Over the last decade and a half, Mumbai has seen competitive player-interactive games grow and evolve. In the mid-2000s, it was bowling and bowling alleys that became the domain for school kids who wanted to spend an early evening knocking down pins and stuffing themselves with junk food. Not long after that, the attention shifted to dark Laser Tag rooms, motor-powered go-karts, and finally — Paintball.
It’s probably this rapid evolution that made me sceptical before I visited Smaaash’s new paintball arena, which opened up to the public last week. With an all-new temperature controlled 3,000 square feet indoor "war zone", scattered with an artificial terrain that allows people to engage in a variety of mission types, Paintball at Lower Parel’s Smaaash centre boasts of living up to your ultimate Paintball dreams. They also have new US-scale military rifles that are capable of firing colour-pellets that travel at 300 feet per second — a speed at which it could seriously injure someone if and when fired from a close range.
Let the games begin
It’s the preparation before Paintball that makes one realise that rules are not meant to be broken. After changing into military-print jumpsuits and putting our protective armour on, which includes a mask, armoured vests, and gloves — clear signs that one could use all the protective padding he/she could get — the eight of us were guided in to a fabled war zone, ready for battle.
Strength, stamina and stealth will come in handy at the paintball battle. Pics/Prabhanjan Dhanu
The first thing that caught the eye when we entered the arena was the presence of two hatchback cars right in the centre. Stained with multiple colour blots — signs of a poor aim from a shooter — players are allowed to jump, take cover behind, or shoot from inside these vehicles, giving the arena a feel of street-like authenticity. Other inflatable equipment and large drums were placed around the rest of the arena for players to strategically hide behind, and plan their attack on the opposite team.
"Fire only from a distance of 10 feet or more, and in no circumstance, remove your masks during the game," instructed the referee of our game, "And yeah, take it easy on the referee." Then, teams were split into two (four people each) and we took hold of our artillery, each loaded with a round of 100 bullets, and occupied either end of the battlefield, discussing strategy. The first mission was Capture the Flag, wherein the competing teams had to capture a flag that was placed in the center of the room.
War zone tactics
As the whistle blew, there was complete silence as everyone took their positions, while one player from each team tried reaching the flag first, with their teammates providing them cover. If you get shot, you’re out, which is why, the person going for the flag needs to not only be discreet but also depend on his/her teammates to take out the opposition members successfully before he gets to the flag.
The round lasted for three minutes, leaving us on the receiving end of it, trailing by two points. By now, we realised that it was nearly impossible to get a clear shot from a distance as the glass on the mask fogged up due to condensation and one’s breath, drastically impairing one’s vision. Slightly paradoxical in a way, since you can’t aim from far but are still required to fire from more than 10 feet away.
The next format, Rush, was a free-flowing game that lasted till you exhausted your ammo (in which case, you can buy a fresh round of 100 for Rs 200), and was played by keeping track of scores. The decision of the referee is binding on the final score, as he decides how many successful shots one has received/fired, judging by the ink stains on your uniform. Other formats of the game, such as Conquest, Protect the VIP, and Team Elimination, can also be played.
At the end of an hour, the time by which most us had run out of ammo and were waiting on the sidelines for the game to get over, we were exhausted. Paintball isn’t your average walk-in-the-park evening recreational activity. It requires strength and stamina, to crawl, crouch and jump over obstacles, in order to get that perfect aim at your opponent. Even the guns are heavy, and need to be angled properly to nail a successful shot on your opponent. Smaaash’s new arena modifies a game that we all believe to be "colours and fun", into one that represents a real battle with real guns, occurring on a real battlefield, and is a must-try for those looking for new highs off an adrenaline rush.
Time: 4 pm to 12.30 am
At: Smaaash, Gate 4, Kamala Mills Compound, Lower Parel.
Cost: Rs 500 on weekdays, Rs 550 on weekends with 100 bullets (additional 100 bullets for Rs 200 on both days)
Note: You need to personally come and reserve a slot for Paintball. Telephonic requests are not entertained.