The Wickerman marks a noticeable and remarkable change from previous Secret Weapon coasters. Not only does it aim more towards older families (over thrill-seekers) but it doesn’t feature a ground breaking element (if one can excuse their previous claims. It’s made out of wood too by the way. This review contains spoilers.
Now enthusiasts, fans and the like have been wanting a wooden roller coaster at Towers for years. Previously with little success, until now. Cross Valley was cancelled and for years, Wooden coasters were deemed unmarketable. It perhaps doesn’t help the majority of U.K. park goers only have Blackpool and Stampida (at a push) as notable comparisons to wooden coasters.
As time passed, the idea of a Woodie gradually warmed up. Attraction designer John Wardley had always wanted a Wooden coaster at Towers. A Wallace and Gromit themed coaster was just one of many ideas.
Years later and the concept for the then labelled SW8 was announced and met with mixed reviews. Many were let down and concerned by the ride’s apparent small and mundane layout, whilst others were concerned of the ride’s theme.
Construction progressed and again marked a remarkable difference from previous SW projects. Whilst the others were somewhat more secretive, the park in this case almost wanted more to know of what was to arrive. Windows, posters and video teasers frequently appeared, giving visitors what this future attraction may deliver.
After numerous unfortunate weather delays (which seems to be a recurring issue with SW rides), Wickerman opened to the general public. Aside from it’s reliability it was met with mostly positive reviews and some saying it was the best thing at the resort to date.
Being the first Woodie in the U.K. since 1996 and at a Merlin park, many could regard the ride as highly successful. But how? The ride doesn’t feature a notable world’s first?
The Wickerman does not need a world’s first element, the ride is a complete package. An experience.
It all begins from the moment you enter the queue line entrance, welcomes by a sign that is effective and blends in without being too garish or generic. There may be Pirate attractions around the corner, but the ride fits in almost like it has always belonged there.
One may argue, too many newer attractions uphold bland and repotive queue lines, frequently resorting to ‘the cattle-pen’ layout. Not Wickerman.
The ride’s queue gradually progresses up hill, managing to showcase the ride whilst seeming to head away from it only to become nearer. This queue line style is reminiscent of Tussauds designed rides such as Nemesis and Colossus. The noticeable theming such as buntings and different zoned audio in places, is a welcoming addition.
As we become nearer, we reach a baggage hold and then enter into the pre-show room. The show isn’t the longest but delivers a short but sweet delivery into setting the scene and storyline.
We now enter the station itself, where the pens (gates) await to open taking the next riders onto the train. The thematic announcements, lighting and styles combine nicely to the already impressive setting and atmosphere.
The ride takes a slight drop out of the station through a 180 curve and we pass with some speed before reaching the lift hill after another 180 turn. It’s not the tallest by any means but still looks impressive height wise.
We then enter another curved drop (this time enclosed) before we gradually drop. The ride from here features numerous hills, helixes and turns as the train races around the circuit. Several times interacting with the impressive Wicker statue (filled with smoke and fire effects). It’s not the longest, fastest or tallest but makes for one exciting ride.
The ride ends after a final small banked curve and enters the first of two break runs. Numerous times smoke and light effects activate, as the train slowly returns to the station through an enclosed tunnel, the third one in total.
The ride’s trains are immaculately themed, replicating a Wickerhead and can carry upto 24 riders per train. There are three in total resulting in a theoretical throughout of just over 950 people an hour, which isn’t a bad throughout.
The shop is also surprisingly well themed (and looks even better in person). It features plenty of Wickerman merchandise, from your usual T-shirts, trains and keychains to the more unusual Wicker models and wood pieces.
How does it stand amongst other Woodies?
Balder has airtime, Wodan has theming with relentless pacing and Joris has the fun racing elements with niche features.
The Wicker feels like a complete experience attraction and feels like it takes some elements from these. The ride’s first drop features some surprisingly good airtime (especially towards the back), there’s some great theming and impressively forceful areas within the attraction too.
One could argue it weakens towards the end a little. However it still offers a highly enjoyable layout. John Wardley is said to have made some improvements to the first drop of the ride.
As it currently stands, the ride is now my favourite Wooden coaster in the U.K. and joint second favourite in Alton Towers. It may be the most immersive attraction to open in the U.K. since Hex.
Honestly speaking, the ride would not look out of place if it was located in Efteling or Phantasialand.
Unfortunately this is where these comparisons end. 2018 for Towers is a high-end investment year and the park should be in top form. If only this was the case.
The park still continue to face operational cuts
as parent company Merlin see the park as struggling despite numbers gradually returning. This has resulted in mothballed kiosks, staggered openings, reduced hours and deductions to capacity. Even baggage holds have disappeared.
On my second day visiting, four of the main coasters broke down simultaneously, resulting in longer queues and complaints. Whilst this could have been an unfortunate coincidence, it does question whether there have been further staff reductions. I don’t recall witnessing this on previous visits. Not to this level anyway.
It was also a 4pm close, which felt too early as lots of people were still around after 5pm. The Rapids also seemed short of boats and the monorail no longer allows people on the platform unless the train has stopped. This has reduced the capacity significantly.
Europa Park have managed to reopen their rapids after a major fire and relocate most of the food offering. Meanwhile at Towers, we still have Toadstall and Sub-Terra closed after 2-3 seasons and food outlets remaining closed on super-peak days.
I understand both parks have different structures, but it is disappointing that Towers is being financially starved and limited in such a year. Just to please faceless shareholders, turn an even bigger profit and build Legoland clones.
I do also worry how Wickerman will age after it’s first couple of seasons, especially considering Merlin aren’t known for great upkeep.
Will the baggage hold still exist? What state the pre show holds? How re-rideable will it be? The state of The Smiler, does not hold much reassurance. The ride looks rather grotty and many effects remain broken. Just one effect is still working in the projection room. I’d like Towers and Merlin to prove me wrong with Wickerman.
Right, I think it’s time to go back to the positives. The conservatories and Pagoda look competitively better after their restorations. Duel seems a noticeable improvement in most areas, whilst there is still room for improvement, it is believed to be a working project. The staff also seemed particularly friendly too.
Wickerman is an excellent coaster and will hopefully pave the way for great things in the U.K. all Towers need to do is maintain and look after it. All we need is for Merlin to give Towers more budget and put them off budget cuts.
Nine Out Of Ten
A cryptic wheel cover and demolition of a bridge, followed by markings on the ground. A pIt of concrete footers. Then a coaster. Even after watching the project for well over two years, it feels surreal standing next to the twisted metal track of Icon and seeing the trains swish around what was previously a lake.
Visible from many locations within the park, Icon makes its presence known simply by being there. It may not be tall, but in terms of land covered it’s HUGE. First impressions heading up the ramp seeing the Immelman looming up ahead are impressive, but the approach from the ride entrance side is the money shot. It’s such an impressive sight with the huge entrance structure, glorious soundtrack playing and the smart gold trains whizzing around you and other rides at the park.
The queue line is fantastically landscaped with amazing vantage points to watch the ride, and whilst relatively short manages to catch various sections of the ride’s amazing soundtrack. It really is sublime standing there, hearing the launch audio, and seeing a train full of excited riders slowly exit the station before the train is hurled through swirling mist and into the tunnel.
Yes, they have finished the fence now!
Decorated in style, the ride features various elements of theming such as a garden with named posts of those involved in the project, a small water feature, mist effects and a nice entrance area/viewing platform. Given that Pleasure Beach is an amusement park at heart, I have to give them credit for putting so much effort into the overall experience of Icon, it has really paid off and creates a unique atmosphere around the ride.
Entering the station, the soundtrack hits you like a ton of bricks and does a great job of building the hype - alongside the class decoration, lighting and mirrors, it’s one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever felt inside a coaster station.
But… is it any good to ride?
The excitement builds as you dispatch from the station, with the launch audio gradually getting louder before launching you towards the mist-filled tunnel with “IIIIIIIIIICON” ringing in your ears.
Flying through the misty tunnel, an almost dream-like moment of obscured vision is followed by entering the top hat element completely disorientated, before cresting the hill and being treated to one of the best airtime moments I have ever known on a coaster. On the back, you crest the hill slowly before being thrown out of your seat on the way down, whilst there is some ejector as you crest on the front.
Diving through the garden for the first time, you enter the inclined loop before swerving to the left, right, then diving underneath Steeplechase and Big Dipper. Whilst I didn’t feel the near-misses on-ride as much as I expected, it’s an engineering masterpiece to fit the track there and the S-turns provide some fun forces before you are taken back over Steeplechase into what I found to be one of the best elements of the ride.
The heart-line roll offers a completely different sensation to the beginning of the ride, creating a stark contrast. From fast-paced ground hugging turns, you are taken into some ridiculously comfortable hang-time – the amazing Mack restraints are really used to their potential here, allowing you to hang freely (but comfortably) for a second before “catching” you and throwing you into two small and sudden moments of airtime. Leading you back through the tunnel of mist, I found the two small airtime hills followed by the second launch to be a highlight of the ride.
With the station and surroundings a blur as you fly past them, you enter the Immelman. It’s quite something seeing The Big One essentially turn-over, and the element is a lot of fun at the front – at the back, it’s quite simply one of the most insane moments on any coaster. You’re taken from ascending what feels like the start of a loop to hang-time, then ridiculous “sideways-airtime” as you come down the drop, before being thrown into a steeply banked Stengel dive and then into the turn. This is one of the perfectly executed moments of Icon.
Coming out of the over-bank and into the airtime hill, you are thrown yet again out of your seat before twisting onto your side into a tight helix. I found the force to be decent here, with a good view of the theming if you’re sat on the left-hand side of the train. Forcing you out of your seat yet again, you twist over to the right to take a majestic dive over the ride’s entrance area before entering yet another unique element.
Wonky-airtime. Yep, Icon has it. You’re taken into an off-banked airtime hill, giving the impression that you’re going to be thrown into the totem poles (a fantastic throwback to the park’s past for those who remember, btw!) before meandering into the high-five element and slithering back into the brake run. The high-five element felt quite weak to me; it’s very clever and a true engineering feat, but it didn’t have the impact or sensation I thought it would as a ride experience… although with the Icon exit music becoming audible as the train hits the brake run, I soon forgot about that!
After my initial rides on Icon I was unsure but having let the coaster properly warm up, it has become a firm favourite. To me, it’s the definition of a perfect coaster; it’s long, has a number of unique elements, isn’t inversion focused (yet still has two perfectly placed and impactful inversions in the layout) and the airtime is second-to-none. Every element serves a purpose, and the ride is taken so comfortably yet isn’t afraid to throw you around. The decoration is excellent, and the soundtrack is pure bliss; easily some of the best audio I have ever heard at a theme park, The Notable Stranger has done an excellent job.
My concerns going forward are the maintenance of audio systems, and effects; the train lighting and mist has already proved unreliable, and the ride has only just been open a week. Pleasure Beach are historically not the best with keeping audio systems in check, but I hope Icon changes this trend.
Thanks for reading, a few more photos below
Icon is incredible, and offers something that the UK has been missing for some time. Pure quality.
Chessington. It is arguably one of the most iconic and notable tourist attractions in the United Kingdom and naturally enriched in facts and history.
Opening it’s doors in 1931, Chessington Zoo was born and was once the largest private zoo in England as a result. Years passed by and Pearsons brought up the zoo. When the 1980’s arrived, the zoo was believed to be in decline and Tussauds (part of Pearsons) had the challenge of rejuvenating the attraction to a new generation.
Special effects designer John Wardley was one of the key people working on this project, which would transform the failing attraction into one of first proper theme parks in the U.K. In 1987, the attraction reopened as Chessington and was believed to be successful. Built on a relatively low budget, some of the park’s attractions included the powered coaster Runaway Train, cult classic dark ride ‘The Fifth Dimension’ and tradition logflume, Dragon River. It is the latter we shall focus on here (with good reasons to follow).
During it’s early years, the Dragon River was richly themed, from it’s giant Buddha, Dragon tunnel and rock work, which dominated the ride’s lifthills and surrounding area. It’s Asian architectural design and landscaping perhaps once regarded the ride as one of most richly themed attractions out there. Some say the water was even dyed once to further enhance it’s then mystic theme. Years later it would became renamed as Dragon Falls.
(Above) The ride during days of past when theming was complete. N.B not my photo (Theme Uk)
As the years passed, the theme park continued to grow and progress, however Dragon Falls through time became neglected and poorly looked after. In 2005, a large proportion of theming and rockwork was removed but not replaced, leaving the second lift and other surrounding areas to be exposed and naked from their former theming. By the time 2013 further theming was removed, including the rock faces on the main drop and remaining rock work on lift one. Once again, these were not replaced, likely down to being condemned and sufficient budgets not being provided.
Around this time, the ride was threadbare of theming on the most part, with the once grand drop area looking like this:
Compared to what it had once been, the general state of the ride was bleak, empty and something of an embarrassment. A once themed attraction striped threadbare of it’s once grand and striking appearance. The tunnel was also chopped in half, making a barely dark experience around a ‘back of house’ location. For five seasons, the ride continued to operate in this delapidated state. Apart from a safety upgrade, only the Buddha, Dragon and station received modest touchups. As nice they were, this didn’t do much to help a ride in a shadow of it’s past.
Then in 2017, plans came afoot to refresh the ride and surrounding area including Dragon Falls, which would be given a retheme with new features. Joining alongside a brand new Amur tiger exhibit, the ride would form part of a refreshed area Land Of The Tigers. Though not without it’s fault, this would be the biggest overhaul on the attraction during it’s 31 years of existence.
whilst zombies and flames invaded other Merlin attractions, Chessington was busy finishing off it’s Tiger area. Eight months after the closure of the original area, Land Of The Tigers opened to the public. Aside the new enclosures, Chessington’s flume was somewhat reborn with a new identity known as Tiger Rock.
The new updates drop area for the ride looks tigerrific
One of the biggest updates to the attraction is the brand new Tiger rockwork element, which the boats pass under during the final drop. This offers a great new element of excitement and interaction both on and off ride, looking much better than the previous eyesore in the previous years from the ride.
One of the best updates (from a personal perspective) is the station. There is a lot more atmosphere in there now, from it’s new soundtrack to the new artwork and lighting displayed on the side walls. I really like how they’ve kept the oriental theming and enhanced it with things such as lanterns. There’s also a cool tiger effect that activates every couple of minutes too, which is an interesting feature.
The exterior updates look nice enough too.
Whilst not without it’s faults, Tiger Rock joins the theme park and zoo are one. As long as the enclosures meet sufficient requirements, this may be the best way forward for much of Chessington, by becoming immersed in rides complimented by animal experiences. The tunnel features are an original touch, but the fences aren’t the most attractive.
The project has seen changes I like a lot, but others not so much. The tunnel after lift 1 epitomises this. The inside is finally back to it’s original length at long last, accompanied by some random effects/models which really complements the experience. However, the exterior looks hideous, ugly and out of place. Whilst a brightly coloured Dragon would never fit within the new theme, they could’ve done more from the hideous mess that awaits there now.
Lift two still doesn’t look great especially without any theming. The added fencing on the side makes it look somewhat worse, but is to probably prevent injury from those less able to remain seated. A limited budget from Merlin likely prevented ‘non safety’ enhancement on this section in the first place, which is a shame really.
The picsolve unit has been moved, and creating a new ride shop. A small one there too I should point out.
Lift one looks a little nicer with the new decorations.
Land Of The Tigers has breathed some new life into area and Flume ride, giving it a fresh identity on the whole as Tiger Rock. Whilst not without it’s flaws, the retheme can be seen as a much needed upgrade, from it’s stunning station to the impressive new theming on the main drop. It’s a shame some areas couldn’t have seen more work, such as theming on lift two and tunnel exterior, however I doubt they were offered enough budget to carry those out sadly.
Whilst it’s no Chiapas (and was never supposed to be), I like most of what they’ve done which is probably now my favourite U.K. flume ride, which isn’t difficult to be fair. It may not look as good compared to it’s early years, but is much better than the ones between it.
Seven Out Of Ten.
Wicker Man. I think it’s fair to say that I had very mixed feelings during the construction and build-up process for this ride. Whilst I was happy to see a new wooden coaster finally grace the UK line-up, I had reservations about how good it would be; there weren’t any huge drops in the layout, so would it pick up enough speed to be thrilling?
On approaching the ride, the excitement builds from the moment you see the hugely impressive Wicker Man structure and entrance signage come into view with the music droning in the background. I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing – it’s such a compelling sight, nothing looks out of place and everything just ‘works’.
Moving into the queue-line, the design is fantastic with so many vantage points for the ride – small items of theming are expertly placed creating brilliant photo opportunities. Throughout queuing there are many good places to watch the coaster from, and it’s so pleasing to see that everyone seems to be enjoying it. I really like how the smoke effect is pulled around the corner by the train after exiting the second tunnel, in particular. Being surrounded by the roar of a wooden coaster combined with the soundtrack, theming and screams of joy is really something quite special.
Onto the preshow, I enjoyed this and found it delivers a lot in a short space of time. The transition is clever and the show lasts just long enough to stay interesting whilst not becoming a burden after a few rides. I found the theatrics and changes in atmosphere particularly impressive, however it was a shame on one of the rides I had that the automatic doors at the back of the room kept opening. Exiting into the station, the lighting and dispatch/unload audio keeps the theme consistent and is very impressive.
