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Everything posted by JoshC.

  1. I don't have any regrets about changing it. At the same time, in hindsight, I reckon I would have been fine if I had stuck with the original plan, albeit more tired. But yeah, for the sake of my own comfort, definitely a good move.
  2. I finally did it: I finally went to America for some creds. Before my trip at the start of June, I'd only done European parks, so it was hugely exciting. Before getting to it, here's a setting the scene sorta dealy. This trip had been a long time in the works. Early plans can be traced back to March 2021, which was going to be a Cedar Point + others trip. But that fell through. Still wanting to go out to the States for some creds, I looked at other possible ideas. I could do Orlando / California or similar, but not being a big Disney fan, their draws were weak, and I didn't really have a clue where to start with booking that sort of trip. Resorting to the easier-for-me-to-plan road trip, I quickly honed in towards flying to Philadelphia, and then hitting up some of the big parks there. The plan was to fly into Philly, have a day to get accustomed to the country, then do Hersheypark, Kings Dominion, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Six Flags America, Knoebels and Dorney (in one day) and Six Flags Great Adventure. There were some long journey times between the parks, but heyho, I've done long drives and was fine, so I'm sure this'll be fine. The build up to the trip was...hectic. The day after I landed, I was moving flat (for a new job I started last week). My mum is also in the process of moving flat, so I'd been helping her out too. I had finished my temp job only a couple of days before flying out too, which didn't give me much time to generally sort out everything in life. But anyway, I made my way to Heathrow bright and early...and headed to the wrong terminal. My flight was from Terminal 3...I got off the free shuttle bus at Terminal 2. D'oh! Fortunately, it's only a short walk between the terminals, and soon enough I was checked in and in a long security line. Small spoilers: the security queue was one of the longest of the trip! But soon enough, I was on the plane and ready for the 7-8hr flight. Long haul flying was fine for me. Wasn't quite sure how I'd find it, but my American Airlines flight was comfortable, the food was acceptable, and I was able to pass the time by watching Stranger Things 4. Soon enough, I'd landed in Philadelphia. And oh boy, it was hot. Midday local time and it was 35C (oops, I'm in America now, that's....95F). I'm not someone who particularly enjoys the heat (another reason why I was unsure about doing a trip to Orlando). But hey, I'd manage, America has aircon in most places, and I'd adjust soon enough... I collected my hire car no problems. This was actually the first time I'd ever hired a car, and my first time driving on "the other side" of the road. On top of that, it was my first time driving an automatic, and only the third different car I'd ever driven since passing my test 4 years ago. So just a few firsts. I took my time to get used to it before heading off to a nearby-ish Walmart to get some drinks and snacks. This 20 minute drive to Walmart didn't serve me well though. Driving wasn't difficult, but I made the odd little mistake and just didn't feel wholly comfortable whilst driving. I guess that's understandable and to be expected within context, but still, it played on my mind a bit. I carried on to my first motel of the trip and arrived in one piece. Woo, much success. But I still didn't get that comfortable feeling with driving. My excitement and elation for the trip and parks ahead turned to one of worry. "How on earth will I manage all the driving to come feeling like this?". Of course, I was hot, bothered and tired. And then thoughts came flooding into my head..."If I feel like this now, how will I feel after 8 hours outside at a park, then having to do a 1.5-2hr drive?", "How will I manage that for a week straight?", "I'm not sure if I can do this". I'm, err, not the most confident person, and I think this whole thought process shows that. I tried to cast these thoughts to one side and had a spot of dinner from a lovely little restaurant just opposite the motel I was at. But these thoughts played on my mind still. I tried looking at all the drives I had for the next couple of days to try and ease my concerns, but that did little to help me. The first two parks were to be Hersheypark and Kings Dominion, and they weren't a short distance apart. Knoebels and Dorney, parks much closer to Hersheypark, were shut the day after my Hershey trip, so I couldn't change the order to do shorter drives before doing longer drives. In the end, I got inside my head so much that I changed the trip a bit more dramatically. I hadn't booked park tickets due to my lack of organisation. Most of the motels/hotels I booked were free to cancel until 23:59 the day before arrival. So I wasn't going to lose any money. Gone were Kings Dominion, Busch and SFA, the three parks which were a huge drive away. The one motel I couldn't cancel was one which was between Dorney and SFGAd. So the trip changed into: Hersheypark: 2 days Knoebels Free day Dorney SFGAd It made the trip feel less daunting with the driving. It did take out a big chunk of creds, and I was particularly looking forward to Busch / Pantheon. But ultimately, in the moment, I just didn't feel I could do it. In hindsight, it all feels a bit stupid. I'm sure everything would have been fine. I got more used-to and comfortable with driving quick enough. Maybe I should have planned the trip better to build up to longer drives? Maybe I should tried hiring a car on a smaller like (like my recent Hamburg one, where I changed my mind late on about driving too)? Maybe I should have gotten out of my own head / slept on it? Maybe I should have booked everything earlier to force me to do these things? Whatever I should have done, it's done now. And now onto Day 1, which was my first day at Hersheypark... It was June 1st, and again it was hot. The drive from my motel to Hersheypark was about an hour, so I set off in good time. I passed Dutch Wonderland en route - a park which was closed on that day, but I made a note that I could possibly do it on my free day if I wanted. The drive to Hershey wasn't without stress, with my phone losing internet connection just before I was due to go on Route 283, making me very nervous I was going the wrong way. Fortunately, I rolled up at 10ish - huzzah, I was finally at my first American park! I really enjoyed the entrance plaza area: smart and well-presented, with the lovely view of a B&M hyper to boot. Plus, with the shop open, the hour before open flew by. Whilst waiting for the park to open, I realised I hadn't planned