Right, as promised, a full account of my evening yesterday, as well as my ride review. There's a couple of photos here too but, as said, my camera doesn't like the dark (even it it's 'night vision' mode), so the photos I took were pretty darn poor. All I can do is apologise for this.
So, we were told the event would last from 6:30-10:00, so we arrived just before then. We really did not know what to expect from the evening; all we knew is we'd be going on Swarm, as well as the potential to go on some other rides. After arriving and saying hello to our PR correspondent, we realised we were allowed in. It turns out we were meant to have been given an itinerary at this point, but we weren't, but ah well, doesn't matter.
So, after passing through the entrance, we were greeted by a barrier, operated by an army guard (dressed up in full camouflage costume, with a huge gun, as well as several other pieces of army equipment). We approached it, and the barrier opened for us, and we were told to hurry along. Then, another guard comes running towards us, shouting at us to run as quickly as possibly, hurry up and so forth. There was a sense of urgency; something was going wrong it would seem. As we approached the dome, the guard turned around and started shouting at others, and about 4-5 other guards started pointed their guns above our heads; we were under attack it would seem. However, this ordeal of entering Thorpe Park had only just begun...
Another guard waiting by the entrance to the dome screams at us to come with him; every single guard was playing the part perfectly. We got in the dome, thinking we were in safety, only to find spotlights circling around acting as the only light inside. Yet more guards await, screaming, shouting and encouraging us to run through the dome. But, as with all things, it wasn't that simple - several tables were scattered around the dome, with white sheets covering bodies on top of them. I thought that these were mannequins, but in actual fact, most were actors that were badly injured, on the brink of death, begging us that we did not go. The army guards ushered us along through the chaos and led us outside the dome, with yet EVEN MORE army guards giving us commands, shouting at us. We were told to go down the slope to our right, and find the glass doors (ie, the marquee). Half way down the slope, the guard screams 'INCOMING', and we didn't realise the real reason for it until we got near the marquee; the lit up, smoking fire engine by Depth Charge caught our attention, then we saw a huge tank - being operated by army guards - slowly advancing towards us; certainly gave us the encouragement we needed to go into the marquee. A huge well done to all the actors, army guards and victims, who created a brilliant atmosphere which gave the evening a real tingling start. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the guards began to lose the voice after a while.
We sat down, had a couple of drinks and nibbles and waited around (with the waiters and waitresses being given slightly camouflaged clothes to look the part). It was about 20 to 7 by the time we'd got everything sorted out and arrived at the marquee. Had we been given an itinerary, we'd have known ride time wouldn't be starting till 8ish, but instead we just hung around, enjoying the party atmosphere. As more and more guests arrived, more and more army guards came into the marquee. Soon, the great man himself - Lez Cougan - arrived! He just milled around, hung close to the walls and hid behind plants and such. He did a lot of staring and just creepily walked around; not that it attracted much attention really. He even did a little bit of shuffling during a couple of songs, which was quite funny. Unfortunately, not videos of the party atmosphere, but a couple of (bad) photos are below. By about half 7, there was some sort of commotion going on near the entrance to the marquee - guards were shouting, getting a shooting position and the like. It turns out they were evicting Lez Cougan for causing disruption, to which Lez responded with the usual spiel with giving warnings, aliens are here, etc.
The party atmosphere sort of just continued for a bit longer, until the music stopped... Sirens started wailing and the lights went down. The audio loop that played at the end of Blow It Up that advertised Swarm played, and then army guards started shouting and screaming for people to come into their groups (it turned out that we were meant to be told out group number when we got out itinerary, but as we didn't, we just joined the closest one, with no big issue). Lights had dimly relit, and the groups were together. We were to be escorted around by some army guards (who were more there for the theme, as opposed to anything else), as well as a couple of staff and a leader, also a staff member. We were told that our group would be heading for Colossus first, though I think the original plan was to go to Saw first. Other groups went elsewhere, of course. The group sizes weren't big, I think ours was meant to be bigger, as there was only 20 something of us. After Groups 1-3 left, we were commanded to go, and so off we went...
Pictures from inside the marquee:
Me with an army guard. It turned out that this guy was one of the ones in Group 4!
Lez Cougan was watching. Sorry for the appalling quality.