With the thematic elements done to a very high standard, how well would the coaster itself hold up? After five rides on two separate occasions, I absolutely love it.
Dispatching out of the station, the pre-lift section is very Nemesis Inferno-esque (with the mist-filled tunnel) and sets the scene for the ride very well. Ascending the lift hill, the views of the ride are excellent and the audio helps to build anticipation throughout.
The first corner and drop help to build up the speed, and the tunnel adds a level of disorientation, as you exit already facing the ground. The section that follows is truly sublime; after going over the second hill in the tunnel, you emerge blinded from the light to be thrown (yes, THROWN) first to the right, then to the left and into a ground-hugging turn. This is my absolute favourite section of the ride; the forces are much better than I expected and the transition from right-to-left is just so much fun.
Diving through the Wicker Man structure and up into the turnaround, this offers a nice view of the queue-line and theming structure before hitting the two small bumps (which are much better than they look!) and then plunging to the right through the structure into yet another fantastic and unexpected sideways-banked drop.
I found that the flat corner goes a long way to making the ride feel longer, as it gives you time to process the elements you’ve been through before heading into the next section. The straight drop which follows provides a nice feeling of weightlessness, however on the back row at the end of a rainy day there was some incredible airtime there! Following this is a sharp right-hand-turn through the structure, before turning left under the lift-hill and into the brake run leaving the clank of the lift chain ringing in your ears.
After some time to think it through, I can say in full confidence that Wicker Man is genuinely one of the best roller coasters I have ever ridden. Firstly, it’s the first time Alton have delivered a fully complete theme under Merlin, with no obvious corners cut and nothing looks out of place. I could nit-pick, but it's the best we've had in the UK for years - so I won't. The coaster itself is great fun and is a superb example of a wooden coaster.
Combined, it’s a masterpiece.
My only concerns going forward are the reliability issues the ride is currently having, and maintenance of effects. The fire, smoke and audio add a lot to the overall experience, and with the fire already broken, I only hope that Alton can manage to maintain them to a high standard.
Thanks for reading, a few more photos below.
Wicker Man = AMAZING.
Okay I know its only April but fu** you I'm writing this review.
So the London Bridge and Tombs is an attraction that has always been on my radar- whether it be the rave reviews from Scaretour or walking past it when the Dungeons was down the road.
So after a trek down to London I thought I might as well experience it for myself- does it compare to The Dungeons?
(apologies for these straight outta snapchat photos )
The London Bridge Experience
So after a somewhat overly long intro video- you are ushered into the London Bridge Experience.
Overall I found this experience to overall be well themed, well acted, well scripted, and educational- but sadly I feel like a lot of scenes and rooms lacked the crescendo or 'oomph' that the Dungeons has.
For example there is a scene in a pub here which the landlord discusses a bunch of murders which references Jack The Ripper. You then hear a scream to which you are ushered out of the pub by the landlord to find a corpse. But then after you see the bloody mannequin- you abruptly move on to the next scene.
This scene in particular had a lot of tension and it constantly felt like something big or Dungeons esque would happen- but it doesn't.
I felt like they really could of added some more dramatic reveal to seeing the bloody mannequin too- we really just walked past it.
This was a issue for many scenes- in particular 'the fight verses the Romans' scene had a great script and seemed to be building up to something jumpy- but then it just kinda fizzled out and next minute we were on the next scene..
I do have to give credit for some scenes within the experience though- there is a huge scare involving a large moving animatronic that made me jump out of my skin towards the beginning of the experience.
I also really enjoyed the incredibly disorientating spinning tunnel towards the end- it was even worse than the one at Tulleys!
I think London Bridge with some more special effects could easily match the Dungeons- but for now I think it really lacks the 'oompth' and the finales of The Dungeon's scenes.
Despite that though- the theming is brilliant and perhaps even greater than The Dungeons. The acting was also top class and the groups were much more intimate than the 30+ groups that The Dungeons has.
After nearly throwing up from the spinning tunnel you are warned about the intense scare attraction that awaits you- after a photo opportunity and a intro video, you enter the lifts..
This lift scene built up tension perfectly and the lift had some nice special effects to make it feel like you were actually going down!
Once out of the lifts, you form a conga line and you enter the main maze.
The main maze itself was nicely themed and had a huge variety of scenes.
A hospital, a Chop Shop style room, a prison style room, and even a clown section- you name it, its in The Tombs.
The maze overall has tonnes of variety within its long layout- I never quite knew what the next room would bring.
The acting was brilliant throughout, with actors using various hiding spaces to come out of nowhere or harass us.
My only problem was there was quite a few rooms that were sparse on actors- but the theming and animatronics kinda made up for it.
Overall The Tombs was a long and varied scare attraction that I think really made the trip worth it.
Overall I think The London Bridge Experience and Tombs are both well themed and acted experiences- though if you want a educational and witty trip back in time I think The Dungeon's is a much more polished and superior experience- though if you want to get sh** scared then The Tombs makes the trip down to Tooley Street more than worth it.
The groups in both The Bridge and The Tombs are also much more intimate so you don't have to deal with the overcrowding that The Dungeons has.
Anyway sorry for the six month early post
So, I figured I may as well give a bit more insight about my views on The Walking Dead - The Ride.
I know plenty of people have pretty much written it off already, and it's almost trendy to hate the idea, but I do think it's worth going into this with an open mind. The overall experience is good, well themed, and does justice to what the ride and building was designed to achieve.
The entrance portal is nice. It is standard run down Thorpe style, but it is still good. The queue is, again, standard Thorpe in that it's "how much queue can we fit in one space", with just little nuggets of theming - in the way of themed signage and Easter Eggs to the show - to go with it. There's no extensions or anything, so on quiet days, you will have to walk through the whole thing, which is a pain.. Audio in the area is nice and creepy, and the watchtower looks alright to be fair.
Bag room is now outside the building, and is clearly unfinished at the moment. Hopefully it can be themed up, especially to the standard of the inside of the ride. After that, groups of 20 (so 2 trains worth) get batched into pre-show. The pre-show is extremely basic - a minute long video featuring a character talking to you, encouraging you to make your way through the building because we're under attack. It's well done, and I don't think it will get tedious during re-riding, but I feel like they could have done more here. Some big special effect, to give you the personal reason to get moving, rather than some guy on a screen telling you...
The walkway to the station is exceptionally well themed. You go through different areas of 'the safe zone', and as you go through them, audio is triggered saying how those zones are under attack, encouraging you to keep moving. The tone is perfect here, and really sets up the experience well.
The ride itself is themed to a 'transit system' in the safe zone, and is being used to transport you to safety. It's clever, and gives you a reason to be on the ride. From there, it is just X, with special effects, and I don't think that can be stressed enough. I really hope that people have ended up being ignorant the OTT "it's the scariest thing ever" marketing approach, or are able to just look past it, else it sets the ride up to fail. In saying that, the special effects that are there are good, and really do enhance the ride experience. There aren't any animatronics, just zombie mannequins (which aren't the greatest, but to a casual rider will more than do the job). There's also screens, smoke, audio and lighting effects, all of which are used very well. The one stop during the ride is a real highlight actually, fitting in with the story perfectly, and just being a lot of fun!
The ride ends with us still being under attack; everywhere in the safe zone is overrun with zombies. The post-ride experience happens, in the form of a loud noise, and is...just a bit naff? There's terrible noise bleed from there to the waiting bit before the station, so if you've been unfortunate with timings, it does spoil it somewhat. There is more to it, but I believe that tweaks were still being made, so I don't know what to say / expect from that for now. There is a lot of potential there, but it needs a bit more direction.
So yeah, to round it all up...
+Fantastically themed experience
+A fun ride experience, with good special effects
+An experience that stays true to what the original X:\No Way Out aimed to do
+A cohesive story which is easy to understand
-Pre-show could do with a bit more oompf
-Post-show needs a bit of clarity / more direction
But before I go - One final thought.
I like this, I won't deny that. I also liked X. I haven't decided whether I like this more than X or not, but that's neither here nor there for now. Personally, I think X is the better thing for Thorpe now; it had potential to be a fun ride which was accessible to all.
I can't help but wonder what Thorpe could have done with X if they had the budget this had. Or even half the budget. They really could have created an attraction where you rode "on a wave of light (and sound)", went through tunnels of light, etc. I imagine that having the trains 'chase' lit up track, with lasers and smoke effects around, along with an extended original soundtrack would have been more than possible, along with some fun lighting effects in the entrance and exit walkways. I reckon I'd have loved that, as would a large majority of people.
The Worst GCI in modern history. Wicker Man will be **** we all know it. Doesn't look very interesting, not very fast at all.
Just three ways Wicker Man has been described over the closed season on this forum. There's a wealth of material, of people lining up to give the first modern woodie in the UK in 22 years a good kicking. The point where coaster enthusiasts have already ruled themselves judge, jury and executioner on a ride way before anyone had even had the chance to ride. Here we are a good two weeks later from the preview event and I think there's proverbial egg on peoples faces. I remained quietly optimistic, keeping expectations in check. What I expected was a well paced, fun, mildly thrilling family wooden ride and that's exactly what I got. I knew this wasn't going to be Wodan, it wouldn't be the airtime machine that Megafobia or Tonnerre De Zeus are. But what I did get was the best rollercoaster Merlin have ever built..
Now before you decry my last sentence as hyperbolic nonsense, understand something. I love a thrilling rollercoaster but what I really love is an inventive, interactive, original layout. I love getting on a ride, hearing the people around me screaming, loving every moment, hitting the break run and then shouts of amazement, the joy that emanates from the riders. Hit the break run on Nemesis, Inferno, Swarm, Oblivion and you hear nothing, just complete silence. It's just another steel rollercoaster going through the motions. But for the first time in a long while I heard something from a UK ride. People love the Wicker Man. They can't believe that such an old looking ride (bare with me) can deliver thrills, excitement on such a scale. Europeans and Americans are used to the thrill of a wooden rollercoaster but the UK has forgotten that wooden rollercoasters are more then a match to their steel counterparts. For me, this is the first time that Merlin have hit the nail on the head and got it right.
So why is it so good?
To start off with, I like how little of it you can see from around the resort. There was a lot of discussion around Alton's limitations and how they get around them and Wicker Man is another example of that. The way the ride seems to work on several different levels to gather pace and momentum is right out of the Nemesis/Smiler handbook, the way the ride descends to the bottom of the Flume lake, or the oddity of the lift hill, the way the ride dips through the Wicker Man structure three times, each time getting more and more intense or the way the compact layout eeks out the ride length perfectly. The queue line which features very few switchbacks and naturally uses the terrain to get you close to the structure or the balcony which overlooks the majority of the ride giving great photo opportunities. The mercifully brief pre-show which I thought was perfect for the ride, telling us the story without getting bogged down in details. At its core, this is a very simple story on a pretty basic woodie but the ride is more then the sum of its parts. The soundtrack which I really like slowly builds up in drama the further into the queue you go. This feels like the kind of ride that you couldn't get anywhere else, tapping into legend in the same way that Hex does. This is right out of the Towers rule book and is all the more stronger for it.
At the moment the rides biggest issues are operational. The park hasn't really got to grips with how to run it yet with very slow dispatches and numerous breakdowns. It only ran for two hours on my visit (didn't help that Nemesis was down all day, curse you Towers) and when Wicker Man was running trains didn't seem to go out very quickly. I don't think the way rows are labelled is very clear in the station either, the darkness and moodiness of the station means people can't see the numbers hanging above their heads and numerous times people were just wondering back and forth lost. If you've ever ridden a GCI woodie you know what to expect here from the Millennium flyer trains. They are comfortable enough to ride in whilst durable enough to take it when you go slamming from side to side on the rides cornering. I won't cover the ride in too much detail as frankly it differs massively from front to back but what I will say is that when this thing beds in, those back row seats are going to be absolutely fantastic. Our first ride was row 5 and then onto row 8 and the difference was staggering.
I have two main worries. The first is the effects. Lets face it, Merlin are hit and miss with this and as you can see from the Smiler most of it no longer works. No sprayers, no screens, no car wash. The effects on Wicker Man tell a story far more then the Smiler and the danger of the Wicker Man structure having no fire or smoke must be pretty high; I'd be surprised if they still work by June. That's ignoring all the smoke effects before the lift hill, on the first drop tunnel, in the break run. If Towers want this ride to continue to have the positive reaction it currently has, it is essential they stay on top of this. That being said, I think the strong layout helps but on an effects driven ride, that can only do so much. My second concern is the rides longevity. Wooden coasters aren't steel coasters, they need consistent maintenance to keep them from getting too rough, too shaky, too unbearable. I question whether Merlin can give this ride the love it needs five years, ten years down the line. Based on their track record with Colossos for example, they let that go SBNO for two years. I don't want to see that happen with Wicker Man, in my view it's the closest to perfection Merlin can ever get.
So its safe to say, I'm a big fan of the Wicker Man and I call it a triumph for the UK industry. When people were lining up to rip it to shreds, I stayed positive and optimistic and whilst I don't want to say I told you so, I told you so. My biggest hope that comes out of this wooden ride though is that parks like Paultons, Drayton, Flamingoland, hell even Thorpe and Chessington look at what can be done with a ride like this and build their own. The wooden ride genre is big in America, China, all across Europe and yet here, they are seen as dangerous and unsafe. Telling people I work with that I was going to Towers to ride a wooden rollercoaster, they thought it was a disaster waiting to happen. I can only hope that the Wicker Mans success leads to more and more and who knows what that could lead to.
Thans for reading and as for a score, Wicker Man is a solid 8/10. I can't wait to get back up there.
Next time I'll be Enthusiastic Icon.
When it comes to reviewing something, I try to be as honest, straight-talking and truthful as I can to the reader because above anything else, integrity to me is the most appreciated value I admire in someone when I am seeking for advice with their opinions. That way, if I decide to pluck down my own money, time and effort on something, I can be assured there is nothing being kept hidden when trying the product myself and therefore, trust can be built.
I believe this first paragraph needs to be put at the very start of this review because after trying Wicker Man for the first time, I want to be as honest as I possibly can in what you are about to read. There are presently a lot of exaggerated claims, promises and expectations being thrown around about this coaster at the moment by various people and I refuse to fall into this category, so everything below is exactly what it is with no filter in place, for good and bad.
Now onto the ride itself. I’ve been moderately quiet during the construction of Wicker Man these last several months despite the constant updates, advertising, drone footage and leaked name ages before, primarily because time and time again, I have stupidly built false promises and expectations with a lot of Merlin’s recent investments these last several years. Promises which inside I knew they couldn’t deliver but still believed in nonetheless and as a result, I have been scarred by it all and have a real grudge against the majority of Merlin attractions that have been built across the parks from 2014 onwards. To be blunt, I approached Wicker Man with a pessimistic view from the day it was announced until the day I finally rode it.
Wooden coasters for me are something special; special in a way that cannot be described easily. Because despite not having fancy elements, being the fastest or tallest or the most amazing coasters out there, they tend to be underestimated a lot of the time and can really surprise you with how great they are. I’ll never forget that first ride on Megafobia at Oakwood, Wales back in 2010 where it left be stunned. Also quite recently sitting on the back row of Balder at Liseberg, Sweden in 2017 and being shocked and amazed by the extreme forces you go through, especially down the first drop after the lift hill. It certainly is an amazing feeling!
So whilst I was pessimistic given Merlin’s track record for the last 4 years, coupled with their management of special effects, I was secretly all this time really excited to try Wicker Man and didn’t want to jump to any conclusions too quickly and then regret what I said all the time before trying it (e.g. - Derren Brown’s Ghost Train). I simply didn’t fall for any of it this time and approached the coaster with an open mind for a change.
But my word, I’m really glad I did that now, as this coaster has been quite a surprise!
To begin this thorough and in-depth review, I’d like to begin with the setting and scenery of the attraction which will be the first thing every person sees upon experiencing this ride:
APPEARANCE AND SETTING:
When I was at the park’s fireworks display last year and finally saw the majority of the track constructed, I can’t lie, but it did look quite impressively large and dominant through those window fences. However, when seeing it fully constructed and running, the thing looks wonderful!
Everything about this ride looks brilliant. The track is moulded against the landscape very well, the rumbling sound of the trains really dominates the area similar to Nemesis, the audio sounds superb and there was a huge amount of buzz and excitement flowing through the entire area on it’s opening ceremony day. Another nice touch was seeing a wooden coaster fresh, because I’m so used to seeing wooden coasters where the wood has faded into a dull, grey colour that it was nice seeing it all looking and even smelling fresh and yellow for once! As silly as this sounds, it made a nice change for once.
The entrance plaza and queue line is nicely routed, landscaped and constructed too. Seeing loads of fire beacons filling the plaza with real fire used, coupled with the nicely themed entrance and bizarre-looking vegetation to match the rest of the ride’s theme made the whole area feel more permanent, complete and designed well, unlike the ugly-as-heck-yellow-box-of-an-entrance The Smiler uses. A small touch I liked in the queue were the little bits of theming present used for lighting and signs as you progress nearer and nearer to the station. Unlike the typical laminated, dull-as-anything printed signs we see so often across other rides across Merlin, these were all shaped and sculpted to match the theme, which was a nice detail I appreciate the team for doing. Also, having a queue line for the most part which is linear and doesn’t have endless cattle pens like Smiler and Rita was another touch I appreciated, plus, the queue oddly seemed wider too compared to most other rides.