out my day at all. I knew roughly what creds the park had, but didn't know the layout of the park or anything. Candymonium was open for season pass holder ERT and right by the entrance, so that was a no-go. Skyrush is bound to be popular, so maybe not there. After a brain wave, I remembered about a particular ride which gets long queues. So whilst the masses made their way to the park's hypers and whatever else, I made a beeline to... Laff Trakk! Yep, my first American coaster was an indoor spinner. It was...okay. There's an attempt with theming and all that, but it just comes across as a bit tacky sadly. And the layout didn't really do it for me. So very much a one and done for me. Carrying on the theme of low-throughput, bog standard coasters, I ticked off the nearby Wild Mouse. It was bog standard. Jesus, I've flown 3500miles for some tacky rubbish I could have gotten at the British seaside...It's time to throw in something better. So it was time for Wildcat. GCI's first coaster - a fact I'd forgotten at the time - does have a decent layout, and is filled with some neat moments. At the same time, it does give off vibes of 'Our first coaster', but you can see what they wanted to do, and how they've refined their coasters with newer models. A decent family-thrill ride for the park. The park had only been open 15 minutes, and I'd ticked off 3 creds. The temperatures were soaring, so now felt like an appropriate time to ride Celsius. Wait, no, I'm in America. Let me try that again. It felt like an appropriate time to ride Fahrenheit. An Intamin multi inversion coaster with a vertical lift and beyond vertical drop - it's either going to be amazing, or bloody dreadful right? It was at this point I learnt to not trust the Hersheypark app too much. The app does give queue times for all the rides, but it said Fahrenheit was only 5 minutes, despite it clearly being more. I hesitated a guess at around 20 minutes, and an update came from soon enough advertising 15 minutes. Ended up taking a nice, round 40 minutes. Ooft. Thank goodness for the misters in the queue line though - they were a godsend! I'll channel my inner MattN now...how was the ride? Well, it wasn't amazing, but it wasn't bloody dreadful. It fell firmly into the "good" category. The layout is surprisingly fun, and the airtime towards the end of the ride took me by surprise. The cobra roll was extremely "vibrate-y", but not in a rough way, which was...odd. I wasn't a fan of the clunky restraints though. So it was definitely good, but this was also something that really needed a reride at some point to determine just how good. It has a pretty colour scheme too I then double-backed on myself to go to the park's duelling woodies: Lightning Racer. I hadn't done them earlier as they opened late, but now seemed like a good time to pick them up. And I have to say, I really enjoyed these. Quick-paced, nice interaction with each other and great coasters in their own right. I wasn't a fan of how it seemed like the Thunder side would win every single time; seems like a bit of a flaw there. Whilst I didn't want to make immediate comparisons, I make it no secret that I love Joris en de Draak at Efteling, so it was hard not to. And to be honest, Lightning Racer definitely feels like an attraction that walked, so Joris could run. Joris sees what Lightning Racer does, learns from its mistakes, and refines what it does well. Hersheypark is filled with "learning GCIs" it seems. Aside #1: I didn't take photos of Wildcat or LR. Clearly I have something against taking bad photos of GCIs. Aside #2: The Lightning (right) side of Lightning Racer was my 250th. Yay. With the creds in that area ticked off, I went a bit more centrally into the park. With stomach grumbling, I decided to pick up a snack. Oooo, finally time to try out some American park food!! A funnel cake standard was nearby, so naturally I gravitated towards there... It was blooming huge! Is this just American portion sizes? Are they meant to be shared? Did I buy a sharing one? I dunno, but I wasn't going to complain. After eating a bit more than expected, I decided another cred might not be best straight away, instead opting for the nearby shooting darkride, Reece's Cupfusion. I like shooters, and I was intrigued by this. I was taken back a bit by the layout going up and down; thought that was a bit quirky. But the best way to describe this (from a European's standpoint) is like a discount/budget Bazyliszek at Legendia. It has screens as well as 2D props (some move, some don't). But it all feels a little bit on the cheap side, and a little bit lazy. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, and I had fun, but really, for a park of Hershey's size and grandeur, I was expecting something a bit better. With that done, it was time for another cred. And I opted for hopeful quality over 'just a +1', and went to Great Bear, the park's B&M invert... Another 40-ish minute wait for this. And I didn't really enjoy waiting for this. Obviously queueing becomes more boring when you're alone, but with no sort of themed music (just generic pop music, which was fine, but meh all the same), and limited views of anything in a painfully dull cattlepen queue, it does drain you a bit. Wasn't helped further by the fact operations were pretty poor, partially due to slow staff, partially due to people being idiots and faffing. Oh well. Anyways, I was on and sat near the back. What followed was a decent, albeit unremarkable, ride. It very much peters out by the end though. Before this trip, I'd ridden 4 B&M inverts: Oz'Iris, Nemesis, Black Mamba and Nemesis Inferno. These are all fantastic examples of the ride type. Great Bear is an example which shows B&M Inverts are good rides, but can also be incredibly paint-by-numbers. "Let's chuck in a big drop, a vertical loop, a zero-g roll, a corkscrew and something else, boom, there's your B&M Invert". That's possibly a little harsh, but really, that's what it is. It doesn't have the location/terrain of Nemesis and Mamba, It doesn't have the scale and 'extra-ness' of Oz'Iris. The layout isn't as polished as Inferno. It just does every part well. It'd be interesting to know what my reaction would be if this was my first B&M Invert. Maybe I'd rate it higher. But for me right now, whilst I enjoyed it and don't have anything overly negative to say about it (ending aside), it just doesn't do it for me. Following the path along, I stumbled across another cred, the comically named Sooperdooperlooper. Obviously the historical nature of the ride shouldn't be ignored, but it very much feels like a ride which was designed to have the loop and nothing else. Literally after the loop, the ride feels like it was designed by RCT's "auto complete" feature, to get the track back to the start in a weird and funky ride. Next up was the big attraction of