It's been a while since I dedicated a whole blog post to a ride review, but this seems like a suitable time to do one.
WARNING: There will spoilers. If you don't know what the ride system is, or want to completely avoid knowing what some of the effects used in the ride are, turn back now.
For those completely unaware, it is a 3D-screen based shooter ride, where you use hand motion to 'fire'. Sitting in rows of four, with your 3D glasses, a lap bar comes down with a motion sensor. In the queue line, a short (and badly presented!) video explains you must swipe your arm forward to fire, keeping it at least 8 inches above the sensor, and to aim high, point your hand / arm higher. Vague, but simple enough I suppose.
The ride passes a variety of screens, some you stop at, some you don't, along with the odd bit of physical theming. There is also some real theming in front of the screens that the animations did interact with which was awesome. There was also a few special effect, include heat blasts, mist, wind and flashing lights (which cleverly disguises the ORP), all matching up with what's happening on screen.
During the first scene, you quickly realise that the fire and aim idea isn't very simple. It is difficult to really know where you ball of energy that you're firing is going to land. So you just have to resort to the 'fire as many times as physically possible' tactic, hoping for the best. Towards the end of the ride, I got the hang of it a bit more, but that is a bit too late in the ride. It's a shame that there isn't a more involved / detailed explanation in the queue line as to how the system works, as it does take a while for most to adjust to it - and judging from the low scores from families, it does seem to be a difficult one for many to grasp.
There is a vague story to the ride, but it's difficult to follow. You start off in training, before having to take down various bad guys, which leads to the big finale of the defeating the Great Devourer; a giant snake. But things happen so quickly that it's easy to get lost. You also battle alongside different ninjas during the ride, all of whom have their own special power. When they appear, you hear them say 'Use *insert their power there*', and I must admit I was confused as to whether I should be making different hand movements or if this was generic talk. However, the ride is very fast-paced, and it doesn't really need a story beyond 'Beat the bad guys', so it works well.
After coming off, I was left surprised. Most shooter rides I'm just keen to find out if I've got the best score, but this left with a big smile on my face, and actually wanting to talk about the ride itself. It was a great ride, and I wanted to talk to others about how the cars moved, about the special effects, about what happened in terms of the story. The score wasn't the forefront of my mind. And the only other shooter to leave me feeling like that was Maus au Chocolat at Phantasialand.
And, I was also keen to do it again, so I could experience the ride again. Not just so I could compete with people again, but so I could experience the fast-paced, crazy middle section, so I could get more interaction with the heat and wind effects. So I could experience the ride again, and not just some game.
After a second time, I did understand things a bit more. The hand motion system was easier to use (though I ended up with a worse score...somehow). The story made more sense (when a different ninja with a different power appears, the shape of the balls you fire changes for example). Things seemed much clearer. And again, I loved the ride, not just the competitive element.
Ninjago really is a great investment for Windsor. It feels very different to the rest of the park (in a good way), has a great throughput (full queue only takes about an hour!), themed uniforms, and offers something for the older end of the target market (and the adults!). It's something that has major re-ride value, and feels like something which would only improve as you ride it more (since things make more sense / are easier to use).