Reviews

I Drank With Jinx And Stole Shimmer For Silco At Arcane: Enter The Undercity

I’ve never seen anything like Enter the Undercity before, but I wish I went in with a better understanding of what to expect. Part game, part interactive theater, Arcane: Enter the Undercity takes you into the world of Netflix’s Arcane to meet real-life versions of the characters from the show like Jinx, Vi, and Silco while competing in a game of subterfuge with the other show attendees. While it may be an overwhelming experience for more introverted League of Legends fans like me, the experience I had was unforgettable.

Secret Cinema nails every detail, from the costumes and performances of the actors to the set design, the lighting, and even the food and drinks – every moment you’re there feels like you’re actually roaming the corrupt streets of Zaun. You may have to step outside of your comfort zone to get the most out of the experience, but fans of Arcane should absolutely book their trip to the Undercity before the show closes on December 19.

Enter the Undercity can be best described as modernized murder mystery dinner theater. Once you enter The Last Drop – Arcane’s Undercity bar for criminals – you’re fully immersed in the world of Arcane. All of the actors – Chem Barons, Piltover enforcers, and characters from the show like Jinx and Silco – interact with you in character. Even the bartenders and servers are playing characters. The fantasy is so complete that you find yourself quickly starting to adapt to the reality of the show and the role you play in it.

Upon arriving at Studios 60 in Los Angeles, I moved through a short line outside where my phone was locked in a security bag. As a VIP attendee (Premium tickets are twice the price of general admission) I was provided a meal and drink token, as well as a pin with Silco’s logo. I was then ushered into a cavernous dark room covered in Progress Day posters where Piltover’s Sheriff, Marcus, stood on a podium and explained that we were all Undercity citizens being returned there so as not to disrupt Progress Day. Marcus was the first of half a dozen actors that looked so spot on to the characters they portrayed, it was as if they were ripped right out of the Netflix show. Everyone I met, including Silco, Vi, Singe, Jinx, and Chem Barons like Phin and Cross, were perfectly cast and gave incredible performances.

From there, we were all ushered onto the Piltover bridge, which seemed to extend into the darkness infinitely. The room was filled with smoke and the flickering red light of flames. As we crowded up all along the bridge, scenes from the show played on massive screens on either side that extended the full length of the bridge. As we saw a quick recap of Arcane’s first act, many of those sequences were also playing out in real life with actors on the bridge with us. As lights became more chaotic and the scenes got louder and more intense, it started to get pretty overwhelming – especially when the enforcers started chasing Vi and Powder through the crowd. It was sensory overload and I got a little panicky when the crowd started moving and a lot of people started touching me, but the sequence doesn’t last long before you’re ushered onto the next stage.

Next you find yourself in The Last Drop, which is the main location for the show. As soon as we entered the performers started ushering everyone in different directions based on which faction they’d been assigned. I was sent all the way to the back of the bar, up some stairs and into Silco’s office where he and Singe were waiting. Silco greeted us like old friends and explained the premise of the game: for the next 90 minutes, our job was to help him gather as much shimmer as possible by any means necessary except, he stressed, actual violence. Each of the five Chem Barons and their agents, the other players, were trying to do the same thing, and however had the most Shimmer at the end of the night would have control of the Undercity. He handed my group a canister of Shimmer and set us to go find Cross who would be willing to trade the Shimmer for the code to one of the other Chem Barons’ lock boxes.

From that point on, you’re completely left to your own devices. Who you talk to and what you do with the resources and information you have is completely up to you. Getting let off the leash so soon did make me feel lost for direction, but as the night went on and my confidence increased (in part thanks to liquid courage) I eventually found socializing and scheming with the characters got a lot easier.

While looking for Cross, my group got intercepted by another Chem Baron named Nova who saw us holding the Shimmer. As she tried to convince to give her the container and switch allegiances, a fight broke out between two characters over by the bar. Everyone’s attention turned to the choreographed brawl as we nonchalantly slinked away with our Shimmer and found Cross boasting about being Silco’s closest confidant on the second floor. We convinced him to trade us the code to Finn’s lock box for the container of Shimmer, and from there the game was very much afoot.

The magic of Enter the Undercity is the way it makes you feel like the main character of the story. There are many scripted events, like the fight we saw at the bar, but the vast majority of the experience is purely improvisational between the cast and the attendees. Even so, it still feels like it’s your story being told. The interactions feel so sincere and realistic that it’s easy to forget they’re all pushing you towards your objectives. Even so, there’s plenty of opportunity to improvise on your own and come up with your own ways to social engineer your way into some Shimmer. By asking around and listening into conversations, we learned about a feud between two of the Barons. By splitting up and telling each Baron that the other was looking for them, we were able to steer them both away from their lock boxes and rob both of their stashes while they were away. No one told us to do that, but a lifetime of playing immersive sims allowed me to see an opportunity like that and take it.

You can’t see everything Enter the Undercity has to offer in one go, but I think that’s part of its charm. I left with a unique experience no one else has or ever will have because I was part of the story and every decision had an impact on where that story went. Still, there are things that I missed that make me want to go back for a second round. At one point while shepherding some stolen Shimmer, I got spotted by one of the Piltover Enforcers. Carrying Shimmer around is obviously a big no-no, so I disappeared into the crowd to try to lose him. A character unknown to me at the time approached and told me to come with her because she had a job for me. Not wanting to disappear from my group with the Shimmer, I declined, but I still wonder what would have happened if I had gone. Another attendee told me about an escape room-style side quest, but I didn’t see anything like that. I imagine you’d need to see the show more than once to pick up on all the details, and even then I bet it isn’t possible to see everything.

I loved Secret Cinema’s event, but I don’t think it’s for everyone. My team spent a lot of time nervously approaching people not quite knowing what to say, and I could tell more assertive and outgoing people were definitely having more fun. You will very much get as much out as you put in, and while wallflowers will still appreciate the design and artistry of The Last Drop, the point of the show is to get involved. The performers are patient, professional, and so good at helping you along if you’re struggling to find the words or ask the right question, but if talking to strangers is a big hurdle to overcome, this might not be the event for you. Whenever it got too much for me I just went to the bar or found a corner to chill out in for a while until I recovered some social energy. I’m ashamed to admit that not having access to my phone added to the anxiety of it all, and what’s more, it would have been really helpful for remembering all of the names and lock box combinations I was collecting. Knowing I could leave at any time helped me push through and get to those moments where I could really let myself get lost in the story.

I won’t ruin how it ends (it's spectacular) but if you’re even the least bit interested in seeing it for yourself I highly recommend it. It can be challenging, and it's often overwhelming, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. I hope my experience has helped you set expectations rather than drive you away from it, because what Secret Cinema has done here is incredible. This is a once in a lifetime experience for Arcane fans, and if you can make it to LA in December, you won’t regret it.

To learn more about Arcane: Enter the Undercity and get tickets for the event, visit Secret Cinema’s official website.

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