Hersheypark, the famous Intamin known by Skyrush. Since it had a surprisingly short queue (probably about 2-3 trains' worth of wait, if that), I opted for a front row ride. This turned out to not be the smartest idea, since after 3 cycles, it shut down for a bit. I decided to stick it out for a bit, and 10 or so minutes later, it came back up. And shortly enough, I was on. And WOW. This thing lives up to the hype and is insane. You get lifted / chucked out of your seat every couple of seconds. It's relentless. And yet it remains glass smooth, and even 10 years after opening, hasn't developed an infamous Intamin roughness. Yes, the extreme airtime does kill the thighs - and that does take away from the experience a little bit for me - but that's the point of the ride. Skyrush is clearly a ride designed to try its absolute best to fling you out your seat so you land into the lake, whilst not compromising and things like speed. And it makes a spectacle out of its elements: there's no mini airtime hills that you'd find on a RMC, say. It's loud and proud with what it does. There's no stand out element either, because so many elements are just incredible in their own right. I also liked the mini lapbar release it does whilst on the brake run - much appreciated. Given the lack of queue, I decided to run round for another ride, and got to do a back row ride. Again, bloody insane - moreso with some of the intense airtime moments too. I just about preferred the front, just for the pure thrill of getting the wind in your face, and it being slightly more comfortable. But damn, it's a bloody good ride. The lift hill is comically quick too Hopefully it's clear here that Skyrush is a ride I rate very highly. It's easily a "Top 10%-er", and even a "Top 10-er". For me, it slots nicely into the Top 5 too, slotting above Helix, but below Taron, Taiga and Untamed. Ultimately, the ride comfort is what stops it going above the others, but the craziness of the ride definitely cements its place. From one hyper to another, it was time to ride Sweetsmonium. Wait, no, I keep forgetting I'm in America. Let me try that again. It was time to ride Candymonium. (I'll stop with these terrible jokes now, promise) I'd been keeping an eye on the ride's queue time during the day - despite not really trusting the app - and it had seesawed between 20 minutes and 180 minutes. I decided to risk it on a supposed 20 minute wait. This was my first experience of a "no bags in the queue line" rule, which they were being strict on. Interestingly Skyrush has the same rule, but wasn't being applied. I'm fine with the rule and like the free lockers, but it felt like there weren't enough screens and lockers, and having to wait for a locker was painful. After about a 30 minute wait in the warm tin shed queue, I was on. Given how slow the operations were, I dread to think what it would be like if bags were allowed in the station. I'm understanding to how hard it is to work on rides in hot conditions, but when you have a coaster running 3 trains and you have the 2 out of the station stacking every single time, something ain't quite right sadly. Anyways, I'd managed to bag a back row ride for my first go on Candymonium. And this was my first B&M hyper too. I was quite excited for this. Andddddddddd....it didn't live up expectations. To be honest, all I really remember from this first ride is fixating on the two trims that are on the ride. They are extremely noticeable, and it disappointed me quite a bit. I'll leave my review of Candymonium there for now, but note I will come back to this later! There was now just over an hour left before the park shut. Despite having agreed with myself I'd be back tomorrow, I wanted to try and get all creds done in one day (just to see if my original plan was possible). So I went over towards Storm Runner - arguably the last major cred in the park. It had been closed all day, but I had noticed a couple of test runs. En route to the Intamin accelerator, I found Trailblazer, the park's Arrow Mine Train, looking very shut, and with fencing blocking off the entrance. Well, there's one spite. There were staff stood outside Storm Runner too, that was also shut, and they said it probably wouldn't open today. I didn't press for a reason, but I wonder if it was down to the heat - I know the likes of Stealth and Rita struggle in 30C+ heat, and at 33-35C, maybe it was just too much? To settle that disappoint, I decided instead to ride... Jolly Rancher Remix Previously known as Sidewinder, the park's Vekoma Boomerang received a makeover for this. Because of my immeasurable disappointment about missing out on 2 creds, I didn't take any photos of it on this day. The retheme is nice and vibrant, and the ride gives me 'Speed of Sound at Walibi Holland' vibes: they've taken a Boomerang, added some flashing lights and loud, thumping music. The presentation for it works. The ride itself is an above average Boomerang, which is still a below average ride. I then ticked off the park's kiddie cred, Cocoa Cruiser, and rode the park's old skool woodie, Comet. Really these were just a quick +2 and nothing more to me, though I guess Comet was pretty neat, and also my first taste of a Philadelphia Toboggan Coaster. With a bit of time leftover, I rounded Day 1 off with a couple more laps on Skyrush. Still a breathtaking ride. I possibly could have gotten a couple more goes in, but it broke down again. Intamin, ey? My hastily arranged motel was only a 15 minute drive from the park, close to shops and restaurants, and was reasonably cheap. Huzzah! So Day 1 Hersheypark thoughts: I enjoyed the park. It was busier than I expected, and the heat was a bit much at times. It immediately gets points for the amazing Skyrush, and even though there were some rides which didn't live up to expectations, others beat expectations, so swings and roundabouts. I was certainly looking forward to a second day, getting some rerides on the good creds, and trying some of the non-cred things I missed, all in a more relaxed setting. I have two bugbears about Hersheypark. One is their queue lines: they are all so boring, and the coaster queues don't give you views of the rides. Two is the lack of themed audio. Their newer areas (Chocolate Town and Jolly Rancher Land...not its official name btw) do a good job at creating a cohesive area with some neat audio bits. But really, the atmospheres in and around the stations for the likes of Skyrush, Great Bear, Fahrenheit would all be infinitely better with some loop of special audio. I know it's kinda an American thing, but still. I returned to Hersheypark the next day. It was another hot one, of course, but it was a bit more overcast. I did a strange thing, and arrived at the park even earlier than yesterday though. Why, you ask? Well, to visit Chocolate World of course! Located outside the park, and