Back in 2009, we were graced with arrival of a new coaster at Thorpe, yet again breaking the overall investment the park had spent on one attraction - £13.5 million, beating Stealth's £12 million (which, as we know, has now been beating again by The Swarm's overall investment).
Before Saw - The Ride opened, fans were buzzing from excitement, and were hoping that the ride would perhaps be the park's best themed attraction, or at least the best since Tidal Wave opened in 2000. After all, Euro-Fighters are relatively cheap ride systems, and £13.5 million is a lot of money to spend. To top it off, the ride featured a dark section, and although many would've known about the surprises inside from the ride's plans and construction, everyone was hoping for something 'special'.
Now, many people don't like Saw, for one reason or another. I am not one of those people; from my first ride, I loved it. It's by no means perfect, and it's not going to win any awards for the best roller coaster in the world - heck, it wouldn't win best coaster in the country. However, that doesn't mean it's not good; in fact, it's really good. But why do I think that?
Firstly, the layout. The UK is often criticised for having short coasters, and whilst Saw isn't exactly long, it has a decent length and ride time. Not only that, but it is well paced - it's not a ride where everything happens at one point in the ride, then the rest of the ride is a bit of a filler. There's something interesting and exciting during the whole of the course.
The indoor section is very good; for many, it's their favourite part of the ride. The hidden drop catches everyone off guard - even when I knew it was coming on my first ride, it still surprised me; the steepness of it! It's an element which really does pack a punch. After a quick MCBR, the barrel roll is highly enjoyable. Going through it rather slowly is a key to it's success; not only does it give you a chance to see the theming (talked about later..), but you really do 'feel' the inversion; you are lifted out of your seat, and put against the restraints, only to be plonked back on your seat. My trouble with many inversions is that they aren't always memorable, or that you don't realise you've been inverted. This is really one of those inversions which I do like.
As for the outdoor section, it is completely different. Euro Fighters (and Gerstlauer in general) are known for quick, brash and intense ride experiences; this is exactly what you get. The trademark vertical lift is something I like, and can discomfort those who have never experienced one before. My least favourite part of the ride is actually the drop; the beyond vertical gimmick doesn't do it for me; every ride I feel as though I'm experiencing a 90 degree drop, followed by a 10 degree drop, followed by a curved drop in a matter of a second or two. It just doesn't feel worth it, especially for the roughness and head banging that occurs from it. The Immelmann loop and following turn are good elements which demonstrate the effective use of the 2x4 cars which work so well. The air time hill is my favourite one I've been on thus far; you really do feel the forces and the air time on it; much more than any of the other (few) coasters I've been on. Following the next MCBR comes my favourite part of the ride. The drop of the MCBR is amazing; gets me every time! Even though you can see it coming, it catches me off guard; which is why I enjoy it much more than the indoor drop. The dive loop is completely insane as well.
Then you've also got the theming and effects. The station building is meant to be a derelict warehouse, and that's exactly what it looks like. Sure, it's the typical 'We're going to build a derelict, ruining theme so we don't have to maintain it', but it does work in this case. The outdoor queue section is okay, though the traps themselves are pretty uninspiring if I'm honest. The overgrown plants, however, are a touch which works well with the theme. The indoor queue wreaks of missed opportunities in my opinion; there's chance for much more than a couple of messages from Jigsaw. The station building is nicely styled I would say; but the major trouble with it is there's too much natural light. From where the cars come in after the ride to the slits between the panelling; too much natural daylight comes through. It ruins the effect and theme, which I think is a shame.
The effects during the ride are good as well, when working. An effect which is probably not intentional, and possibly the same on many Euro Fighters is the 'safety lights' going out when the cars leave the station. If you're in the second row, for front row of the second car, you see the 3 green lights, which show that the restraints have locked, go off. If I'm honest, it worried me a bit - I was not expecting it to happen and thought there was a fault for a split second... The Billy puppet is good and scares people who recognise him, and the swinging axes and needle pit are brilliant. The shooting arrows feel like a bit of a wasted opportunity in my opinion; they're boring, and distract people who could be listening to Billy's pre-talk. I do love Jigsaw's dead body squirting warm water; first time riders are always shocked by that! One thing which I think lets the ride down is the audio, or lack of. Thorpe normally get audio for rides right, but I think they did fail a bit on both this and Saw Alive.
