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
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):
It's not often that I tend to have the persuasion and determination to visit theme parks outside of Britain, primarily due to the costs, travel and venturing into the unknown when visiting another country. But Liseberg is different. Liseberg drew my attention more than any other European theme park for 2017 because further research into what the place offered and the ease of travelling there entirely on public transport and not hiring a car got me seriously interested. Of course, Helix was the draw factor for me more than anything because I have found it almost impossible to find a single negative review about the ride since it's debut back in 2014. For too long Nemesis and Shambhala have both always been my top coasters and nothing since has ever managed to come close to them... until now!
This review will consist of my experience of the park over 2 days earlier last week, flying out on Friday 12th May until Monday 15th May and I will be detailing every little detail I noted, so please understand this is going to be a very long and precise review of travelling there, the park itself and it's attractions it has to offer. If you like to read quick and to-the-point reviews, this is not for you! The aim of this review is to familiarise readers who are considering visiting the park for the first time everything they should know and expect, especially considering a new dive coaster will be opening here in 2018 which is guaranteed to draw quite a few Brits to visit.
So let's start at the beginning and that's transport and travel to the park, including costs:
1) TRANSPORT TO & FROM THE PARK
From what I understand, there are three airports in or around London which fly directly to Gothenburg Landvetter airport which are Ryanair from Stanstead, British Airways from Heathrow and Norwegian Air from Gatwick. I flew with Norwegian Air since Gatwick was the closest airport from my address (Pompey) and even though I admit the flights are cheaper with Ryanair from Stanstead, I was not willing to travel half way across the south to get on a plane, so Norwegian Air was my choice. My outgoing flight from Gatwick was at 19:35 which cost me about £30 single each way (8 weeks in advance booking, no reserved seat).
Once arriving at Gothenburg, follow the signs to the airport bus service called Flygbussarna which runs every 20 minutes right outside the entrance to the terminal and takes you directly to the city itself which is about a 25 minute drive. Price-wise, at the time of writing this review, tickets are 185 SEK, which equals to about £14 return approximately. There are 4 stops along the way, each getting closer and closer to the centre where the terminus train station is located. Since I was staying in a hotel just 10 minutes away from the park, I only needed to get the second stop, the first one being directly outside the park's entrance and the Gothic Towers.
So as you can see, it is perfectly manageable to get into the city through the use of public transport without the need to hire a car. A recommendation I make is try and get a flight to the airport which is not scheduled to land after 23:00, because the last bus service is at 00:50am and if there is any delay in your flight, you could risk missing the last one and having to spend about £34 at least with a taxi to get to the city instead, so bear that in mind.
Now that's out the way, now onto the park itself:
2) PARK ATMOSPHERE AND THEMING
If you were to ask me to compare the park to any other I know, I would find it very difficult because it's unlike any other theme park I have been to. The first and most obvious difference is that it's located right in the centre of a city with motorways, skyscraper buildings, housing and museums surrounding it everywhere. In some ways, similar to Alton Towers, it has a unique feel to it all because seeing a theme park in the middle of a large city/open countryside is the last thing you would expect!
Once inside, if you go through the main (north) entrance, you are greeted immediately by a long walkway surrounded by small buildings with gift shops, restaurants, ticket booths and in my case, market stalls (it was their green weekend where the whole of the plaza area and theatre was dominated by fresh plants and flowers). To the right you can see the dominating tower of AtmosFear and the Ferris wheel overshadowing you as walk along the pathway getting ever closer to the centre of the park. Through these alleyways, music played which mostly consisted of chart music, both modern and retro, giving the place a good and clam atmosphere for guests.
Presentation wise, this is something I will keep mentioning in the review further down, but the park have done a great job at keeping all the buildings, pathways, lighting and signage looking clean and well-maintained at all times which has really put a lot of our parks here in the UK to shame. Instead of having rotting roofs, mouldy walls and broken lights, it was great to see all the smaller details looked after such as all the lightbulbs for the street lighting working with none that have blown or the roofs and walls of the buildings looking like they have just been cleaned overnight and don't have mould or overgrown weeds everywhere and there was no trace of litter anywhere. Being used to the state of our parks today, this was a pleasant surprise for me, regardless of how small it might be.
So overall, it might not be the Swedish version of Main Street or Towers Street, but initial impressions of the atmosphere and theming are good so far with everything being maintained and cleaned on a regular basis (from my perspective anyway).
