducking around corners and sprinting across open spaces, it feels like a matter of life or death.

Thinking I’m momentarily in the clear, I back towards a wall. But then all of a sudden my gun is dead and the lights on it go out. I’ve been shot.

Thankfully it’s only make-believe – my pack just needs five seconds to reactivate before I can rejoin the action.

I’m playing Laser Quest, the latest attraction at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s Action Stations.

Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust has invested a six-figure sum in this interactive game that lets you experience what it’s like to be a Royal Marine.

It’s based on the classic game of two sides battling each other with lasers in the dark.

But far from the game’s space-themed beginnings, this version has brand new equipment and has been specially designed to make you feel like you’re on board a ship, fighting for your life.

The trust decided a new attraction was needed to get more visitors through the doors at Action Stations and came up with the idea of Laser Quest.

Nick Hewitt, head of attractions and collections for the trust, runs Action Stations and the Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower across the water in Gosport.

He says: ‘It all started with Will Beazley, who is running it for me. We’ve always had a need to refresh attractions, otherwise they get too stale and people stop coming.

‘There was an idea in the pipeline when I came in for a climbing wall, but I wasn’t particularly thrilled about that because we already had one.

‘I managed to pull that before it got too far.’

He adds: ‘By this time Will had kept knocking on my door saying we should get a Laser Quest.

‘I remembered the product from years ago, so we decided to look into it.’

What Nick soon realised was that Laser Quest had come a long way since he played it as a child.

Still a family game, the whole set-up has advanced.

He explains: ‘The equipment is better and the game is better now. The imagination behind the arena is better.

‘We’ve also managed to have a double-height arena, which is quite rare.

‘We’re very excited about it. Laser Quest provides another exciting and engaging way in which our visitors can ‘see the navy, be the navy.’

‘And it’s not just for the kids either!’

A unique angle of the Action Stations game is that it revolves around Command Approved, the short film shown in the Action Stations auditorium.

Nick says: ‘We want it to become the most popular place to visit for people in Portsmouth.

‘There hasn’t been a Laser Quest in Portsmouth for quite some time and we want everyone to come and have a go at it.

‘We’re also running a membership scheme where you can have your own fob, so you can collect your high scores on there.

‘The feedback we get is that there isn’t enough family-friendly entertainment, so we hope this will fill that gap and people will enjoy playing it.’

Laser Quest at Action Stations is being launched today with a special tournament.

Teams will do battle throughout the day to win a place in the final, where they will play real Royal Marines to see who wins the Laser Quest trophy.

Games last for 20 minutes and start with a personal briefing, before going into the pack room to get fitted with a Laser Quest pack and laser gun.

A team wins by collecting the most points. These are won every time the enemy is shot with the laser gun. But points are lost every time a player is shot.

Every time a player gets shot their pack deactivates for a few seconds, allowing time to escape to another part of the multi-level arena.

When the sirens sound, the game is over and it’s time to collect scoresheets and find out who had what it takes to beat the rest.

Todays’ tournament was due to begin at 10am, with the final taking place at 5pm.

Laser Quest at Action Stations opens to the general public tomorrow, although the rest of Action Stations is open today.

One game costs £6, two games cost £10 and three games cost £12. Alternatively, there is exclusive hire available.

Laser Quest isn’t the only recent investment by the trust. Last year a new water bus, which takes people from Portsmouth Historic Dockyard across the harbour to Explosion! had its first full season and turned out to be a huge success.

Nick explains: ‘We run it through peak season and we have something called the big ticket, which gets you into every historic dockyard attraction and Explosion! and includes the water bus transfer.’

Last year Explosion! saw an increase of 10,000 visitors and Nick believes the water bus was a major factor.

He says: ‘We want to make sure all our attractions are working closely.

‘We have visitors coming from a long way away and we also want to engage the people of Portsmouth with the dockyard.

‘There’s lots going on in this part of the city and it’s not just a heritage attraction.

‘We want Laser Quest to be used by the community as well as people who come from overseas.’

Nick adds: ‘We want people coming time and time again, and if we get enough demand we will do memberships and season tickets,.

‘It’s about attracting people from the city, not just people who are visiting for a week.’

· For more information on Laser Quest at Action Stations, call (023) 9289 3338 or go to actionstations.org actionstations.org

· For information on Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in general, go to historicdockyard.co.uk

LASER QUEST

Laser Quest was founded in 1989 in Manchester and started off as a space-themed arena after months of research.

Now based in Canada, the company has more than 140 centres around the world, including America, France, Portugal, Thailand, the Netherlands, South Africa and the UK.

The aim of Laser Quest is to tag your opponent as many times as possible while avoiding being tagged yourself.

The game is normally played in a large multi-level, maze-like arena filled with ramps, catwalks and corridors. It is also played in the dark with loud sound effects.

It’s recommended that you wear dark, casual clothing and flat shoes, and the minimum age to play is six years, with a height of at least one metre.

There’s a European LaserQuest Championship (ELC), with teams of nine battling it out to win featuring players from the UK, France, Holland, America and Canada.

TRUST HISTORY

The Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust was set up in 1985 by the Ministry of Defence and Portsmouth City Council.

Its initial purpose was to take responsibility for the long-term preservation of the historic south-west corner of Portsmouth Naval Base, which had been released under the 1982 Defence Review.

It was also intended to safeguard any further historic defence estate which might either be released in the future by the Ministry of Defence or become available on the open market.

Nick Hewitt, the trust’s head of attractions and collections, says: ‘The trust exists to help provide a use for the historic buildings that once belonged to the naval base.’

For more information about the trust, go to pnbpropertytrust.org