So, why is Saw disliked by so many?
The 'roughness'. The most common complaint of Saw I hear from both enthusiasts and the public is that the ride is 'rough'. Now, I personally have no trouble with it; I don't even think it's rough - Colossus is MUCH rougher.. I would call Saw intense, but is that an issue? Some coasters are smooth and elegant, some are intense; it just depends. I would say that the bottom of the main drop certainly does cause head-banging, but from someone who has had neck issues in the past, in all the rides I've had, I can safely say that only once have I had an issue with it. People have different thresholds for intense-rough, and have different likes in what they want their coaster to have, but I would never be able to call the ride 'rough'.
The hype. At the time, everyone was expecting an epicly themed roller coaster and a truly immersive experience. We unfortunately did not get this, but instead got a 'ride of two halves', with a themed indoor section, and a pretty much unthemed outdoor section, which both offer different coaster experiences. People don't seem to like that for one reason or another, and therefore don't actually concentrate on what they've got..
The IP. There are many different views on IPs, from not liking them outright, to thinking they do wonders. The trouble is, the Saw IP is dying, perhaps already dead, and there's not that much Saw stuff directly linked in - they couldn't even get Tobin Bell to voice Jigsaw for goodness sake! I think many people who were also disappointed because they thought having an IP will inject loads of extra theming and such into the ride, when in fact it was a rushed idea which basically allowed the use of a name.
So, I'm actually cutting this a little short if I'm honest. Maybe a part 2 or some sort on continuation will arise in the near future. Basically, long entry short, Saw is actually a really good coaster, despite the fan-hatred. It's only this season that I've realised just how much I like it, and it sits as my second favourite coaster, only behind Swarm. That's right, I prefer Saw to Nemesis Inferno, and just why that is is probably for another entry.
Saw - The Ride: 7.5/10
I think they should bring back Flaming Hot Wotsits. It would be amazeballs.
Ah, Wotsits, t'are the food of my legendary Punjabi forefathers. One day I can only hope that I, Maximillian Wellingtonboots, will be able to, like my legendary Punjabi forefathers, become a Wotsit myself. I make it my divine purpose to satisfy one person's need for a slightly depressing, cheese-flavoured puff of wheat and MSG.
I'm coming for you, moistened tongue muscles. Release my flavour!
In 2012, Thorpe Park is a maelstrom. It is a giant, it is a behemoth it is, put it simply a hit.
Seated within its small grounds lies coaster after coaster and some of the most well known flat rides around. Top scans, Afterburners, giant swings, drop towers, sky swats. It even has some pretty nifty water rides in Loggers Leap and Tidal Wave. The Swarm surely secures Thorpe Park at the very top of the theme park tree.
And yet, a part of me always harkens back to the days where Colossus and Nemesis Inferno ruled the roost, where the top five rides were of real variety, where you could rest away at Thorpe Farm or relax in Sunken Gardens. There are some that must think I'm mad, "Surely Mark, you're into top flight thrills, not boring, meandering train rides to a dull, down trodden farm, a past echo, an area that doesn't deserve its place in a technological forest."
Sir you couldn't be more wrong and here is why.
A theme park is more then just the rides that it contains. Sure you can throw ride upon ride upon ride at a place and charge to the hilt. But, particularly in Thorpe Parks case everything becomes samey. It says it all when Stealth, the parks only major roller coaster without inversions, is about the only ride that breaks the mould at Thorpe. The majority of rides at Thorpe spin you in some direction or invert you repeatedly. Many rides do both. Rides like Mr Monkeys Banana Ride and Depth Charge are becoming more scarce in a park that increasingly tries to intimidate you silly.
