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Review: A Year of Phantom Peak

Twelve months on from opening, Phantom Peak - the platypus-loving mining town located in Canada Water, continues to be one of the most essential immersive experiences in London. Their latest season, Summer’s Peak, which sees all eyes shift towards the Big Dig - a large-scale excavation happening below the town to uncover the remains of an ancient society, continues to build on the foundations laid in the 12 months prior, and the ambition is now clear - this is a far deeper and more detailed experience than anything else out there today.

Physically and narratively, Phantom Peak has been in a constant state of expansion. The footprint of the site has grown considerably with multiple new areas added since opening. The biggest change came when Old Town fully opened during the second season, which effectively doubled the size of the town. Since then we’ve seen the arrival of several seasonal areas, including a Wintermas market and Platy World, a platypus-themed exhibit that held some much deeper mysteries - both located on the site of what was a boat ride present during the opening few months. These regular updates to the site add a renewed sense of exploration for repeat visitors, as no two seasons are quite the same. The site is now roughly 30,000 square ft, easily rivalling the scale of most other immersive experiences on offer in London.

Two visitors at a desk interacting with a character at Phantom Peak
Photo: Alistair Veryard

The number of story trails offered to visitors has also had an equally large growth - with a total of around 65 storylines having been available across their five seasons so far (once a season ends, those storylines are retired). Through these trails, and within the wider world of Phantom Peak we’ve been asked to do everything from fight off ghosts and ghouls during Hallowed Peak, help Father Platmas escape imprisonment during Wintermas, and give at least one of the towns digital inhabitants sentience and a human body to possess during the Platypus Parade. With every trail involving some combination of puzzle solving, physical exploration and conversing with the townsfolk, the variety of stories that have been written is vast. They’ve touched on everything from corporate espionage, to inter-dimensional travel and masked vigilantes, and they’ve all been of a consistently high standard.

One of the interactive Videomatic machines at Phantom Peak
Photo: Alistair Veryard

The cast that has portrayed the dozens of townsfolk across this first year have largely been excellent - all of them able to improvise and respond to visitors remarks with ease, whether it’s the guests trying to dig into the lore of the world, extract or share a key piece of information, or simply forget what they were meant to ask in the first place. Our personal highlight for some time has been Dr. Winter, the evil scientist located in JonaLabs. Always perfectly balancing being slightly mean to visitors while also so fun to be around that you walk away smiling, even if you’ve just been called a disappointment. The echo’s on him shouting ‘Get out of my lab!’ - his farewell to every guest, is a joy to be on the receiving end of.

Dr. Winter, one of Phantom Peaks characters, talking to a large crowd of visitors in their lab

With Phantom Peak being an ongoing storyline, if you’re a visitor who has invested time into repeat visits in the last twelve months your understanding of, and relationships with the townsfolk that live there will feel a lot more tangible than that of a first time visitor. What may have once been a throwaway comment by someone can hold deeper meaning as more of the story is revealed. Everything you learnt in previous visits is still relevant and only deepens your understanding of the characters and world around you. The residents of Phantom Peak are big personalities with desires and flaws and allegiances that only begin to reveal themselves gradually over time - just like in real-life relationships. The classic bit of advice you hear when talking about immersive shows is “you get out what you put in”, and this is certainly the case here.


Despite this, you'd still be able to visit for the first time now and walk away feeling like you've had a complete experience - nearly all of the trails storylines are either referenced or concluded fully during the closing ceremony.

One of the Phantom Peak characters fanning themselves in front of a carnival game
Photo: Alistair Veryard

If you’d had two visits a season since opening (which is typically enough time to finish all the trail on offer) you’d be running a total of around 50 hours in the world of Phantom Peak That’s about the same amount of time and story as you’d get from a AAA video game like Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Witcher 3, which is apt as more than any other immersive experience we can think of, Phantom Peak feels like the closest thing around to a real-life video game. From receiving trail prompts through your phone, to the collectable trail card rewards you receive upon finishing a storyline, Phantom Peak is able to create an experience as immersive and enthralling as a top-tier video game with no controllers in sight.



A recent blooloop article shared news of Phantom Peak’s plans for an upcoming expansion into the US market, reportedly set to be a string of different unique towns akin to Phantom Peak, that would rotate every two years, offering us years more stories to dive into.


In an immersive landscape where shows, regardless of their quality, can often only justify staying open for a handful of weeks, months, or sometimes years, even the possibility of a decade-long immersive universe for visitors to explore and get lost in is nothing short of miraculous. In years to come, we'll likely look back on Phantom Peak as not just the beginning of a massive ongoing story, but also the beginning of a new chapter in immersive storytelling.


We've been singing the praises of this incredible experience for the last year, and will no doubt continue to do so until the story concludes. If you've not visited before, there's no time let the present to dive into this unique world and see what mysteries you can uncover.


★★★★★

 

Phantom Peak is located in Canada Water and the current season runs until the end of September. For more information visit phantompeak.com


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