For the landscaping, this is a mixed bag. Whilst some areas surrounding the coaster have clearly been worked on with new plants and turf mats installed, others have not and look as though they are still in the middle of being constructed with dirt and soil everywhere. Also, something I wished the team did before opening this ride was to clean the concrete supports holding the track in place because they were filthy all over and looked quite off-putting, especially in contrast to the freshly installed wood for the track. If the park can clean these concrete supports using a jet washer as well as laying down turf or giving the remaining sections of the area some green grass, I believe it will neaten the overall profile and presentation of the ride, since it was a bit mixed in several places and could have looked better. Just a smaller detail compared to everything else, but an important one regardless.
THE WICKER MAN EFFIGY
Always knew from the moment the name was announced back in January 2018 this figure of the Wicker Man himself would be the centre of all attention and man, I can see why after finally seeing it in-person as it looks really lovely! The scale of this effigy is huge and very nicely themed and detailed, so much so that I would put it up there with something we would expect to see at Phantasialand. OK, I know that might be an over-exageration here, but that’s what I gathered after witnessing it for the first time.
The wood looks genuine even though it isn’t, especially around the shoulders, the shape and design of the two-faced head looks impressive and the attention-to-detail used even for the small holes the train passes through three times was looked after which was a nice surprise. Plus the amount of mist (yes, water mist, not smoke) used really filled the inside of the figure and the holes through him, which was especially great when passing through on the train! Also, I loved how there were audio effects used every time a train passes through which sync with the real fire effects.
Probably the best thing about this effigy is when you are passing through the second time after making the banked u-turn, because the position of the track which passes straight through his chest is perfect! The brief view you get when passing straight through the centre of his chest is ideal, especially coupled with the mist and fire effects used on the shoulders. It captures your attention and is a really effective head-chopper effect, especially with the small bump present in the track just before passing through. Very effective and convincing effect used!
However, I have to admit, whilst it looks pretty when you see it in real-life, it will not be as impressive up-close as opposed to a distance of at least 20m I theorise. The reason for this is because those fire effects used inside the figure are actually just TV screens playing a loop of some generic flame behind a black background used when filming, plus, the resolution of these displays are not that great because up-close, you can see the pixels used and cameras can pick up some artificial flickering from them, similar to when filming Thorpe Park’s entrance screen on any smartphone or camera.
Another detail that aggravated me was the size and position of the fire used on the shoulders, because when standing on the ground, you barely even see the fire used when they are lit normally, but it’s only when they are enlarged in size whenever a train passes through you can see them properly for only a few brief seconds. Not a major issues, but be aware the flame effects might not be as impressive in real life compared to what they look through promotional videos and pictures.
But besides from that, the effigy is a really nicely and detailed piece of theming which I welcome being there for the coaster and can really enhance the experience, even though it has some flaws when seeing it up-close.
When it comes to hearing audio on an attraction, to me, this is absolutely crucial to get right as it’s a very effective piece of theming to any ride regardless of how small or big it might be, plus, it gives it an atmosphere and defines it’s character. Rides like Chiapas, Taron, Helix and The Smiler I simply wouldn’t love as much if it weren’t for their audio in all honesty, so the audio on Wicker Man had to be loud, dominant and catchy for me to appreciate as a whole much more and thankfully, this is the case!
This is probably the biggest secret weapon of the coaster, because I noticed across all areas of the ride from the plaza/entrance, start of the queue line, end of the queue line, baggage/pre-show room, station and track sections there were various different pieces of audio playing from the lovely guys at IMAscore.
Upon seeing the effigy around the entrance and plaza, the first track you hear sounds very happy and charming similar to Klugheim village at Phantasialand, which gives the impression to riders the whole ride itself has a welcoming theme to it all, but as you progress through the queue, you begin to notice the tune, pitch and instruments used changes and the closer you get to the station the darker it begins to sound as you get ever-closer to the baggage room. After walking through the entire queue, I am certain it’s done in a similar way to Big Top’s audio where there are at least 3 variations of the same 30 minute track, only each one has a darker and more unsettling theme to it.
It’s once you are inside the building itself the more vocal sections of the audio are used similar to the snippets found online. Drums are used, the tune changes and a more honestly scary-sounding track plays inside the buildings amongst the darkened rooms. In the station especially where whilst the audio is lower in volume compared to outside, that coupled with the burning wood effect creates a really unsettling theme inside as though something bad is about to happen.
A really excellent thing the park have taken advantage of is in the badge waiting room for the pre-show and station, the doors and train dispatch have themed audio playing alongside the use of lighting, which creates a really exciting atmosphere for riders and builds up a lot of anticipation! When the train dispatches, a loud roar of drums starts and the lighting in the station begins to change and flicker, similarly to how the dispatch looks on Nemesis Inferno and Black Mamba, only this time, much more effectively I would say! Same for when a train arrives back into the station too which has is timed to when the train stops on the brake run and people disembark.
Just in case that wasn’t enough, even the darkened waiting tunnels once the ride finishes have themed audio matched with smoke and light effects inside, which means even the wait caused by the stacking of the trains is looked after which I thought was great! Also, the lift hill has timed audio with the train too, making the excitement and anticipation even greater for the rider!
But in summary, Alton Towers and IMAscore have done a fabulous job with the audio management for this ride and should be commended for their efforts. Excellent job!
I’ll keep this brief without giving away any spoilers for the viewer, but this was quite a nice addition made. The inside is shaped like a dome tent with pieces of theming all over the walls and flooring with a big projector screen right above you in front. All this scene does is give a little insight as to what the Wicker Man is, how it works and preparing you for what awaits ahead such as “The time has come for the wicker man to rise!”. The audio was nice and loud, the picture was sharp and the video was 60fps which was lovely to see.
However, I have to be honest here, this scene felt unneeded and superfluous and didn’t really add much to the experience at all, mostly because of how short it was to watch. Heck, it’s only just over a minute long. To me, this seemed more like another batching room to help reduce the number of people in the station, nothing much more.
A nice touch, but a needless one.
If you were to ask me “What is your favourite station for any coaster?”, I would have to give it to Wicker Man here. The station is great!
Unlike a lot I’ve been through, this one did not feel crammed or overcrowded inside as the platforms on each side of the track were nicely spaced out with plenty of room to move around whilst waiting/disembarking the carriage for a start. The next part being the lighting used inside as it wasn’t too bright or dull, but instead, nicely orange/red filtered, themed and lit perfectly inside to match the rest of the ride.
Also, I always look for details on the ceiling and walls for a station so that the entire room is consistently themed, unlike Thirteen with black cloth everywhere and Galactica with industrial machinery everywhere. In Wicker Man’s case, both of these areas have been attended to and look really nice with the wooden beams, themed drapes and flickering lighting on the walls for a fire effect. Glad finally to see a station where all areas have been looked after for once, yay!
But to summarise, the station for Wicker Man is really well done and everything about it is perfect from the lighting, to the audio, to the theming and the consistency. Excellent work here!
Now onto the best part finally and goodness me, this was surprising! My first ride was incredibly lucky because I was allocated the very back two seats of the train on my first go and couldn’t be happier as it’s always the best. xD
The trains themselves look great, neat and fully detailed all over and they are quite comfy to sit in too. Haven never ridden a GCI woodie before, I was expecting something really uncomfortable such as Tomahawk, Stampida and even Balder to some degree, but the seating was wide, spacious and relaxing. I could easily move my feet and legs around a bit when on the train and didn’t in anyway feel cramped or pinned down in the restraint, meaning it was a really comfortable ride from start to finish. Quite pleasantly surprised by the comfort of those seats.
Once dispatched and the train immediately turns right under the building, you go through a massive jet of smoke (smoke, not mist this time) filled with lots of red lighting and sound effects of wood burning. It must be said, the amount of smoke which fills this room as you turn to exit the lift hill was huge and obscured your vision for the briefest of moments. Quite liked this actually and hope it stays!
Once ascending the lift hill, the audio as mentioned earlier plays through the speakers and whilst you get a lovely view to the right of what awaits, I did find the lift hill incredibly slow which killed the great pace the ride had at the start exiting the station at a surprising speed. That coupled with the absolutely stupid bend on that lift hill made it worse. I’m probably the only person who has a problem with that bend on the lift hill as whilst it was needed due to the design of the layout, to me, that should have been designed better as it frankly looks dumb, especially when you climb it.
But once you reach the top where the tunnel lies, everything begins finally. What I didn’t expect on the back row was that left turn before the drop was declined slightly and as a result, was whipped round that corner incredibly fast which took me by great surprise! And even though the first drop is quite small, the airtime you get at the back going down it is quite big and was a great start to the ride!
Next was the bunny hop into the second tunnel and the S-bend which follows after and this was by far the best section. Because not only are you whipped again over the second hill, but because the S-bend goes downhill the whole way, you pick up some seriously high speeds down this section and the banking of the track can whip you around a fair bit on the back row! Not uncomfortably so, but enough to make the sudden changes in orientation a lot of fun with even more airtime moments! Without doubt the best section of the layout here.
Once passing through the effigy and performing the u-turn back through again, the speed does slow down a moderate amount here noticeably, but not enough to kill the pace thankfully. The bend is nicely shaped and isn’t too extreme for the riders until you reach the small hump as you race through the effigy again everything becomes faster once more. The small drop as you exit the 2nd pass-through of the figure has a bit of a noticeable jolt similar to Smiler’s 12th inversion, though nothing unpleasant, it just gives another small dose of airtime to the rider!
From here onwards when the ride continues to make turns, smaller drops and twists, the train does slow down, but it still keeps a strong pace from start to end with more airtime hills and strong forces exerted on riders. Probably the weakest section of the layout is the flat and slow 180 degree turn you make just before dropping back down and passing through the figure again. To me, if this was banked or had a small dip in the middle similar to the way both of Smiler’s turns work for both lift hills, this could have made it a little more interesting.
Soon later, you reach the final brake run and the main section of the ride is over.
Something I need to mention is regardless of where you sit on the train, be prepared to get a little wet from the mist effects used in the effigy, especially when you pass through the holes. Apart from the mist, water is dripping from the jets used and will drip on you as a result, especially when you go through the 3rd hole. Nothing too major, but enough to notice!
You enter the darkened tunnels again with themed audio and more smoke effects before getting back to the station and disembarking to leave for the exit. The ride is now over.
If I’m to summarise the experience in one word, it would be “WOW!” Sure, it’s not a Megafobia or Balder killer, but compared to how it looks and what it’s actually like riding, this coaster has some serious surprises to it, the least being the several moments of airtime you get sitting at the back over various parts of the course! This coupled with the comfort of the trains made this a really fun and exciting coaster to try, even though the layout isn’t amazing. The pace is constant after the lift hill, it feels faster than what the statistics say, the interactions with the scenery and effigy are great and it’s just intense enough to allow those as little as 1.2m onto the ride without it being too much for them. Plus, even though the coaster has a few jerky moments that throw you around a bit, it wasn’t rough at all anywhere and didn’t try breaking the rider’s back like Stampida does.
Again, the theming continues here too and the shop looks really nice too! Loads of detailed theming everywhere similar to DBGT’s one with theming across all the flooring, walls and ceiling and some of the merchandise was pretty nice. There was a hand-made figure of the Wicker Man available in the shop too, but for £3,000? Nuuuuuuuu thanks.
Here are some other points worth mentioning when you try it:
• There is a baggage hold for this ride staffed by workers, but I thought Alton were eliminating all of them……? Very confused…
• If all three queues are full, the ratio will be 1:1:1 for main, fastback and disabled, so the waits can get incredibly and frustratingly slow at times.
• Be aware the lift hill is incredibly noisy when you stand underneath it.
• The shop is routed, so it may be difficult or cumbersome to reach one side of the shop to the other.
• When this ride breaks down, be prepared to wait a fairly long time. Over an hour was spent sending the trains round when it broke down with full and empty trains going round constantly. I believe the ride was experiencing weight issues, hence why 3/4 rows were running round empty all afternoon.
• The on-ride photo camera is at the bottom of the first tunnel drop straight after the lift hill.
• Be aware there is a major design flaw with placing the camera here. Honestly shocked nobody has picked this up yet, but the smoke in the 2nd tunnel if blown in front of the camera can make your on-ride photo look very strange with a weird ghost effect. Below is this issue me and Martin ran into, so you have a 50:50 chance of this appearing. Didn’t appreciate this after waiting 2+ hours and making it our only ride on it that day:
If you have read all of what I’ve put above, you probably most likely realise by now despite going in with low expectations, pessimism and serious doubts given Merlin’s recent track record, this ride has honestly surprised me on a level I haven’t witnessed before. It’s surprised my because during all the construction stages, apparent rumours the first drop was re-profiled by John Wardey, negative stabs from enthusiasts and the constant, vacuous marketing WORLD FIRST claims I was seeing for this thing, Wicker Man has delivered on being what I can only describe as a superb family coaster. It really is!
Whilst I still have some doubts and questions of the theme behind this ride for a family coaster, especially if one has seen the films or does research behind the whole sacrificial belief behind it, the park have done a superb job with theming the ride as a whole and must be given credit for it. The smallest of details have been looked at, especially in the station, the audio matches it perfectly and everything feels complete and not half-finished like Smiler still does today.
But my biggest concern is regarding the special effects used. Whilst for now they might all be working great with no flaws whatsoever, I seriously and honestly cannot see this lasting too long. It won’t be long before the sprayed mist on the effigy starts to degrade similar to The Marmaliser’s The Giggler leg, or 1+ of the screens displaying a flame inside breaking, or even one of the fires on the shoulders breaking. I might be sounding paranoid here, but for a coaster that for the most part lives on the promise of the effects working on this figure, that is incredibly risky of Merlin/Alton. Hopefully I’m proven wrong over time, but I still think eventually they will begin to break one bit at a time.
But besides that, if the park can get the coaster to run perfectly with no hiccups regarding the operations and technical faults it has, maintain all the effects to a working standard every day beyond 2018, they could be onto a real winner here.
Already I say this is their best family coaster without a doubt at the park, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying this is the best coaster in the country like some YouTubers and vloggers have said. It’s still loads of fun regardless and is a solid addition, but all I’ll say is don’t expect anything amazing here. Instead, expect to be surprised by it and really enjoy it for what it offers because it executes at being a fun, enjoyable woodie really well!
Just to add a little more to this review, besides from the masses of pictures above, below is a short video showing many off-ride views, including a naughty sneak of the pre-show. Don't worry, that section is only 5 seconds long!
So in summary, Wicker Man to me is a solid addition to Alton Towers, deserves credit for all the teams who put it together and should go down really well with it’s target audience. Heck, if it gets a 3 hour queue just from one day, I can only begin to imagine how big they’re going to get this summer!
Wicker Man - 8 / 10
Something Stupid: Thorpe Half Marathon 2018
How far would you go, as an enthusiast, to build your collection of Theme Park tat?
Take out a Wonga loan to cover the cost?
Break up with your long term partner so you can free up some space?
How about run a half marathon to earn it...?
Well, last Sunday saw me do Something Stupid as I found myself running the 21 kilometres of the 2018 Thorpe Half Marathon, all in an attempt to nab the jazzy coaster-themed medal bestowed upon those who manage to get over the finish line.
And here for you, dear reader, is how I got on...
Thorpe Half Marathon 2018
The Thorpe Half is now in its second year, having enjoyed a successful - if wet - debut in 2017. Unfortunately as it's held in February, the park is closed, so the only real connection to Thorpe Park is that it starts and ends in the car park; there's no sprinting past Stealth and dashing around Depth Charge. What it does have to offer however is a pleasant run through the Surrey countryside, along a relatively flat-profile road-closed course - perfect for those chasing a personal best.
I was, it must be said, not chasing a personal best. I was just in it for the medal.
So, first things first. Sunday 25th February 2018 was cold. Bloody cold. The event organisers recommended that participants arrived at the car park by 07:45am, to allow good time before the race started at 09:00am. At 07:45am on Sunday 25th February in the Thorpe Park car park, the mercury was touching -1 degrees C.
But this hadn't deterred anyone! Indeed, the car park was busier than the average in-season Saturday when I arrived, and the place was buzzing with excited, committed runners. Many of whom seemed happy to be out in nothing more than vests, lycra, and shorts. In -1 degrees.
At this point I must admit that I took a large gulp and wondered what on earth I was doing here - and this wouldn't be the last time this particular thought crossed my mind.
It's also worth saying that I wasn't prepared for doing this. At all.
The fault is squarely mine, but I had done such minimal training beforehand that it doesn't even really merit the name "training". Since I booked a place at the event back in November, I had managed a grand total of two 3 mile runs on the roads around my house. Two. And on one of those I very nearly threw up at the end of it.
I am not a runner. I don't especially enjoy it, so, at best this was going to be a struggle. But there was only one way to get that medal...!
At this point I decided I'd take my mind off the impending challenge by having a nose around the site.
First up was a mosey on over to the park entrance - which looked very bare without an actual sign there! Does this happen every season, or might we be about to get a new sign design? And whilst they're at it, the paintwork could do with a good looking over too...
Alas I was allowed to go no further, because this sign had both red writing and underlining - doubly authoritative.
Thanks to my trusty zoom lens though, I could peek in a little closer...
...but there wasn't really much to see.
The Annual Pass building seemed to be getting a good dose of TLC though. Looked like it was having a new roof fitted, given the scaffolding.
Given the red underlined signs everywhere, it was pretty clear that the toilets by the entrance were out of bounds and out of action.
