2014 is almost over, which can only mean one thing...it's time for my review of Thorpe's season! In a way, it kind of feels silly to do a 'season' review on behalf, since I've "only" made 8 visits this year (by far my smallest Thorpe tally in memory!), so there's a few gaps here and there, and my views may not be fully representative of the season. However, I hope this review will end up giving a nice roundup of the season, and my views on what's gone down. If anyone wants to see my reviews of previous seasons, they can all be found HERE (once again, apologises about the pictures no longer working - darn Facebook!). And with all that out of the way, let's "get ready to go...looking good...3 2 1..."
New for 2014 - Angry Birds Land
Rewind a year ago, and I said that for 2014, "There's been talks of a new 4D film, the return of the Canada Creek Railway, the movement of Vengeance to the park and ...at least one of those things should happen." Fortunately, one of those things did happen.
I don't quite know how ABL has been received by the public, but enthusiast opinion is certainly more on the negative side. However, I must admit, I side with the side that, on the whole, it's an okay investment for the park. The 'land' is very small - it seems almost silly to call it an area of a theme park given how small it is. The 4D cinema, whilst a bit over the top with the effects, is a nice break from the bombardment of rides and is certainly a vast improvement on Time Voyagers (though that's not saying much, mind!). The Dodgems are good fun and, whilst nothing special, a nice filler ride for everyone to enjoy. Personally, I think that Detonator is the biggest waste in the area; new audio was needed, and a bit more of a feel around the ride was required. But instead we end up with a new name and cheap logo plus a random bird plonked nearby - still feels out of place unfortunately.
So yeah, all in all, I don't think ABL is a bad investment. I think it will work in the long run (Angry Birds will no doubt continue to be popular, and with a major film set for 2016, I can see a second wind for it coming up), and brought life into what was a lifeless area. Many say that it's destroyed Amity Cove - but let's face it, there's a huge difference between Stealth-side Amity (Amity Speedway) and Tidal Wave-side Amity (the Amity Cove). A divide is necessary really, and this gives a chance to divide the sides further, which would be a good thing. For the future, I'd like to see the Teacups given an Angry Birds theme, since it feels a bit out of place at the moment, and the well-known Angry Birds tune be made more prominent throughout the area - it's something I was looking forward to hearing if I'm honest!
Detonator - needs more work...
These metal plate theming bits are...okay. Not my first choice thematic feature for the area though!
King Pig's Wild Hog Dodgems - a bit bare, but good fun.
New for 2014 - Other Stuff
Though a quiet year on the rides and attractions front, there were a few new and improved things around the park...
The Shark Hotel replaced the Crash Pad, and is Thorpe's own attempt at a shipping container hotel. Indeed, the shark idea was my favourite of the three concepts (the other two being the Pier and crashed ship). I do quite like the look of the shark - it's quirky and different, and likely a nice talking point for people visiting. My only criticism of it is that, on the inside, you can see all the framework - a bit of a shame in all honesty, but I guess there's got to be limitations to everything. Maybe not the most spectacular thing ever, but I have a fond spot for it if I'm being honest.
Then there's the improved entrance. It must surely be a short-term solution, as the whole ticket and entrance plaza needs a big rework in my opinion. Baring that in mind, I think it's an okay solution - the video loops they play do a nice job of showing off the park, and presumably do help build a bit of atmosphere and anticipation for guests. Also great to hear the original Thorpe entrance music being played once again!
Hard to get a decent image of the screen, so here's the best I've got..
The few other touch ups around the park (Stealth Diner and shop, Mexican Cantina extension, etc.) are also welcome additions, now giving more indoor seating, and improved chippy on park - I never really liked the old Fish and Chip place for some reason; maybe the old look of the place just put me off? - and meaning every major attraction has their own sort of shop to some degree. The small things ey!
Stealth shop looks quite nice really.
The Swarm remains top dog for another year. For me, it just had everything I want, and it's just a beautiful roller coaster to me. After being able to climb its lift hill this year and do a couple of behind the scenes bits and bobs, I have no doubt that Swarm will have a place in my heart for years to come... With it looking very likely that I'll be breaking into Europe next year, I somewhat doubt this will be my favourite coaster next year, but hey, I'll let it bask in its glory till then.
