In September, downtown Los Angeles will be home to a 50,000-square-foot indoor theme park: Two Bit Circus! This ambitious and innovative undertaking began when the creators were tired of making experiences for one-time events like Comic-Con, only to have to dispose of them afterward. What if, instead of filling a dumpster, they could fill imaginations and lives with wondrous worlds and a renewed sense of play? Thus, the Two Bit Circus Micro-Amusement Park, a whimsical exploration of intertwining physical and technological entertainment, was born. Immersed got a sneak peek at the variety of experiences Two Bit Circus will soon be known for.
“Two Bit Circus is introducing a new era of big-top entertainment. It’s a new breed of micro-amusement park, daydreamed by scholars of engineering, students of clowning, maestros of the culinary arts, and misfits of chemistry.” – Two Bit Circus
In addition to their story rooms, Two Bit Circus will offer people new to immersive entertainment the chance to see what the fuss is about. Not only will Two Bit Circus invite and host immersive experiences like Capital W’s Red Flags – in which participants interact with an actor as if it was a first date that goes horribly and hilariously awry – but also provide secret meta-games that explore the building’s hidden treasures and make-believe backstory.
One option is for guests to purchase secret missions (either long or short) through a toy dispenser in the Midway, which will guide them to the start of their journey. Other ways to unlock clandestine adventures: a phone on which people can place only one call which will give clues and information; placemats that could help start diners on a scavenger hunt; or the old-fashioned way of engaging with one of the crew members working at this unique circus.
Rumor has it that Two Bit Circus will be incorporating some well-known immersive companies into their overarching experience. In addition to Capital W‘s Red Flags, guests might be able to explore a meta-narrative within the park created specifically by The Speakeasy Society; attend a sinfully debaucherous party with Drunken Devil; attend their first day at work with E3W Productions; or solve puzzles and interact with characters in a Two Bit-curated experience. While these immersive highlights are subject to change, keep an eye on the offerings at Two Bit for an ever-changing lineup.
“The best adventures are hidden in plain sight. We know, because we hid them there.”
– Two Bit Circus Manifesto
CLUB ZERO ONE
Two Bit Circus aims to get people off their phones and into the real world, engaging with those around them, both friends and strangers alike. One of the more interesting interactivities is Club Zero One. Seating up to 100 people, Club Zero One will have a schedule of hourly interactive events akin to game shows. The tables seat two-four people, with two touch-screen monitors at each table for gameplay. Mini-games will pop-up in between rounds of the bigger games to keep players entertained.
The three games currently offered at Club Zero One include trivia, Escape from Werewolf Village and wine tasting. Trivia takes its cue from the very popular bar trivia scene in Los Angeles. With an actor hosting the proceedings, questions will be read and players will use the touch screens to answer. Live scoring will let players know where they are ranked. Trivia can be played either as individuals or in randomly selected groups, encouraging people to get to know their teammates. Escape from Werewolf Village will have online answer sheets and require participants to answer puzzles, sometimes interacting with other groups or walking around the room to find clues. The wine tasting game comes with four types of wine, which players will be able to drink and guess the flavors involved on the monitor. Perfect for a date night, players will also be able to create their own wine label toward the end of the event.
“Fun increases exponentially when shared with others. So bring a friend, make a friend, or assemble a friend using spare parts from the bin in back.” – Two Bit Circus Manifesto
Two Bit Circus is capitalizing on the current boom of escape rooms in Los Angeles by offering three story-adventure rooms: The Raft, Space Squad in Space, and The Lost City. Unlike typical escape rooms found around L.A. which rely on puzzles, the 15-45-minute rooms at Two Bit Circus focus more on immersion, story, and physical interaction with the rooms and between the participants.
The Raft, with its eerily beautiful set (complete with sneaky alligators), is an untethered virtual-reality room that encourages participants to work together to make it safely down a perilous river filled with monsters and demons. Space Squad in Space is an episodic story room in which a group of guests pilot the bridge of a large-scale spacecraft, explore new worlds, and test their space-flying abilities. The Lost City, a hidden mine Two Bit Circus found while building, is an ornately decorated cavern that guests will explore and, in doing so, hopefully find the treasures hidden within.
In addition to the live, physical story rooms, Two Bit Circus will offer two short VR mazes. Participants will be in a life-sized maze with VR headsets, which will provide the atmosphere – both wondrous and exciting. One of the VR mazes will be kid-friendly and based on Raving Rabbids, the other a more advanced maze pitting guests against an aggressive minotaur.