So bring on the portaloos!
Unfortunately, you can never have enough portaloos, and in this case, there weren't enough portaloos. Queueing is par for the course at any Theme Park, but queueing in sub zero temperatures is even less fun.
A quick look over the back of the bogs revealed very little of interest - although Zodiac standing stationary in a half-upright position looked quite strange! There was no visible work being done to X / WDTR.
However, it is photos such as this one that make me think how lucky we are to have a park as pretty as Thorpe in our country.
Thorpe Park is rarely praised for looking good. But with bright blue skies and deep blue lakes top-and-tailing it, it can't be denied that this is a sweet view. Reminded me strangely of a (very) mini Cedar Point...
OK - back to the action. The event organisers had done a great job with the central runners' village area, which contained a Cookie Bar, Coffee Stall, Massage Beds, Medal Engraving, a bunch of running-related retailers...
...and a stage!
Pictured here are the Epsom Rock Choir, who were singing with gusto despite the bitter cold. Did I mention that it was cold?
08:45am. Nearly game time. I got changed into my kit, which naturally featured a vintage Thorpe t shirt, and made my way over to the start area.
There were nearly 2,000 runners taking part in today's race, including many that had been bussed in by their local running group for the event.
The "why am I here?" thought flickered across my mind once more.
And we were off!
The route took us past the annual pass building, down towards the car park entrance, and off to the left.
Geek Photo #1 - the Protecting The Magic sign.
Do you know the Six Spells for Safety?
The route continued to track along the Staines Road, through the backstage areas of the park. Lots of industrial-looking buildings and infrastructure.
And then, behold! Geek Photo #2 - I spy nostalgia!
These look to me as if they've been saved from Chief Ranger's Carousel (RIP), which is great. But what will the park do with them?! Hopefully not leave them to rot...
OK, back to the race. The course had kicked us out of the Thorpe Park grounds at around 1 mile, on to Norlands Lane, then Coldharbour Lane, past Thorpe Farm (RIP), and up to the Thorpe Bypass.
At this point, my lack of fitness was really kicking in. The Sunday morning jolly at the Theme Park had suddenly turned very real, and I was wheezing after just 2 miles.
What didn't help was this section of the course, which involved running half a mile up one half of the road, only to turn around and run straight back down the other half. Sigh.
On the plus side, some great views of the M25. Oof.
But to be fair, much of the route was through very pleasant countryside, and if I'd been more fit it might have even been enjoyable.
As it was, it was a real mental effort to keep my head down, and keep moving. Just keep going. One step in front of the other. The coldness issue dropped away after 4 miles, because my body was generating so much heat.
I was overtaken plenty of times, and I had to just walk up anything resembling an incline. Spotify was a massive help.
The breakthrough for me came at about mile 10, where I realised that I'd made it around 75% of the course and that finishing was achievable!
At mile 12, I could start to see the tops of some of the rides peek over the skyline - wow. Never have I been more motivated by seeing the crest of Tidal Wave's lift hill!
My legs were properly turning to jelly, and the last pushes were really stop / start. But with a view like this, and the end in sight, I forced myself to go for a sprint finish for the last few hundred yards.
I threw myself over the finish line and doubled over, my chest burning and my legs on fire.
I'd done it!
2 hours, 1 minute, and 17 seconds of running later, and I'd completed the Thorpe Half.
And what was all this endeavour for?
Another addition to my collection of Theme Park tat! But what an addition it is.
Genuine blood, sweat and tears went into getting it, so I suspect it will remain amongst the more treasured of all the tat in my possession. It's a good looking, weighty medal and I'm proud to have earned it!
So, will I be running the Thorpe Half again next year to add another medal to my collection?
Immediately after the race my legs seized up to such an extent that I almost couldn't drive home. In the days following the event, my muscles were so sore that walking - anywhere - was a very real problem. And I later found I'd sprained my left foot along the course, and one of the toenails on my right foot had filled with blood and fallen off. Yuck. And did I mention the nipple chafing?
These injuries are, of course, preventable. As I said at the top of the piece, my running the Thorpe Half was Stupid. I certainly don't recommend following my lead and just running a Half Marathon in freezing temperatures with no prior training whatsoever in order to obtain a coaster-themed medal.
However, for those in better shape (or with a greater commitment to training) than I... it was a very well organised event. Why not give next year's a go?
Thanks for reading! Comments very welcome below.
Phantasialand is one of my favourite theme parks, it may not be the biggest park out there, but they certainly know how to mix a combination of attractions within remarkable footprints.
Just over a year following my first visit, I decided to make a return visit for Winter to see the park beautifully lit up and decorated for Christmas.
Berlin Street, a beautiful park entrance (at least once you get past the street). It borrows some elements from Main Street but also makes it’s own in many ways too, like the Chairswing at the end and Fun House (Hotel Tartúff).
This time I finally got the chance to go through the Tartúff. I can safely say it’s one of the craziest (and longest) Funhouse attractions I have experienced. It must’ve taken at least 15minutes to walk through it. Worth the wait too.
Last time around I was criticised for not mentioning enough love for Chiapas. Here goes, Yes that’s an enhanced entrance too which looks amazing.
Words can it describe just how impressive and magical this attraction is, it’s such a happy upbeat attraction that aren’t common enough in main park’s. There is nothing I can fault about this attraction, from it’s dark segments, backwards drops and pacing throughout. The disco room is by far one of the best inventions in modern attractions. They even play a Christmas variant of the main theme too. Sheer perfection.
Subtle yet Christmassy.
Talocan was running just as impressively and intensely as last time. Certainly a stunning beast and just as much a show as a ride. Not one for after lunch.
Speaking on lunch, we went back to Rutmoore’s (which does these amazing hearty meals). The eatery is certainly holding it’s own with decorations too amongst delicious food.
Savoury Crepes Yum.
Taron is still absolutely amazing (and narrowly misses the top spot to Helix). I just adore the ride’s empowering launches, floaty airtime and interaction with nearby buildings and pathways. It’s just as much a piece of art as much as a coaster and much more than a series of twists and turns for sure.
Taron in the sunset looks even more beautiful for sure.
Whilst Klugheim is still park’s latest addition (Taron’s 120 minute queues are proof), it won’t be too long before the park’s next investment (albeit delayed until 2019) arrives, Rookburgh. Replacing the old Atlantis Simulator (removed before my first visit), the new area looks to boast a steampunk style theme, a surprising move away from the park’s signature rock Styles. Rockwork to Phantasialand is perhaps what shipping containers are to Merlin.
Whilst I am (naturally) highly excited this new area, I am going to be quite controversial now and say I’m slightly disappointed the area’s headline attraction looks to be another coaster (opposed to a dark ride). The park lost a major dark ride (Silvermine) so Taron could be built and I would like to see them gain a modern (animatronic heavy) dark ride. I’m sure Fly though will still be fantastic though and rumours suggest it will have dark ride elements which is a start.
Far on the other side of the park (away from the glamorous Chiapas and Klugheim) lies the sad sorry ageing duo that are Temple and Hollywood. It’s almost difficult to believe they are in the same park. The left side does generally feel noticeably inferior to the right, but then again it’s literally towards the back of resident’s gardens. I wouldn’t complain living there tbh.
Some say these will be the next attractions to be ripped out from the park (to makeway for the next park redevelopment). Whilst I won’t shed a tear when Nighthawk goes (a 10 minute confused journey in pitch black darkness), I will miss the Hollywood ride just a bit. The cave, jaws and Frankenstein scenes are my favourites in this sorry forgotten dark ride.
I’m probably in the minority but I actually really like Geister Riksha. Although it is one of the park’s oldest attractions (it’s 36 years old) the ride still feels like it holds a place even in modern Phantasialand. It certainly fits in more then Temple and Hollywood and feels better looked after too. I would rather the attraction extensively updated than ripped out entirely should China ever become redeveloped.
Spot the mistake.
Black Mamba was still amazing, Colorado crazy in the best way and Mystery Castle somewhat on the shorter setting. I enjoyed Maus Au Chocolate more this time which is great to see so much theming between the screens. Winjas Fear is definitely the better track. Bizarrely we had to enter through a back route to the entrances due to the main area playing home to a private function.
Due to a national holiday, there was no music on the second day in many park areas until 6pm.
Phantasialand at night just looks absolutely spectacular, here’s the China Area. Whilst this area doesn’t House the park’s best rides it’s still one of my favourite areas in the park. That said I like
pretty much all the areas of the park, the Fantasy not so much though.
Absolutely stunning. I don’t think these photos give the park justice.
The park at Winter also plays home to not one, but two night-time shows. The first one of these uses the park’s ice rink where numerous costumes performers actout. The loose plot basically comes down to something ruining Christmas and someone coming along saving it and ending on a firework finale.
The second show features a projection/fire show around the Chiapas ride plaza. Unfortunately no photography was permitted (Phantasialand are quite notoriously for being one of the stricter parks for this), so I wasn’t able to get any pics as I didn’t fancy getting shouted at in German.
I definitely enjoyed both shows for what they were but wouldn’t necessarily say they were out standing. They certainly weren’t terrible either. Perhaps my insufficient German didn’t help.
During my visit I was very fortunate to stay at Hotel Lingbao, which was just stunning. I absolutely fell l in love with the place from it’s oriental styling to it’s quaint surroundings. Many of the items in this hotel are said to have actually come from China itself.
Would strongly recommend staying here if you can as it’s definitely worth it. Otherwise H+ is a suitable place if you are on a budget.
On the second day, we ventured (or should I say attempted) some cultural stuff in Cologne. Unfortunately this wasn’t as successful as hoped due to the Chocolate Museum being closed, but we did what we could out of it.
Cologne Lock bridge.
I also had my first Hard Rock Cafe experience here. I strongly enjoyed this (however Tomb thought it was average). Not sure how others compare.
Old Cologne. Sadly most of Cologne is modern brutal buildings. I’ll let Basil Fawlty do the explaining.
Tradional German Market, we actually visited two but I definitely preferred this one.
Random animatronic goodness. You can pay a euro for the duo to play a tune of your choice whilst drinking beer.
I will end this update with Cologne Cathedral at night.
If the closed season becomes too much, just book a winter trip to Phantasialand (opening hours vary). Merry Christmas!
If 2015 and 2016 were anything, empty would be the main word. I'd lost my coaster enthusiasm in a big way with only trips to the Disney parks across Florida, California and Paris being real highlights, their blend of capacity, good hours and efficiency being real draws. Any time I'd visited Merlin parks, I'd been frustrated with just how boring and badly run they had become. If I remember 2017 for anything, it would be the year that I got back into theme parks in a big way. It happened relatively late on in the year though, with only a trip to Disneyland Paris in February before the 25th anniversary celebrations begun.
I had been planning a trip with a few others for the beginning of April. This was the real kickstarter frankly. Parc Asterix, Nigloland, Holiday Park, Phantasialand, Movie Park Germany and Efteling on the agenda. This was a sublime trip with big parks and some fantastic rides. I could wax lyrical about Alpina Blitz at Niglo for hours. This to me is why Mack rides are so exciting. Intense, full of air time, perfect restraint systems and operations. It's been a long time since I've gone back again and again for a rollercoaster, let alone ride that same ride 10 times in a day. But Alpina Blitz is something special. This is why the idea of Icon at Blackpool is so exciting because Mack rides are rerideable and damn good fun.
Getting back on Oz'Iris, Black Mamba and Taron filled me with delight too. I always wondered if I had just over-rated Oz'Iris back when I first rode it but now I know that I hadn't. It's a genuinely good, unique inverter and the operations were absolutely perfect. Whilst Tonnere de Zeus was a bit disappointing this time around, I still maintain that Goudurix is just brilliantly awful. The thrill comes from wondering if you will survive.
I was still disappointed with Expedition Ge Force. I know why people like it and even get why this was rated Number one rollercoaster for years But we've moved on now and the stupid loading procedures and strictness of the ride holds it back in so many ways. Don't ride Alpina Blitz the day before is all I can advise. A ride that did surprise was Van Helsing at Movie Park. Wow. It's just a simple Gerstlauer bobsled but it was a big shock at how good it was. Very forceful cornering that compete with our own Rattlesnake at Chessington. The final park was Efteling which I wish we had longer at. It's back on the agenda for 2018 because I just didn't feel like I got the full Efteling experience. I really liked Baron 1898 for what its worth and the fairy dark ride was pure class from start to finish.
(side note, has anyone seen that seven rollercoasters you need to ride in 2018 video thats been going around? Why is Baron even on that list?!)
With that excitement over the next trip was IMO the best park in the world, Europa Park. It's no secret that I love Europa and every time I go it surprises and delights at every turn. It was weirdly quiet, managed to stay on Blue Fire twice in a row for example and we didn't really queue longer then 20 minutes for Arthur. We didn't know it was to be our last rides on EuroSat 1. It was running fantastically well. There's something about these older dark rides that just surprise at every turn. Wodan was also running fantastically. Every successive trip, it just seems to get better and better. Whilst I prefer Blue Fire, Wodan really is a great coaster. Coupled onto this trip was a few days at Paris to do all the 25th anniversary shows and to experience Hyperspace Mountain. Yuck. I don't really like it when a ride like Space Mountain has a theme chucked at it in such a haphazard way. The new trains are fine, but the use of Star Wars doesn't work here. New Illuminations is also not very good. There I said it. Stop trying to sell me your brands in such a blatant way.
July time and it was off to Walygator for Monster. This is a pretty damn good B&M and whilst Walygator is a bit of a dump, Monster almost makes up for it.
One final trip to Paris happened (annual pass fun) and then November and off to Florida for a two week vacation. (lol America)
I'll first talk about Busch Gardens and Seaworld before descending into Disney. Do Busch and Seaworld ever get busy? For example, I've never queued longer then 10 minutes at Busch for anything. Walk on Montu, Cheetah Hunt is lovely but surely it shouldn't be that way in Florida. Suffice to say my feelings for certain rides has changed. I'm not sure what they've done to Kumba for example but it felt like the wheels were squares. It was running quite roughly throughout whilst was slightly disappointing as I'd previously loved it. Montu was fine but it really doesn't compare to Oz'iris, Monster, Nemesis. It's first half is fine, but the second half is just the train wondering around finding its way to the ending. Sheikra is excellent. So much force and air time throughout. I hear that it's hated in theme park circles and I really don't get why.
Cobras Curse was new last year and seemed to be having a lot of problems. We managed two rides and it was an okay enough ride but was a bit haphazard in its execution.
Seaworld has three top quality rollercoasters and thats it. Luckily, these are B&M"s and three very strong ones at that. I'll start with Kraken (or Kraken Unleashed) which has been completely wrecked by VR. I'm not sure how the queue works anymore because the queue is closed off with a gate for the whole day and you have to ask to ride without VR. If you want VR you have to grab a virtual queue ticket. You could easily lie however and just queue normally and get straight on. But if you have a virtual queueing ticket you get priority onto the ride and can still just choose not to use the VR if you so desire. It was weird. The VR is fine but again it take away from the quality B&M experience you could be having instead. I'd never really liked Kraken that much before but I really enjoyed it this time around. It felt a bit rough around the edges and less smoother then before so maybe I like the more visceral experience.
Manta is excellent. The flyer is a bit of an under-rated gem in Europe to be honest and its a shame its never really taken off because from what I've seen and experienced, the flyer is the most intense B&M product available. I know some don't like pretzel loops but I absolutely adore them. MORE PRETZEL LOOPS PLEASE.
And finally... Mako. My experience with B&M Hypers is ashamedly lacking. I've only been on Silver Star and Shambhala so far so I was looking forward to Mako. A few things with this first. Most hypers have nine rows, Mako has seven so it looks really short and oddly shaped compared to the norm. I think this may explain why Mako is so much more airtimey and 'intense' compared to the others I've been on because the air time here was far more in the Intamin category of air time then the norm. The first half of Mako is excellent and surprisingly intense. It felt far more violent that I'm accustomed to from Shambhala for example which takes everything far more calmly. Mako isn't like this at all. What does take away its edge though is two trim breaks. WHY DO THEY DO THIS. Mako has two and the first nearly kills an air time hill, the second makes for a poorer ending then Mako really deserves. What Mako does do is deliver another excellent B&M for Seaworld who IMO have one of the strongest B&M line ups in the world. There, I said it.
So Disney World. This was all really about Animal Kingdom frankly. It delivered. There's a slight bit of animosity towards Pandora: The Land of Avatar and I get where that comes from. But it pales into significance of how incredible the area is. It's immersive, its full of little details and each walk through of the area is full of surprises. It's particularly amazing at night when the pathways come to life, full of colour, the plants shine, the waterfalls glisten.
There are two rides in the area. Flights of Passage is the big one which gets 180 minute queues from the start, all the way to the end of the day. The other is Navi River Journey, a small boat ride that takes you through the land of Pandora. For all my money (and worth), I think Navi River Journey is the better ride. This goes slightly against the grain but to me, I prefer the physicality of River Journey with a particularly impressive animatronic. Flights of Passage only just justifies its long queue time and if I was being cruel, it's just a slightly more impressive Star Tours. There's no doubt that what Disney have done here is tried to put you on a journey, to wake you up to the damage being done to our world, albeit very subtlety. I just find the pre-shows over long and full of faff, impressive faff but faff nonetheless.