3) FOOD & DRINK & PRICES
Now being a tourist attraction in the middle of Sweden's biggest city, I was expecting much like every other theme park on the planet for the prices of food and drink to be high and it absolutely was. Being used to getting the 20% discount on all food and drink at Merlin's parks for many years, I had forgotten how expensive theme park food can be and some of the prices did seem too high for me. For instance, if you get their Max burger meal deal at one of the many stalls in the park, that will set you back about 89 SEK which is about £8 roughly. A cup of coffee (cappuccino) was about 45 SEK (£4) and a bottle of water about 19 SEK (£1.75), so in comparison to the food prices here in the UK, you are looking at about an average price increase of about 10-15%.
Despite however the prices for their food and drink being quite high, I will say that you definitely get a filling meal for what you pay for. On the second day for lunch, I went to the sandwich shop and had just a full salami and brie baguette which was about 65 SEK (£6.10) and it was pretty large and filled properly and was enough to keep me full until late that evening. So bear in mind even though you might be paying more for an average meal at Liseberg, you are getting bigger average portions as a result in comparison to other theme parks, so that might make up the extra cost for you.
Another great thing about the food and drink at Liseberg is the variety they provide. Here in the UK it's your typical burger stalls, pizza, pasta, donuts and hot dogs. Whilst Liseberg did offer all this, they also offer as mentioned above some alternative choices, such as the baguette shop, seafood, stir fry, Italian, Mediterranean and Austrian food just to name a few. So regardless of your preference, they are sure to have something to suite your taste and the variety offered was great.
4) OPERATIONS & RELIABILITY
The first thing that jumped out to me was how efficient the park was at running all of their rides. The staff were loading and dispatching guests as fast as they can on all coasters, one simple check of the restraint was all that done and the guests I noticed don't tend to carry a lot of bags with them when riding, so essentially, this massively sped up the process and reduced the amount of faff some guests can create to a minimum. Lisebergbanan for instance is a great example because not only were they running all trains on the track despite a 10 minute queue all day (take note, Thorpe Park), but the dispatch procedure was quick and simple - gates opening whilst guests were leaving the train, baggage taken onto the trains down by your legs so it doesn't fall out, one quick check of the handle bars with two staff on each side of the train, a simple thumbs up and they're good to go. All of this can take as little as 20 seconds and the queues as a result were moving especially fast, giving you the opportunity to manage more later in the day. If only our parks could run all their rides this efficiently, there wouldn't be the need for Fastrack most days anymore!
As for reliability, I don't know if I was extremely lucky, but I did not encounter a single break down or stoppage across the entire park on both days I visited. Not one. Every single ride was open, at full capacity and ready for guests, regardless of whether there was a queue or not. Perhaps our rides keep breaking down a lot because of the paranoia surrounding what happened with The Smiler where any little thing out of place involves calling an engineer over the rectify it now, but Liseberg could be a lot more relaxed over it or simply because their rides are purely more reliable machines. Part of me reckons it could be to do with the great amount of maintenance and work done to the rides every year which might have something to do with it, which will be mentioned in a moment.
This was perhaps one of the most surprising things for me about all of the rides at Liseberg - everything looked as though it was brand new. Things such as mould and rust on the coaster tracks was gone, or the queue lines being clean with almost no wear marks, or the trains on Helix looking spotlessly shiny and polished with no marks anywhere, or all of the lights working fine on Mechanica at night. Simply put, everything had a great presentation and didn't look like it was neglected and left to rot. This is what the standard should be at all theme parks - to keep your rides looking spotless and new as long as possible. You know something is wrong when Lisebergbanan, a 30-year old coaster looks better than The Smiler at just 4 years old...... pretty embarrassing if you ask me!
Other smaller details visible across the park and its rides such as the queue line fencing everywhere being freshly painted, to all the queue TV screens working, to all the signage looking untouched & clean and the vegetation trimmed back so it's not overgrown on the rides are what I appreciate a lot with theme parks and it's great to see details as small and noticeable as this being looked after on a frequent basis. We need an attitude like this across all our UK parks where presentation is key because from a customer's perspective, it is.
6) THE RIDES
And now onto the best part - my opinion of their 7 signature rides, including Loke being their new one (spoilers - it's awesome!). Here I'll rank them in the order I found to be best in ascending order and I'll being with AeroSpin:
• AeroSpin (6.5 / 10)
I wouldn't say this is a bad ride or anything as it definitely wasn't, but I just found it to be a little short and uncomfortable for what it offered. The seats are exactly the same ones you have on Saw and Smiler with the addition of a seatbelt (believe me, it was comforting to have that there for me!), so it wasn't the most comfortable seat for me since I find the restraint to crush my shoulders too much when inverting, and boy, it certainly did it to me on this.
