One and a half months in to the 2014 season and it was time for a visit to the world of Chessington which would be my first visit there for 2014 after last visiting April 2013.
Seemingly been in neglect over the last 5-10 years (although my first visit was actually 2006) with declining upkeep, operations and overall care, I kept my expectations for the place rather low. This brings the question, has the park improved this year or is the downward spiral at the park continuing? Surely the park couldn't get any worse than it had in 2013.
Alpengeist welcomes you to Chessington, who is ready to see what exciting changes & additions have appeared at the park for 2014.
Our first stop of the day is to brand new (or should I say refurbished) Scorpion Express, one of the few new 2014 additions that is actually open for the start of the season (if you'd call it one). Here we are welcomed to the basic but nice looking entrance. What's more beautiful though is there is no queue for the ride, considering it reaches 90 minutes on slightly busy days .
And here is the ride from a slight distance. The ride definitely looks a lot more open and spaced out without the cave, although a fair few details have been put in to the area such as an old rusty repainted bridge, town facades and the oil rig (fire) tower.
And here's a closer look of the station& newly repainted train. The end result is nothing special but makes the train look fresh and in most ways new again (although it's a great shame they didn't
change the lap bar design considering it's been closed all year and the new design are better IMO).
Sadly I didn't take anymore pics on the day of Scorpion (either because I was filming the rest of in the queue line or too busy in the rest of the day. Hopefully I'll update the blog with my pictures if I get chance.
Scorpion Express- review
The queue line starts very basic (and slightly boring) to start off, mostly with light brown fences and a (Merlin typical) cattlepen, the second cattle pen is slightly better as it includes some posters and light touches of theming before we reach the cave which here gets more interesting with the theming aspect of metal scorpions and dim lighting and music. This adds up to the ride rather nicely.
Once emerging from the cave, the next queue section is very much layout wise like runaway trains, except the bridge is more concealed (likely to conceal the ride and because of that Tomb Blaster incident).
The ride itself is okay, not brilliant not terrible just okay. The backdrops on the ride are a nice touch (and different to the rock face) but don't quite justify the ride enough as they should be a little bit taller to conceal the surroundings as there were times when I could see the path Zufari whilst on the ride.
The lack of cave and structure concealment also showcases how simple and basic the ride's layout which at the end of the day as a simple figure 8 powered coaster and a clone to the Flying Fish (which opened in 1983 (4 years before mine train but was then Space Station 0).
However what makes up for these disappointments (sort of) are the interactive elements and theming on the ride (giving in some ways new character) such as the fire effect on the oil rig and also the moving & squirting Scorpion which a nice addition (however it's water feature isn't strong enough and feels like a water pistol). The return of the boiler and others bits is also a nice addition to the ride.
Overall rating 5/10
a quirky and unique retheme of an old powered coaster which in some ways has brought new life to the ride and in other ways exposed it, however the original Runaway Train (theme) still has the edge for me with its (once) impressive rock face, cleverly layer out queue and its novelty feel as if it was almost like a powered coaster knock off of Thunder Mountain.
Elsewhere within a mystical eastern area of the park, Ryan is greeted by the mysterious Peaj and instructs him to ride the Dragon Falls log flume.
Which has seen a few nice touch ups around the ride such as the re painting of the Dragon tunnel entrance.
However sadly the rocks & stone faces still remain removed, leaving much of the ride appearance wise, naked and exposed.
Dragon Falls is alright, but it's current lack of theming does detract the ride and experience so far (considering its layout isn't that complex. The tunnel after the first drop is definitely noticeably shorter now is rather than travelling through a moment of darkness it's over before it's starts and suddenly enters a rather dull secluded outdoor section which is like it's going past a warehouse.
However there is some good news, as the elephant before the station is working again as it moves and squirts water simultaneously. Never have I seen that elephant move so impressively in my years visiting. I hope the ride receives the care and upkeep it deserves for 2015.
Meanwhile after three quarters of a season out of action, Ramesis is back and working again with a set of brand new restraints (even though it looks deserted in this pic). I went on this ride three times that day (yes, I was very determined to ride it) and the experience for the ride each time was great fun (although the squirters didn't work that well on the final go)
I also love the ride's elaborate queue line in how it goes up some steps through an area that's at the top of the nearby buildings, before weaving its way back to the ride itself (pre DIC Tussaud's were awesome).
Elsewhere in the heart of the park, one of the parks original and ageing areas has been given a much needed facelift.
The path in the area has been completely replaced with new flat even paving, making the area nice and open whilst most of the nearby buildings have been refreshed and updated and some trees and shrubbery preserved.
