To me, Symbolica was the biggest new European attraction for 2017 for theme parks. It's not exactly a difficult feat to achieve, with little of note actually happening this year. But I found the prospect of Efteling, a park known for creating highly detailed and love dark rides, investing their biggest sum in a ride ever, much more exciting than Port Aventura sticking Ferrari Land at the edge of their park and adding a taller and faster Stealth to their line up.
It's difficult to review a dark ride without giving spoilers, but I'm going to try my best to not spoil anything. Knowing as little about Symbolica will, of course, be advantageous if you come to ride it - though if spoilers are really your thing, just check out Efteling's YouTube...
For some context, the storyline of Symbolica is simple - you're have a feast with the King, but Pardoes, the King's jester, has other ideas and takes you on a behind the scenes tour of the 'Palace of Fantasy'. The pre show sets this story up brilliantly, is easily understood in any language, includes 2 incredible animatronics and a real piece of magic which bought a huge smile to my face.
After the pre show, you make your way down the cellars of the palace towards the station. Symbolica has 3 slightly different routes you can take (themed as 'tours' - Music, Knights and Treasure), and you choose these after the pre show but before you board. After doing all 3, they're all of equal standard, and don't differ THAT much, but each one has its own special little feature.
The ride itself is trackless, with 2 rows of 3. You go around the palace, exploring several different rooms, whilst Pardoes makes an appearance and does some magical stuff. Each scene is very Efteling, in that it's just whimsical, magical and doesn't quite make sense (in a good way!). Most importantly to me though, there are no dead spots and no wasted moments. Each transition between scenes is themed and makes sense. Each scene is themed 360 degrees. Everything flows in its own weird sort of way. This was a huge issue I had with all other Efteling dark rides (and indeed many dark rides in general) - they either have dead spots where nothing happens, other there's some part of the rooms which are unthemed and make no sense with what's going on. Symbolica, in that sense, is perfect to me.
An interesting feature is that the front row has 2 touchscreens. These screens allow the front row to choose their language (it doesn't affect any audio, it's just a message at the start and end of ride), make some of the animatronics do 'things' during the ride, and make your vehicle 'dance' during the finale. It's an interesting idea, but doesn't quite work - I found it more of a distraction during the ride, and it never really added much. Also, it leaves the back row a bit left out - why they couldn't have one screen per row confuses me.
So yeah, in short - Symbolica really is a fab attraction. It's clear to see where the 35 million euro budget went, it looks and feels great, it's interesting and immersive to be in and, most importantly, it is fun. Efteling are onto a winner of an attraction, and definitely worth a trip!