I guess extending the exterior of their 'Chocolate Town' area, Hershey's Chocolate World is I guess the American answer to Cadbury World (not that I've ever been there, mind!). There's loads of stuff in there to do: a 4D cinema, create your own chocolate experience, plus tram tours and other things. All of that along with a huge sweet shop and a couple of food outlets. Chocolate World opens at 9am (2 hours before the park). I wasn't bothered by the upcharge stuff, but there is a free attraction: Hershey's Chocolate Tour is basically a dark ride, taking you through the process of how the chocolate is made. After seeing the quality of the park's dark ride, it was nice to see how well-polished this is: lots of neat effects and animatronics, and all-in a fab little experience, definitely showcasing the place off well. The queue line serves as a walk through too, giving the history of the company. And at the end of the ride, you get a piece of Hershey's chocolate for free. Resisting the temptation to go round again for the sake of another freebie, I had a look round the shop to kill some time, picked up a Blueberry Muffin KitKat (which, sadly, wasn't all that nice), and then went back outside to get in line before the masses descended to wait for the park to open. Unlike yesterday, there was entertainment outside the gates. Well, I say entertainment, a single member of staff tried rallying some people up to get them excited, and got some kids to play a game. Or something like that, I don't know: he had a microphone, but it wasn't working. Anyways, at 10.45, he got everyone to do a countdown from 10 to 0, at which point.......nothing happened. A couple of staff behind the gates ran around panicking, wondering what was going on. I don't know what on earth was meant to be happening, seems like no one did. But in any case, this countdown to 0 did nothing, and the park opened bang on 11. Noting that the park felt a bit quieter, and not being in a rush to get creds, I decided to head to Candymonium first - maybe it's a morning ride? I got a front row ride and... Damn, that was impressive! Going in knowing a couple of the airtime hills had trims, I didn't fixate on them, and instead was able to just...sit back and enjoy. And it was just great fun: some nice floater airtime, but also some pops of ejector too. It was a class ride, and just really fun from start to finish. I'd've loved to jump straight back on and see what on earth was up with this hot and cold ride, but everyone was making their way over, so I decided to leave it and make my way to something new... Storm Runner was storm running (best pun I have, sorry), so made sense to tick it off before it got a potential long queue. This was a ride I was quite looking forward to, and it kind of lived up to the expectations. It was a nice, fast-paced ride which does what it sets out to do. It's short, but doesn't need to be any longer, as it packs in some cool elements. But at the same time, it doesn't quite hit the 'Wow' moments it should have for such a short, punchy ride. In part, I think it's because coasters have come along quite a bit since this was made, and so there's more modern, quirky elements out there. I can imagine that an RMC-inspired Intamin could make a much more fun Storm Runner today, for example. Also, the restraints are a bit restrictive, and do take away from the experience a bit. I then returned to another Intamin, Fahrenheit, for my much awaited re-ride. It provided a fun ride again, but was perhaps a bit weaker than my original ride. So it cemented it as a "good, but not great" ride for me, and probably not something I'd bother with again for the day. The "theme" (if you can call it that?) of Fahrenheit confused me. I get the idea of it being a 97 degree drop and using it as a temperature and angle (that's clever), but I thought the idea was it was also a 'blazing hot' ride? So why would the temperature be falling? And why am I overthinking this so much? Moving away from coasters, I went to something new and different: Mix'd Flavoured by Jolly Rancher, to give it its full name (sigh) forms part of the new Jolly Rancher Land, and is a Zamperla NebulaZ - one of these new rides which seem to slowly be becoming all the range. They're pretty neat to look at, and though I don't like spinning, I thought it looked tame enough to give it a go. Ultimately, it wasn't awful, but by the end of the cycle, I did feel queasy. The good thing is, though, is as much of a spectator ride as this is, it's still pretty fun to go on too! Turning my attention back to coasters, I then went for to take my reride on Great Bear. The big thing that stood out to me was that it had a much shorter queue, and I now realised how much quieter the park was compared to yesterday. Maybe not having to wait 40-ish minutes for the ride in blistering heat would make me more fond of the ride? Nope, not really. In fact, it just cemented my thoughts, and meant it was another ride I could tick off as "Don't need to ride again". I decided to get a snacky-American-sized lunch: The bucket of pulled pork chips gets my seal of approval Still adjusting to American-sized portions (or just eating sharing portions and not realising it), I opted away from creds for a bit. I ticked off the park's log flume, which was good fun - I particularly liked the calm looking section which was actually on a gentle slope, creating a fun few seconds, and the nice camel hump at the bottom of the drop. I then returned to Reece's Cupfusion, the park's dark ride I decided to try out a feature with the park's app, HPGO, which you can link up with the ride. Basically, it's a free wristband with a QR code. You can use it to load up photos, Fastpass things and all of that. But you can also scan it just before you board Cupfusion, and it then sends your score and on ride photo to the app for free. As you can see, I get very focused on shooters, even if their quality is patchy. Clearly not that good though, ranking 12th of all signed up players of the day, after only a couple of hours of park-opening. That's enough time without creds, so I went to GCI corner of the park to, well, reride the GCIs (ignoring the bog standard Wild Mouse and tacky spinner). A solid duo/trio of woodies there, and I found myself enjoying the Lightning side of Lightning Racer a bit more than yesterday; a good choice for 250 in the end! I even took a terrible photo of Lightning Racer, see! Something I had only learnt the previous day, and that had only truly dawned on me the previous night, is that Hersheypark has a zoo. And whilst it has its own separate ticket, you also get it included for free in your day ticket. So why not have a quick wander through I thought! It's a nice area, not too big, away from the park but not too far away, and a good way to break up the day. Didn't take any photos, but