A pretty sweet alternative view of the ride in general
X also saw some changes, with new audio and a new lighting set up. I think the reason why I like it so much is because it's so different to anything else the park offers - it's a bit of fun and a laugh. It doesn't try to do anything special and it's not a serious ride. Something that the park needs more of in my eyes!
Inferno was as solid as ever, and it was nice to see the mist and lights working for the majority of my visits. Also interesting to see the workshop area as part of the John Wardley meet too; geeky moments I guess! I still have a soft spot for Saw, even if it does leave many with a soft spot on their head after riding. Again, got to do a nice backstage tour of it, which was great fun and really interesting. Colossus remained as uncomfortable as ever. Stealth was alright too I guess; I'm not too fussed about it though to be honest.. .
Dear Thorpe, all I want for this closed season is this sign cleaned / replaced. Lots of love, JoshC.
Arty-farty Saw photo.
Put my camera through its paces by taking photos of Saw from the Loggers queue line. Funny results followed.
The Other Rides
Won't really put any specific focus on any other rides now because: 1) too much effort, 2) I haven't visited enough to say that much and 3) I don't want to put you to sleep any quicker.
So yeah, in short... Slammer didn't open with the rest of the park, but managed to remain consistently open (more or less) when it eventually did open. Big thumbs up to all those involved with getting the thing to live again, and to actually stay alive. Personally, I think the ride just needs binning - I don't find it exciting and it just seems to be a waste of resources in my opinion. It seems Thorpe/Merlin think otherwise - as do many enthusiasts - so let's hope for their sakes their faith in the ride lasts for a few years before it eventually conks out. When that day comes, I'll happily be the first to volunteer to take some explosives to the ride.
Rush, Samurai, Loggers, Zodiac and the like all did well during the season, and I think they're all good rides that add to the line up. On the other hand, I've been disappointed by the likes of Vortex, which is showing its ages, Rumba Rapids and Depth, rides which I do enjoy, but really need some TLC to make them look nice again.
A working Slammer - a slightly less rare sight than usual.
"What about Storm Surge?" you might be asking yourselves. I didn't ride Storm Surge this year, and this picture sums up my views on the ride nicely...
I'd much rather look at a building.
The Big Easter
I unfortunately didn't attend this season's Easter event, due to revising for exams. However, by the sounds of it, it was a great event for the park and their new direction. All the reviews of the Brainiac show were great, so I'm glad to hear that's returning for the February Half Term event. I look forward to seeing what Thorpe come up with for next Easter (and fingers crossed I'm actually able to make it!).
Summer Nights returned for a second season, which is great news. This event is just a brilliant idea from the park and works a treat. I know some say that opening till 10 should be standard for the park during Summer, and maybe that should be the case one day. But right now, I don't think the park would be busy enough to warrant it - making it a separate identity is the best thing for now. The event has definitely gained popularity, and I'd be curious to see if they'd consider adding two trains to the coasters if the event become much more popular.
Teacups are still an addition for Summer Nights - good thing too, since it's relatively popular during the day..
Summer Event - Huh?
Last year, I said: "Despite Sun Scream obviously being popular enough to last many seasons, I think it's time to think of something a little different now". However, when I said "a little different", I did mean they should at least do something! Unless I completely missed it, there was no specific summer event this season that filled the role Sun Scream had done for the seasons beforehand.
The park seemed popular enough from marketing alone and such, but it seems like a wasted opportunity, especially with the family market. Hopefully it's just a one-off, and next season gives us some decent event for the summer. It would certainly help encourage the crowds to visit during what is one of the busiest periods of the season for the park, and a chance to stand out from the crowd a little bit.
On the other end of the scale, I guess they could partner up with MoS for another event. Mash Up seemed good during Easter 2012 and 2013, so why not bring back that back? Speaking of MoS, still haven't been to a MoS night - they're just not my thing! - however, I'm glad to see that they're still proving popular and successful.
The biggest change for this season's Fright Nights was, of course, the farewell of The Asylum, and the introduction of Studio 13: The Motel. It's been said a hundred times already, but I may as well say it again - last year's controversy over Asylum was NOT the cause of its removal. The park were planning on getting rid of it even for last season's event - let's hope that that myth doesn't become fact to many.
Another thing which has been said a hundred times already is that I wasn't really a fan of The Asylum. It was a maze of strobe lights which gives you a headache, with no apparent story line other than 'you're locked in with scary people' and very repetitive. So I was glad to see the back end of it. Studio 13's premise sounded exciting and very promising, and it was great to see the park come up with a non-IP maze which still fitted in perfectly with the park's overall theme (which I still love by the way).