When you spin in the air, the two mini wings you control are moderately easy to control and are smooth to tilt with your arms, although you might need to put a bit of effort into them as it can strain your arms a bit if you flip too much or too fast during your flight. Depending on the speed of the wind which you are flying in, getting yourself to spin upside down and tilt can really be hit or miss. My first ride I managed 46 flips and then the second only 16. If the wind speed is minimal, you are really going to have to put some effort into getting your plane to spin upside down and the best way to do this is to flip the wings quickly and in perfect sync with the tilt of your seat. If you can manage nice and smooth tilts, this will be easy enough for you to manage. But if you take quick and small tilts with the wings, you barely make it over the top unfortunately.
When flipping upside down, the first time actually scared me because once I got my wings into position to enable me to flip 46 times, it really goes fast and can make you feel quite dizzy very quickly. Plus, considering you are about 100ft above the ground or 200ft if you include the mountain it's on, flipping that fast feeling as though you are not in control did scare me, especially when the spins got faster and faster and you are sitting in isolation next to nobody else.
The problem I had most with it was the restraints used and as a result, I had bruise marks on my shoulders after riding it the second time (my own fault) since all the pressure can rest directly onto them if you are held upside down for too long. Also, the ride seemed very short too at only around 1 minute in the air and that's it. Wished it lasted a bit longer, especially considering it would cost the rider 3 tokens if they didn't have the wristband.
So whilst it's great fun for the views, the soundtrack by IMAscore and multiple flips you can manage, I just found it too uncomfortable and short for my liking unfortunately.
• AtmosFear (7 / 10)
If there is any type of ride at a theme park I am still scared of to this day, it's a drop tower, and AtmosFear really was a struggle for me to get on the first time. Being the tallest in Europe, I almost chickened out on this as a result. But the way I saw it before riding is it cannot be any worse than Detonator which has the most horrible free-fall experience I know on any ride out there and considering I managed Hurakan Condor back in 2013 (yeah, the first ride didn't end well), this surely cannot be any worse. Thankfully, I was right.
The restraints are almost identical to the seats used on Stealth and Rita with the exception of the shoulder bars being a firm nylon material instead of the padded metal bars used on the coasters. As a result, I could close the restraint using the adjustable fastener to a perfect fit against my chest making sure I was securely strapped into me seat with no give anywhere. When you begin to rise, there's a mist at the top of the building you pass through before you are outside slowly rising to the top.
It takes a while to get up there which was a great opportunity to get some amazing views up there. The best viewing point is northwards in the direction of the Liseberg wheel when the river down the the harbour goes. Once at the top, there is no countdown or hint at when you are going to drop, so the first time you ride this, it could come as a shock to you.
When released, the initial release does have the proper free-fall feeling for a split second, but unfortunately, despite picking up more and more speed as you fall down, it doesn't get worse and instead, it feels as though the drop has been tamed to quickly due to the brakes reaching up the first 50% of the tower. I would say the first third of the tower you fall down is forceful, but after that, it doesn't feel as bad in all honesty, so the worst bit is the initial release but once you fall, it doesn't feel too bad.
I still rate this higher than AeroSpin for the fact it offers better views at the top, travels much faster and doesn't have uncomfortable seats. It might be the most forceless drop tower I've been on yet, but it's still great fun to go on, especially any sunset. In addition, due to the height, this is the first drop tower that has made my ears pop once you've fallen from the top to the bottom in just 3 seconds. That should give you an idea how fast and tall this really is!
• Mechanica (7.5 / 10)
Initial impressions of this ride from looking at videos of it online were Samurai meets Slammer, and after riding it, that opinion is pretty accurate!
The overall theme and look to this ride I loved. The queue line with all the carpentry tools and equipment and molten metal in the barrels, to the great soundtrack (also by IMAscore) and the overall look of the ride's support and pods really looked visually attractive. I'd go as far to say at night, this is one of the best looking themed flat rides I know with all the orange lights and flames lighting up the structure and seats in the dark.
Now as for the ride experience itself, the seats and restraints are far more comfortable compared to the ones used on Samurai (different manufacturers I know, but it reminded me too much of Samurai) and didn't crush your thighs or chest once closed. Plus, there's a good amount of gap between each of the 5 seats on the pods, making moving your arms a lot easier this time. The restraints when closed do not mould against your body unlike Samurai, they instead fix into place on the closest notch they can lock onto. So in my case, there was a bit of give between my stomach and the restraint, which made it easier for me to breathe and adjust thankfully.