What does impress however is Expedition Everest at night. Disney are the masters at lighting and riding Everest in pitch darkness has to rate as one of my favourite rollercoaster experiences. Rivers of Lights, Animal Kingdoms new night-time show is impressive in its small scale. It's not like the castle firework shows where its essentially a Disney clip show. RoL is about how we live with animals and our bond with nature. I really liked it.
Nothing to really report about Hollywood Studios and Epcot was it's usual retirement home of locals and retail. Frozen Ever After is fine if unremarkable but just about enough to justify its queue times. Happily Ever After, the new firework show at Magic Kingdom is fantastic. The Christmas event was fun but no way on earth am I queuing three hours to meet Moana.
And with that another theme park year is over. It's been one where I finally feel back into the theme park groove. Hope this wasn't to long a read and congratulations if you've made it to the end.
So I visited Liseberg back in July, and I just wanted to share a few thoughts on the park... Majority of my photos were like so bad so I'm just stealing photos from the park's website to break things up.
Ultimately, I was left a bit...unfulfilled? by the park. I don't know how to describe it. The quality of some of the attractions at the park is really good, but the park itself just do 'it' for me.
Let's get this out the way. Helix is truly fantastic. It's got everything - a lengthy layout, inversions, speed, airtime, a nice style and good audio...everything. And it all works, which is more important in some ways. I really loved the style of the ride - the slightly futuristic / game feel just works SO WELL. It's a bit of a shame that the queue is a bit worn - it needs a good clean and spruce up really. But aside from that, I have no real flaws. The ride is fantastic wherever you sit. The back is fab. The front gives you the force and speed. And at night is great <3 It's just great!
Balder was a wonderful surprise. So much airtime, a really decent layout, that's nicely concealed, and just really good fun. It's glass smooth which makes it feel weird, but a good weird I s'pose. It's easy to see why it's so highly rated, and it's high up on my list too - my favourite woodie for certain!
This classic Schwarzkopf is perhaps a bit of a hidden gem in the park now. Which sounds weird to say given it's not hidden at all. But in a park with Helix, Balder and soon Valkyria screaming in your face, it's perhaps something which will slide out of view. Lisebergbanan was the only coaster where staff didn't bother stapling me in on every go (the staff on Helix and Balder seemed determined to split me in half...), which resulted in some awesome airtime and being flung about in every direction. We also had a couple of rides in the rain which really added to the experience. Just a shame about that final brake...
Rebalder & Stampbanan
A couple of small creds finishes up the coaster line up. Nothing special, but Rebalder ended up being my 100th cred - woohoo!
I'd always wanted to try a Gerstlauer Sky Roller since I first saw them, so I was excited for this. I rode is 3 times over the course of 2 days - I struggled on my first go to get any spins, but managed a solid 27 on my second go, which made me very queasy... Goodness knows how people cope with 50+ spins...
So this is basically Rush on a hill. It has loads of potential, but it just didn't deliver. The ride cycle was disappointing, and the location just didn't work - instead of making it more intimidating, it makes it less. It meant the ride experience was rather lacking all in all.
A really tall drop tower with Stealth-style restraints. It was alright, gave nice views of Gothenburg, but that's about it. I think after Detonator's forcefulness and brilliance, other drop towers feel lacking for me..
FlumeRide & Kallerado
The park's log flume is a nice scenic tour really. It's also gives a good pop as it starts down the drops. Nothing special, but good fun!
The rapids were great - they start quite slow, but gradually builds up and up and it just works really well!
Oh god. This was blooming awful. It's a ferris wheel, but the loading procedures were bad. It got every pod emptied / filled (which naturally takes ages), and then cycles round 3 times, and then starts the unload/load process again. It's just so boring. It didn't help the views were poor because of rainy weather, but even with clear weather, there's not that much you'd see again a second. third or fourth time round...
Loke & Mechanica
The two newest rides at the park; unfortunately they didn't appeal to me. Loke, an Intamin gyroswing, is a ride that makes me feel awful after riding these days, so I didn't fancy it. And I didn't want to waste time with Mechanica when there was other stuff I could do..
Majority of their other attractions are all standard stuff, and they weren't that great really. A bit of a shame. Their dark ride (which is closing soon / might already be closed?) was truly awful though. However, one final noteworthy attraction...
Gasten Ghost Hotel
An upcharge scare attraction (priced £5/£7 depending on what ticket you have). Themed around a spooky abandoned hotel which is over-run by spiders. I hate spiders, which naturally put me on edge. The maze was very good; a good length, VERY well themed, and some fantastic use of special effects (smell and feel were particular scents that were attacked!). The only downside was that it lacked in actor numbers, which is a bit of a shame. Nonetheless, a good scare attraction which did leave me cowering at some points...
On a more general note, operations at the park were generally very good and quick. I'm not a fan of their shutdown policy (Helix shutdown when we were near the station, and it resulted in a full queue evac. It opened about 10 minutes later and must surely have only been a small problem), but I guess that's a small grumble. I love all of the sideshows and games they have - so many of them were themed which was fantastic, and they just had such a good atmosphere about them (it was also good that staff weren't pressuring people to play).
So yeah, Liseberg was a weird one. I enjoyed their 3 major coasters, and they have a couple of other good attractions. But the park feels lacking in...something to me. But I don't really know what. Despite wanting to go back and ride Helix, Balder and Lisebergbanan, I don't really feel compelled to visit Liseberg as a park any time soon (even their new coaster isn't that tempting). It's disappointing in some ways, as I want to like the park, but I just don't as much. I think it's at least partially down to the fact it's more or less an amusement park, rather than a theme park, and I'm more of a theme park guy.
Only taken me 3 and a half months to finish this TR...
We spent 2 and a half days at Efteling this year, and there was bucketloads of stuff going on during that time. We stayed at the newly opened Loonsche Land Hotel, experienced Symbolica on it's opening day (along with all the pomp and faff to accompany it), and had a 14 hour day on park thanks to their summer festival event starting. So I could probably pad this part of the trip into 2 or 3 blogs itself (and I kind of have already with my Symbolica review, but heyho...), but I'll just do photos and quick explanations so I can get it done...
Symbolica's opening day (which was also the park's first Summer Festival day of the year) wasn't as busy as we expected. The park opened at 9am, Symbolica opened at 10am. During that time void, the park's mascot Pardoes was out and about, press were interviewing staff and guests - one Dutch news company tried to interview us, but funnily enough they wanted Dutch speakers. There was a fun countdown when the ride opened, and we a mad rush occurred, put fortunately we were in first group of the day in. Good thing too as I wouldn't have wanted to queue this...
The park's summer festival they ran was incredible. For no extra cost, the park opened till late (11pm), and held tonnes of extra side-shows, events, extra food stalls, and general fun stuff. This was all from 6pm, which started off with a parade of all the acts:
OJ Punctuel from Symbolica
A living statue from Flying Dutchman
In the 5 hours from when the parade started, we did a few rides (I can't remember what exactly off the top of my head, but fairly certain we did Joris a couple of times, Baron, Bob and maybe Flying Dutchman?), we saw a ton of the acts, including...
Raveijlin fayre - the whole area was transformed into a mini Warwick Castle. They had sword fights, random actors spinning yarn and goodness knows what else to create an atmosphere.
Random singers / marching band. They were a massive laugh - a lot of their sets can be found here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDSnv09tVMQ
South American dancers
1001 Nights area, include magic performances, 'snake charmers', sword swallowers, a guy giving away free ice cream if you can get it from him, and someone trying to sell rugs...
3 different versions of Aquanura
And much much more, including live music performances from plenty of other acts, randoms pianists, some kids radio station, loads more dancers and plenty of other things I've probably forgotten now and didn't get a chance to take a photo of it. It was truly a fantastic atmosphere, and it was a wonderful day. 14 hours on park flew by, and though it felt long enough, a couple more hours would no doubt have helped us see even more the acts, and sneak in a couple more night rides. Speaking of which, some Efteling at night photos...
Dragon wasn't blowing fire during our trip unfortunately
I got a photo with the wonderful OJ Punctuel. I think I insulted him with my commonness and unshaven face. Though serious note - I love how copious the costume characters are in numbers and appearances - always created such a good, fun atmosphere.
In terms of rides...
Baron 1898 left me disappointed this visit. After riding it 2015, I truly adored it - it was fun, floaty and just really enjoyable from start to finish. Unfortunately, it has aged liked B&Ms seem to do, becoming slightly more forceful and punchy. This is normally a good thing, but in Baron's case, it means it loses the floatiness which made me love it so much, making it less enjoyable. It really slid down my Top 10 as a result - if it wasn't for the amazing theme and surrounding, it certainly would have fallen out.
Joris en de Draak stood the test of time however, and I still really love it. I still prefer Fire slightly over Water, but it definitely cemented itself as my favourite Efteling coaster. Flying Dutchman remained fantastic, Python remained slightly painful and generally disappointing, whilst I enjoyed Bob significantly more this time! My opinions on many of the park's other rides remained the same - I still don't quite get Dreamflight, I enjoy the park's other dark rides and their filler selection is nice. I also got the chance to try the park's 3D cinema, Pandadroom, after it was down for technical difficulties in 2015. I actually quite enjoyed the premise and the real effects it has, but the 3D itself was terrible, and the awkward wait before the show needs some serious attention. I also enjoyed my time in the Fairytale Forest, with this new addition since my last visit being the highlight...
All in all, I enjoyed Efteling again this year, for what was my second visit to the park. After my original visit, I did class it as my favourite park. However, since then, Phantasialand has grown on me all the more, and Efteling just misses the mark for me a bit now. It's still a fantastic park and I really enjoyed my time there (even though 2 and a half days is a bit too much for the park), but it's not really a park for me I guess..
And so that concluded FreBelGerAnd. We left the park slightly earlier than planned so we could get allow plenty of time to drive back to Dunkirk for our evening ferry, and as per, travelling home posed no issues at all...
Next up - my Liseberg review; it's only 2 months late fortunately!
So Halloween is over, and sadly its closed season
Though with last month being October, I thought it would obligitary for me to write about some of my Halloween Highlights and re-live
some of the happiness for the following months of depression and vodka which is the closed season..
(I would do photos but then I realise most of my pictures are sh**)
Best Theming/Costume Design
Honourable Mentions: The Final Cut, Skin Snatchers, The Colony.
Winner- The Welcoming
Even though I did have my criticisms about this maze, it for sure had some of the most beautiful theming I have seen in a while
and it was the absolute highlight of the attraction!
The actors inside used the large sets to its advantage and because of this- The Welcoming I think more than deserves this award.
Most Improved Attraction
Honourable Mentions: Coven, Creepy Cottage (the cast in the cottage were insane this year) Winner- Platform 15
Platform 15 was my least favourite maze of last year, as it just bleeded dull with little to no actors or anything whatsoever going on..
Though this year sees the maze being actually being my favourite at the park as the actors swarmed the maze with scares, and the new village
scene is just fab.
The infamous tunnel section is back though, but some actors with torches this year provided this previously dull section into a tension filled one..
The maze still has a few niggles, but overall I think Platform feels like the most complete maze at Thorpe, and with the cast this year I have to say this is easily
one of the best mazes I have done this year..
Most Original Concept/Theme
Honourable Mentions: The Welcoming, Coven.
Winner- The Legend Of Crank Jack
Crank Jack has a very simple concept, though it just works so well..
So for those who have been hiding under a rock, Crank Jack sees guests crawling through a massive crawling section which is both confusing and jumpy with the
large amount of panels for actors to jump out, and they can come from the ceiling too!
The non crawl sections also are jumpy and confusing with countless dead ends and trigger-happy clowns with perhaps the most annoying horns..
The idea and excution is far from elaborate, but it works, and it works incredibly well too!
Dis-honourable Mentions: The BrotherHOOD, Festino's Festival Of Freaks, VIXI, Saw Alive. Loser- Dead And Breakfast
Dead And Breakfast felt like a massive shadow of itself this year with the witty improv and some of the brilliant scares completly stripped from the maze..
For example last year this maze had a Bunker scene, where this year you just walk straight past it.. Its the exact same with kitchen scene and even the elevator effect
from last year is now gone..
The main maze itself lacked scares (I got like 1 jump scare throughout) and the nicely themed sets generally felt un-used..
Dead And Breakfast is a maze that could be (or was) brilliant, but this year it just fell incredibly flat IMO, heck even the chainsaw finale at the end felt
Most Intense Maze
Honourable Mentions- Chop Shop, Big Top
Winner- Sub Species: The End Games
What haven't I said about Sub Species?
The maze is seriously something completely different in that actors have so much freedom to do what the hell they like with you.
I was alone for long periods with it, they shoved me and stalked me throughout, and overall I was on edge for the entire experience.
The experience is very varied in that you get darkness, open rooms, claustophobic tunnels, and just pretty much everything
the maze can throw at you.
Sub Species is just insane, even in its third year it still continues to shock me every year!
Winner- Tulleys Farm Shocktoberfest
Now, its really a combination of stuff that comes to making up a event for me- the operations, roamers, the mazes, the atmosphere, ect.
Tulleys Farm I feel like has overall the whole package with its great operations (from my 3 visits) and its amazing atmosphere and roamers.
The roaming actors make Screamland or Fright Night's roamers look poor, and the music and overall atmosphere of the place is just amazing.
The operations are also fairly decent too, with queues being resonable (no crazy 3 hour queues) and roaming actors seemed to show up
in the queues to entertain guests which was nice.
And of course the attractions themselves are a pretty good selling point of Tulleys, and after tonght I have to say I actually think the lineup is incredibly strong.
All mazes felt like they had quite a few actors in them, and in some mazes (Twisted Clowns and Cellar) the actors seemed to swarm some sections which caused back to back scares!
Overall Tulleys is by far the most fun I've had this Halloween, and I can't wait to get back next year!
You have reached the end of this blog, I congratulate you, you poor soul!
Anyway what events and stuff have you done? Anyway happy Halloween (I know I''m 4 fuc**** days late) and happy off-season!
May the next few winter months be depressing.. (Bar Winter Wonderland, which fu** that, I don't want to take a loan out..)
Like a seasonal special of a magazine, welcome to my bumper edition of all thing Halloween!
So this year, it started late September (we'll be doing it in August soon don't you worry, watch you backs Mickey's not so scary thing)
As per most seasons, it began with the press night at Thorpe
This is a fab way to try out the new rubbish
Before these metal fences get full of people
The two new Walking Dead mazes; Nightmare was lovely to look at, but far too open, far too short and had no ending. Very naff. Sanctum was even worse, like stupidly short.
Saw Alive is the same, Platform was much better with an actual middle section now. And Big Top is now a very well rounded, complete maze. Roamers this year were awful, bring back the good old roaming style of 2011. Theming was alright in places, places you don't expect. Like by Flying Fish
Preview night of Tulleys!
Felt very stale this year. Is it the first time we've not had something fully new? The tag onto Hellements just makes the thing bearable, Chop Shop is still a boredom machine of repetition. Colony and Cellar are still fab though and hayride a good laugh. But I feel they're pushing to have more mazes and losing quality? There'll be NINE next year. Europa has 5. Thorpe have 5. Most events are 5/6. Mad
The following weekend was back at Thorpe for the meet. Here's a nice photo of Swarm, cloud and Stealth.
And the Amity effect
Friday 13th. Would be rude not to go to an event. This started our trip to the midlands for 4 different Halloween events, starting at The Howl!
I have no photos from inside cos I was preoccupied! However, this event is much smaller than its sister, Tulleys. 5 mazes but all very close together and this really worked in my eyes. They had a few roamers but all the actors going to and from break would like run at people on route too. The clown maze was alright, hotel de basquerville had great sets, but the scares were very front heavy so being at the back did nothing for us. House of Hounds had such a build up, not an amazing middle but the best use of a puppet I've seen. It physically pushed you over in the claustrophobia tunnel. Then there was Squealers Yard and Shed. Squealers is one of the most intense mazes with being physical I've done. We went through as a 3, and the actors were crazy. And it just kept going! Shed was kinda like Cellar in that it had inhabitants and was conga, very well themed as well with some good jumps. Overall a fab little event. I think this is only its third year?
The next morning
Hi Mr Scarecrow, do you like all the bunting?
Scarefest, not to be confused with the later to be visited Screamfest 30 minutes down the road
Obligatory Nemesis photo
And bam. Maze building.
So the 3 in here.
Terror of the Towers- It's a solid maze, I said this last year and I stick by it. It works. If this was at Thorpe you wouldn't complain, it's only cos Towers make you pay for it and it's next to much more intense mazes. There's nothing wrong with it.
Altonville- We had an awful run through. No being dragged away, hardly any grabbing, caught up with like 2 other groups. I've heard this a lot about this one though this year. Real shame. It has an ending now though
Sub Species- Pre-show is still fun, the door scene good fun even if it's cut back slightly now. Seems hit or miss, me and Phill had good runs but Jack didn't. In general this year the actors seem less aggressive but Sub is still fun as it's an actual maze, a game. 2 endings as well now so I got a nice shiny new one, yay!
Then there's this one. Eh. It looks nice, if the SW8 queue gets some of these set pieces I'll be happy. But batching in like 25 people at a time yeah. All odd. No ending really. Idk. Eh.
Oh look, a place that knows how to do a scare zone
Simple yet fun!
Have a nice Smiler photo
And off we went to Screamfest!
5 mazes. As per starting with the clown one. Decent enough, really like this entrance feature though
Little DJ in a box with lights. He seemed like a cool guy
Strategic photo to have crap next to it? Maybe. It is pretty naff. Bland walls, nothing happening. Worst new thing
There was a fire 'show'. Roaming people with fire at other events were better but hey ho.
