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Tagging the Big Game

The arena at Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, MO just may be one of the best themed spaces I’ve ever played, and the kicker is that I almost missed it!

When I plan a trip out of state I always Google search for laser tag in the area, but somehow this one just did not come up on the list as a local laser tag arena. This place is clearly a huge attraction in and of itself, so I imagine the oversight was simply due to laser tag being just one small piece of a very big puzzle. However, there is an absolute MUST SEE arena located inside their Fun Mountain fun center, so I am really glad they had a billboard up along the highway as I was driving on route to Branson. I immediately re-routed my GPS and was headed for a “wild” and unexpected laser tag adventure at Big Cedar Lodge.

I purchased my game card and waited to enter the briefing room. I’ve been in plenty of briefing rooms before, but none quite like this. There was a fireplace display with a monitor screen above the mantle where they ran a custom instructional video with information about the Delta Strike Evolution packs and how we would use them to tag other players…and big game as part of the hunt!

At this point I was really intrigued. There was an actual log cabin lodge-type feel to it right from the start. This place had already made quite a unique impression on me, which is NOT an easy thing to do. After playing laser tag in close to 500 arenas, I sometimes feel like I have seen it all, but then something like this can still surprise me.

We entered the arena and stepped into not just a typical game, but an entirely themed wilderness experience. Welcome to Fort Big Cedar!

The double-level arena with a balcony-style overlook for the upper maze area is decked out beautifully with lots of wildlife details to make you feel ready to tag some big game…and I mean "tag" quite literally!

The arena is colorful and vivid with a massive rock structure in the center and a water wheel on the far wall below.

However, what really catches your eye are all the big game animals perched among the grass and trees that really make this environment feel realistic.

With gate components on the bottom level as well as video base stations, they have the extras that I am accustomed to seeing when I play Delta Strike. However, what I was not expecting was the exceptionally good use made of micro-targets. Check this out.

Each of these animals had several micro-targets added, which would glow brightly (one animal at a time) when activated sporadically throughout the game. A recorded announcement would let you know which big game animal was “in the hunt” so you could tag it for additional points.

This is all going on as an extra layer of interactivity while players were still engaged in the typical game and tagging each other too.

If you happened upon one of the video base stations you might have to wait a few moments for an opportunity, but these customized screen images went right along with the theme and gave yet another chance to earn some extra points.

I absolutely LOVE all the customized details that have been incorporated here. THIS is what I’m talking about when I say exceptional arenas make a lasting impression. I’d call this a medium sized arena…not huge, but still plenty of space. And yet it feels like a much bigger experience and it is one that will be top of mind when I am next asked what arenas have really stood out to me. I commend Big Cedar Lodge for putting so much thought into making the laser tag arena a cohesive, fully-interactive and really distinctive part of their fun park with an incredibly well executed theme. If you are anywhere near this part of southern Missouri (about 10 miles outside of Branson), the arena at Big Cedar Lodge is definitely worth checking out!

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