Now onto the ride experience itself, the shocking thing for me was how differently the pods tilt in comparison to Samurai. These pods on Mechanica tilt a lot easier and in effect, you are tilting and flipping much faster and more violently as a result. Some may see this as a disadvantage as it makes the ride quite violent, but I didn't mind and thought it made the experience better.
The gondola spins quite slowly when it rotates both directions, but this was enough to not make you feel dizzy or to pin you against the side of the restraint either. Instead, it was slow enough to offer you some really good airtime when the arm flips you all the way over, especially if you get the right pod at the right time where you can be plummeting straight to the ground looking straight down whilst feeling weightless. Really good moments and a long ride too!
The only downside I can say about this is even though the pods flip you a lot more than Samurai's, the structure in my experience seemed to shake a little too much from side to side, probably due to the counterweight at the top being too light and as a result, my head lightly bashed from side to side a bit a couple of times. It's not like Colossus which violently tries to shake your brain out of your skull level, but instead, it's more Dragon Khan levels of head bashing instead. So if you are trying this, I recommend you rest your head against the right side of the restraint or to get a seat closer to the inside to reduce the amount of force on your head. Apart from that, great flat ride and looks very pretty!
• Lisebergbanan (8 / 10)
This was the first ride I went on in the park on my first day as I wanted to leave Helix until later and experience it properly for the first time with a queue instead of walking straight on. I must say, despite it being 30 years old, it kicked one hell of a punch for a family coaster, to the point where I begin to wonder how on earth can they get away with a height restriction this low for it?!
The train seats and restraints are very similar to Olympia Looping and Thunder Looper with just a lap bar in place and no divider in between the two seats, leaving you're entire upper body vulnerable to moving from side to side. It was comfortable enough and the seats were quite low down, so there wasn't any thought of losing your bags placed in-between you legs on the floor.
Once dispatched and getting to the top of the lift hill, the first helix down the hill and over the garden area is a lot, lot faster than any video online YouTube will show you. I had the very back of the train the first time on this and immediately after going down the first drop, I was shocked by how fast this thing goes when the train is full! It really is quite intense for a family coaster and you even get some great airtime at the back too!
Once the first bit is over and you go down and under Uppswinget three times, this is where it really gets fun as you are going what feels like almost 60mph under the tunnels several times over and over again and due to the design of the trains, you're upper body can shake side to side a fair bit when going down the drops and again, this is a family coaster? It seems very fast and intense to be one for me!
After that, there's one last small helix around the tree and an airtime hill added before you enter the brakes and I must warn any new riders, if you ever rode the Black Hole when it was at Alton Towers, if you remember the brakes at the end of that, you'll know exactly what these ones are like! They are really very violent and sudden brakes which can lurch you forward in the break run and when you re-enter the station, so my suggestion is when you see the yellow sign saying "Broms" on it, hold the handle bar in front of you and brace you arms ready for impact to stop yourself lurching forwards.
Overall, for a family coaster, this was incredibly surprising for me as it goes a lot faster than it looks, it's long, the restraints are minimal and it has a classic feel to it which reminds me of Nemesis, so it get's a big thumbs up from me.
• Balder (8.5 / 10)
Their wooden coaster Balder was another great coaster which reminded me a lot of Megafobia at Oakwood. The trains were comfortable with both a seatbelt and a lap bar restraint holding you in and thankfully unlike Gwazi and Stampida, this was lovely and smooth and didn't feel horribly jerky or rough anywhere on the train.
The lift hill is surprisingly steep for a wooden coaster and for seats like these ones with no back rests, it felt almost as if I was going to fall out backwards if it wasn't for the restraint. When you consider the small space this is located in, it makes sense to have it this steep.
Now onto the ride itself, the back of the train is by far the best place to sit. The number of times you are whipped over all the dozens of airtime hills on this thing is huge and from beginning to end, there is not a single moment to relax or take a breather since the hills get sharper and tighter making up for the loss in height and speed towards the end of the ride.
The addition of the tunnels also made the experience great as one of them was small enough to create a head chopper effect!
It's easy to see why many people regard this as the best wooden coaster they know and it certainly is. The face it's so smooth with airtime after airtime after airtime made this incredibly fun to ride, coupled with the length of the ride makes this a great wooden coaster. For me, it's not quite as good as Megafobia, but it comes close!
• Loke (New for 2017) - (9 / 10)
I've always found flat rides which swing like Vortex and Rush to be fun to a certain point until they become repetitive and boring, so I wasn't building any huge expectations for this ride despite the advertising and delayed opening it received. But when seeing it in-person, oh my word, this thing is bloody massive!
