For several years now, there's been something on my theme park bucket I've always been wanting to tick off now for a long time. No, not Baron 1898 [although soon hopefully], not Europa Park either I'm afraid, however keep an eye out for MC16 which is happening soon, some hints to what this may even appear in this very blog entry.
This something is of course on home soil and relatively simplistic in all honesty. It's Chessington's Howl O ween event. It's been something I've planned for over two years but until had not worked out, due to not getting chance in 2013 and absolute rotten luck in 2014, very narrowly missing out on going [big emphasis on the very narrowly].
However due to numerous reasons [cough cough budget cuts], the two former fantastic mazes from the last few years were gone despite receiving strong reviews in their time and in were two new mazes [although in different locations to those], which begged the question. Would they remain as strong? Wait & see.
One thing to note about Chessington is how much theming and decoration there was set-up, which made it feel a-lot more in swing, certainly more than Thorpe too.
Pumpkins, lots of lots of pumpkins.
Not bad theming for Chessington.
BTW, I would recommend the Chicken Shack for food at the park as I'd say it's the best eatery there by a large'ish margin, especially if your fed up with Pizza, Pasta buffets or don't want miniscule fish & Chips either.
But this was definitely the most impressive Halloween thematic element though, and looked even better at night.
Review Of The Mazes [why the heck didn't I take more pictures]
Curse Of The Lost Tomb
The Main new maze for this year, with the absence of Haunting & Mystery [as mentioned earlier], this was the maze I was looking forward to the most and it had a lot to make up for. The maze was located in Wild Asia where the conference centre was [there might have been a stage there once too]. From the outside, there wasn't much to see really, just a standard temporary cattle pen like in to a building [bit like Thorpe really], not to mention was taking a bit of time for the queue to move. But the question was, did the maze itself prove to be worth it?
Yes It Was!
After being greeted by a friendly ride host who unlike the Thorpe ones was more-so in character and told us of an ancient Tomb which was built before the theme park existed by Genghis Khan, which he went further on to say wasn't a nice guy.
He continued the standard maze rules [though simplifying to younger guests though], before being lead in to the maze by the first actor, who was a friendly quirky young woman and explained she was now working for this institute and would get find the lost tomb and was very excited about the whole thing.
We were soon lead on by another female actor, who this time was a bit more strict and stern and claimed to be the organiser of the exploration institute and explaining what they were there for and these rumours of this cave being cursed and the like were absolute nonsense.
We then moved on further in the maze which from there on becomes more interactive with lots of different riddles and features. In one room there was a monk who made us spell out the word curse.
Then further on, an actor posing as a lost explorer said she was looking for her boyfriend or something who was lost and we had to build these cogs to open the door and get out. There was another room lost artefacts and some objects which came to life, before we had to escape, where we then ended up in the gift shop and told we had escaped. There was even a few scare actors in there too, which didn't really jump scare but were made to look intimidating.
Overall rating 9/10.
Really enjoyed this maze, which featured an original storyline and features [game show like in a way] but unlike Thorpe's mazes were your just straight in to the action and are scraed silly, this had not just more of a backstory and not to mention a general reason why you were here in the first place.
Trick Or Tweet Woods
Located on the grassy area near Hocus Pocus where the log cabins continue to still exist. Being out in the open, not the best setting for a maze [though Blair Witch copes well] not to mention the cabin and trees were some cause for concern. Due to these reasons, we avoided the maze during the day and only did it once it was starting to get dark, hoping it would turn out better. But were we in for a trick; or a treat?
We were in for a trick. Unfortunately that was also a literal thing on this maze too.
After the usual safety talk in the open, looking out for mud whilst chucking it down, we were soon lead on to the maze itself by an actor and mentioned somewhat about the woods.
The rest of the experience from here somewhat becomes a blur, whether that's because I've been so busy or the maze was forgettable is a different story. All I remember from there we were then sent through the trick side and met a couple of fairies who took us to a door and gave us some riddle and then told us we were all silly or something before pushing us on our way.
We then found more actors, forget what they did but sure it was another riddle before being encountered by a giant tree actor at the end and then arriving at the exit before told to have a nice evening by a staff member at the exit.
The maze was over remarkably quickly, feeling like it was pretty much over before it was started and then thinking, what the heck had we just experienced after leaving the ride.
Mr Fish [who was with my on the day], described Trick Or Treat as the worst maze he's even been on.
Overall rating 2/10 [I'm feeling generous]
That's 5 minutes I won't be getting back, makes Blair Witch MK1 look amazing, bring back Haunting In The Hollows!
Though feeling hugely let down by that second maze, there was one good thing now, it was completely dark and meant it was time for some night rides. With the park closing at 8pm this year [something that will hopefully remain for next year], this gave us over 2 hours to experience rides fully in the dark [over 3 hours once the clocks change].
Night rides we managed were Scorpion Express which looked quite impressive at night especially the orange fire effect.
We queued for Vampire next, which the dimly lit queue in the darkness really added to the experience even more than it does in the day. Unfortunately the ride broke for a while when we queued but was well worth it in the end, as the ride at night is superb. The way the ride interacts with the trees as it helix's through the shrubbery, it was absolutely amazing, shame there is only 10 days in the whole season you can really experience this ride at night.
We did Fury after which turned out to be our final ride of the trip, which proved to be just as good at night, the darkness made the ride more fun and disorienting, not to mention the view from the lift was highly impressive [why I don't see that in the day is astounding].
The event as a whole was very good. Absolutely loved the Curse Of The Lost Tomb maze and the night rides, where the park as a whole looks amazing, even more so than Thorpe [except Stealth], as there was different coloured lighting and effects park wide which greatly added to the atmosphere. The park's soundtrack helped set the scene but was a little repetitive in all honesty.
Whilst in some ways this event was better than Thorpes [There I Said It!], like the park's current state, there were a lot of flaws. Firstly ride operations were hit and miss. Some rides were OK such as Scorpion and Falls, but others left little to be desired. Rattlesnake especially which was going very very slowly and took 45 minutes to queue for from the cave, plus Vampire didn't seem to operating as fluently as normal, whether this was because of possible ride issues remains another story.
Aside from Trick Or Treat being disappointing, this years event was described as not being as good as previous years [gutted 2014 never happened], but the overall absence of two fantastic mazes replaced by one that was very good and one that was poor, amongst there being a severe lack of live entertainment and roaming actors, which made Thorpe look like it was flooded with in comparison. The factor that Ramesis once had lasers and did not continue to this year, only added insult to injury. There was even slightly less theming this year too [so I've been told].
If the park had kept Haunting In The Hollows, at least one live stage show and live roaming actors, the event would've been amazing to the degree it's better than Fright Nights. However, unfortunately due to the line up being a little on the small side, I would say Fright Nights at least maze and entertainment wise is better.
Chessington need to get their act together and pick up the disco ball they once held, I've heard some amazing things about their Halloween events in the park and though this years was ok, it didn't seem to quite up to it's previous amazing standard. With much investment, TLC & efforts Chessington could once again become the creme de la creme of UK parks but has since become very stale.
Scarefest is definitely at the top of next years Halloween list.