The Rec Room in Toronto

Photos by Katrina Lat.

This summer, Cineplex Entertainment, one of Canada’s largest entertainment companies branched off from its movie focused roots by opening the Rec Room, a combination of dining, arcade games and live entertainment all under one roof. Located across the street of the Rogers Center they aim to be the new destination for a day of games or a night out with friends.

The Rec Room holds a variety of arcade games, ranging from the classic skeeball, to large LCD screens with modified versions of popular mobile games. It was interesting how the newer games used bright lights and flashing screens to entice the player, but at their heart, are very simple games akin to slot machines. As someone who plays his fair share of video games, I tended to lean towards more skilled based games rather than luck driven roulettes. Also, given our rather competitive nature, we instantly looked how to maximize our ticket gain by testing the payback of all the games we saw. Our personal favorite game, which yielded most of our tickets, was a piano tiles game that showed the years of Guitar Hero we had some merit despite our parents saying otherwise.

With dreams of grandeur, we tended to stay away from any game that didn’t yield tickets. However, there was one that turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The game looks like a standard (albeit Pacman branded) air hockey game, but quickly devolves into utter chaos as dozens of smaller additional pucks enter the court. What begins as a calm organized game turns into a large amount of flailing, screaming and overall randomness that was uniquely enjoyable. I’d highly recommend trying this game if you find yourself able to.

Beyond the standard arcade games, a highlight of our time in the Rec Room was their virtual reality experience named “The Void”. The Void is a team exploration adventure where you don a rumble vest, VR headset and a gun controller, and delve into the world of Ghostbusters.

The use of an actual rifle peripheral made shooting feel more natural, while the rumble vest created some cool instances while interacting with the environment. One of my personal complaints with more traditional VR setups is of how limited movement feels. This is circumvented by placing you in a physical replica of your virtual environment, allowing the player to walk around naturally, as cables are eliminated through a wireless system. It was an interesting experience being able to reach out for a door in VR and find a doorknob there to greet you. The game is rather short, and I experienced some issues with the tracking. Overall, I feel this a step in the right direction in terms of VR experiences, and would recommend the experience.

In terms of prizes, they have the standard arcade prizes, ranging from candy and small toys to board games and electronics. 

Pic of expensive prizes – “Like most arcades they also display some amazing prizes that I wish I could get my hands on, but they would require a lot more than our single day to even make a dent on the price tag.

Early in our adventure we had our eyes on something much more ambitious than a stuffed toy or fidget spinner, a set of matching Rec Room branded pint glasses. This would mean we needed a total of 2000 tickets to reach our goal. A jackpot score in the Kung-Fu Panda game, and leaderboard topping scores in our newly favourited piano game brought us within inches of our goal. At the end of the night, we were a mere 50 tickets away from our goal, with only enough credits for one more game. The sense of success after a final clutch round of Piano Tiles was a fitting end to a great night of playing games!

In terms of food, The Rec Room has a restaurant for formal dining, as well as a quick service destination that has more simple food and drinks. We ordered some drinks and a poutine to finish our day. They allow you to bring your alcoholic drinks to the arcade area, which is a nice benefit of having everything in the same building, but overall the food that we had was nothing too impressive.

We had a great time in The Rec Room, and if you’ve never been I highly recommend checking it out. I question its replayability, as the limited number of arcade games may grow stale over time. But, if you’re looking for a new experience to do with friends, or a place to watch the big game, the Rec Room should be on your list.