Never ever ridden Maelstrom at Drayton Manor before so this was my first Intamin Gyroswing and what made this ride very special for me besides from the size, speed and theming was the design of the restraints and seats. They are very comfy to sit in and they are very similar to the ones you get on The Swarm. Just imagine Swarm's restraints but without the foam vest holding your chest. That's Loke's seats in a nutshell. The thin metal bars which are there to lower the restraint across your waist were widely spaced and positioned quite far back, so when you fasten the restraint using a seatbelt similar to Stealth/Rita, there is nothing in the field of view from where you are sitting. This in effect made you feel extremely vulnerable and reminded me a lot like Rush with just a lap bar holding you in, only this time, the seats are much comfier and aren't deep this time. Heck, they're similar seats to Nemesis to give you an idea, so imagine Nemesis' seats with just a lap bar. That's the best way I can describe them.
Once the floor lowers and the thumping bass from the soundtrack filling the ride starts up, it begins to swing higher and higher very quickly and the speed of the spinning gondola is not too fast to make you feel dizzy, it's just about right and it also gives you the chance to get multiple angles whilst in the air at maximum height too.
Once it picks up speed and reaches it's full height, it doesn't matter which direction or angle you are at, this ride is epic! The sheer speed you are travelling when it swings downwards is faster than Rush and the weightlessness feeling you get when falling back down again is forceful and offers some brilliant views when you're looking straight down. Plus, the close proximity between you and Balder makes this even better. When looking down, you are either staring directly over Balder's structure and the people below, or the nearby river directly over the water. In total, you get about 8-9 full swings before it begins to slow down and lower again.
It's quite a claim to make, but I consider this to be the best flat ride ever built that I have ridden. The size and speed of this monster is what sells it and the comfort and lack thereof of restraints holding you in makes you feel incredibly vulnerable and doesn't distract you when swinging. In addition, the paint work and theming of this ride looks very nice during the day and night and the soundtrack played with the thumping bass from the speakers really build up a huge anticipation when waiting.
Thorpe Park or Alton Towers seriously need one of these rides at their parks with the same restraints, capacity, height and speed, because this beats the living hell out of Vortex and Rush combined in my opinion. It truly is a superb flat ride and is my favourite one out there right now as a result!
• Helix (9.5 / 10)
And yes, as expected, Helix is my number one ride at the park and indeed as mentioned at the beginning of the review, my new personal favourite coaster. Never before have I been left speechless by a coaster after trying it the first time and Helix was the first to deliver. What a magnificent coaster Liseberg have here. 26 rides later in 2 days and it's still brilliant every time.
From the beginning of the experience to entering the queue line, you are instantly transported from the dull innards of the dome to a futuristic, modern and cool looking maze of stairs, platforms and metal walls and mechanics lying around everywhere in the queue line, all lit up in bright neon green lights on the walls, flooring, rock work and ceiling. This coupled with the soundtrack which was blasting though about 30 Bose speakers in all of the queue line in perfect synchronisation gave me goosebumps the first time entering this area. It sounds and looks visually impressive in the queue and the maze of stairs and platforms getting you ever closer to the station builds up some huge anticipation and excitement.
Whilst queueing, you can see various windows looking through the walls of the station and underneath, you are able to see a sneak of the brakes, wheels and trains passing over the track entering the station ready for the next batch of people to board the train. In addition, once directly underneath the platform, you can see how the platform gates work with the mechanics underneath the flooring where every minute or so, the bars move in perfect synchronisation which in effect opens and closes the gates. Nice thing to see whilst waiting (not that there was much of a queue!) as I've always wondered how they work.
When the queue got bigger during the day, I eventually stopped to watch the TV screens and noticed you can download an app on your smartphone which is a game for the ride where you in synchronisation with other guests can play these mini games to gain points and whichever player every 15 minutes get the highest score, they get a free Fastpass for Helix presumably. I tried multiple times to win but only managed to get as high as number 4 on the leaderboard, mostly due to the fact the app was all in Swedish with no English option making me guess how you play each game by improvising.
Once you go up the stairs into the station, you are free to choose any row of seats you want and you are not allocated them by a member of staff. I was so glad this was the case as I wanted front row on my first ride, which I did. The trains themselves look stunning, especially when it gets dark. The fact all the seats underneath are lit up in green and the front of all three trains and along both sides have these very bright white lights made it looks visually stunning at night as it whizzed round the track. Plus, they looked nice and fresh with a shiny gloss finish added, making them look as though they are still brand new.