Be it beyond me to criticise Thorpe Park and the way it sells its park. I do not have a degree in market research or target audiences and I will never pretend that I do. But I do personally think Thorpe have a problem. There is really, very little entry level rides left at the place and they are the rides that are increasingly being targeted for removal. It's questionable how long Depth Charge or Mr Monkeys or Chief Rangers Carousel have left before they are replaced by another fast, inverting, spinning flat ride. And part of me thinks this is sad. I never ride them and judging by Thorpe blindly ignoring them, I bet very few people still do.
And this is why my favourite Thorpe Park era was 2003. A varirty of rides of all shapes and sizes, areas where you can rest, a time where every staff member genuinely cared about customer services and the appearance of the attractions and a time where there was real optimism about the direction of the park. Remember these were the days that Samurai still span in Mystic East, Eclipse was brand new and we had only just heard rumours about a possible Xcelerator clone coming to Thorpe Park.
Exciting days indeed.
Thorpe Park's fiery B&M inverted Coaster débuted at the park in 2003, setting alight Thorpe Park's reputation as a haven for thrill-seekers around the country, alerting anyone who'd listen that Alton Towers had a new rival in the world of boundary-bulging thrill ride technologies. First came the record-breaking Colossus, but the year after saw a far darker, more ominous figure emerge out of the tropical undergrowth of Calypso Quay... Of course, with the ten year mark creeping it's way into view of the horizon, Nemesis Inferno has, if nothing else, rightfully earned it's place amongst Thorpe's line-up of rides, as well as a little reflective blog here on ManiaHub, where I'll talk about why I think it's one of Thorpe's top attractions.
Nemesis Inferno gets a lot of stick simply for being Nemesis Inferno. Quick to slam it as another fine example of mediocrity from a long line of poorly-augmented sequels, it's often over-looked for the coaster it is by many of the enthusiast community. Whether that's A) the blinded ignorance of newly-ordained enthusiasts conforming with the general consensus or B] a result of some enthusiasts venturing out to season their palates with the bigger, badder, and better-themed inverted coasters that've been built in the nine intervening years since Inferno's début is all up for debate. But it's here I call to question the validity of comments that suggest Inferno is a poor man's imitation of arguably the greatest inverted rollercoaster in the world; a coaster that supposedly sponged off the brand name to become advertising dynamite by utilising the success of Alton Towers' original creation nine years earlier. Yes, Inferno (as we'll call it henceforth to spare confusion) does draw many comparisons with it's old sister. They're both inverted; they're both built by Swiss ride manufacturer Bolliger & Mabillard; they both have four inversions; they even have the same four inversions, but there's a plethora of ways to separate them, and separate them we shall, as it's hard to shine if your standing in the shadow of a mighty oak tree and you've had your voice - your trademark thunderous growl - muted by those that built you.
By considering what raw tools Thorpe had when planning Inferno, you begin to see that to compare Inferno to it's original is a complete fallacy; there's no way this hot-tempered fiend is going to sit idly by and get filed under "imitation". Alton Towers had an enormous, chasmic pit to eat up the ride height and provide riders with many close encounters with the rocky terrain, but Thorpe couldn't do this - the closest object to your feet during Inferno's course is a fake alligator. Thorpe categorically cannot build down, as the entire park is situated upon reclaimed land and as a result the water table sits mere metres below the surface. Inferno was never going to be a terrain coaster, not even to the extent of Colossus was, which had had years of planning and numerous rejected landscaping applications before the blue monolith we know today wove itself in and out of the Lost City walkways. Thorpe had one choice for Inferno and that was to build upwards. Of course, they couldn't go too far that way either, and so Inferno sits at a modest 95ft: the third shortest B&M coaster ever built, and the shortest inverting coaster at Thorpe Park. Looking beyond cold statistics and to the rest of the layout, you might be dismayed to see a conventional inverted coaster post-drop sequence featuring a standard vertical loop and a Zero-G roll. But chief designer John Wardley re-invigorated the once-hackneyed concept with a ground-hugging turn which snaps you out of the second inversion with perhaps just an ounce of the same winking authenticity of Alton Towers' 1994 creation. Following what can only be described as a very graceful corkscrew and a careful-not-to-harm-you hammerhead turn, the ride completes a second corkscrew and a minor breathe-spot is provided by a wonderfully lazy upwards helix, before the pyroclastic vigour catches first-time riders off guard as a last helix provides an intensely dizzying and suitably forceful finale to the fiery coaster.
