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Galactica: A Gimmick Lost In Space

It had been almost two years since my previous visit to Alton Towers, due to numerous reasons and terrible planning in 2015 [see my Alton Towerless weekend entry]. Whilst 2016 is set to Thorpe's year on the new ride development front, a new attraction managed to pull me in to the orbit of Alton Towers.

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That new experience was Galactica, the park's former flyer Air, now turned VR coaster for 2016.Would this ret-heme reach new heights or lack atmosphere without Air.

Now I know what some of you are thinking, where is the proof that I actually visited the park recently following my non trip to Disneyland Resort?

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Here it is.

Anyway, back on topic.

The Entrance

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The entrance plaza is definitely alot more striking and eye catching from the old one. The new logo is a nice touch with the ride's name below which gives the attraction a modern and sleek personality. Most of the rocks have been repainted space grey except the one that used be between the old air sign. The Galactica floor paving is also a very attractive feature in the plaza area.

The Music Soundtrack

the ride has also gained a new soundtrack. Created by IMA Score [arguably the B&M of park music], the new theme is very tranquil, airy and ambient whilst entailing a sense of excitment and wonder.

Amongst it's similarities with other IMA work , the music features similarities to a number of film soundtracks & Composers. These include Vangelis, The Matrix, American Beauty and Interstellar. Since most of these are Space/ Sci-Fi related, the music is definitely coherent.

The Queue line/build up

Aside from some improved fences and painted areas, the queue line remains almost identical to when it was Air [which was expected]. However it does look a lot more neat and tidier and builds the ride up more.

The photo opportunity unit is where the old merge point was which involves placing your head in a bowl like thing and automatic photos taken moments later. Once finished, the queue continues where the ride splits in to the two stations like before.

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The ride's stations are considerably different whilst retaining similarities to the original. The main change that both are now fully enclosed [whilst previously being semi-enclosed].

This helps add some atmosphere prior to boarding alongside the new instructional videos through the attraction's fictional computer Eve explaining how to prepare prior to riding.

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One of the things I love and hate are the air gate signs. I love how they say Galactica Gate [a sort of reference/element from one of Air's old features]. However I don't like that there are no numbers on the signs, which feels like a very simple flaw [making boarding harder for guests].

The experience

Once seated a ride host helps you strap on your VR goggles located in boxes/pouches connected to the restraint. The goggles can be adjusted at the back for comfort and element, whilst the focus can also be adjusted for blurriness.

One thing that should be noted is that dispatch times are considerably slower than when it was Air and the gap between putting on the headset and dispatch feels uncomfortably long and under whelming.

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When the VR starts, it literally does start. no introduction, no build up it just begins as if someone's pressed play on a device.

The VR experience starts off well to begin with [bar the sudden jump], where a narration and the ride theme accompany some interesting graphics depicting being in a launch tunnel with lots of working machinery and devices. This is visually impressive to witness and reminds me somewhat of films like The Matrix, Inception and Interstellar to name a few.

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Once you get to the top, a launch sequence begins where you then enter the space travel part of the attraction. Whilst it's interesting to witness on the ride, it's just as exciting off ride with the Portal element [more on that later].

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Unfortunately like the ride's drop, it is here where the VR experience goes downhill.

Whilst the graphics are interesting to witness, a lot happens in the VR, too much. One minute you enter this hot fiery galaxy then the next your in this cold snowy planet less than 20 seconds later. This is before entering at least 2 more different worlds and then suddenly re-entering the portal element. It is here you are told you are safe and back at HQ before the VR ends a bit suddenly. You are then told to remove the goggles before heading back in the station.

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Once back on foot, you follow the exit path where you soon enter the Galactica shop, which occupies 1/3 of Air's former shop.

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Some nice space-esque lighting.

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It may not be on the grand scale of the Derren Brown shop but it's still nicely themed and reminds me a little bit of Space Mountain in a way. There's some fairly decent merch in here too [though the shot glass looked a little tacky].

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One of the other significant changes and additions is the portal. Located at the bottom of the drop, trains fly through this massive thematic element where a number of different light, smoke and mist effects go off in the process. This is a fantastic addition to the ride and gives Galactica that much more interaction and excitement to off riders amongst improving the themed experience as a whole.