The most 'famous' people we saw were a couple of people from The Only Way is Essex, and someone from Atomic Kitten (I forget who). [email protected]
were there seemingly, but didn't see them at all...Right, this next bit is in no way Swarm related, however, seeinghow it was part of the event designed around Swarm, and this is turning into some weird Trip Report / review mixture, I may as well stick it in if people want to read it. I'll keep it pretty short and sweet:
We travelled from the marquee to Colossus, with a lot of the ordinary ride music being played, but being interrupted by Swarm audio, such as the alien's noise and news reports. At this point, the army guards did break out of role really, and were just generally friendly and chatty. Due to their costumes, they couldn't go on anything, so I guess just being able to have regular conversations and getting paid for it would do them nicely. One of the guards was saying how he'd been asked to do the event at half 4 that afternoon, and living in Camberley, he basically had to leave more or less straight away so he could get ready and learn what was going on. Anyways, we got to Colossus, as it seemed Saw - our original first ride - was having a couple of difficulties. Colossus was actually running pretty well, not at all rough, and a strange way for me to start my Thorpe season I guess. After that was said and done, Saw was still down, and Samurai was taken by another group, so we headed to good old Nemesis Inferno. I think more lights have been added to the tunnel, and as per usual, it was running extremely well. One nice ride later, it was announced that we were going to the main event - it was time to ride The Swarm...
We got talking to our group leader, who was an absolutely great guy. He was talking about Swarm in general, saying how he'd already ridden it once when they were recorded for the advert - which is due to air on TV from the 18th by the way - and how he'd gotten front row, but wanted to try the back. He also said something interesting about Sunken Gardens, as apparently it WAS going to be used as a second entrance onto this island, but it was sooner scrapped in the design process to make the entrance to the island more amazing and give it a greater impact. Instead, it will be used as a second entrance to Island A, where the 2015 coaster should go, with the other entrance being from Swarm's island. It does mean that there's 3 years of putting up with congestion on the island, but I think it's worth it.
We arrived at the island, which is just amazing in every sense of the word. The bridge has charred and broken beams around it, and I think there's going to be a sign there, which could well have a themed welcome to the island. You can see the plane, the overturned lorry, the shop, everything. It is truly jaw dropping. Then, of course, there's a huge 127ft lift hill right by you. The area is visually stunning to walk into. As we were crossing the bridge, a (more coincidentally I think) timed bit of acting occurred, with army guards carrying a victim on a stretcher, shouting for people to move to the sides. The victim was screaming in agony, begging for help. We, however, braved on. The area is surrounded with actors, including victims with foil wrapped around them, army guards and Lez Cougan. I don't think that the entrance feature was finished, but to save on walking in the queue line, we entered the queue quite close to the baggage area, probably about 15-20 steps walking. Worth noting, as has been previously mentioned, there is a designated front row queue that you go into. We dropped our bags off, and were diverted into the left queue line (which is actually for the right hand side of the ride; can see that causing confusion) which the staff member eerily saying 'The vicar will see you now...'
After the baggage point, that's pretty much all the queueing done. You may have to wait in the station area for a few minutes, but that's it. If you're on the right, you just walk down, then choose a row, if you're on the left, you go up some stairs, behind an overturned police unit (the control cabin!), downstairs and you're there. As said, we were on the right hand side for out first go and, kindly, our group leader let us have the back row for our first ride; very nice of him! I assume the restraints are exactly like Raptor's; they're very bulky, but also extremely comfortable - the most comfortable I've sat in. One good thing is that you just don't know where to hold onto, which adds to the fear slightly. Another thing I liked about the back row in particular is, with the open roof, you can just see the top of the lift hill (which is probably more coincidental than anything, but still a good touch). As we took our seats, and actor dressed up as a vicar gave a short speech.
Now, the vicar pretty much seems evil. I didn't hear all the speech, only the ending of it really. He was saying about his following and how people are being 'converted' by The Swarm, I believe, as well as going on about others not surviving. He wished us luck on our ride, again, in an eerie manner. Now, shameless speculation time, I have a feeling that the church's vicar is the 'original' Lez Cougan.. I can see how the story could work - the vicar Lez Cougan becomes brainwashed my the alien race that is The Swarm, and starts a following, with more and more people identifying themselves to be Lez Cougan. Soon, The Swarm launch an attack on the human race, starting at a church located at Thorpe Park, using it as their base, and the vicar as a human communicant. However, some people who have survived the assault, but were not fully 'converted' by The Swarm turn crazy, and warn people that aliens are invaded and so forth, and those are the Lez Cougans were encountered last year. From what I've gathered, that would certainly make sense and be a brilliant back story to the ride. More on the ride's story soon, though...
