Walibi Holland was the only new-for-me park of the trip, and there were two obvious draws for visiting: the new Mack coaster Lost Gravity, and Goliath, the Intamin mega coaster. We seemed to get lucky with our visit, as the park was very quiet, and we didn't queue over 15 minutes for anything if memory serves me correctly. Overall impressions of the park are quite mixed for me; there's some great attractions around the park (and of higher quality to Walibi Belgium's offerings), but there's still a fair amount of trash about that makes it difficult to praise the overall park too much. Anyways...
Xpress: Platform 13
Located by the main entrance to the park, but before the 'containment gates' into the main bulk of the park, this opened up at least 15 minutes before the park opened. And my god, this was a massive gem, probably the biggest surprise of the whole trip. The coaster itself is almost a clone of Rock n Roller Coaster (I haven't done RnRC myself, but that'll not doubt give some indication to the quality of the coaster to those who have done it). But the reason for this standing out so much was because of the atmosphere in the queue line. Themed around a mystery train disappearance, the queue line feels exactly like an abandoned train station, and features plenty of scares, a creepy atmosphere, surprises and excellently themed sets along the way. Dare I say, the queue line is a better scare attraction than many scare mazes that the UK theme parks produce at Halloween!
An unassuming entrance
With surprise opening out of the way, we headed over the Lost Gravity, which opened shortly after the 10am opening. Words cannot really describe this ride. Whoever designed this must have been high on a cocktail of drugs, but they've managed to create a ride which chucks together loads of random, somewhat incoherent, ideas, and makes it work for a fun ride. The queue is weird and features a couple of wtf moments, the theming is odd, the effects make no sense (including the huge flamethrower effect which makes even the staff jump as there's no rhythm to it going off). The ride itself - first drop is fab, airtime hills are fab. The top hat thing is weird. The second half of the ride is really slow and killed by the MCBR, but at the same time, is still alright. I definitely think the outer-left seat is going to give the best ride experience.
All in all, this attraction makes no sense at all, but is still a fun little thing. It's nothing *special*, but definitely a great concept, and hopefully more parks invest in Mack BigDippers in the future...
The top hat looks very square from this perspective...
Escalator theming the queue because...reasons?
The main thing I remember about Goliath is how painfully obvious this was a ride from the Six Flags era. No theming, awful-looking queue, no audio in the surrounding around, unimaginative name, awkward location. That's not to say it was a bad ride, but I guess because I always look for a more overall experience than *just* a coaster, the lack of overall experience will stand out to me. The coaster is pretty fun, offering nice moments of airtime and intensity, and has a decent-ish layout on the whole. We had a ride on it in the hail, which was both painful and awesome in equal measure. We ended up riding this a few times during the day, so I guess that shows how loved it was by the group as a whole, but it's just a shame there wasn't more to go with it!
From here, the park goes a bit downhill. Robin Hood, the park's Vekoma woodie, is alright, and has a bit more airtime than it's sister Werewolf, and is good in its own right, but failed to leave much of a lasting impression on me. Speed of Sound, a Vekoma Boomerang, is one of the better Boomerangs I've done in fairness, but the transition between the cobra roll and vertical loop is rather unpleasant. The soundtrack is annoyingly catchy though. Coaster-wise, we also did kiddie coaster Drako, which wasn't terrible.
The final coaster we did at the park was El Condor, a Vekoma SLC. I heard bad things about it, so wasn't exactly looking forward to it. But dear oh dear, this was dreadful. The OTSR actually squished my ears due to the lack of room they provided. The ride was rough, rattly and in general just uncomfortable and awful. And this was in the front row too! Honestly, I cannot think of a worst (notably) coaster I've done. One can only hope this is on the chopping block for the park (hopefully for their 2019 coaster...)
This is not BaronC. approved.
Outside of the coasters, there's little of note really. Merlin's Magic Castle was a largely forgettable Vekoma madhouse, though did feature a nice bit of misdirection in the main ride show. Their rapids and log flume were fun and featured some quirky signs (though are clearly nothing to write home about as I've forgotten their names, and I'm too lazy to look them up...). And aside from a couple of smaller rides, there's not really much else on park.
I'm probably selling the park a little short here, but time constraints, laziness and a general mediocre reaction to the park isn't really encouraging me to go much further. It's evident that the park's recent investments have been very good for the park though, which is only a positive sign. The lack of indoor rides was something that really stood out to me (especially given the pouring rain!), but hopefully next season's 'thrilling dark ride' will help with that.
One final point - the park's direction. Walibi have made is obvious that they want Walibi Holland to be a thrill park, focusing on teenagers and young adults. They pretty much said as much when they closed down their 4D cinema for next year's apparent new attraction. And, much like Thorpe at the beginning of the decade, they've tailored their marketing and general park atmosphere to that market. From "#HardGaan" ('#GoFast') plastered all across the park and live DJs playing music across the park (with many songs featuring plenty of swears), they know what they think this market wants. Oh, and there's this charming t-shirt, which many staff wear, and is also on sale...
Subtly, not Walibi Holland's strong point.
I'm by no means a prude or anything, but this whole style seems very theme park unfriendly. And it's nowhere near as clever, subtle or humorous as some of the stuff Thorpe did during their fathead phase (the 2011 fireworks event 'Thorpe Park BLOWS IT UP / BLOW S#!T UP' advertising was something which I genuinely found amusing and clever, and still brings a smile to my face thinking about it). Part of me hopes it works for them, as I think turning Walibi Holland into a thrill-focused park would be great, as they have plenty of opportunities (much more so than Belgium and Rhone-Alpes) and a firm foundation already. But at the same time, we've seen plenty of parks try this strategy, before realising alienating families is never a good thing. So who knows.
Anyways, enough rambling. Platform 13, Lost Gravity and Goliath were all fab coasters in their own right, but everything else is a bit drab. Hopefully we can see more fabness in the future.
Next time - Germany, and Phantasialand of awesome-ness...