The Critical Review

The Good

  • The portal is a stunning piece of theming and has got to be the most exciting feature built at Towers since the Marmaliser.
  • The sound track retains the fantastic quality IMA Score are renowned for
  • The entrance plaza is much more distinctive, striking and eye pleasing prior to when it was Air
  • The station area builds up to the ride much more than Airs used to
  • The pre-show videos fit in remarkably well
  • The new shop is decently themed

The Bad

  • The wait between dispatch and VR kicking in is quite painstaking
  • Dispatch times are much slower to how Airs were
  • The headset can feel a bit uncomftable at times
  • The pace of the VR is off putting, it's too fast and begins and ends too suddenly
  • Headset tries to fall off during ride
  • VR may not be optional now

Conclusion

I have always thought Air has lacked style and personality compared to the other coasters [minus Rita]. It's felt rather bare, empty and a little unfished.

However the retheme to Galactica has definitely given the ride a much stronger image and personality as a stand out ride which feels more like an experience as . As Galactica the ride has gained a fantastic thematic centrepiece, loose storyline of space travelling and holes of it's empty past filled in.

However, it can't be helped that the VR feels like a gimmick just to make the ride's update feel more marketable. Whilst it still has some good points, the flaws including throughput, comfortability and pacing do outweigh the plus points. Unless something gives, I can't see the VR lasting by 2018 time as it causes too much hassle.

The perfect ride would be Galactica's theme/landscaping with Air's original flying concept.

Creeky Rating 6/10

But Lets Face It! Towers isn't about VR

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It's about experiencing this beuaty!

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As she's had a marvelous makeover this year

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And I don't know about you. But at 22 she still runs very fine

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And one the park's turds has been washed in glitter. It was running quite well that day too.

However this alone can't help the fact

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The Uk's best experience is currently closed

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A much needed flat has been sweeped out of the lineup

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Alongside a much less popular one

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Alongside a family staple [even it wasn't a patch on the also closed Loggers]

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Not forgetting the selected shops

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And food outlets that have also closed up for 2016

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And these massive B&Q fences only add insult to injury

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However I can happily cope with this closure, nothing lost here.

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This place is nice though and Nemesis beer? what's not to like

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But this needs to be great whenever it happens. Wood that be possible?

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However with an entrance like this, how much is there not to like

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So Smile always!

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And I'll be back in June

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To hopefully check out this exciting looking experience

One Creeky Criticism

One last thing I will however say, the park does now really lack rides. In an 8 hour day [thanks to ERT], I completed everything except Congo & Mine Train due to queues [and others not wishing to ride]. I even managed to do all coasters except Rita & Smiler at least twice alongside Duel and Skyride.

Considering it's the UK's biggest park, Towers no longer feels like a multiday park. At the moment it's very easy to nail the park in one day [even with a trip through the gardens].

Lets hope the park can get off it's knees and return to greatness now.



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About the completing everything in one day. That's not just down to a few closures, when I went even if all those closed rides open we could have easily done the park in a day. It's because the park is dead.There are virtually no queues majority of most days. And yet, they can still run their coasters on a better capacity than other parks do on actual busy days. Crazy.

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I second what Adam said. The park spreads so far its not the queues, it's the distance between rides that account for not being able to do rides, which is why it's important that if you want to do everything here you don't go back on yourself. I really hope SW8 is more then just a coaster, or not a coaster at all. More then ever Towers is in need of some back up rides, so I'd love to see mutiny bay extended not just with a potential multi million pound ride, but also the introduction of more flats (even though, it seem,s its the only area of the park left with multiple flats)

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I agree with Heather-Rose on this one. The park does need some more supporting rides, especially since the park is gradually losing flats and only has 4 at a push remaining [two of which are family rides]. 

 

I also hope SW8 is not just a coaster, but an immersive experience. Including a prominent setting, decent theming, interactive elements and even dark ride sections. The park would definitely benefit from the addition of a new modern dark ride or two, some more older family attractions and a modern flume like Chiapas.

 

Adding on to what Mitchada has said, he is also correct. Following the accident last year, it's safe to say the park's busyness will still be considerably quieter for the time being. Whilst park numbers are slowly trickling back up to normal levels, it may not be until late Summer or even 2017 when we see pre-smiler attendance figures return.

 

I think it's also safe to say Towers is probably still the best UK park, when throughputs [bar Galactica] are all very good. Also added up is the TLC scheme which has made a number of areas look much better [even if some are still a little tired] combined with top coasters and a beutiful setting. 

 

Hearing what poor operations and ride reliability a concerning  number of other UK parks have provided so far probably backs up Towers is most likely still No.1.

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Great report!

It makes me sad knowing Towers is suffering somewhat. More rides are crucial as it feels as of AT only has one thrilling flat ride in Enterprise.

I'm not going to lie, I want SW8 to be a coaster, a really terrific coaster that will get positive global attention. Saying this, I'd still love the ride to be immersive, highly themed, charming and leave you with the sense of wonder once you depart.For me though, on this occasion, it's thrills over theming.

Come on Towers get your magic back!

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