Fancy pretending you are in space? i-City can help you.
ALIEN eggs hatch, rockets take off and weird planets abound as visitors are armed with blaster guns and get a chance to save the planet.
All this and more can be found at the Space Mission, the latest attraction to grace i-City in Shah Alam, Selangor, which opened with a bang yesterday. At the time of this writer’s visit several days before Chinese New Year, the finishing touches were being applied to the theme park, slated to be a set of experiences to give a feel of space travel.
According to i-City information manager Tang Soke Cheng, visitors will be able to hear a countdown followed by a rocket “blast off” at the entrance, where they will also have the option of renting astronaut suits.
To enter the Starship Explorer, which is Part One of the Space Mission, visitors literally step up onto “space transporters”, which are actually upright Segway vehicles. I tried clambering onto one of them: one leans forward to move the machine onward; leaning backwards will cause it to stop. And there’s also a little button that steers it left or right – all this takes about a minute or two to get used to, and a good sense of balance helps.
The journey to outer space starts off by encountering some aliens being incubated in giant test tubes at the Space Lab. According to Ren Yu, the designer, this is the beginning of the storyline behind the Space Mission.
“An experiment has gone horribly wrong at the Space Lab and alien eggs are hatching. Soon, aliens take over the command centre of the Starship Explorer space ship and that’s why humans have to go in on a rescue mission,” explains Yu, who is based in Guangdong, China.
The actual rescuing will involve zapping aliens with blaster guns, but that has to wait till Part Two of the Space Mission. Meanwhile, one’s appetite for action is whetted by whizzing about on the Segways past the Viewing Deck (featuring a moonscape and stars), or face-to-face with a Transformer-like robot loaded with heavy weapons.
As construction is ongoing during my visit, I have the chance to lift a heavy space gun before it’s fitted onto the robot – it weighs at least 20kg.
“It’s made from actual car parts welded together,” explains Yu. “The whole robot probably weighs about 500kg.”
Visitors can also disembark from their transporters to take photos; for instance, at the Council Room, groups can get the chance to play Star Trek-inspired commanders.
After completing all this, Intergalactic Travel, which is Part Two of the Space Mission, beckons.
Here visitors enter another “dimension” through a “wormhole” of cascading lights which is meant to feel like a trip through hyperspace.
While still adjusting the senses upon emerging from that passage, visitors are given the feeling of floating amidst the vastness of space, an illusion helped along by mirrors placed on the floor.
Visitors then have to switch vehicles to little “space shuttles” (which run on a monorail) equipped with “blaster guns” which can be used to zap aliens and other undesirables – with every “hit” electronically registered. But before they shoot anything, they will get pummelled first – by shooting stars – as they pass a “meteor shower”.
Next up are the wonders of two-storey-high Gaia Trees of Life dripping with lights, which look like huge banyans reminiscent of scenes from the movie Avatar.
All this is part of the storyline. As Yu clarifies: “Aliens have not only taken over the space ship, they have also invaded the home at Planet Pandora, including the all-important Trees of Life. To save the planet, adventurers will have to brave several perils to get to the Alien Queen, the source of all the eggs spawning aliens.”
After passing the primeval forests at the Chimerion and the mysterious caves of the Mycelium, visitors come face to face with the full fury of Planet Red-X, which recounts the fury of Mars set ablaze.
The ride ends at the Planetarium, where there are educational elements about the solar and stellar systems.
Russia, China and Hollywood
The Space Mission is actually a continuation of something that the founder of i-City, Tan Sri Lim Kim Hong, began almost 20 years ago.
This was the Sumur City Aerospace Exhibition, where an exact replica of the Russian Mir Space Station was built to allow visitors to become would-be cosmonauts and experience the illusion of being in orbit through the magic of computer simulations and video screens. Another highlight of that show were capsules that had gone to the moon and back, such as the Module Lunar 24 and Return Capsule Almaz. The exhibition was held from October 1995 to January 1996, at the same site where i-City now stands, and Lim was one of the prime movers, along with the Science, Technology and Environment Ministry, as it was known then.
“Twenty years later, space travel itself is no longer so novel for people,” says Tang, the i-City information manager. “So now we’re combining it all with multimedia to create an edutainment attraction.”
Designer Ren Yu has been in the business of making theme parks for 12 years, having created an outdoor snow theme park in Bangkok as well as an indoor family fiesta theme park in Istanbul.
“Theme parks like Disneyland have been around for more than 50 years,” says Yu. “This is my first time designing a space theme park and it was a challenge to make it feel different. And that’s why I have used different elements such as animation, multimedia and three-dimensional design to appeal to people, especially the younger generation.”
He decided to combine multiple inspirations for his designs.
“There has been a lot of curiosity in China after the success of the Shenzhou space mission manned by taikonauts (Chinese astronauts). And of course, I have also been inspired by movies such as Avatar, Alien and Transformers.”
The Space Mission, which is spread out over 2,787sq m (30,000sq ft) of space, will add on to i-City’s existing attractions namely House of Horror, Red Carpet Wax Museum, Snowalk, WaterWorld, Trick Art Museum and City of Digital Lights.
Another thing to watch out for will be the new wax sculpture of the Monkey King Rebel character, played by Hong Kong star Donnie Yen, which is on display at the Wax Museum.
> In a special Chinese New Year promotion, tickets are priced at RM15 for each section of the Space Mission, which is open from 10am to midnight daily. For more information, log on to iticket.i-city.my or call 03-5521 8494/8800.