Soul Seekers had a great start, got lost in the middle then no end. Love Hurts is brill. Such a cool concept going into the sewers, completing weird tasks by a crazy scientist to perfect matching up singles
And then the other new maze. Starts with a little tractor ride around a hill, then you arrive at the party to "enjoy" the local corn maize. But, a lunatic has also just escaped jail with his banditos. And it all goes mad. Actor runs through the corn, 4 things that feel finale worthy but it isn't over. So much fun, kept going, glad it was left till last! And that's Screamfest, some good concepts and mazes, then some awful ones.
Back at Towers the next day we decided to go family friendly with a flash mob from the awesome ancestors
And House of Monsters! They really need to advertise this more, it's so much fun and worth every single penny of the £5. Cheesy as a slab of cheddar but a great laugh and interesting little maze ending
A fun photo of Smiler
Another flash mob
And off we went to Twinlakes for Xtreme Scream Park
With roaming actors who know how to pose perfectly. Ta mate
6 mazes, 2 rides and a load of roaming actors. We were all very much looking forward to this one especially after the stuff we'd heard. Stilton Hall Hotel was insane. 2 floors, a full hotel tour, and some crazy even kinky actors
Hoodoo Voodoo. The best hooded maze I've done. Was like a funhouse with changing floors, wall texture, actors etc and had a decent post hood section with huge voodoo dolls, and an odd finale
Just a roamer, but better than the previous nights 'show'
The Village was long. But a good long. 4 different building, one being a creepy school with a cool blackboard effect. Only thing that let it down for us was the finale or kinda lack off. Something we'd noticed a lot this year in general from events
First half of Pie Factory we saw no actors, just loads of actor runs and potential. Then we caught up with a chain of people and actors. Shame as this maze had massive potential but ending up in a huge group ruined the second half
The night ended in jail. There was some really cool effects in here, and again a decent length, plus the façade is just great with the guntower going out onto the lawn of the events like arena. There wasj ust no ending! And that concludes our weekend away!
As storm *MET office being stupid so want to name everything that has a bit of wind or rain or storm storm name here* I headed down to Dreamland for the first time
It's a cute little park with some great vintage rides
The famous "Lets piss off the local flats with a loud coaster" Magic Mouse (no joke, this thing pretty much rests alongside their balconies, even waved at someone who wasn't as impressed)
And a wacky worm. Technically a bee actually. With 4 or 5 laps. Can't remember but it was too many
To kill some time we went to a shell grotto. Yup. It is what it says on the door
Enough of that nonsense, Screamland time! 6 mazes and a photo opportuning shipping container
The maze in the mirror maze is a joke its so short. But has a cool show start. Brotherhood is a new maze, hooded but different and quite a cool hooded concept. Considering the number of hooded mazes I've done this year, we didn't hate it. Carnival of Freaks, great start with Alfonso, weird ending where they trap you in a room that looks like the start. Crank Jack killed our knees, you are crawling for so long! The ending is cool though, we got so lost we ended in an actor spot and got screamed at (in character). Prop store was annoying, had some really nice old Screamland stuff but with a pulsing strobe so you can't properly see it. And then a very expected photo finale. Final cut and Dead n Breakfast is a cool concept going from one maze straight into another. The smells were authentic like popcorn, and a few cool effects but not as good as I'd been told they were in previous years
And then to end the Halloween season like a pro, 2 years running.
Howl'o'ween. Curse of lost tomb is worse, they don't do half the interactive stuff anymore. Roaming actors were a major plus this year, Tomb Blasters queue had like 5 in. Creepy Caves is great. They can't run a timed ticket system at all, we waiting nearly 80 minutes in the queue but the maze was good. Good story, cool concepts and effects. After the first scene I had no idea where we were in relation to the caves.
So overall, a fab spooky season! Hopefully next year will be just as eventful
Screamland at Dreamland Margate is a fairly new event (only in its third year) though its managed to become well known in its first year for beautiful theming and
creative scare tactics.
In its second year (last year) the event seemed to get panned by a few, and I feel like last year the event kind of went under the radar, though
the "Paradise Foundation" proved that Screamland weren't running out of ideas, and all the mazes (bar their mirror maze) all proved to be well themed, and
full of scares that completely caught me off guard!
When 2017's lineup was announced, I think a lot of people were shocked..
The Paradise Foundation has departed in return for two new mazes, which is certaintly a move I didn't see coming.
Nevertheless, what would 2017 bring to the table for Screamland?
*This will contain spoilers*
I overall had a dire run through of the park's Mirror Maze last year, though this year the actors inside made this a really fun short sharp shock.
The opening saw a mini puppet show which set the scene greatly, before we entered the mirror maze to find a crocodile and the baby..
YES, I'M NOT JOKING, there was a jump scare involving a actor dressed as a crocodile..
100/10 cos crocodile 4.5/10
Festino's Festival Of Freaks
Festino last year had quite a large space to work with and the maze had tons of theatrical scenes and oversized props that gave tons of scares and laughs throughout its long length.
Sadly this year the maze has been reduced to a white marquee, and I can't help but feel like the maze is a shadow of its former self..
The intro was something akin to last year, though as soon as the scene ended we were pushed into the strobe filled main maze.
The maze itself gave a few good scares, though sadly most of the unique props and scares are gone from last year.
To its credit though the maze is very disorientating, and our group did circles around the maze a few times, though sadly the maze even with this still feels shorter..
The ending also saw no finale, which left me a tad disappointed with Festino overall..
Festino overall is a fairly disorientating maze that is well acted, though sadly it feels weak compared to its last incarnation, and the maze feels a little run-of-the-mill for the event..
Oh.. Hooded Mazes, they can work so well (Molly Crowe) but they can be so dull (Hellements/VIXI)..
BrotherHood overall sadly felt more like Hellements in its first half with little to no scares, and due to the lack of sound or anything else this section actually was even more DULL than Hellements..
The second half redeems it though with the removal of the hoods and some great scares with torches, and generally a few really strong jump scares that worked better than anything the hooded section was trying to do..
The Brotherhood overall I think was a massive mixed bag of a maze in that the first half is pathetically dull, but the second half gave some of the best scares of the night!
The Final Cut: They Came From Outer Space
The Final Cut returns very similar to last year with some brilliant concepts and some very intricate theming that immerses you in from the start.
The use of the squish bag at the start, the Little Shop Of Horrors reference, and the loud but effective finale make the attraction strong.
Scares were overall very intense, though I thought the maze felt more rushed this year, and some of the monologue and improvisation from last year seemed to skimmed past which was a tad disappointing.
Dead And Breakfast: Under New Management
Dead And Breakfast sadly felt a tad poor on my run through with a lot of missed opportunities across the board..
In this I mean scares and actors felt sparse across the maze, the improvisational more actor led scenes are pretty much gone, and special effects such as the lift or the bunker room are seen completely un-used which is a shame..
Towards the end you briefly see Fag Ash Lil again, and she sets up the finale..
Shame the finale is beyond cliche, and the actor using it didn't really attempt to chase or startle us, we casually walked past it..
Anyway I think its time Dead And Breakfast bites the dust, as something wasn't right about this B&B on my run through..
The Legend Of Crank Jack
Crank Jack is a example of a maze using simple, but incredibly effective tactics like the crawling section at the beginning.
This section seems to go on forever, and scares come from all angles- including directly above you!
The "pop goes the weasel" eerie audio also makes this section even more creepy as you wind through the incredibly twisty layout.
After the crawl section you're back on your feet, and holy god is the second half even more confusing with its countless dead ends and its Clowns who seemed happy to torment and blast horns in your ears!
I gotta say Crank Jack really had me on my toes throughout with its confusing layout, and overall the maze can give off some great scares in form of loud horns and many holes and secret doors for actors to come out of nowhere!
Overall I was very impressed with Crank Jack- for being in a small white marquee, this maze packs a lot into its small space, and the scares were easily some of the best of the night.
I also managed to get a audio recording of my second run through of the maze, so if you wanna hear pop goes the weasel for 5 minutes, enjoy!
Overall roamers at the park were alright though sadly I feel like they lacked the amazing improvisation and interaction of Tulley's street team..
In this for sure the Clown Girls who walked around on stilts were impressive, though some of the freaks/clowns roaming about didn't even interact with guests..
Anyway Dreamland has a solid atmosphere, and I feel like fire breathers at the entrance really *excuse the pun* heated up the atmosphere!
I feel like operations were solid and the mazes had reasonable queues for a peak night (no 200 minute stupid waits)
and the batching generally seemed very good in very un-linear mazes like Crank Jack which was nice to see (no stacking of groups or over crowding)
Scenic.. IT WAS OPEN!
IT DIDN'T BREAKDOWN!
Overall Scenic is a fun classic, and oh god does it look beautiful.. Well it does next to the drab town of Margate anyway..
I think this is a very rocky year for Screamland, though I think there is some hope (Crank Jack and The Final Cut) which shows some of the prettier sides of Screamland..
Anyway I think for 15 quid the 6 mazes and Scenic plus the fairground rides are completely worth it, and if you live near-by, this is a must visit.
Though I think some big changes are due next year though, as I think overall the event is not as solid as last year..
10/10 my photography is only the best..
It's no secret to those that know me well that I passionately believe Halloween as a whole is just an overblown annual event which leads to disappointment, scare-less attractions, cringy atmosphere and nothing but annoyance with masses of people flooding the events held everywhere across the country. The problem for me is for over 9 years in a row now between 2008 - 2017, I have only ever managed to attend one event during this entire time of year and that's Thorpe Park's Fright Nights and to be brutally honest, I am now getting tired, bored and frankly sick of the event.
The event during the 2008/2009 season was excellent with consistent operations, brilliant audio, tons of park-wide decorations, great use of smoke and lighting effects and most of all, every single maze at the time was home-brewed and original, some with inspirations from other IP's such as Se7en for instance. Asylum, Se7en, Curse and Hellgate were awesome! But now however, hardly any of this is prevalent at the event anymore and hasn't been since 2013 when Lionsgate started taking over everything, and now AMC's The Walking Dead. It's gone to the point now that when someone mentions the words 'Fright Nights' to me, all I can picture is long queues, crappy operations, overselling of Fastrack, needless use of IP's, mediocre scare mazes and up-charges everywhere you go. The whole thing now just feels like a giant cash grab and rip off frankly with very little meaning behind it where every year that passes, it's fun-factor is diminishing like a burning flame. Fireworks/bonfire night however does have a meaning and historical relevance behind it in Britain, which is why it's by far my preferred event at the end of each season and I'll never stop requesting Thorpe to bring it back after it's last appearance in 2011.
Now, you might ask by this point why am I talking about Fright Nights when this blog is titled 'A Newbie's Trip to Tulleys Shocktober Fest'? Well, it's because this review is going to highlight such a stark contrast I experienced between Thorpe's version of a Halloween event and Tulleys, and I feel it's needed to set the premise of this review, because it's important to note at this point after visiting Tulleys on the 21st October 2017, despite Storm Brian interfering with the weather, that night has restored my faith and excitement in these types of events once again. These are words that I honestly thought I would never say!
Similar to my other couple of previous blogs, I warn at the start my reviews are detailed, precise and very long, and this is no exception. So if you're someone who wants to have a quick read, focuses on the main highlights or doesn't want to get bored of reading my analysis by the end of the first paragraph, this isn't for you I'm afraid!
So to begin, I would like to start with my overall first impressions of the event upon walking inside the site and the general atmosphere of the place:
Initial Impressions and Atmosphere:
I've know Tulleys Farm for as long as I can remember ever since I was just 4 years old during the summer when on the other side of the field the wheat maze was open with other smaller activities, as well as picking your own fruit during June for the strawberries and raspberries. But despite this, the way Tulleys have set up this event made the place almost unrecognisable to me. It turns out that instead of the event being held in the small area near the front where the huts, cafe and fields are it is instead directly behind all of this on a massive open grass field on a gentle slope which I have never ventured onto before until now. So whilst in some places it felt familiar, the majority of it felt as though it was an entirely different site to what it's like during summer!
Upon the entrance next to the grass field for parking, the entrance stands amongst the trees with flames on either side and giant pumpkin scarecrows lit up in orange, filled with smoke, creating a very natural, dominating yet familiar atmosphere to how I've know Tulleys before. Once going under the entrance hut into the ticket booth area, the entire roof is covered with white canopy tents which I appreciated very much as it ensured we didn't get wet whilst waiting to have our bags searched and collect our tickets on the muddy green fields. It reminded me a little at first of Fairford's Royal International Air Tattoo event every July with the way it was all handled, which was organised very well by the staff, so kudos for keeping the system easy, quick and simple with the large number of people at the event.
Once outside the tent and you've got your tickets/wristband, you are instantly surrounded by lots of attractions, food/drink stalls, stages, rides and seating which I guessed immediately was the centre of the whole event as all of the eight attractions were scattered across the field within equal distance of each other. A small detail I really liked was consistently across the fields there were small fires being lit with burning wood to keep guests warm at night and blend into the whole 'festival feel' of the place. The smell of burning wood in these fields felt comforting and familiar, especially as someone who once was part of the Scouts and went on these camping trips all the time! The audio used across the park wasn't blaring or obtrusive anywhere either and instead was subtle, evenly balanced and played quite a lot of Midnight Syndicate's music both old and new across each area which was a nice touch. After their audio was banished at Thorpe Park starting in 2013 with Lionsgate (grrrrrrr), it was nice to hear it once again. Also, there was tons of smoke everywhere across the place with lots of roaming actors interacting very well with guests which was quite amusing to watch!
The attractions from this centre are situated down either the south or west sides of the field down slopes. To the left of the square you will find The Colony, The Chop Shop, The Cellar and Twisted Clowns. Directly in front you will see the couple of rides the event has which was a Booster ride similar to the one on Brighton pier, and a bouncer similar to the one which can still be at Hastings years ago, as well as on Brighton pier outside the Haunted House which was nice. And lastly, to the right down the hill, Horrorwood Haunted Hayride, Creepy Cottage, VIXI and Coven of 13, as well as the shop, paintball alley and further food and drink stalls.
It's also worth mentioning that behind you in this centre there is also a stage where a live band is held and plays several chart music hits which was nice, including many which fit in with the Halloween theme. Further down the hill on the right there is another live band too performing for guests. Inside the tents across a few areas, you could buy pumpkins which I presume the farm has grown for guests to purchase at the event, some of which were enormous and very heavy to handle! It's the smaller things with simple decorations like pumpkins that can make a big difference sometimes to the overall feel of an event. It adds to the Halloween theme, unlike Thorpe who still for some reason think little/no decorations = Halloween atmosphere.
With all of these points taken into consideration, this has a very different vibe and feel to it all compared to what Fright Nights is, and really, I loved it! The whole place felt just like being at a festival with all the canopies for the queues, muddy fields, live music, great theming, large variety of food and drink stalls, the many small campfires everywhere and the consistent feel the place had where nothing seemed to stick out like a sore thumb anywhere. Compared to Fright Nights, the only fair comparison to be made here is that Tulleys clearly know how to create a better atmosphere at night for their customers which is more relevant to Halloween and better organised than Fright Nights has ever been.
Food & Drink:
As mentioned above, all of the food and drink available at the farm was available through these temporary food stalls which you typically find at most events similar to this, but the variety and close proximity between them all was quite convenient and was all situated in the centre. Everything from hot drinks, takeaway food, sweet snacks and even a hog roast were available for guests and the variety offered was quite good.
Although, the prices were a little too much for what I expected to pay. I went to the noodles bar and ordered pulled pork curry noodles and a large spring roll which came to £10.25 altogether without a drink and a regular cup of coffee was £3. So whilst the variety was great and you get large portions, the prices here did feel too high compared to what I would comfortably pay for typically and was the only area where I felt ripped off slightly by the whole event. £3 for a regular Americano was too much! Not surprising, just thought it’s worth noting to those who have yet to visit to be prepared with enough cash in their wallets.
As a whole, Tulleys demonstrated to me exactly how you should manage events with lots of people going through the attractions. There was only 50 VIP and only 200 Fastrack ticket holders in the entire field that night, which meant the queues for Fastrack were extremely small or non-existent most of the night. Dispatches were fast and frequent for all the mazes, especially for the Haunted Hayride and every bit of effort was made by the staff to keep the queues to a minimal as long as possible throughout the night. When you consider all mazes at Fright Nights in the evening have Fastrack overflowing for all attractions, some of which can actually be longer than the normal queue, this was a really pleasant surprise for me.
If there were a slight niggle I had with the handling of letting people through the mazes, it’s that some of the groups put through each time were quite large, some as much as 20 people at once. And if you are leading the group, if you’re a fast walker through these types of attractions, it’s not uncommon for you to at some point through the maze bump into the group ahead. Whilst it wasn’t a major issue considering all of the attractions were excellent, it did hinder the scare factor a little when too many people are in the same room with you. I wish the dispatches were a little slower when the queues were shorter at the start and end of the evening, but I suppose you get that with any scare maze really.
As mentioned above in my initial impressions section, there were just two rides available at the farm in the evening, so with the time available between 5pm - 11pm, I only did the Booster catapult ride which is identical to the one which can be found on Brighton Pier. One ride costs £6 and you get throttled several times both backwards and forwards and at night, it was really great fun and very intense! Plus, despite the wind speeds reaching 42mph gusts in the evening, the ride still ran flawlessly without any problems and didn’t stall at any point as a result (unlike Thorpe who now fear Flying Fish and Banana Boat will stall with just 20mph gusts).