“Reality still has the best resolution, highest bandwidth, and most intuitive controls. Now go out and play!” – Two Bit Circus Manifesto
After spearheading an interactive virtual reality Superbowl game, the creators of Two Bit Circus further delve into the technology with their VR Arena. Broken into three areas, the VR Arena will house Cabanas, rooms that can be reserved for private parties; open free-roam VR areas, both tethered and non-tethered; and seated-motion VR games using D-Box chairs. The private Cabanas and free-roam VR areas each have a menu of over two dozen games to choose from.
“Robots are friends, not foes. Even the big scary-looking ones were programmed by someone just like you.” – Two Bit Circus Manifesto
The VIP Lounge sits above the main floor and offers a beautiful view overlooking the circus below. With table service and a food cart that will make appearances at specific hours, the Lounge is the perfect place to relax with a drink from the robot bartender below, Guillermo del Pouro. Guillermo, working with a human bartender, offers six specialty cocktails and has a personality all his own – when I got a drink from him, Guillermo flirted with me. While not a fast bartender (that’s what the humans are for), Guillermo offers a unique experience every time someone orders from him; the performance is the highlight. On the ground floor, in the middle of Two Bit Circus, sits their Carousel Bar, where patrons can sit on the back of a horse, or on regular seats, while ordering from the full bar menu.
“Competition is healthy. But sharing a round of drinks with a crew of good people is even healthier. Science proves it. Probably.” – Two Bit Circus Manifesto
FARM TO CIRCUS – THE GRUB
While offering some of the traditional circus fare (popcorn, burgers), Two Bit Circus is also trying to be as healthy and interesting as possible in their menu, to match the wonderment of the facility. Bringing organic ingredients to the train car in which the restaurant resides, Two Bit Circus calls their strategy Farm to Circus.
“If you are about to undertake a fantastic journey across time and space, to the edges of the universe, past the limits of human imagination, then you shouldn’t travel on an empty stomach.” – Two Bit Circus Manifesto
What would a modern, technological circus be without an Arcade? Two Bit Circus has created several wooden “skidoo” consoles that hold many games – from new games built in-house to arcade games created by 3rd parties. With the skidoos, Two Bit plans on having tournaments for selected games to encourage camaraderie and light-hearted competition. In addition to the innovative skidoos, Two Bit has also brought in classics like Mrs. Pacman and Street Fighter for fans of the old-school console games, as well as an exciting 6-player table console offering team games like Capture the Flag. Pinball machines, air hockey, an original electronic Twister (called Button Wall), a new dancing game based on Dance Dance Revolution, and more fill the Arcade to the brim with options of every kind.
“You were born knowing how to have fun. You got busy and might have forgotten. We’re here to help you remember.” – Two Bit Circus Manifesto
While patrons can immerse themselves in the tech-heavy Arcade, other guests can take a more hands-on approach to gaming in the Midway. Here is where guests will find more physical circus-themed games: popping balloons, balancing on circus balls, being on a demolition crew, railroad races, Skeeball and others. What makes Two Bit stand out from other circuses is the integration of physicality and technology. Instead of actual balloons, guests will throw balls at a sensor-filled screen full of balloons; instead of actually balancing on balls, players will manipulate the giant balls embedded in the console to knock other players’ avatars off theirs. Guests will get the experience of the physical circus games, but with more fun sound effects and intricate settings. The Midway also contains the traditional version of Skeeball, as well as the toy dispensers starting off immersive scavenger hunts for purchase.
“It’s hard to top the simple joy of throwing a dart at a balloon. But that won’t stop us from equipping the dart with sensors, splashing the balloon with pixels, and adding pew-pew-pew sound effects.” – Two Bit Circus Manifesto
Two Bit Circus combines a wide variety of virtual and real entertainment under one big top; I can see it being a big hit with kids and adults alike. With so many exciting options and creativity on display, I cannot wait to step right up to Two Bit Circus and try my hand at some games, navigate my way through space, challenge friends to trivia, flirt with Guillermo Del Pouro again, get lost in the mysterious backstory of the circus, and so much more!
“When in doubt – step right up.” – Two Bit Circus Manifesto
Two Bit Circus will be open weekdays for work or school group reservations, but open to the public Friday through Sunday. Guests can book appointments and specific rooms and games online or onsite. Free to enter and pay to play, Two Bit Circus is ideal for fun-seekers ages 8 and up, and will be adults-only after 9pm.
Thank you to Taylor Winters for the photography in this article.