yeah, was nice. Anyways, it was time for creds again. And I surprised myself with how restrained I was in getting back to the one and only... Skyrush! Remember how I said yesterday they weren't enforcing the no-bags-in-queue rule? Well today they were. Eurgh, fine. Don't see the need really; the stupid station design means bags vs no bags is a mute discussion in my mind. Anyways, I got a couple more rides in, including at the back again, and it lived up to my memory from the day prior. Absolutely fantastic experience, and well and truly cemented itself as my #4. Not wanting to completely wreck my thighs one park in though, I left the yellow beast for now to return back to Candymonium, and see what on earth was up with this hot and cold beast. Fortunately it didn't have much of a queue, only 5-10 minutes, and I decided to mimic my ride from the previous day and go for the back row. And you know what? It was fantastic again! It was a ride that was just a ton of fun, and filled with neat airtime moments. Whatever disappointment I had yesterday had dissipated, and I truly liked this sweet ride. I went back round again and bagged another front row ride, which I guess shows my enjoyment of it. So now for my Candymonium review. It's a really fun ride, with lots of neat airtime moments. It's got good pacing with it too, which is great. And what I realised, most importantly, is that whilst it has trims at two different moments, those trims are needed. You still get some good airtime on them, and if they weren't there, you'd be getting airtime more akin to Skyrush's. That wouldn't be a bad thing for the ride really, but it then means you have two rides offering the exact same experience, which you don't want. The trims help differentiate Candymonium from Skyrush, and give the rides separate identities, whilst not taming down Candymonium. Huzzah! My one concern about Candymonium - I really enjoyed my rides where I didn't have to queue, but didn't get the same sense of fulfilment when I did queue. That could also be put down to first ride expectations. So whilst I rate Candymonium, would I be willing to queue for it? Honestly, I don't know. The Kisses fountain is a bit abstract, but I can see what they tried to do. As the photos show, the clouds had become a bit more ominous-looking after my rides on Candymonium. And sure enough, the dreaded "R" word followed....rain. It wasn't unexpected by me: the forecast did predict a short shower. But checking my weather app, it said this shower would last for a good 1-2 hours now. Bugger. Hersheypark close their big outdoor rides in the rain; certainly anything I wanted to re-ride was down. After a quick snack and think, I decided to do what a good chunk of people had done, and ride one of only two indoor rides on park. Not wanting to bother to trek to the other side of the park, I went for another go on Reece's Cupfusion... I got another delightful, free mugshot More importantly though... I claimed the current high score for the day...BOOM! Guy at the exit said he hadn't seen a score above 300k for a while too - whether he said that as a generic customer servicey comment thing, or if he was genuine, I don't know, but yeah. Take that everyone who visited Hersheypark on June 2nd! (I'm not competitive at all......) I had hoped the long wait and doing the ride would mean the rain would pass, but it didn't. It was still going strong. I really wasn't interested in doing Laff Trakk again, so I decided to wander over towards Skyrush, find somewhere undercover, and see what happens. For reference, at this point, it was about half 4, and park closed at 6. So I sat, and I waited. Rain still coming down. I don't mind the rain, but with little to do, I didn't see the point in wandering around too much aimlessly. In hindsight, now would have been a good time to do the zoo, and I could have used my earlier zoo time for rides, but oh well. The rain stopped a little after 5 - woohoo, the clouds have been kind! I didn't know what the rules would be exactly with rides reopening, but I hung back and waited patiently for Skyrush to come back to life. 15 minutes later, still no sign of life. Hmmmm, that's less good. Asked the staff at the entrance whether it would reopen - turns out it wasn't set to reopen for the day. Well bugger. Did it die before the rain? Was it a post-rain thing? No idea. Ah well, back to Candymonium then.... Or not, that was also closed. And there was no committed answer as to whether it would reopen at this point. Other bigger rides were running around the park. But I didn't have much inclination to go on something like Great Bear or Fahrenheit again. The app listed Storm Runner as shut, though I wasn't wholly convinced. Equally though, whilst it would be nice to get a reride on it, I wasn't that fussed in tracking back and giving it a shot. So I decided to call it a day, with only 20 minutes of park time left. So though my visit to Hersheypark finished on a bit of a damp downer, it was still a fantastic couple of days. Skyrush and Candymonium are a great one-two punch for the park, and they have a wide variety of "good" rides too. There's obviously a solid selection of flats too, which I didn't really go on, and an included water park, which isn't my thing. So it's super well rounded too. I hope they continue going for the more 'themed area' approach, even if only lightly, as Chocolate Town and Jolly Rancher Land are wonderful, cohesive pieces. I'd also love to see them get another indoor ride - there's definitely scope and potential for something really cool. Wait no, I'm in Hersheypark. There's definitely scope and potential for something really sweet. Coming soon: Knoebels, filled with nice food...and not-so-nice spites...
  3. The thing is, Europa and Drayton are on completely different levels. Europa is one of the most visited theme parks in Europe. Drayton is probably not in the top 5 most visited parks in the UK. Europa Park and owners Mack have significantly larger funds compared to Drayton and Looping. They simply can't be compared. Europa Park is the exception, not the rule. As much as they should be a model for parks, just because they can do something, doesn't mean every park can.
  4. I don't think the alternate layout would be viable because it would still be entering the same problematic flood zone area that the current Project Exodus is in. And if it was, it wouldn't be a simple change. They would have to create an entire new planning application for the ride, doing new visual and sound checks in the process, etc, which would then be scrutinized in the same way. And since it seemed like the alternate shown was a B&M, it would also depend on if B&M could fulfil the project now as well. All of that would almost definitely mean a delay until at least 2025, assuming there were no other problems (which is not a given!)