So if you are planning on visiting this year or maybe next year if these two rides remain, I do recommend trying Booster at night and you’ll have the peace of mind that even if it’s raining or winds reach 42mph, you’ll still find it open.
Scare Attraction Reviews:
Now onto the best part and that’s with small mini reviews of all eight scare attractions available at the farm. As a whole, I must report the quality, length, amount of fun and scariness in these attractions is far superior to any maze I have done at Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights in the 9 years I have attended the event! All of them were excellent and had their own unique qualities behind them, one of which used a really cool effect which reminded me of a scene from one of my favourite films. Another reason is because every single one of them was original and didn't need an IP to market itself and I'm a big fan of original ideas as it sparks innovation in these types of attraction.
So to begin, I’d like to start with the ‘least excellent’ one which was Twisted Clowns:
Twisted Clowns - 6/10
I should admit at the start clowns as a whole do not scare me one bit and never have done, so before walking through the entrance I wasn’t expecting an enormous scare factor behind it and true enough, it didn’t scare me at all this one sadly.
You are given at the start 3D glasses which act as a filter to bring out the colours inside on the walls and props present inside and quite a lot of the artwork present popped out quite well, especially with the luminous colours. Throughout the whole of the maze, you wear them and walk through several dark rooms with lots of these UV paintings to fit in with the theme, to which I must point out they are all hand-painted which I really appreciated and admired when inside. Think of the rooms similar to Hocus Pocus at Chessington only with a different theme.
In addition, actors inside were jumping and appearing all over the place, including one which jumped on a bungee swing from the ceiling which really took me by surprise the first time with how close they hovered over me! Whilst the actors at no point touched guests, they interacted with them brilliantly with lots of props from swings, car horns, wigs and clothing to name a few. The makeup they wore was also nicely done and had popping luminous colours on their faces similar to all the dozens of paintings throughout the maze.
But as a whole, this just didn’t deliver any real or genuine scares for me sadly, which is a shame because I love 3D mazes like this. However, I will say the quality of the actors jumping all over you with props inside, the amount of work with the paintings which went into this and most of all, the incredibly long length of this maze were the best qualities it offered.
Other smaller details like a themed safety announcement at the start, to Midnight Syndicate’s audio used inside, to the huge number of actors present did make this a lot of fun to go through.
I suppose the bigger problem is Big Top at Thorpe whilst might be a lot shorter than this one is ultimately better in lots of ways. Elements such as better audio, better disorientating rooms and a great finale make it better than Twisted Clowns and therefore, this is the only maze Tulleys could do with some improvements on next year I feel and was a little disappointing.
VIXI - 7/10
When I discovered this involves you placing a bag over your head to obstruct your view the entire time, the first thing that came to my mind was “Oh no, It’s Tulleys version of that damn awful The Passing maze at Thorpe Park back in 2012!” But after going through it, whilst it did feel very similar The Passing for 3/4 of the maze, the quality of the scares delivered and surprise factor was far superior in comparison and I happened to really like it as a result!
From the start you must place these black bags over your heads as though you are about to be sent to the gallows for execution and ultimately death, again, very similar to The Passing at the start. But these bags used are with a much thicker material as it is impossible to see through them in any way possible. But once you start the attraction, you must follow the rope on your left side which will guide you through the maze and over all the hurdles for the first 75% of the maze.
Whilst you can’t see a thing out of these, the interaction and tricks this maze plays on you inside is brilliant. Various sound effects are used everywhere and effects such as smell, wind, water, fire and very uneven surfaces were used. In addition, actors interacted with you from both sides of your ears, so it became quite unsettling at one point with all the effects and actors in play and really got my heart racing being unable to see anything!
But the best section is towards the end of this experience. The last corner you turn with the bag still on your head is into a room which was very hot inside and within seconds it became apparent why that is. There is one giant flame thrower inside the centre of this room which goes off every few seconds and the noise of it is incredibly loud, so much so that the heat, light and shock made myself and several others scream the fist time it went off! It’s a simple but incredibly effective scare used and you are less than 1m away from the flame, so you can really feel the heat from it.
Finally, in the last quarter, you are asked to take the bags off your head and give them to a staff member. Now, like The Passing, you are lead to believe this is the end, but oh no, there’s more! You go down this pitch black corridor, turn the corner and you are inside a very dark warehouse with what appears to be burnt bodies of corpses lying on a table and an actor behind it with a giant knife and blowtorch. He instructed us to go down the stairs quickly, only to encounter behind a metal cage even more fire effects, this time less than a metre away which was another excellent jump scare for guests. After that, you zig-zag down the ramps and find yourself outside once again and the experience is over.
The concept of this maze might sound simple and remind many who did in at the time of The Passing, but the interaction with guests in this one and the effectiveness really pays off and was tons of fun, and was the first maze in probably about 4 years which really got my heart pounding at certain points due to the unknown which awaits ahead due to the fact you can’t see anything. Then to top it all off, the ending finishes the maze perfectly and the use of fire in this maze was executed perfectly and was a great use of the effect. Plus, this was also a very long maze, lasting at around 11 minutes inside according to the timer. Thumbs up overall!
Creepy Cottage - 7.5/10
This was the maze I was most familiar with because it has been at this event for years now and I remember a few times during Autumn when visiting Tulleys years ago seeing preperations being made for it in time for October, so was most intrigued to see what it was like inside. Whilst it did have it’s moments of scariness to it, the selling factor behind this was the attention to detail inside and overall creepiness it delivered, which also explains why it’s available for younger kids too during the day. The best way to describe it is imagine walking through a much smaller, cramped and longer version of the haunted house from the play and film ‘The Woman in Black’.
From the start where you are greeted inside the first room, you are immediately surrounded by lots of theming and details everywhere which hint at it being just like an old historian haunted house, with the furniture, fireplace and props inside with all the cobwebs and candle lights present. As you progress through each room, the corridors and roofing is very small and narrow, so you do feel quite claustrophobic inside and it’s incredibly dark too.
The atmosphere inside doesn’t feel chaotic like Big Top, Living Nightmare and Saw Alive are. Instead, it has an eerie, cold and creepy feel to it all with very subtle uses of sound effects and music used inside and in every room making it feel very abandoned. It also made me quite tense throughout because you expect something to either appear out of nowhere all of a sudden or an effect scaring you, but as said above, this maze relied purely on feeling unsettled inside than being jump scared.
The quality of the props and attention to detail was very noticeable with every corner of every corridor and room looked after, from the wallpapers, to the chandeliers and lighting, to the physical objects laying around everywhere and the surface of the flooring and smells inside. One prop particularly caught me out and that was what appeared to be a child’s doll of Chucky. It too me 2 walk through’s to notice it! Plus, towards the end of the maze, you need to walk through a corridor with loads of corn field plants surrounding you, almost as if you are navigating through the maze Tulleys have during summer which was a nice touch.
The only disappointment was the ending as it just involved a small room with an actor inside surrounded by more props. Nothing seemed to stand out in this room which indicated it as the finale, just another room added at the end simply.
So whilst it might not be the most scary out of all the mazes, it was certainly the most unsettling and eerie feeling maze with all the actors inside each room dressed to fit the theme of an abandoned cottage from the last century, so it’s good for me!
The Colony - 7.5/10
This was quite an interesting concept for a maze as it incorporated elements which were both used outside and inside and the overall vibe from this maze is one set back in time to the medieval ages and honestly, a novel which is going to be implemented into a ride next year at Alton Towers. It certainly delivered on scare quality and the length of this thing was mad! On average, it takes between 15-20 minutes to pass through all of it!
The first corridor you pass through is almost like an abandoned underground mine with the lighting and planks of wood holding the ceiling and walls together and then you instantly go outside onto the field which is guided by very high wooden planks similar to that which you can find in Alton’s new maze ‘The Welcoming’. Whilst I haven’t done it yet, the overall look and feel for the outdoor sections looked similar to this from the pictures looking down at it on the Sky Ride.
Once navigating your way through outside, you go back inside through these huts and buildings with lots of lighting, audio and smoke effects present, as well as actors hiding in the shadows. From here onwards, you are constantly going inside/outside and it’s an equal balance between the two overall. Some outdoor scenes were really interactive and involved you having to crawl under and through narrow gaps, which was a nice touch you don’t often get with other scare mazes as they tend to be wide and open to pass through many people at once.
The actors in this maze were excellent. When each approached you, they all spoke in what I can assume is Latin as I couldn’t understand any of what they were saying, but their body language gave hints to what they were trying to communicate with you. By this point, it isn’t necessarily super scary, but unsettling similar to Creepy Cottage.
When navigating your way up and down the field with indoor and outdoor sections, towards the end, you pass through a corridor which has two pathways and in the centre of these two paths you can take, a chainsaw guy in strobe lights interacts with you, very closely I might add too! After that, you are outside again and the experience is over.
The best quality of this maze was the length and variety delivered by several different scenes and actors, and it provided a consistent and very enjoyable experience from start to end, especially with the finale. Although, the scares weren’t quite up there to get me really nervous with this one.
I mention this gave me an impression of Alton’s new coaster for 2018 and considering we now know it’s going to be themed on Wicker Man, this maze kept making me think of that from start to finish. Heck, there’s even a bleedin’ scene with honey bees’ nests hanging from the ceiling you must pass through! Just a fun thought I had with this maze which kept making me think of it, but overall, I really enjoyed this one as it feels to me what Sanctum should have been.
The Cellar - 8/10
Probably the best way to describe this is imagine Creepy Cottage mixed with The Colony. This was excellent!
Already the start is nicely done with the safety announcement in the greeting room which was funnily themed and spoken as though it was a witch, and you were passing through their home. After that, you hold each others shoulders and it’s worth noting this is the only maze at the event where you are required to do this. All the others are free-flowing.
From the start of your journey, the rooms and corridors are incredibly cramped inside with low ceilings and narrow walls and the number of actors present in this maze is the highest out of any of them, which really made the experience quite intense inside.
Probably the most frightening section for me was at the first walkway which involved the inflatable cushions you must pass through similar to I’m a Celeb near the end just before you climb the hill to go down the slide. Because you are limited by how fast you can move due to it pushing against your legs, it was obvious something was going to jump out of nowhere, and long behold, there was. To the right of this walkway, an enormous and very heavy serpent’s head jumped out of the wall and was big enough to cause me to nearly fall over to the side as a result. It was very heavy and nicely detailed, but my, I personally can’t stand snakes myself and seeing a giant head of it grab my shoulder like that really got to me by that point as it was very unexpected! This is a great element to the maze and took me by complete surprise the first time.
After that, you navigate your way through various further rooms which had some very narrow walkways and overall, this was extremely dark inside with hardly any lighting visible, just tons of actors hiding in the shadows waiting for the perfect moment to scare you. Some of which had some excellent detail to them all and used several effects which made guest jump, including some very powerful air canons.
The ending however was a little weak and didn’t stand out from the rest of the maze, but the number of actors used in this maze coupled with the length of the attraction made up for that. The best moment was the giant serpent’s head near the start as it genuinely terrified me the first time!
Coven of 13 - 8.5/10
Coven of 13 overall was a combination of The Cellar, Creepy Cottage and The Colony as elements from each of these attractions were used throughout, but the best part by far was the start where you need to pass through what I can assume is a deep swamp in the middle of a forest.
This starting scene where you navigate through the marsh was a great use of smoke, lasers and sound effects as when you passed through the walkways with the inflatable pillows again, there was a layer of mist which helped with the theme of treading through a swamp up to waist level. Probably the best way I can describe this effect is similar to that scene in the first Alien film where John Hurt ventures through a cave with all the eggs and describes a layer of mist above a blue laser effect. When watching it back after trying this maze, it looks identical to that effect used!
After navigating your way through the swamp scene with actors jumping out and scaring you, you head through more corridors with plants and trees obscuring your path and they are set up in a way which it hides the ceiling and wall panels very effectively, so much so that it definitely felt more like being in a forest that a plain, ordinary corridor.
You go immediately outside after that and cross into another building which has been themed on a small mini haunted house with some very effective lighting, atmosphere and props used. It did honestly feel just like being inside a mini haunted house as the rooms were a little larger in comparison to Creepy Cottage, bud sadly, the scares in this bit weren’t as effective as a result. However, the attention to detail and quality of the actors made up for this scene, so all is balanced.
After that, you go outside again and this next section felt the weakest section of the maze. All you do is navigate around a central campfire through different areas around the perimeter of what was the shape of a semi-circle. Each section had it’s own actor in to scare guests, but it felt too open and predictable to deliver any proper good scares sadly, especially when you can see what awaits ahead.
Finally, you go through inside one last room and that’s what looks like an actor being burnt to the stake in a giant wooden fire and the use of smoke, lighting, heat and audio added to this scene, but like before, just not enough scares here. Also, it’s reminiscent of Wicker Man again and SW8. Sorry! After that, you go outside again and it’s all over.
Whilst the scares were certainly prevalent throughout the first half of the maze, the 2nd half felt a little tame in comparison unfortunately and fell apart a little. However, the use of effects in that swamp scene at the start were delivered brilliantly and that’s why this is my 3rd favourite attraction as a result.
The Chop Shop - 9/10
Before trying this I knew it was going to be an intense maze as many have told me it’s the best maze at the event and goodness me, it was certainly the scariest one! The whole theme of rotten meat, blood and flesh makes me feel physically sick, which is why the gluttony scene from Se7en years ago at Thorpe really made me want to vomit when passing through it and I wasn’t expecting anything different here. But what I didn’t expect was the intensity behind this maze which is hidden quite well behind those walls, with the exception of the noises from several chainsaws present.
The start of the maze isn’t too bad as it’s an exploration through a garage with lots of machinery, equipment, vehicles and tools on shelves everywhere and the lighting is dim, quite reminiscent of scenes from Saw The Ride and the workshops in the Saw films and the actors did a great job at introducing you to their chopping shop. But after this, it gets worse and scarier as a result.
Once out of the garage, you instantly go through what I can presume is a freezer with lots of frozen meat, including hanging pigs and cows amongst blood everywhere over the floor and walls. Then, an actor breaks through the door in front with a chainsaw and scares the group and this is only just the half-way point!
From here onwards, it gets even worse because it’s an endless array of zig-zag corridors, rooms and flaps to pass through, all under a constant strobe light. Around several corners, actors are hiding, all with their own chainsaws waiting for you to walk past them. Then, to make it even worse, some rooms have the lights turn off temporarily for about 3 seconds, so you are in complete blackness for a short period of time and all you can hear is the sound of a chainsaw either in front or directly behind you, some of which got as close as 6 inches away from my face! It was truly and honestly terrifying and this lasted for 2/3 of the entire maze, so it became extremely intense at certain parts and got my heart racing the fastest out of any other attraction that night as a result!
The only advice I can give is do this maze once it is dark outside because the 2nd half has an open roof and if light leaks inside, it can ruin the effect slightly of those dark moments. So if you want a moderate experience, try it before sunset. If you want an extreme one, do it once the sky is completely black. Best maze by far and also the scariest!
Horrorwood Haunted Hayride - 9.5/10
This was without a doubt the most fun during the entire night and is the best attraction out of everything you will find at this event. It’s very unique, incredibly interactive, long, innovative and ultimately fun. Nothing else out there can be compared to this!
Whilst it might not have been necessarily scary, the whole idea you are transported through the fields on a tractor ride with various scenes themed to different genres in the movie industry was an excellent idea and was reminiscent of Studio 13 slightly in some areas. Every scene has unique visual and audible effects, the entire ride changes it’s audio depending on what scene you are in and probably the best part was the actors in each scene climb onto the tractor with you and interact with guests using their character. Characters such as clowns, cowboys, hotel butlers, witches, pole-dancing nuns and zombies clambered onto the vehicle through each scene and played their characters perfectly in sync with the audio and movement of the truck. It’s a very consistent and funny experience which I greatly appreciated.
In addition, each scene had great props and sets used such as falling billboards on guests, flame effects which were incredibly loud and powerful, deaf-defying loud bangs, great uses of audio SFX and lighting used and best of all, the chainsaw people themed on I believe the story of the three little pigs getting extremely close to the guests and even revved the machines against the benches you are sitting on, creating the impression they are cutting through the wood you are sitting on!
I don’t want to give too much away of what each scene involves for those who have yet to try it, but I very strongly recommend you try this as the must-do attraction of the evening. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed by it one bit!
So there we are, all my reviews for each attraction, the atmosphere and overall impressions of the event.
After going to this and leaving the evening, I didn’t in any way feel angry, tired or disappointed like I usually tend to with Fright Nights in recent years. Instead, I felt lively, thrilled and greatly surprised by the whole night because it’s as if I have finally found after 7 years of searching something better and worth it’s value for money compared to what I was typically used to during Halloween and it feels great! Tulleys Shocktober Fest has surprised me hugely with what they offered as I never imagined they were able to pull off such a quality event like this before, especially knowing it for years as a farm with pick-your-own fields and a maze during summer.
Tulleys has proven if special events are executed very well, it has the ability to change minds of sceptics like me who for years have detested Halloween for all the wrong reasons. In return, I have started to get excited for Halloween once again after this amazing evening I had! The only problem with this however is because Tulleys have set a new bar far higher than any Fright Nights delivered these last 7 years, I am likely going to detest Fright Nights even more now as a result unless there are some radical improvements and changes made to the event which aren’t focused on compromising customer experience for bigger numbers on Merlin’s many dozens of net-profit Excel spreadsheets at their head office.