The seats themselves are extremely comfortable to sit in. The lap bar that lowers down is nice and tight and moulds perfectly to your body. There are also grooves on either side if the bar allowing you to rest you arms on when grabbing the handles and the design of the back rest made it comfortable to rest my shoulders into. Plus, despite it being a floored train, the seats are high enough for your legs to dangle allowing you to move them freely as you wish. The difference these restraints make to this ride in comparison to a traditional shoulder restraint are huge and make everything so much more fun.
Now onto the ride experience itself, the experience offered is unparalleled to anything else I know. The experience is so smooth from beginning to end, the two launches are lovely and smooth too with no extreme forces exerted on you body and each and every element assembles beautifully together. This is a ride where it gets more and more extreme as you go round as each inversion become tighter, the speed of the trains get faster, the drops become larger and the twists and turns become more and more forceful.
The airtime on this thing can be shocking if you get the two very back seats and it's obvious to me now why there's a minimum height restriction of 1.5m for these seats. The airtime over the hill straight after the second launch and top hat at the back of the train is so strong and forceful that it pins your thighs to the restraint almost painfully for a brief second. It's that good!
The interaction the track has with it's surroundings is mastered perfectly and you can tell the designers of this ride have really thought this through and been clever at making the most of the surroundings they have. The fact it snugs so closely to the ground at various points makes the experience really quite intense, especially the helix just before the second launch which throws you straight into your seat thanks to the extreme forces.
One of the concerns I had been hearing from a few people was this ride was not fast enough and didn't have forces that were extreme enough. In my experience, the speed of this ride is perfectly fine and is fast enough for me to enjoy going on again and again and surprisingly, despite this having 7 inversions, I didn't feel sick or dizzy at all when riding it several times in a row unlike Colossus, Smiler and even Nemesis. Helix even reminded me a lot of Nemesis as it constantly has speed and force from beginning to end and never seems to slow down, and this certainly matched Nemesis in terms of the pacing.
If I were to find any criticism of Helix, that would be the lack of on-board speakers used in the trains because the grills have been installed but no audio is played through them. If they can add music similar to Blue Fire from what I've seen, this could make the experience even more exciting for guests. And another criticism I have is when you leave the station into the first inversion, I find the train vibrates a bit too much where you can feel and even hear it. That is literally all I can think of!
I would usually supply lots of images of it in action, but I thought making a video would be better, so here it is:
So to finalise my review of Liseberg and, if you are visiting for the first time and considering it, do it. The park has great opening times during summer between 11am -10/11pm at the weekends, all the other rides like Kallerado (better river rapids ride than Alton's one), FlumeRide, Hanghai are lots of fun and the atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed. For me, Helix alone is worth the journey and it will be a firm favourite if you ever get the chance to ride it, so make sure when you visit, you ride it.
I myself have have an awesome time visiting both Gothenburg city & Liseberg, and this park is certainly one to keep your eyes on for the future since every year they are currently relentlessly installing more and more exciting and great rides, which reminds me a lot of Thorpe's days in the mid-2000's. In particular, Valkyria looks to be an excellent dive coaster when planned to be opened in April 2018, which is a great reason to visit again. It's very likely I will be visiting this park on a frequent/yearly basis now as they have some truly kick-ass rides for a park that is not on the scale of other European theme parks, so my next visit will likely be April/May 2018.
Here's a full record of all the 230+ photos and videos I took whilst I was there if you're interested in having a look:
On the 1st July 2016, Derren Brown's Ghost Train officially opened to the public for technical rehearsals and I was one of the lucky few to be able to experience it before it's official opening. What follows is an extremely long review and walkthrough of the attraction which will be summarised by bullet points in addition to long paragraphs to make it easier to read.
(I uploaded a previous review yesterday regarding the experience which some of you may have read. I deleted it because after reading it back, I thought I could re-write it a lot better so this is more of an updated review than a new one.)
PLEASE NOTE: There will be some spoilers ahead in this review with detailed explanations of what happens, so unless you would like to know what happens, please don't read ahead. I didn't need to sign an NDA or form when I rode this 3 times.
So to begin the review, I'll start with the exterior and queue-line:
1) Queue-line and exterior
The queue itself has two photo booths which you pass through before you begin your experience. The first one involves you looking through a glass window and focusing your eyes upon a red dot on a TV monitor screen which displays certain images related to the theme of the ghost train. During this stage, the dot moves up until it turns green telling you the picture is taken. You are given a "one way ticket" with a barcode which you must scan on the reader in both photo booths in order to get both types go photo at the end.