Now, the actual ride experience. The lift hill goes by much quicker than I expected, zooming you up ever so quickly. Being right at the back, we slowly begun to see the train flip upside down, which was certainly an experience (it actually scared my mum - first time ever she's screamed on a coaster!), and then being whipped upside down yourself is a great feeling; certainly a highlight of the ride for the right hand side. Being at the back, it is quicker than it looks as well. Then, in general, the first drop is very nice, and going under the smoking plane wing is an amazing experience. As a point, if the trim was on, I could not feel it one bit. Then, for what is probably the surprise part of the ride for me, comes that zero-G roll. You really do 'feel' the inversion, crawling through it in a way. However, at the back, you see the train twist through quite elegantly, and then get thrown through the inversion at the top. Certainly is a moment, on either side. The picture point follows this, and it should get some pretty decent expressions.
The incline loop, in honesty, is nothing special, you just go through it, and what you see with it is what you get - nothing disappointing, nothing amazing. That's not a bad thing, mind, as it's a fun experience, but it is just a standard element which is a bit of fun. The turn around the helicopter and the pond is BRILLIANT. There is a nice water skim effect, of course, which works beautifully with the train, and it something that interacts very well. I didn't see it off ride, due to there not be access that far down the ride area, but I can imagine that it is a visually stunning effect. The spinning helicopter blades can come as a little surprise as well to the unsuspecting. The whole turn is very quick and pretty amazing; the other highlight of the right hand side for me. The corkscrew is actually faster than it looks, but again is another inversion that you can really 'feel'.
Now, then final inversion for the right hand side is a bit weak. You don't really come that close to the tower, so that doesn't feel that scary, and it's just a generic 'close, but not too close' feeling. In fairness, going through the supports is a fun experience, and will catch loads of people of guard. Again, I'm not saying that it is bad, it is very fun, but it's just not something you'd shout about (which, of course, not every element has to be). Flying over the queue line and station should be great when they're full though. After the final inversion, speed remains pretty much constant up until the final turn, which is a good thing. As for that final turn, I think loads of people are having a go at it, and will be surprised, as it is a bit of a fun turn really. Doesn't sum the ride up well (being away from all sorts of theming and generally everything), but it's a bit of fun. Hopefully that experience will improve when the adjacent island opens up, as at the the moment, it's a bit weak.
As the ride ended, I was in shock. The ride does indeed go by quickly, but not in a bad way. I was speechless, and there was a sort of overload as to what I had just experienced; the ride is amazing, and there is no way of denying that in my eyes. We returned to the station, and exited. For the night, they were giving away free ORPs, which was great. The timing and quality wasn't perfect, as it's still being sorted out. Nonetheless, the three ORPs we got were pretty well timed, though one was a bit blurry. Pictures of them soon.
As we walked away with our photo, we were 'interviewed', with a mock camera 'recording' me. The interview went more or less like this:
"Have you just survived The Swarm?"
"Yes, I have."
"And what are your views about it."
"Amazing. Simply, incredible."
"So do you believe in aliens?"
"I do now."
"Now? So what made you change you mind?"
*Jaw drops* "So are you now part of Lez Cougan's following?"
"Yes, yes I am."
"And what makes you believe in Lez Cougan?"
"Oh my goodness, thank you so much." *Turns to camera* "So there you have ladies and gentlemen, another follower has joined Lez Cougan. Thank you for watching..." (I didn't hear the rest, it was noisy and they were walking).
Okay, so I played along a bit, but I still found it a very nice touch, and it seems that the actors are being instructed to follow some sort of storyline for the ride, which can only be a good thing. (I know this sort of contradicts my view about Lez Cougan originally being a vicar, but ah well, as I said, it's just a theory). We were told we could sneak on another go if we wanted, but it turned out there was a slight technical glitch with the ride. It was sorted out pretty quickly, and testing and up and running within a few minutes I believe.