The area has also seen the addition of a brand new centrepiece, a giant compass which shows which direction rides and areas within the park are located which is a great addition to the park area as well as the flower beds and benches.
Overall rating for Marketsquare 2.0 9/10
The park has gained another centrepiece/ piece of theming near Toadies which in the form of a carved animal tree, another great addition to the park IMO.
Following renovation and repairs from the Christmas fire, the arch to Transylvania welcomes all to the area, never has this park element looked so great!
The rest of the area has also seen a big repaint throughout and whilst the area doesn't look as creepy or gloomy as it used, the repaint has given the area a new lease of life and making the courtyard feel very refreshed. With addition of very catchy and upbeat European polka style music, the area is full of life and atmosphere.
Whilst park appearances and dedication has improved, operations seem to have also. Vampire ran a fluent 2 train operation where one train would be dispatched whilst the other hit the brake run, never did I see a train in the brake run exceed 5 seconds.
The ride was also running quite forcefully as well that day enough to give a fast exciting journey whilst not being too violent or aggressive either. The black repainted rails in the queue are also an improvement to the ride.
Overall rating 8/10.
Meanwhile in the shop is this interactive element, where Jack shows off his new Vampire shirt.
A brief trip through Mexicana.
Where we find Zufari which has seen its pre-show altered and converted in to an indoor queue (exceedingly blurry pic). The long chat with Ghozi is no more, however you can still talk and interact with the fellow whilst queuing indoors. It's not a remarkable fix to the old problem, but for now it works.
After a Zufari, our quest continues to the newly opened Amazu treetop adventure, housing some of the park's cheeky residents.
The new refurbished area, showing the Walkthrough and woodland area (however a hefty portion of the Walkthrough is currently blocked off).
Another view, where in the distance construction of the park's 2nd hotel which is going along nicely.
Amazu is great refreshed animal area that's been done very nicely and is a fantastic update to the monkey & bird gardens area, however the only disappointment is the new area is noticeably smaller than its predecessor where a hefty amount of its footprint has been occupied by the new hotel being built. 6/10
After this busy update it's time to take, I think it's time for nice rest at the Creaky Cafe- oh wait, it's gone!
Following the fire last year, the building of the outlet has been completely destroyed and for 2014 (at least) has become a picnic area. Whilst it's shame it's gone, the park have definitely covered up from the incident rather well.
We will end this adventure with an amateur photo of Dragons Fury against a dark cloudy sky, because Fury is amazing!
Chessington has been the forgotten & neglected of the Uk Merlin park siblings through the years, with few new additions, park features such as Pegleg Pete & the weather vane removed without trace or replacement and the left rest to rot until condemned on top of declining park care and operations.
For 2014 though, Chessington has improved dramatically and feels like it's been given a new lease of life with worn ageing park areas such as Market Square, Mexicana and Transylvania on top of improved park operations. Whilst Scotpion Express & Amazu aren't mind blowing or top notch additions, they add a new lease of life in to the park and some new interactions and creativity (particularly the back story to Scorpion).
Although it's a shame the Azteca hotel has chopped a hefty chunk of park space which could've been used for future development, it will hopefully bring more guests to the park which will hopefully give the park more opportunities for future development.
The park's atmosphere and setting is fantastic and for an overall great day and arguably the best of the southern uk parks (yes it exceeds thorpe very slightly) and is far spurrier to the nearby Legoland Windsor.
Whilst certainly not on the scale or standards of Disney, its heading in the right direction (although it's nearer to Disneyland than Legoland will ever be). There are still a few rough edges though at the park and some way to go before it gets back to its greatness of the 90's though, done of the (yet to be mentioned) parks faults and sharp edges can be seen below (each Merlin park has them).
Tomb Blaster had a lot of targets broken (especially in the middle of the ride)
Bubbleworks needs TLC as it's quite mish mash with everything ATM and tacky hidden imperial leather signs
Skyway Safari was closed with no life (however it's open now though)
Rattlesnake looks a little worn in places and could do with some TLC
Fury and rattlesnake have pointless loading rules preventing more than 3 adults per car (thumbs down)
Dragon falls's area has a contrast of newly refreshed areas and other parts looking empty, worn and forgotten.
Toadies Crazy cars is dire beer of a refresh. Or maybe, just remove it and build a coaster there.
And that's it, Chessington isn't perfect, but it's certainly got back on its saddle for 2014 giving character and innovative theming in to the park which puts the other parks to shame (cough Legoland cough). I look forward to see what the park does in 2015 and see how it progresses further.
I would recommend visiting Chessington any day, pass holder or non pass holder. If I lived a bit nearer, I would visit this park a lot more.
Excuse me, but I'm off to the Monkey Puzzle!