Personally, I loved the maze. Great nods to the past, good theming, a story which followed through the maze and overall a good idea. In fact, out of all the mazes I've done, it's the maze where I've felt most apart of the story. It's such a simple idea (you tour through a studio where a horror film is being filmed, then all of a sudden, you're IN the film), which makes it easy to execute, yes, but it was executed so well that it just a beautiful maze.
As for the returning mazes, Blair Witch went from zero to hero, which was great. I hope this gives the park more confidence with scare zones and outdoor attractions. Cabin and Saw remained good attractions, though I think Saw needs a bit of an update, as it feels kind of tame compared to the rest. My Bloody Valentine was yet again the worst; no real scares or anything - just dark, cramped spaces all the way. It will scare many, yes, but you can't just simply rely on that! It will be interesting to see what happens to the maze next season now the arena is in use - will it just move elsewhere, move out of the containers and into someplace else, or what?
I also did Face it Alone again this year. I can't sing the praises of this experience enough - if you like scare attractions, it is well worth giving it a try! I'm so glad the park have continued to look into other scare ideas than your bog-standard conga line maze, and here's hoping that things like Face it Alone, the Overnight Experiences and original maze ideas continue for many years to come.
Fright Nights proved to yet again been the most popular time of season.
Me with The Director.
Reserve n Ride
The second season we've seen RnR now and I remain in the minority who like the idea. I'll keep my views here short and sweet since I've argued them to death throughout the year in the appropriate topics - the idea is a nice one and has a lot of potential. The system itself seems to work now; they've slowly managed to iron out technical issues. What the park need to do now is try the system as it was intended - with no standby queues. That way, they see how viable an option this actually is. Make sure there's enough non-ride stuff to do too; that'll help (and, in fact, is a good idea in general!).
Food and Merchandise
As mentioned above, I've gotten into a bad habit of falling in love with the new Fish and Chip place, nice and unhealthy. My lunch of choice usually varies between that, the Mexican Cantina or Bar 360. For the most part though, all of the Merlin-owned food places are good quality and value at Thorpe, which is good. I'll no doubt try the punnily-named Peckish and the new Pizza-Pasta joint in the new season though, because why not ey?
As ever, the merchandise at Thorpe helped empty my wallet. The new resins were all great, and the Swarm billboard is my personal favourite of all the Merlin resins. Then there's the brilliant new clothing items which give some geeky nods (ride opening years and such), which I just love! The new Angry Birds merch is good to see too, even if a bit overpriced in my opinion. Then again, on the whole, merchandise is reasonably priced I think, so I'm not really complaining. Would like to see more bears at Thorpe though - please?
I guess the VIP packages fit into merchandise sort of, so just a quick mention of them. Whilst the main ones are a bit too pricey in my opinion, the lift hill walks and backstage tour are okay, especially if you can get a deal on them (and they do indeed do deals on them at points in the year). Again, really glad to see the park doing cool things likes this!
The Inferno shop has a makeover too. At least I was spending time in shops, and not just money...
Chief Ranger's Carousel - RIP
Whilst no official note has been made, it seems that CRC has left us after 20 years of service. It's sad to see a ride so rich in Thorpe's history leave. However, in all honesty, it's surprising it stayed as long as it did, especially during the years when families were just not in the park's target market. It's not like the ride has a specific appeal the 99% of visitors anyway - time to let go and move along in my opinion!
A Look Ahead
2015 brings us...well, we don't know. Potentially nothing of note. We have gathered that Pizza Hut is being replaced by Pizza Pasta, and that building is getting an extension. I have no doubts that we'll see some touch ups around the place (Canada Creek still has a lot of the old branding about, some rides are in desperate need of TLC and I expect Thorpe know that), and there'll be a few little things to keep us happy. However, it seems like 2015 could be the first season since 1997 where Thorpe don't bring us any new attractions. Then again, Angry Birds Land didn't have plans submitted till January, so who knows?
Of course, we'll all be able to gawp at the construction site for 2016's exciting new development - maybe that in itself will be enough to keep us happy next season?
That's it for me; another season well and truly done with. Thanks if you read it all (and sorry for the length)! As ever, any comments / thoughts / criticisms are welcome!