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Monday, January 21, 2019

Passport to Iron City Pop-Up Experience

By Jonathan Bilski

The name roles off the tongue, Alita: Battle Angel – Passport to Iron City...maybe, not so much. The easier to say, Passport to Iron City Pop-Up Experience comes from our friends at iam8bit and sets you up in the world of the upcoming film Alita: Battle Angel. But as Amanda White from iam8bit put it, "You don't need to see the movie to enjoy the experience." You're basically getting to live out a dystopian future fantasy on a team, while solving puzzles. First, you get to hit the bar though. And, Moms & Dads it's still okay for kids, they can just get a coke.

Passport to Iron City
Starts Jan 23
1025 E. 16 Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021
Street Parking
$25 Until Feb 13 then it will become $55 per person

We arrived at what looked like a hidden Mexican restaurant, not unlike Guelaguetza on the edge of Koreatown. Staff with funny accents from I guess future dystopian Detroit, that sounded like 1920's talk, got my fellow guest Natalie and myself in the system with cool identification badges with our photos and bar codes for scanning later. Natalie chose what team we'd go on, Pink, and we entered Kansas.

Kansas is the name of the bar. If you ever had the pleasure of going to the Hilton Las Vegas when it had the Star Trek property, it's something like that. It goes for that sci-fi look you want in all your drinking establishments. Each table has a tablet to read a little info about the places in Iron City, the playground you'll be going into after a 45-minute wait at the bar. This place serves real alcohol and even a beer from the movie. Its also got bottles of coke and special edition Alita green tea for those not wanting a buzz. No food, so time to sit and chat with your team. If with kids, you might want to have some games ready on their phones.

If you need to take a leak before getting into game mode, the bathrooms offer a fun look at the manga Alita is based on, they have some great art work up in them and even before you enter it keeps you in this dystopian future world.

Don't worry about staying with your team, once inside you'll be brought together and choose which location you"ll start from.

Iron City: The Place of Too Many Things Going On 

Yes, iam8bit has created a small city for you and your team to try and rank up credits in. It's probably a smaller scale of what Disney is gonna present with Star Wars Land when it comes out this Summer. It's a sci-fi nerds dream, the iam8bit team has built out a world for you to get lost in and I did.

So with a timer going and a competition among teams, Team Pink went all crazy after the first location.You go from different locations around Iron City trying to rank up points. There is no order, if it's open, go to it. This was chaotic to me. Natalie loved it. As half my team got enthralled by a special part of the experience where you look for hidden clues, keep your eye out, another part actually did the activities. All of them different, one was a real giant puzzle, another a trivia game, all while time kept flying by.

When you have a group, try to stick together and probably learn each other's names. My experience was different because we had a lot of tag-along members just taking pictures. Average group size is six and more manageable. We missed out on one of the location, The Scrapyard, because of this and it looks like one of the best to try.

The games and characters Iron City had were fun, it's just the too-many-team members and time-ticking away in the back of my mind took its toll. If you go, don't scramble, relax and take it all in.

Now the reason we were issued ID cards early on is that all our points got issued to us after someone from my team was scanned. So before and and after each game/activity some member gets their card scanned. There's a live points board and you're trying to make it to the top.

All that can change in the end. If you want to gamble that is. Motorball ends each session at the experience, you can bet the team's credits/points on a robot in the game. Now I chose team' robot Zariel or something like that name just because his color was pink too. I bet 50,000 credits and somehow, someway the robot won. And there can only be one winner in Motorball! Sadly, even though I spent so many of our credits we still lost to team Black. It's mostly like watching a cute little display with circles on a race track.

A robot head will declare the winner of your time in Iron City and then it's time to exit through the gift shop. There you can get goodies like Valerie Confections Chocolate bar and Yellowbird's Hot Sauces all looking like they came from Iron City. 

Natalie really enjoyed the cosplay opportunity that lets you put on cyborg gear and I did too.

Passport to Iron City is something for the sci-fi nerds, people wanting an activity after a drink or even a family activity if your kids can stand waiting that long at the Kansas. Thinking back, did I wish it was just based on Star Trek, yes, easily that would have been great. But, it just happens to be based on a future sci-fi movie. Try it out, it's not really like an escape room, more of an "immersion room." Where you're in the world of ... for a little while.