  5. So, there's a new document on the planning application, from the Environment Agency. Basically outlines their current objections to the Project Exodus planning application. I'm no expert on these things. However, there's a nice summary on CoasterForce from member Hixee (also not an expert, but helped put it in plain and simple terms). I'm going to copy it here as it's a good read: I'm also going to copy over my additions to this post, from my understandings of things going on. As I understand it, this was bought up previously as a concern. The response from the park (or, more specifically, planning representatives of the park...but just saying "the park" is easier) was that they had a pre-existing agreement that Thorpe can build in these "wrong type" of flood zones, as long as it's done sparingly. The trouble is, this is an opinion from 11 years, and not a hard and fast agreement. To my knowledge, the coaster does - minimally - go into the 'wrong type' of flood zone. However, I have not got access to the detailed maps, this is again just from my understanding of the documents. It could be that the park believe they aren't in the wrong type at all. It is stated that the only way this objection can be resolved is showing the development is not in this wrong type of flood zone. If the park can't do that, then there is grounds is reject the application. HOWEVER, it is down to the council to decide if they uphold that objection and reject it. It is not a guarantee it will be rejected. And if it is not rejected, that is a matter for the council and EA to discuss and deal with, not the park themselves. Equally, as I've said, I believe the coaster does minimally go into this wrong type of flood zone. As such, it could be possible that minor alterations can be made so it doesn't go into this flood zone (be that changes to the support structure, or to the layout itself). This is something I'll touch on a bit more later. I believe the idea here is that the park are leaning on their most recent Mid Term Development Plan (MTDP), which was submitted in 2010, and gave an outline for the park's development strategy between 2010-2016. In (over)-simple terms, they're trying to say "All of the parameters are the same now as they were then, so we have everything submitted, look there". But that might not be enough. This might also relate in part to something discussed previously, about there being concerns about the buildings associated with the development being below the design flood level. The reason for the design being like this is because they are keeping one building, and making all other buildings the same level as that one. As they have not had issues with flooding in that area before, they don't see any resulting issues happening here. This one seems to have come out of the blue (in that this hadn't been bought up before as far as I know). However, I see this objection has concerns about the infilling process. Thorpe did a LOT of infilling in the 00s/early 10s, and that took a lot of work and discussion to get approved, and included a lot of back-and-forth (more than we're seeing now). This development would be the first time they've done it since then, and I expect that the process has changed, etc. This might not be something the park are fully prepared for. I think it's fair to say the original application didn't include enough information, regardless of anything. It's also fair to say that this should be expected, given the required infilling. And I believe the park did plan for this - hence the early submission, and the plan for construction to start this autumn, So I don't think the situation of this back-and-forth is unexpected by the park, or a surprise to them. A rethink of the plans could be on the cards. Maybe a redesign of the support structure, or a slight tweak of the layout. Whilst those things take time and money (and by no means are easy!), they could keep the core of Exodus the same. But then again, a major rethink could still be possible. I don't know how long this process could take. If they do have to rethink / redesign the ride, I guess it means a whole new application has to be submitted. Whilst it would be a formality for many of the parties who have already stated they have no objections, this still takes a lot of time and effort. And at that point, you then have to wonder when the ride could be ready. Exodus might not end up cancelled, but could it end up opening later in 2024? Or in 2025? And how much of a knock on effect would that have to the rest of the park's mid-to-long-term planning, and perhaps even Merlin as a whole?
  6. Two trains on Railblazer sounds like a nightmare; Jersey Devil was running four (and that was 12 seats)! I've heard the original model is too quick for its own good, but it does seem like RMC have learnt lessons. Hadn't heard much of Gold Striker before, but your review has peaked my curiosity of it now!
  7. I think some people overestimate the power of the Looping group. Don't get me wrong, they're a large group with a selection of neat and tidy parks. But if you look at the parks they operate, they're not exactly very big. They don't make large investments, and don't do much. They create parks which are nice and well presented, and do the job. But once they have them at that stage, they just keep them ticking over. Drayton needed some work, sorting out a clear direction and creating some new attractions to fit with that direction. But once they've invested in it for a couple of years, it will become the same as any other Looping Group park: a neat and tidy park which sees minimal investment in new attractions, but is kept to a consistent standard. The park will introduce their big new thing (likely a family coaster) in 2024, along with some more freshen ups / rethemes in the next 2-3 years. Then after that, it will be set. As such, I don't see the Pirates space being used again any time soon.
  8. I understand your fascinating with the ride, and your want for it to return in some way. But your question has already been answered... Rocky Express will not be returning to the Thorpe Park ride line up. It will not open anywhere else. It is time to accept that you will not be able to ride it again.