About 20 minutes down the queue later, you approach the second photo booth and there are signs giving the symptoms of an infected person such as white, bloodshot or dilated pupils which all relates to the vague fracking theme of the attraction. In this booth, using the tickets you were given earlier, you then individually place your heads onto these stands and look straight into a screen to align your eyes with the camera. Once it's aligned, 3 cameras (one at the front and two on each side) scan your head using LED's to light your face up from all angles which I presume is for a 3D rendered head in a jar souvenir you can buy at the end of the ride, as well as a regular additional on-ride photo with your head in a green jar. After you've been "disinfected", you proceed to the last section of the queue which is roughly another 20-30 minute wait if the line is full.
As for the queue speakers, the audio kept on cutting in and out constantly on an average time of 15 seconds and it happened all day through all the speakers. Not sure why this was happening but I can only guess it's a glitch with the audio system in the queue as they were testing the exterior audio all morning it seemed. Sure it will be fixed very soon, but the audio itself really did build up tension whilst waiting in the queue!
Lastly, you are then grouped together with about 55-60 other people outside the baggage booth. Here, you just simply wait outside whilst dropping off your bags until the green curtain slides back and you are then welcomed inside the building. Unlike the other indoor mazes which involve a staff member telling you all the safety instructions before you go inside, this didn't happen. Derren himself tells you this inside the building which leads to the next part of the experience.
After passing through the green curtain, you enter this very dark room which has a stand for you step up onto and you look upon a scene which involves a vacant empty chair under a spotlight, and a black chalkboard behind. Above you are a series of about 10-12 differently styled light bulbs all lit up dimly, all with an old-fashioned look and feel to them all. Above the scene in front of you are two projectors displaying text on the walls which are used for directional purposes to lead the audience in and out of the room before and after the show has finished.
When the show begins, Derren appears in front sitting in the chair and he discusses about what the meaning of fear is, how it links to enjoyment and what awaits ahead inside the Ghost Train. Amongst his speech, he subtly goes through the safety and recommendations for those who might find it a bit too much to handle. Before long, he finishes with "I'll see you on the other side" before disappearing from the room promoting you to proceed to the next star of your journey.
I found this pre-show very entertaining to watch as it was very well executed and convincing for the audience, plus it built up more tension for the other guests I noticed! So for the pre-show, great intro and build-up for what's to come!
3) The Ghost Train (Part 1)
As you leave the pre-show room, you are led up a few stairs round the back of the building and you then enter the warehouse with the victorian train carriage suspended by chains in the air. From first impressions, the carriage is a lot larger and longer in length than I was expecting and the platform you walk along is quite high up. Whilst you wait in the warehouse on the suspended platform for the next train, you can hear various sound effects coming from all angles inside the warehouse, such as bats flying above you, screams from the ghost train, and the sound of trains moving along the rails below the suspended carriage. I must admit, the sounds coming underneath the carriage on the gravel floor sounded identical to the real London Underground trains when they move along the rails so it was a very realistic sound effect also coupled with an echo effect just to make it more realistic.
Before long, the carriage doors open and the previous guests from the train carriage leave the platform and exit through another door whilst your group proceeds to board the train through the other set of doors. The train conductor and actors are there shouting "All aboard!" dressed in uniform and directing you inside the carriage. Once inside however, the atmosphere changes entirely. Gone is the dark, old-fashioned sound and feel to the red carriage you just boarded and instead, you are greeted by two London Underground staff instead inside a perfectly identical replica of a London Underground train (more specifically the ones used on the Northern and Jubilee lines). The detail inside is so close to the real ones that I begin to wonder if the creative team had the designers from the real tube train involved with this project. There isn't a seating arrangement or plan once inside, you just take any seat you can find and get your headsets ready.
TIP - even though there were a couple of headsets that weren't working, make sure the headset you put on has a green LED light lit up and NOT a red one, otherwise the content won't work. They don't make this obvious but please bear that in mind when you board.
It also became obvious why the number of seats recently went from 60 to 58. In each carriage(s) , two seats next to each other were stripped back room for wheelchair users, so there's no need for disabled passengers to leave their wheelchair, which also helps with the throughput.
TIP - when you put on your headset, the best and more comfortable way of doing it is to place in on the top of your head then before you place the goggles over your eyes, pull down the two speakers for the headphones instead. They are ergonomically shaped to fit your ears so you'll know if they are fitted on correctly. Once they're set, just pull down the headset and adjust the tightness of the headset with the velcro straps just like Galactica. Even though my vision was fine all 3 tries, I couldn't work out how to focus the image through a mechanical dial like Galactica has. Maybe I'm being stupid and missing it, but I couldn't feel or see anywhere to adjust it. Not that I needed to, but maybe someone else will.