However, it all sounds great when you say it like that, but the comparatively simplistic layout has long been criticised for being predictable, conventional, repetitive and forceless. Whilst it's hard to argue, Inferno's assets like far beyond it's ride hardware (unless you're lucky enough to get the back-right seat). The theme is often overlooked, the detail dissolved down to a petty argument about an unfinished volcano. Sure, a shed is the last thing you'll expect to see while escaping a volcano in the tropics of Calypso Quay, but stop to admire the smaller details for a moment:
The queueline and surrounding areas: built at the peak of Tussauds's reign over Thorpe - the queue cleverly weaves its way through the tropical shrubbery, offering close encounters with the ride in action. Areas such as the pathway underneath the Zero-G offers priceless views of rider expressions as they exit the loop, soon to be followed by an enormous thrust of air as they shoot over your head. Or how about when you stand in front of the queue entrance for a brief moment, only to see the train erupt out of nowhere and soar over head with twenty-eight screaming riders? Surely there was some careful planning in the positioning of the entrance so the first corkscrew could make a statement like that, right?
The shrubbery, which, nine years on, has now grown to an impressive plumage, helping further to recreate some of Alton's terrain enhancement. Sometimes you may even catch one of the leaves while soaring through the coarse. And whilst in it's earlier years the ride ran tamely and no real speed was felt, the closer contact to the surroundings only ever enhances this sensation.
The pre-lift section, a small and often overlooked part of the ride whose effects are unreliable at best, but it nicely introduces the ride; it makes a small but promising statement and provides a unique feeling of speed without the added intensity - what inverted coaster introduction requires more?
The soundtrack, arguably one of the best and most accurately-encapsulating in the park despite it's absence in recent seasons. No more need be said.
Or even, if you really look out for it, the small part of the queue during the volcano climb where you stand directly above the train as it rumbles through the heart of the volcano beneath you, shaking your footing in the wake of the subterranean seisma. Makes me giddy every single time... and really gears me up for every one of my rides.
The logistical prowess of Inferno is also what makes it so special for me. In a park currently obsessed with try-hard World's First, snatching every possible world record their rides can obtain - "World's first ten-looping", "Steepest freefall drop", "Scariest", "Fastest and tallest in Europe", "World's first head first inverting drop" - Inferno, quite plaintively and contently, sits at the back of the park making no haughtily big-headed comments about it's own greatness. It technically does hold a world record and a world's first/only, though thankfully Thorpe saw sense and decided not to publicise these due to the GP potentially not fully understanding the terms. And rightly so, as it rids the ride of the silly pretensions that shroud rides like Saw. Right from the first time it's advert was shown on TV to the current day, Inferno's not really shouted about anything, expect that's it's a mighty hot ride. It is what it is and it makes no apologies for anyone who has problems with it as it smoulders at the far reaches of the park, dwarfed by it's top thrill neighbours.
It's not all in the detail - some benefits of Inferno are glaring right at the nay-sayers - but a lot of it's individuality and simplicity does lie beneath it's imperfect exterior. Perhaps it's part doe-eyed optimism of the enthusiast I am, part simplistic naivete that I appreciate these details while others don't and the reason that I still consider Inferno to be one of the UK's greatest thrill rides. But to me it's those things - the type of things that you just have to smile to - that are the real identity of Nemesis Inferno. And it's a crying shame that they're so often overlooked in light of the far more dramatic, far more noticeable, and far more easily targeted failures of the ride. Where it's expected to be good it's mediocre, yes, but given the time to find it's strengths - and what better time to find them than ten years on, when it's running more intensely than ever? - it's clear it no longer needs the Nemesis brand. Even in it's own right it can still provide you with feelings that only a UK theme park and - more specifically - only Inferno, can give. In spite of all it's faults, be it maintenance issues, ride issues, etc. it's still, by far, one of the most reliable rides at the Thorpe Park, in so many more ways than simply it's swift evasion of downtime.