This review was originally created in May 2018 for HTC, targeted to their Vive/Vive Pro (VIVEPORT). It is reproduced here without alteration.
Although its title might bring to mind a bad romantic TV movie, Let Hawaii Happen is actually a virtual exploration of the Hawaiian islands. The name comes from the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau’s marketing campaign and related #LetHawaiiHappen hashtag that started in January 2015. The campaign proved successful, where, at its peak, it reached 54 percent of frequent U.S. travelers via paid advertising, Website, social media, and direct public relations. By releasing Let Hawaii Happen on all major virtual reality platforms, including HTC Vive, it was hoped that this creative partnership between the Hawaii Tourism Authority and OMD’s Zero Code, in collaboration with creative direction from Hawaii-based agency MVNP and visual effects shop Framestore, could better showcase the unique experiences each island has to offer.
The setup is pretty simple. You start in a paraglider, which you can direct to one of the four islands of your choosing: Hawaii, Oahu, Kauai, or Maui. Upon landing, locals will give you a personal tour of their island and cultural history. In Hawaii, you’ll learn about Hula. In Oahu, you’ll learn about surfing. Kauai showcases sailing. And in Maui, waterfalls are the main attraction.
Visually, the paragliding scenes are nothing particularly impressive, but you at least get a decent sensation of being high in the sky. You never do feel like you’re progressing particularly far on the way to your destination island, however. Considering the limited interactivity with the paragliding, it would have likely increased the immersion and overall effectiveness if they substituted 360-degree live action video for the computer graphics. This would have added to the cohesiveness of the whole production and helped to distract from how little there was to actually do in your brief time in the air.
Although you need little room to move, the experience is optimized for standing. For paragliding, you hold both motion controllers in front of you as if they were the handles of the paraglider. Pulling on each handle allows you to control the flight of the paraglider, either left or right.
Once you’re on an island, the short 360-degree video that plays is of a reasonably high quality. You can move a little within each scene, but the expectation is that you’ll simply look around and listen to the presentation around you as you learn about a particular island’s theme. These non-interactive video segments are effective in conveying information, and, in particular, showcasing the beauty of each island. Once a scene plays out, you’re returned to the paraglider so you can experience one of the other three islands.
Does this experience make me want to go to Hawaii? Sure, but I wanted to do that anyway. Perhaps as a reminder, it’s effective, but I don’t think it really tells or shows us much of anything beyond some perfunctory cultural history and landscapes that most of us likely already have some familiarity with.
The bottom line is there’s nothing here that really takes advantage of the HTC Vive. Outside of the independent hand controls for the hang glider – which again, doesn’t really allow for any type of free flight anyway – you can get nearly the same experience from much simpler VR systems like Google Cardboard. For a different take on the typical non-interactive tourist video, Let Hawaii Happen gets the job done, but it never elevates itself beyond that modest goal.
Score: 2 out of 5
Let Hawaii Happen is free for HTC Vive owners, and is available on Viveport.