I won't go into too much detail about what happens inside, but rest assured, there's a lot more to this ride than you would be lead to expect and it certainly makes the experience very thrilling and engaging. The first half is by far the best part of the entire experience!
On e this section is over and you've got off the train (as it does physically move into another section of the building) the next part of the journey begins.
4) The Evacuation
As the underground staff guide you out of the train, they lead you through to a room which stinks of this gas they mentioned telling you to cover your mouths. Once you've evacuated the station, you find yourselves inside the underground tunnels itself with various other underground trains parked stationary. There is also a giant leaking pipe which the construction workers inside are trying to fix. The whole feeling and atmosphere here made me quite nervous as it was very loud with the noises of train passing through the tunnels and the stench coming from the gas leak.
Here as a group, various effects happen which include of a moving train, shadow, light and sound effects and acting from the underground staff. Again, I won't say much here, but it certainly surprised me the first time!
I must say, some of the effects used in this section really had me for a few moments. This coupled with the smells and nosies really made this section a thrilling yet mildly scary section of the experience.
5) The Ghost Train (Part 2)
As before, you take your seats in the underground carriage with the VR headsets on (don't forget to find one with a green LED light on it) and the final section of the experience continues here. The underground train through the headset is empty again and the train moves virtually and physically again for a quick moment here. Then, out of nowhere, one of the creatures rips apart the entire side of the carriage you are sat in and you can see outside a street in London with lots of cars and vehicles congested and abandoned whilst your carriage is held upon a bridge.
What happens next is rather not say but it does involve more visual effects with the headsets as well as more physical movement from the train carriage, including a brief sensation of falling.
After this, the ride experience is over and you exit the carriage from where you started through the victorian carriage, you are then lead down some stairs to the baggage hold area and finally through the ride's shop.
Now, I'd like to quickly talk about the VR headsets as that had quite an important role in this experience.
6) VR Quality
Compared to Galactica's headsets, I can assure you that these ones used on Ghost Train are of far higher quality for the following reasons:
• Everything was much higher definition with more pixels and a wider viewing angle.
• Unlike Galactica, the VR content was a smooth 60fps film from start to finish making the quality much nicer.
• The headsets I find are much more comfy to wear and the speakers are louder than that of Galactica's.
• The headsets used two images for each eye but at slightly different perspectives. What this resulted in was all of the content being rendered in 3D making the experience even more immersive.
Overall, I would say that this is a solid investment for Thorpe and it certainly delivered in many areas I was hoping it would, some of which exceeded my expectations. The VR quality was great, the build-up worked effectively, the theming is some of the best we've seen yet at any theme park in the UK and it thrilled me with fear and excitement which is what the ride is designed to do.
The best thing about the experience is how all of the technology, mechanics, engineering and theatrical elements all bind together to create this very unique experience. If Thorpe can keep them all in sync together as it currently is and enhance the experience a little more with some slight alterations, this can in my opinion be one of the best ride experiences out there currently that I know of.
However, due to the fact it was a technical preview, there were a few bugs I experience the 2nd and 3rd time I rode it. At one point, the headset I wore in the final section forgot which direction I was looking and very quickly zoomed to the left, and the other bug was when I looked to far down the carriage on the left the 2nd go, the graphics seemed to shake and wobble slightly. But thankfully, for both of these glitches, they automatically fixed themselves both in less than a second after I noticed them, so the system involved detected the glitch and fixed them almost immediately.
Another little disappointment I had was the entire experience wasn't as scary as I was expecting it to be. Don't get me wrong, it still made me pretty nervous in some areas, but not terrifyingly so. Mind you, a lot of the other guests seemed pretty scared as a lot of them were screaming inside the carriage, so it might just be me being used to scares delivered at theme parks probably.
So even though there were a couple of downs, the rest of the experience was superb in my opinion and I will happily give it a high recommendation to any park guest to try and do. Bear in mind it was a rehearsal, so it wasn't 100% delivering, but as it stood when I rode it, it's fantastic and is in the top 3 rides for me at the park now.
Derren Brown's Ghost Train - 8/10
To finish, below are a series of images taken from the day in addition to the on-ride photos you get which are both included in the DigiPass. Enjoy!
Also, if you would like to ask me any questions about the experience, please feel free to ask.