  9. So it's taken me a while to get round to writing this. But last Thursday I went on Ghost Train and...you know what, it was decent. One of the best rides I've had in years on it. Maybe since...2017??? Short summary of some of the good things: Timed allocations worked well so only a short wait to get on No shutdowns VR worked well A bit more of a scare in finale than just a person coughing (but no demon) But note, looking at this, basically what I'm saying is "Nothing broke and it was a short wait to get on". Which kind of sounds like I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel for good things to say. The thing is, I do like the premise of Ghost Train, and it has a lot of potential, but it doesn't reach it, and it has a lot of problems. Let me now go into a more detailed breakdown... Pre Show This was the usual and seems to do a good job at setting the scene. Feel like the screen needs a good clean though. Pre Show 2 Sigh. This is...a thing. I'm very conflicted by it. It goes on way too long and is way too...cheesy, I guess? The stupid code thing (more on the later) is stupid. The interactions with the group are very hit and miss. BUT. I can see what they've tried to do. The how spiel feels very "Derren Brown". It's the same sort of thing that you would hear from the man himself in one of his shows (either TV or stage). And what it tries to do is pretty cool. The trouble is, it tries to shove together all the different ideas the attraction had / has to make it work. And it really doesn't. Honestly I don't even know what the plot of the ride is any more, with this pre show conflicting pretty much everything else, despite smushing everything into one. I'd be interested to know if Derren had any input into the script here (I very much doubt it). If he did, it shows he's trying to have an influence. If he didn't, it shows that whoever wrote is trying to add the Derren-feel which the attraction needs more of. But it just doesn't work. Hanging Carriage You know the Victorian train carriage? The one which was a huge part of marketing? The one which you step onto, despite it HANGING IN THE MIDDLE OF A HUGE ROOM BY SOME FLIMSY CHAINS. That thing? Yeah, that's a big part of the ride. You wouldn't know it though. There's a blink and you miss it reference in the script in Pre Show 2. But there's no build, no anticipation and, as a result, no reveal about how there's this huge, and really cool, illusion that plays a part in the ride. What a damn shame, Scene 1 The VR and audio worked fine during this scene for me. Was surprised to see that the train had most headsets available too. There was no "buttkicker" effect (when the train shudders when the infected person smashes onto the train). Can't remember if it worked on my ride last year. Scene 2 Well damn, this is bloody awful. You get off the train with the usual panic. Train staff urge you through the tunnels, with the threat of infected staff. I don't know how many actors were in the scene (I think 4?), but 3 of them were train staff, and one was "infected", but all they really do is wave their arms around. I know it's hard to keep up scare acting levels of intensity, and I'm not expecting that per se. But dear me, there's just nothing interesting or exciting here. Nothing really happens. Then you recite the silly code. And that's a really kicker for me. I just don't like the idea. I appreciated the effort of Pre Show 2 for having the Derren-vibe to it. Derren's shows have these sort of spiels, telling you either what to expect and/or telling you the 'moral of the story', if you will. But these spiels, whilst part of the performance, don't interact with the core of the show. This silly code memory/recital bit is likely an attempt at interacting with riders, and trying to mimic the idea of Derren "planting an idea in your mind at the start". But it's just stupid. And I don't like it. Okay, rant over. Scene 3 Again, no tech issues. I've seen a lot of people talk about the scene being cut short. I think I can clear that up a bit. When this new VR was made, the creative team knew of the issues the ride was experiencing, and the dreaded "green smoke" holding sequence. As such, they decided to design a holding sequence which could continue the story, but also cut out at any moment and not effect the story either. Really clever. Now my memory of how this VR plays out is hazy, but I think the way it goes is something like whilst the train is stationery: -People told not to worry, blah blah -Train roof ripped off -Girl on left side of screen gets leg grabbed, bashes head on window -Demon walks through carriage, screams in your face -Girl on right side of screen stands up, wants to get off, gets kidnapped by demon -Remaining people on screen get picked off one by one -When there's only a couple left, SubCore logo appears I believe that holding sequence (which would only be trigged if the train in front is taking too long to load) starts shortly after the demon screams in your face. In the past, it would regularly go into the holding sequence. These days, the ride only operates with 2 out 3 trains, which means that there rarely is a delay in train taking too long to load, meaning that this VR sequence doesn't reach it's holding sequence. As such, people think the VR has been cut. (Disclaimer: I could be wrong here / might have gotten the flow of the VR wrong. But at the very least, I think the scene plays out exactly as it used to, and cuts at the right point) Anyway, that explanation aside, the rest of the scene goes on. The motion base didn't activate to rock the carriage. I'm guessing they've given up the ghost with that. Scene 4 With no photo op, this whole thing is a bit awkward, but I don't think people pay attention to the screens anyway. The actor in there asks if anyone left some sunglasses on the train. How he got them so quickly, whilst people are still entering the "shop" is anyone's guess. And where are these sunglasses, because he's not holding them? But again, people don't seem to notice those details, so oh well. The shop then goes a bit crazy, and out pops an infected actor on the Ouija board, trying to grab you and being a bit crazy. It's a nice effort, but nowhere near as effective as the demon. Speaking of the demon costume, I hear that - in short - it's buggered. Hence why it hasn't made an appearance. I think it's in some way telling that it's been buggered for so long and they haven't repaired or replaced it. It makes a huge difference to the experience and reviews. So have they not replaced because they're not given the funds? Or because they want to prove a point? Or because the attraction is on its last legs? Who knows. On the topic of the demon, it also makes the very concept of the demon pointless. We have this idea of gas infecting people. Then all of a sudden, there's demons. Are these infected turning into demons? Have the demons just been released from drilling too deep? It's always been an unclear problem with the ride's storytelling. But it didn't matter as much in the past, because the infected people would disappear and not be a part of the story once you reboard the train. But now they reappear at the end, with no sight of the demon. Again, it's just this huge inconsistency, and is again indicative of this whole "chucking loads of ideas together and seeing what happens" approach. So that's that. I came off Ghost Train pretty content with my experience, in the sense that everything worked. There were a couple of good reactions from others on the train (mostly at the jump scare bits in the VR) too, which is nice to see I guess. But the whole experience really is a cocktail of things thrown together, with different ideas from the past 7-8 years chucked about, in the hope of making an attraction. And that's a crying shame. I think what Thorpe tried to do is admirable, and as I say, there's the ingredients of a good experience there. But really, it's beyond saving. It's time for Thorpe/Merlin to hold up their hands, say "We tried, but it didn't work", and replace it. But that's surely an expensive proposition....
