Yeah, I'm doing this thing again. It's my 5th season doing a 'season review', and it's interesting seeing not only how the park has changed, but also how my general views of the park have changed, in that time. Here's some links to 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014's reviews if you're interested. This entry will be a lot less photo-heavy than the rest, mostly because I've taken less pictures this season, so I'll try and keep the writing to a minimum too. With the boring points out of the way, "prepare for Detonation"...
New for 2015 - I'm a Celebrity "Maze"
At this stage last year, it seemed likely that nothing new would be added. But in February, the announcement of the IAC maze came about, and well, when I first heard about it, I'll admit, I laughed. I thought it was a joke. And even after it set in that it was actually happening, I was a bit sceptical. But at the same time, I had a lot of hope - I could see the potential there, and that it could be something quite different and fun; features which were desperately lacking at Thorpe.
Throughout the season, IAC has been a mixed bag. Even though not all the effects were working (and some planned effects never came to fruition), it was good fun and had a smile on my face all the way through. One of the great things about it was how plenty of little tweaks could be done, keeping the attraction fresh for regulars, whilst still being fun for newcomers. However, towards the end of the season, it became a bit flat. Less effects, scenes skipped and less coherency. Maybe it's because of the numerous run-throughs that I feel like that, or maybe it really did go down in quality; it's hard for me to say.
All in all, IAC isn't a bad investment. It fills a gap that Thorpe were missing, and has some great quality theming. It has a bad throughput (though one that isn't far off the demand it will have in future seasons I expect), and won't last more than a few seasons, and the money invested in it could have been better spent elsewhere. But for the time being, it's a neat little side attraction.
Looks pretty at night.
Minimalist queue line theming.
A very unflattering photo of me as King of the Jungle.
New for 2015 - Other Stuff
In terms of general improvements, touch ups, etc., there isn't exactly much new to speak of. The refurb of Bar 360 to Fin's Bar and Grill was fantastic; with a nice general atmosphere and good food to go with it. It's nice to see things begin to link together, with the Shark Hotel, Fin's and the bits of island / shark theming in the Dome have created some consistency in the park's main hub - I'd just like to see more of it!
Other than that, there wasn't much of note. A few bits and bobs got a bit of cleaning up (Depth Charge submarine, Stealth signage, Swarm billboard, etc), which is nice to see. A name change to the BBQ to try and push IAC a bit more, and a couple of new game stalls moved about, showing that on the whole, this season really was low key.
What a difference a year makes (thanks Thorpe!).
New Swarm billboard, which should hopefully last a lot longer too!
The S&S duo turned 10 this season, a birthday I'm sure many of us thought at one point or another Slammer wouldn't reach. In fairness, Slammer did have a good 4 and a bit months of pretty much continuous, day-to-day, operation this season, which hasn't always been the case in recent seasons. And it did manage to make it to the last day of the season, even if it did have its Fright Nights rest. But still, we're talking about a ride which opened over 2 months late, had to close every day for engineering checks, isn't exactly very popular and can't be trusted as far as you could proverbially throw it. Thorpe must be commended for keeping it for so long and such, but surely it's almost time to give up the ghost.
Rush, on the other hand, is still swinging all the time, but seems to still be troubled with out-of-time swings and short cycles. It feels like both of these things should be sorted, and shouldn't have been a trouble for so many seasons now. One can only hope that this is sorted...
Not much to say here on the whole, since my opinions on the coasters haven't changed that much really. I guess the long-standing issue of reduced operations should be mentioned, with specific mention to Colossus and X starting the season off on reduced capacity for quite a while now. I always feel like Thorpe shoot themselves in the foot when they say 1 train op is down to 'lack of demand', as it feels like a kick in the teeth to anyone waiting in those queues which can be up to 45 minutes in my experience.
Saw's extended period of closure following the Smiler incident was also a big hit for the park too. From an operational standpoint, it didn't seem like queues were affected that much by it, but I guess the decrease in guest numbers would also explain that.
Random summer stuff happening by Stealth.
Colossus saw a lick of paint...in some places.
I'll keep this short and sweet, since there isn't really much to say. Samurai died again, but was resurrected (again). Rumba Rapids still needs a lot of TLC. Tidal Wave closed early, and whilst the ride itself isn't missed in the line up, the area feels distinctly lacking without the crashing of a wave every few minutes. Vortex also died for a what felt like a good couple of months.
This seems to be a problem Thorpe will face in the very near future. Some of the filler rides are becoming less reliable, even less popular and lack the general appeal in the modern theme park environment Thorpe are trying to create. One does have to wonder how long it will be before we see some of the bigger name rides removed...
Samurai just about existing.
This nice themed bench appeared by Teacups. It lasted a couple of days before being removed due to damage. But it did return, fully fixed!
Storm Surge makes a mess as usual.
February Half Term
For the first time since 2009, Thorpe opened its doors in February. With a very small ride line up, a large Brainiac show and some small Brainiac stalls set up around the park, it was an interesting idea, and perhaps a slightly risky one given how the previous events went down. I unfortunately didn't attend because of uni stuff, but on the whole, it sounded alright, but it was still a case of the park not being ready for such an event yet.
For something like this to be successful, you need a show or two, a couple of indoor attractions and a mixture of rides, from major to minor ones. The event just didn't have enough of this. Hopefully, in a couple more years, the park will be ready to have another, more successful, shot at this. I'm not surprised that it's not returning for 2016 in all honesty.
No Easter event this season was a disappointment. They seemed to be onto a winner with last season's event, and it would make sense to push Angry Birds every Easter in my opinion. But yet, we had nothing. Lack of budget, maybe? Who knows. A shame really, but let's hope they can do something for 2016...
