Stairway to games heaven

10th July 1998 at 01:00
The wind rushes past your face as your asteroid speeds along. Suddenly you realise your feet are above your head. Roger Frost lived to tell the tale

Segaworld is a showcase of computer technology dedicated to the pursuit of fun. It is a theme park inside the Trocadero building at Picca-dilly Circus, London's most electrifying tourist spot.

Take the massive escalator to a place of high-energy entertainment. Noise, mind-dazzle and adrenalin is what you'll find. Four hundred arcade machines and half a dozen rides are packed into six themed floors - one for children and the family, while others cover sports, motor races and aircraft games.

The escalator lands you into a combat zone, where you find the young at war with alien life-forms. The sounds are visceral, no blood is spilt. While it's no nice welcome, appreciate that the players are on sentry duty and protecting the planet. There's better further on, so walk briskly through.

Segaworld is computer games and comes from Sega, a $3 billion Japanese company that started building amusement machines back in 1951. This is the only establishment of its kind in Europe. Here are games with a plus - actual snowboards, jet skis and rally cars that handle like real ones but your progress takes place on screen. Falling off costs not your life, just another Pounds 1 from your pocket. You can cut through ice on a bobsleigh, cruise the streets on a Harley-Davidson motorbike or use countless other "input devices" that you don't find in a school information technology room.

Like most theme parks there are rides, but again they are rides plus. On the ghost train (Ghost Hunt) you are attacked by electronic ghouls but you can zap them as you ride. The dodgem cars go one better too, offering bazookas to fire balls as you pass.

For Space Mission you enter your spacecraft, belt up in a hydraulic seat and don a virtual reality headset. Soon you are in a new world which you can really look around as you fly at the enemy. As you swerve, your seat jostles you roughly to add to the effect.

Another ride, Max Flight, puts two people in a simulator box and takes them on a roller coaster inside an asteroid. You can program the severity of the ride, choosing what kind and how many loops and twists you fancy.

Once you have been safely secured in your harness, you hear the tracks rumble as the ride begins. You see the journey on a five-foot screen, feel the rush of the wind and when you are riding upside down, your feet are above your head.

There's more - more than most can afford, so this coin-operated paradise ends as your money runs out. Booked school groups can get concessions.

If you have phobias of any kind whatsoever - about technology, aliens or death - this helps one way or the other. As a spectator sport, it's for the broad-minded, Segaworld is an education; others will yell to be beamed back to the classroom.

Segaworld is open 10am to around midnight, but arrive early to avoid queues. Admission is free - pay as you play. Rides about Pounds 3, games typically Pounds 1 a go

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