However, in line with the group rotation, we went to Samurai (and had the longest, most extreme setting I've ever experienced - never have I started it with a windmill that goes on for about 30 seconds. The ride lasted a good 3-4 minutes! We were meant to go on the now open Saw, which then broke down as we got on it. We were allowed another go on Colossus, which some people in our group passed on, and instead wandered the Colossus shop (where I bought the new paperweight thing with Inferno, Stealth, Saw and Swarm lazered in).
We were given an option of what to do, and most opted to go back to Swarm for the 30 minutes that remained of the evening, with a few heading back to the marquee. Our second go on Swarm saw us on the left hand side, at the front. I won't go into too much detail, as it would end up being pretty much a repeat as the first. However, a few words. Do not underestimate that first drop; it is not a short straw. The way you dip down and turn is very fun. Probably not as intimidating as the right hand side, but certainly still a good way to start the ride. Also, having it extremely close to the plane wing is an amazing experience - you do feel that you could touch it as you get closer and closer to it, though, in a way, it wasn't as close as I expected when I was actually underneath it. After the corkscrew is the water element for the left hand side, which isn't as good as the right hand one if I'm honest, but I guess it may 'feel' better when it's combined with the flaming fire engine effect, which wasn't on during the evening. Also, the highlight of the left hand side is the turn through the tower - it is probably the closest feeling you get on either side; it did surprise me, and I can imagine that most people will get slightly scared by that.. That's pretty much it for my views on the left hand side. Also, front row does give the very exposed feeling that wingriders are known for. However, I prefer the back, as with most coasters. We also got a third go, on the right and side, at the very back; can see that being a favourite for me.
As said, not all effects were working; there was no flaming fire engine, nor the lit up eyes. Hopefully these can make an appearance very soon. There have been rumours about whether or not there was on board audio as well, and there was not any yesterday. HOWEVER, there were would effects during the ride. For example, after the train passed through the plane wing, there was a Swarm-like noise coming from it, which can be heard on and off ride. There was also a similar noise as it passes through the ruined tower. There may well be more.
As for the audio, it was made by Glenn Freemantle (again, not John Murphy, as I previously said - sorry), and the whole music in the area is amazing. I didn't hear the [email protected]
soundtrack played once, so people should stop panicking about that. It's probably also worth pointing out that there are TVs in the queue line which play news reports, saying about "large explosions coming from Thorpe Park, a theme park south of London", which make it sound very convincing. I can imagine that there will be a slight story being told during the very long queue, which should be a great thing. I guess it is possible the [email protected]
soundtrack could pop up on the TVs during the queue, but it is doubtful in my eyes.
That's pretty much the ride all explained and reviewed. One final thing is about the 'forcefulness' of the ride. The ride is no G force monster like Nemesis, so if that's what people are expecting, they may as well go to Alton Towers. However, the ride mixes elegance and forcefulness into one, and makes for a brilliant ride. As I've said time and time again, it is amazing - my favourite ride.
Couple of other things; the overturned lorry (originally planned to be a food outlet, now a couple of sideshows) is looking great. The games are labelled as 'Fight back', and are themed to be a weapon testing facility. There's a cat rack game, and one of those ones where you have to shoot out a star using a gun I think. I think it's better than having a food outlet, which would congest the area up dramatically. The new Roast and Relish food outlet looks pretty good, tucked away to avoid congestion. The queue line kiosk, entrance feature and toilets all look amazingly themed, might I add. The shop is an extremely well themed, well disguised shipping container, and it doesn't look like the Saw Store, which is just dumped there - it looks amazing!
Right, I think I've said pretty much everything I wanted to say, though there's probably more. As for the survival kits that people have seen, I unfortunately didn't get one, as they were of limited numbers, and after browsing the Swarm shop, they ran out. However, a couple had been abandoned, and was told I could 'help myself' to them, so I mixed and matched and got everything apart from the 'emergency survival blanket'. The ride, the theming, the audio, the experience to The Swarm is absolutely perfect. I will leave with some pictures the ORPs we got, the ORP casing, the survival kit, as well as a picture of a Swarm bag I got which features the 'Swarm Symbol', followed by my rating:
Inside of ORP case.
Swarm Symbol bag.
Contents of the kit. Sorry for poor quality - you can see the sweets 'Torpedoes', stress grenade and an envelope containing some PR stuff.
First go on Swarm.
Second go on Swarm.
Third go on Swarm.
The Swarm - 10/10