Let's talk about a really impressive arena...the new and tremendously improved Q-Zar Toledo!
I had previously played at this site in July of 2016. At that time Q-Zar Toledo looked completely different as you can see in this brief blog post with pictures taken when I was last there a couple of years ago...
However, since then it has been purchased, renovated and revitalized by Erik Guthrie who has certainly built it into a showpiece arena with his understanding of how the details make the difference between something average versus something really extraordinary. Amber and I went to play some Helios Pro and check things out. We were blown away by how much attention was paid to the whole look and vibe of this incredibly cool atmosphere from start to finish. Erik greeted us and took us for a tour of the site and I can tell you it is really one of the most distinctive laser tag sites I have seen.
When you walk in the first thing you will see is the front counter, which is now on the opposite side of the lobby from where it once was. Erik wanted this place look like a modern day Q-Zar, so there are a few deliberate nods to the original Q-Zar aesthetic from years past. The logo panel on the front of the counter glows and changes color and the metal truss frames the back wall.
Behind the counter (and in a few other places throughout the lobby) there are digital posters rotating on screens that promote the various things this location has to offer.
On the back wall a HUGE projection scoreboard is framed by coordinated lights.
Lights are probably the most prominent feature all throughout this entire location. In the lobby lights are used in a few really unique ways. There's a birthday party area where the lights and music are used to identify party groups, call them to games and help them to celebrate.
In this same area they can switch from normal white lights to a glow party with the touch of a button.
They will even subtly brighten back to full white house lighting to cue the end of the night.
And one of the coolest lighting effects (at least before actually entering the arena) is the briefing room entrance door which can call groups by color.
At present the briefing room has a space theme going on, but I'm betting you'll be seeing more cool lighting effects before too long. Meanwhile, the vesting area is already decked out with lit crystal-style panels to differentiate the different vest colors.
Keep your eyes open in this room for a subtle hint to which team is victorious even before getting to check the scoreboard. You might be able to tell which team gave a brighter performance! ;)
We were there for an all you can play night and there was a packed house of enthusiastic players. It's been awhile since I've played with a group that size and it was really a great experience. The staff did something special this night and offered a free game pass to anyone who took and posted a selfie on their social media to promote the site. Amber and I took our selfie together before going in to play the game.
OK, ready to check out the arena? This entire arena was rebuilt (sparking an interesting discussion about what constitutes a "new arena" for the purposes of keeping count). It is completely different from the former arena that used to be right here and there are some really cool extras to be found throughout.
The walls are actually painted in pastel shades, but the lighting can make a dramatic difference.
Paying homage to the geometric look of the original Photon arenas you can see a familiar trapezoid shaped entry to each of the base structures.
Once inside you will notice a much flashier design surrounding the base.
And a few interesting things happened whenever a base was deactivated. First, there was more unique lighting effect built into the actual act of tagging the base...and it includes fog. Now, some places where I have played have had the fog spray down towards the player when the base is deactivated and I really HATE that, but here the fog sprays upwards and I have to say that actually enhances the moment very nicely!
Even those who are not right at the base will have no trouble recognizing what is happening when a player gets the base tag because of the lighting along each of the ramps. When there is no base activity it looks cool with rainbow lit trim (which is also a help to see where the incline of the ramp kicks in).
However, when a base is being deactivated you can tell by the way the lights change. You can see the changes in the lighting when the base is being tagged.
There are plenty of gates and targets and typical Zone features throughout the maze and inside structures.
But one more interesting feature that I don't often see is this game station console.
Although I didn't notice it actually being used in the games...it's all good. I still maintain that trivia and tag don't go together in my mind. But it's cool to see the different gaming possibilities.
An in-game scoreboard is something that's pretty unique also!
We played a few different game formats, but one that I particularly enjoyed was Domination. I've really enjoyed seeing what similarities and differences there are in how this game is played between systems (as I've played some form of Domination on 4-5 systems at this point). The game was very clearly explained in the briefing, however I suspect that some people just reverted to standard tag rather than focusing on maintaining control of the targets. However, I was successful with the objective and racked up a nice score playing as Napalm.
Something most people will never be aware of, but that is a HUGE game changer for an operator is these magnetic chargers. Think of the wear and tear these will save on the packs!
At the end of the night Erik was kind enough to let us check out the Helios 2 demo packs that he brought with him and try them out in the arena.
He pointed out some of the features of the new Helios 2 including the half inch laser beam, the sensor inside the front of the phaser that allows you to tag right down the barrel and how it can run on a Linux box so there is no need for Windows updates. It's very cool to learn about what's new as my whole trip was pretty much based around the launch of Helios 2 in arenas in the United States. It's more of a workhorse upgrade for the Helios CE, but Helios Pro still has more elite features, so both have a place depending on what a site owner would want their equipment to be able to do.
Amber and I did some "vesting room LOR" with the packs and then took them into the arena.
I greatly appreciate the tour of the site and all the information Erik was kind enough to share with us.
Q-Zar Toledo was his home tag site back in the day and I'm so glad to see that not only has he kept laser tag alive at this site, but that I got to see everything that will undoubtedly make it thrive here with all the amazing features that he has added to make this a really stunning site.
My weekend adventures between Michigan and Ohio had almost come to a close as we said our goodbyes and I headed for my hotel to get about three hours sleep before catching my flight home. But there was one final highlight left to happen.
While we were laser tagging in Q-Zar comedian Josh Blue had been performing elsewhere in Toledo that night. Although I didn't see the show, I did get a chance to meet him. As it turns out Josh Blue and I were both on the same plane the next morning and we met in the airport where he was very cool to take a selfie with me. Now that was the cherry on top of an amazing tag weekend and a great night out at Q-Zar Toledo!
Comments or Questions?
Websites: www.tiviachickloveslasertag.com and www.photonforever.com