Tulleys, like my blog on Liseberg back in May has proved to me again there are places out there which value customer experience above profits, and it's these types of places I appreciate the most. I can happily say I'm absolutely going to attend Shocktober Fest again next year, and likely many years to come now. Well done Tulleys for creating a quality Halloween event for guests.
It might have taken me several years to finally try it, but my word, the wait was absolutely worth it!
Tulleys Shocktober Fest - 8.5/10
(Some pictures from the event below I took):
As most of you would know, I've been on this forum for a good 5 years, starting as a complete weirdo before blending in nicely as time went on. Some might say I've made a lot of contribution to many discussions and therefore have been a decent addition to the community. But most importantly I've met a lot of amazing people on here and therefore made a lot of new friends over the last few years.
However, in explanation to my lack of activity on here recently, I can confirm to those who don't know that I've suffered from depression for the past year. It's caused a lot of problems with some friends, through falling out or just leaving them altogether, it's caused my usual happy mood to take a nosedive and it's also affected my motivation to do a lot of things...including contributing to this forum.
...and that's why with a heavy heart I need to log out and take a break. Maybe for a month, maybe a year...maybe forever.
Not that anyone here has done anything wrong and I don't want to offend or upset anyone, but I feel like I've been on this site for so long that it's just started to get pretty dull for me, not just because my motivation's been in jeopardy but also over time I just think my interest for theme parks on the discussion side of things has faded and not a lot changes on here anyway. I'm also not saying I'm done with forum life because strangely enough I seem to be settling in well over on the Planet Coaster forums where, as players of the game would know, discussion is always on point over there with new content (ie. suggestions) flying in every day.
Right now I just want everyone reading this to know that this was never how I wanted things to turn out. If I were to take one thing from my time on this site it would be very simply that the majority of people on here have been some of the most amazing people I've ever met and I'm more than grateful for you guys. But then there are one or two people I've also met on here who started out great and then turned out to be fuel to the fire that is my mental health, one of those people once turned out incredible to me...and then for the past year we've fallen out repeatedly and now it's getting to the point where it's actually mentally crippling me. And I need a break from here to let this all blow over.
Hope everyone understands. It's been great being on here in the long run but I'll hopefully return when the maelstrom in my head clears.
Scarefest is a event that has somehow lured me back every year despite the painful drive and the overpriced maze tickets..
The event I think just feels so much more complete and well rounded than Fright Nights, and the mazes on offer feel longer and more fleshed out than the Thorpe offering.
The atmosphere is solid as always, and Nemesis in the back row at night is perhaps the most orgasmic experience of my life.. Thirteen is also a great night ride.
Anyway you're probably not here to listen to me ramble about how good the rides are.. ONTO THE MAZES!
This review will contain spoilers, and sorry for the lack of photos- I sadly lost my phone in Sub Species!
Freakshow Scare Zone:
Freakshow for sure isn't anything to scream about, but its a fun little addition that brings a lot of atmosphere.
The actors were for sure more funny than scary, but with it being near the entrance- thats probably a good thing!
Terror Of The Towers:
Stale enough yet? Well its back again- completely unchanged too!
Look its not a bad maze per se- it has great theming, a long length, and a disorientating and intense finale, though next to the others, it falls flat..
The conga line approach also feels boring after the other three, and actors seemed a little hindered compared to the others as they couldn't touch you or be as intimate as Sub Species or Skin Snatchers..
Skin Snatchers is by far one of the best themed mazes at the park, and the theatrical approach at the beginning really sets the scene for the very jumpy and dark sections towards the end of the attraction.
The actors inside like last year were lively and gave some pretty nice touch scares, and the maze built up a lot of tension throughout.
My only niggle had to be the maze seemed a bit sparse on actors in the first section (especially in the gas mask room) though the strong second half made up for it.
The new finale this year I thought was pretty funny and witty, though I think perhaps it wasn't utilised or executed as well as it could of been..
In this I mean we just casually walked past it, and I feel like the actor could of really caused panic if it was timed better..
Sub Species: The End Games:
Sub Species is one of the most hands-on and intense experiences I've ever seen, even in its third year it still shocks me how incredibly chaotic and intense this attraction is.
The maze from the word go sees actors one-by-by dragging guests through one of the three doors, and from that point on, you traverse through everything from a genuine maze section, to pitch black darkness, to crawling tunnels.
Actors inside are not afraid to push/shove you, and the actors try constantly to isolate you throughout the maze which amps up the scares even more.
The ending is simple, but effective, and by that point I was desperate to get out!
Its rare for me to be breathless from exiting a maze, but Sub Species is for sure one of the best mazes (if not the best) I've done this year.
The Welcoming: Be Chosen:
The Welcoming is new for this year, and with a £8 upcharge, I had high expectations.
The first half is very open as actors dance around the beautiful sets that resemble a village, this opened up the maze really well and actors seemed to know how to pop up from nowhere!
The maze in tone slowly gets darker as it goes on, and the scares ramp up before you're instructed to put on your hoods.
The hooded section was fairly short from memory, but it did well in building up the tension.
The finale sadly fell a little flat, and our group just kinda walked out like "is that it"?
I think with a killer ending The Welcoming could be a brilliant maze, and its easy to see that tons of effort has gone into theming this maze as some of the sets at the start are beautiful.
Anyway The Welcoming is not as relentless as Sub Species per se, but it has great theming and some great scares, it is a shame though about the finale being a massive anti-climax..
I think Scarefest is by far a must visit for die-hard scare maze enthusiasts as it does house some of the most intense mazes in the country IMO.
Yes I do think it is a little overpriced, though Sub Species was worth every penny.
I sadly didn't get to experience House Of Monsters because I'm broke.. Though it seems like a fairly decent attraction for families.
Oh and cheers to The Sub Species team for finding my phone in the end, I was so scared in Sub Species I dropped it without noticing
draw me like one of your french gerstlauer infinity coasters
It was the end of July, time for another trip
Norwegian was really cool to fly with, comfy seats, free wifi and cheap. Gatwick to Landvetter, easy.
After a very easy bus journey and dropping our stuff in the hostel, we were on park queueing for Balder
This is possibly the smoothest Intamin I've been on. Made some pretty cool noises over the airtime hills too and the tunnels were fun especially at night
Liseberg banana train! This was really fun, especially in the rain where it gained some serious speed
Swing on a hill, Rush but a bit cooler
Some nice views
A horrid device. Unless you ride it like a chairswing like I do
The park then gets really nice at night
The next day was really wet.
So we went kid cred hunting
And did their haunted house maze thing. Upcharge but cheaper if you have an unlimited wristband. Not very scary but very well themed
The rapids were pretty fun. If a bit spinny
This was torture. The queue was long and the ride cycle even longer
And all the views were ruined by rain
And then the sun came out.
The park is littered with game stalls. But some are quite well done like this Balder ski ball one
And a photo of Helix
Oh yeah, I won the group a 2kg Toblerone
Was actually a load of mini ones, but still very nice
Our final day we wandered the city
Some of the buildings were lovely
And historic trams!
For our big like group meal we went to Hard Rock
Which was cool and really large
Including this virtual bowling alley
Back to the lovely city
A wall had to be climbed
Gained some amazing views from the additional few metres
Chilled in the harbour for a while
And then it was time to get our bus back to the airport
And that's Gothenburg.
The city is stunning and well worth a visit especially if you're already out there. Liseberg, decent place but lacks a dark ride especially now the only they have is gone. But if you like flat rides and a few coasters you'll be fine!
So Fright Nights is a event that I think pretty much everyone on the forum will know well.. well duh.
So with a massive new IP behind the park, what would 2017 bring to Fright Nights?
This will contain spoilers
Big Top returns akin to last year, and the maze continues to be the chaotic fun that it was last year.
The acting was strong- the strobe section proved to be even more intense than ever, and the second half sees some new scenes including a mini-mirror maze, and even a homage to Cabin
which I think for the most part worked really nicely.
The maze overall is more fun than scary, though I did spend the second half of the maze on my own, and when the chainsaw finale hit, I ran fast
The Walking Dead: Sanctum
Sanctum is like Zombie Scare Zone if the Zombies were creepy twisted cannibals, and the zone itself housed some extremely lively and vocal actors.
The actors inside made us laugh and simultaneously creeped us out while running around the nicely themed sets.
My only problem is that Sanctum feels like more like 1/4 of a maze/scarezone than a actual complete attraction..
There was a lot of possibility with the containers or just in the layout in general that could lend the attraction a few more sections as Sanctum currently can be easily done in 2 minutes..
Platform was a maze that I bashed to death last year..
Actually, I even called it my least favourite scare attraction of last year..
Thorpe have luckily (for the most part) have poured some life into this maze, and now it is actually one of the highlights of the event for me..
The new village section in particular impressed me with some pretty intense scares, heck I even had two actors cornering me and they nearly separated me from my group..
The finale also successfully built up tension and some of the actors in the tunnel got some great scares from me.
My only problem with this maze is that a lot of tension is built up and you just kinda walk out the maze causally..
Platform though has seriously impressed me this year, so for that, cheers to Thorpe for making a terrible maze into a very decent one..
So Saw Alive felt incredibly stale on my run-through.
I think Saw Alive has probably run its course by this point, and the fact the maze has remained untouched since opening doesn't help matters..
The Walking Dead: Living Nightmare
So, replacing the fan-favourite Cabin, Living Nightmare had a lot of pressure under its belt..
Though on my run through I have to say, I think Living Nightmare is by far a worthy successor to Cabin.
Cabin for me in 2015/2016 was a scareless mess that had very sparse theming, though Living Nightmare is near opposite in that it has very decent theming and the
sets in some places look beautiful.
The scares were very strong in the first half, and I gotta say it was pretty terrifying to be separated from my group with not 1, but 4 actors attacking me at once, this shook me as one of the most intense scares (if the not the best scare) I have had in a maze this year.
Yes the scares towards the finale were pretty underwhelming from the chaos that the first half had, though the finale for me was generally fairly decent, and it left a lot of us running!
My only other niggle towards Living Nightmare is that it is a tad short, but besides that this maze impressed me, nice!
I have to say as much as I liked the mazes this year, the operations at some points were depressingly awful..
Within a hour of me queuing for Big Top, I saw not 1, but 3 E STOPS! And there was kids running round the whole place queue jumping and even running into the maze past the puzzled people trying to organize the damn queue..
I also think Living Nightmare was also pretty dis-organized, though luckily Platform and Saw were actually organized..
Overall I think this is a strong year for Fright Nights..
I think most of the mazes were of a decent quality, though the operations did let down the event at some points.
I do have to say that I wish they were better roamers though, as I only saw like 1 one of them..
I have intention of writing a bumper Halloween blog post with all the scare events I'm visiting. But to do this I should really catch up. So from a good 3 months ago, here is Efteling and their 13 hour day celebrating summer nights or something.
We were staying in the very nice Loonscheland Hotel. Our room was suitable for up to 5 people, not sure how comfy that would have been but for the 3 of us it was fine. Very nice bathroom, comfy beds. All good. We had a view of the service yard. Fresh breakfast each morning was great though with breads etc.
Climbing frames and goats made it even more fun!
1st July. First day of the festival and Symbolica opening. We used our ERT to wait for it to open
Pardoes (?) happy to get a ride about him
And the hoards arrive! We made the first batch of guests (should I brag about this?) and it's a very nice attraction. Fun for everyone.
Enough of this. Let's start the party! Commencing at 6pm, there was a parade
Which was basically of all the entertainment that'd be on offer that night
So each land had an offering and a timetable of different events. There was so much going on it was fab
And a marching band. Think there was one near the front too
So Ravelijn land had sword fighting
And other stuff. Was like a mini Warwick castle
We then went and got some food from this pop up stand area, was nice. And then these guys got involved, with an amazing repertoire of music they were much entertainment. As can be seen, Josh has a video
Carnival had a random sing-a-long session.
The area by the rapids had these dancers and Flamenco
The Swiss (?) area by Bob had this guy, Steinbok. He was very popular, a comedic singing act. Had like a cult following it seemed.
Was a very nice atmosphere though
The best in my eyes were the street performers in Arabian Nights land.
This guy not giving ice cream (it was free if you could grab it from him)
Some magic act. And I think I might have been roped into buying an authentic rug?
Flying Dutchman had one of those not moving people who then does move.
And then it started to get dark!
Steinbok still holding a crowd!
And then the beautiful fountains. They had 3 shows on that night, Aquanara as normal, symphony 1 and symphony 2 which were different music configurations from the attractions around the park! We ended up seeing both symphony's and had an amazing night. Possibly one of the best theme park events I've attended. All included in your ticket price
It must have now been 11:20 but the park were in no rush to kick us out. So much so they had all the acts from throughout the park at the exit area saying bye to everyone, taking photos etc
The entrance is annoyingly large and doesn't fit in my photo.
Next time, Liseberg and the city of Gothenburg!
Tulleys, oh Tulleys..
Being on the scene as early as 1998 with Creepy Cottage, and then throughout the years adding more and more, Tulleys has really evolved as of recent into one of the best scream parks in Europe.
Now with 2015's massive changes, and the fairly large Coven last year, this year I think is more of a slow down year in terms of growth in the event.
Anyway with the re-do of Hellements, and the 3D transformation of the Twisted Clowns, how would 2017 fare for Tulleys?
(This will be spoiler free, though I have put some more details in the tags for those who want to be spoiled..
I'm also sorry for the photography, and you cannot sue me if I kill your eyesight with the quality of these ****ty photos..)
Dating back to 1998, the cottage is the oldest maze at the park and its by far the smallest- though do not underestimate it, as the cast were rocking it on Preview Night!
The actors in here caused a lot of suspense, and the suspense was usually followed by a great jump scare.
The maze is also nicely themed too, and the layout is very tight which gave the actors even more fun in tormenting us.
The Cottage is by far one of the more low-key mazes in the lineup, and its by far not the best maze the park has to offer, though if the cast keep this up, its gonna be a great year for the attraction.
VIXI- Hellements V2
Being a "new" attraction, I think a lot of people are gonna ask whats new in VIXI.
Now I'm gonna say that for the most part this is near identical the to last year, though there is a new section or two that mixes up the formula a little..
The actors in the rope section seemed a lot better than last year, and the cast here made this a bit better than Hellements IMO.
Coven Of 13
Coven I think with a few more large-scale scares could be a icon maze for Tulleys, though sadly on my run through the actors were more creepy than scary.
I also think the swamp scene needed a actor or two more, as I think this brilliantly designed section could of been put to use better..
The maze though looked just as (if not more) beautiful than last year, with the cottage section, and the swamp scene is awesome.
Overall I think when the cast begin to find their feet, this could be great this year.
Chop Shop remains fairly similar to previous years, and that IS a good thing.
The cast in here seemed to be in full force as actors from the first room got scares thick and fast.
The finale remains the fast, fun, and chaotic feast that it was last year, and the theming in the exterior and inside the first half also continues to be impressive.
The Colony is back, and it feels longer than ever..
Overall the first half of the maze was generally fairly slow in getting scares, though in the second half the scares were actually pretty brilliant.
The actors were using the beautifully themed sets to their advantage, and in some sections scares came pretty relentlessly.
The ending is something that I've been debating about since its debut though..
Yes the ending got me and my group running out of the attraction, though it really does not fit in with the tone of the maze..
Also when you use a object constantly in a maze (Chop Shop) makes the use of it in The Colony slightly feel like a cop out..
The Hayride has some new scenes this year, and the attraction remains just as fun and as jumpy as previous years.
Various highlights include the pole dancing Nuns, The movie-based scene, and the good old chainsaws at the end.
The Twisted Clowns
After testing the waters with Pandemonium last year, Tulleys have made their Clown Maze fully 3D, and for the most part I like it.
The maze feels even more disorientating than last year, and the layout led to our group getting lost quite a lot.
The only thing I dislike is how this maze on my run through seems to have had adopted a conga line style, which didn't seem to fit the style of the maze.
Anyway this maze remains fun and lively like previous years, and I liked how this year they attempted a finale.
The Cellar has been running strong since 2009, and for the most part this year is no exception.
I do think some of the cast might of not found their feet yet though as some of the scares in the second half/finale were a tad on the slow side.
Though it is preview night, so this is probably just the cast getting used to the endless amount of scare opportunities that the maze's layout brings.
Though when actors were on form, the scares were intense.
So as always the roamers here were brilliant.
Some of them scared the crap out of me, some of them made me laugh, some of them are just plain entertaining!
The roamers along with the live music gives the farm just such a crazy and fun atmosphere that makes Tulleys feel special.
Heck I could go along to Tulleys without entering a single one of the haunts and enjoy it.
Along with the 8 haunts this year also saw an unadvertised 3D cinema experience.
This was fairly odd, and the experience itself felt a tad half baked (I can see why it was chosen not to be advertised..)
I think if it returns next year, maybe give it a few actors? And some special effects to make it feel less like a DIY project plonked on a high standard Scream Park such as Tulleys..
Overall I think 2017 is another great year for Tulleys.
Chop Shop, The Colony, The Cellar, the new scenes on Hayride are all massive reasons to visit.
Yes this year hasn't seen all too much changed, though I think with Tulleys it didn't really need to.