Island Beats / Summer Nights
8 weeks of live music acts, including some big-ish names, at a theme park with interspersed with late-closings. It sounds like something which could really work at Thorpe. And with over 70 acts performing, including some established names and some up-and-comers (including Louisa Johnson, this year's X Factor winner!) it feels like something which had to work.
However, it just didn't seem to do the trick. Maybe there wasn't enough marketing? Maybe there wasn't enough interest in visiting theme parks in general? Maybe it was just too confusing? Maybe the two just don't mix? I don't know. But Island Beats just didn't seem to work for the park, and it strikes me as a lot of time, money and effort for something which just ultimately wasn't worth it. It'll be very interesting to see what happens next summer.
On the other hand, Summer Nights had a successful third season - let's hope that it not only continues, but also grows.
I sometimes think people forget just how huge Fright Nights is, and how, theoretically, it is brilliant value for money if scare attractions are something that interest you. You get 5 free attractions (some of which are quite different to your run-of-the-mill scare attractions), with the option of a 6th one to pay for, along with roaming actors and general change in atmosphere. There's few places which offer the quantity that Thorpe offer, especially when you consider how little they raise their prices compared to non-FN days.
This season saw a very clear shift away from the Lionsgate partnership, which is a shame. It could have been used so much more than it was. Instead, we had the clown-focus (which, in fairness, was good), along with Big Top, which was far too inconsistent. It was an ambitious maze for Thorpe, but ultimately they just couldn't find the sweet spot. Containment was also new, and was pretty good on the whole, but just marketed as way too scary for what it is.
For me, Blair Witch was the best attraction all in all, and I do hope that we see Thorpe continue to use that route in the future. I also loved Face it Alone once again, and it's great to see Thorpe pushing boundaries even further. I was disappointed at the lack of overnight experience this year though - was planning on trying it out this season!
It'll be interesting to see the direction taken next season, especially since the Lionsgate partnership is rumoured to be done. And with the overhaul Scarefest saw this season, Thorpe do need to consider upping their game once more.
My post Face it Alone face...
Reserve n Ride
RnR happened again this year, with some much-needed improvements to previous years. On a personal level, I thought the system worked great and still believe that if properly implemented, could be the way forward for Thorpe.
However, it might seem that Thorpe themselves disagree. Given that trials were planned to take place during the entirety of Fright Nights (and rumours of it even being trialled in September too), but didn't, would suggest some concerns internally. Whether they simply did not want to risk it after a bad season, wanted to change it, or had just lost faith in the system is anyone's guess. But after the plug being pulled, I am somewhat doubtful we will see the return of RnR next year..
RnR advertising was subtle, meaning no one knew about it...
(Please make sure the screen doesn't break again for so long Thorpe!)
Food and Merchandise
Not much to say on the food front, since essentially all my meals were eaten in the aforementioned Fin's Bar this season. Was nice to FINALLY see the Freestyle machines introduced on park, even if it is a shame that it is one unit, by the front of park, and only opened on peak days. Hopefully this can be the beginning of them being rolled out across park though..
Merchandise was once again good this season, as seems to be the case with all the Merlin parks. A nice variety of things, and it was good to see them trial limited edition stock in Fright Nights and WC16 merch. Given how quickly some of the FN stuff sold out, I expect we'll see an even bigger range next season too.
Fin's, as done by Scruffy Dog.
This season, I did coaster climbs on both Colossus and Inferno. These are truly great experiences and something I would roughly recommend people looking into! They are on the pricey side, yes, but as with all things Merlin, there's always going to be an offer on them at one point or another; so jump on them if you see them.
What I find a bit novel about my experiences were the different weather conditions - I did Colossus on a very cold, windy March day, and Inferno on a very wet August one (so both very different to be sunny Swarm experience in 2014). It made for all the experiences to be very different in more ways than one!
These experiences are JoshC. approved.
Loggers Leap - RIP?
After many rumours circulating, Thorpe confirmed via Twitter that Loggers Leap wouldn't open in the 2016 season. However, it isn't clear if this closure is permanent or not. It's hard to know what to believe at the moment, but in any case, the closure of Loggers seriously dents the 'fun for all' ride quota at Thorpe. Fingers crossed that, whatever is happening, we're not left without a log flume for too long...
A Look Ahead
WC16. Simply put, WC16 has to be a success. It has to draw in the crowds and it has to be a well received attraction. If it's not, then I am genuinely worried how badly Thorpe could be affected in the future. What would be the point in throwing large amounts money at Thorpe if it doesn't pay off, especially when Merlin are trying to minimise the aftermath of the Smiler incident?
Personally, I'm still not "excited" for the attraction, since I struggle to get excited over something I know nothing about. However, I'm intrigued by it all, and do really look forward to trying it out, whatever 'it' is.
As for everything else... Well, I have no doubt we'll see the odd touch ups around the park, nothing special, just the standard little bits they've done in recent closed seasons. I'd really like to hope that this is the season they bring back themed areas too. But I would like to see it done right, rather than the park just slapping names to sections of the park, so I wonder if it's a bit too much to ask?
A Personal Touch
As some on here will know, last year I had a brother join me in this funny old world. So, back in March, at a mere 5 months old, my baby brother went on his first trip to Thorpe. Not quite as soon as me (Thorping since I was 6 weeks old, oh yeah), but still a good start...
Just a shame the Carousel couldn't have stuck round a little while longer for his first Thorpe ride!
And that's about it. Unsurprisingly, I said I'd keep things short and I haven't; oh well. Thanks for reading!