  10. Mardi Gras started today, and of course TPM were there! We have a write up here: https://thorpeparkmania.co.uk/news/19-05-2022/Mardi+Gras+Arrives+at+Thorpe+Park I also want to share my own thoughts, and not just a fansite write up review... In short, this is a fun event, and it's clear that a lot has gone into this. It's clear that there's been a solid vision from management that they wanted to deliver. It's clear that the actors involved in the entertainment have put in a lot of effort. It's clear that the park wanted to offer a solid F&B range. It's clear everyone involved has put time and effort into it. It's clear that money has been spent on it too. All of this sounds like a given for a theme park event, yes. But ask yourself, how many times has it felt in the past that these things haven't been clear for a Thorpe event or thing? Now you realise why it's so good to stress these things. I'll start off with my main positive: the food. I'm a bit of a foodie. The one thing which disappointed me the most with the Oktoberfest events at Thorpe is the food and drink options being, frankly, poor. You could get the cheapest bratwursts going, in a dry bun for an extortionate price. You could get some lebkuchen, again for a heck of a lot, and a choice of one or two authentic German beers. But it all felt very meh with effort. Mardi Gras feels different. They've got a lot of choices there which feel a bit more authentic, and they're at a reasonable theme park cost (ie not cheap for what it is necessarily, but in line with the rest of the park pretty much). Next, the entertainment. I'll start off with the negative: the actors seem to have instructions when interacting with people to be a bit over the top, cringey and cater to younger audiences, or people who are more outgoing. That's fine if that's what they're going for, but not for me. It made me cringe and crease, and is something I would run a mile from usually. But then again, people enjoyed it; not everything has to cater to me. Now the good stuff. The parade they have is fun; a little basic, but it draws attention to the event. I worry how it will cope on busy days since it goes through some of the busiest pathways on park, but what can you do. The main show, the Crowning of the Krewes, is great fun - the right side of cheesey, whilst also not being cringey. It's exactly the sort of thing the park has missed for so long (and much better than what the park were doing with the Thrillmakers imo). There's also some external entertainment (ie not Thorpe actors), in the guise of drum and jazz bands. They're nice and break things up too. I really hope it's a success for the park, because it ticks a lot of the boxes. There's still things they can improve and grow on, and I do wonder how it will cope on busier (or wetter) days. But as things stands, it does feel like Thorpe are onto a winner!
  11. Was this removed at some point then? My memory of Spookslot is hazy, but I definitely don't remember that! 😅
  12. Efteling have shared their first teaser for the Spookslot replacement: It will be called Danse Macabre, which is also the name of the song from Spookslot (and used in the video above), and is set to open in 2024; the same year as the new hotel. That video is the darkest thing I've ever seen out of Efteling, so will be interesting how far they go with the theme and style, whilst remaining family friendly.
  13. I'll replace the link with all the details when I'm not on my phone, but the park's app has updated showing everything we can expect from the Mardi Gras event, which starts Thursday: Full highlights include: -A parade from Depth Charge to the area -A variety of musical acts -Mardi Grad celebration shows -Special food items at the park's restaurants -Two Mardi Gras exclusive food outlets
  14. Blows dust off topic... Walibi Holland are set to get a RMC single rail coaster in 2024: https://www.looopings.nl/weblog/19781/Walibi-Holland-bevestigt-nieuwe-achtbaan-wordt-single-rail-coaster--opening-in-2024.html
  15. Using some form of ERT... Stealth - 20 times Colossus (TP) - 11 times Taron - 11 times Not using ERT, my records are... Swarm - 10 times Taiga - 9 times Colossos (HP) - 8 times Vuoristorata (Linnanmäki) - 7 times I've ridden quite a lot of coasters 5 times in a day, but usually I don't visit parks on quiet enough days to get in loads of rides on a day and get all the creds.
  16. Here's a full set of photos from Chessington Buzz: https://www.facebook.com/203612636346124/posts/pfbid0iZ6uEVxwAqgGoombkgnMKACpbqjs1WamAKpz1HLuwSbs5tymyhh8H3uJkoZjuGJPl/ The base of the ride is exactly the same as it was at Thorpe, for the record.
  17. The Wet Wet Wet site has been transformed into a lifeguard like area for the Beach. I don't envision it being used for a ride any time soon.
  18. Possibly, although the nomination was specifically for "The Crows of Mawkin Meadow", which was the name of the Scare Zone, whereas the roamers were just "The Crows". But equally, yeah, could be lumped together. The awards are decided by a panel of judges, who effectively help run and organised ScareTOUR and ScareCON. They're all obviously huge scare attraction enthusiasts, and they do a huge number of attractions. They're also the ones that choose the nominees. I don't think they've ever detailed exactly how they rank and judge the awards (at the end of the day, they don't need to - they're the ones organising it all!). But I believe they say they take into account the wider audience reaction too as much as possible, but primarily go off their own experiences. I think there's two things to take into account here: 1. A large number (perhaps even all) of the judging panel get to visit these events on press nights / with free tickets. The attractions will do their absolute utmost to show themselves in the best possible light. That's not just for Thorpe, that's for absolutely everyone. So when it comes to the larger events, I do think it's hard to judge, just by the very nature of how these events are. 2. Bluntly put, Thorpe hosted the event this year. Ultimately they'll be making a profit from it one way or another, but it's a heck of a lot of effort to organise it their end. I think that whoever and wherever has hosted ScareCON over the past several years has always ended up with an award or two. That second point isn't to take anything away from the award, or to discredit ScareCON and the awards (and even if it was, it's their award ceremony, so they can do what they like). But I do wonder if there should be a bit of salt pinched in these cases. One thing which stands out to me from going to ScareCON for a few years now is that this is an industry-wide problem. Staffing is a huge issue, and the number of actors in mazes always goes down as the events go on. This is where smaller events actually have an advantage, because they run for a significantly shorter period, so lose less staff, so get greater consistency. But places like Thorpe, Towers, Tulleys, Fear at Avon Valley all get hit very hard and struggle. Obviously that can still be mitigated and managed, and some places do that better than others. But it does lead to the wild inconsistencies that we see, which is highlighted further by the fact that scare attractions are so difficult to make consistent in the first place. Year-on-year consistency is the big thing for Thorpe. People speak about the quality of the event in 2011 and 2013 for example. And although the event had problems then, 2016 and 2017 were also good incarnations, and there was a clear upward trend in quality. But that then dropped off in 2018. 2019 introduced the much-loved Creek Freak, but in 2021 it was really struggling. Thorpe have shown they can create good mazes when they want (Big Top, Creek Freak and Trailers all being the best most recent examples), but they've struggled to keep them there / at the high quality. If the park can bring back Creek Freak to its 2019 form, keep Trailers at the level it was at early last year and introduce another big hit maze, plus have on park entertainment, then they'll have a cracking FN this year.
  19. It will not be returning. It will not open anywhere else. It will either all go to the scrapheap, or they might save a bit of it and store it behind the scenes in case they ever want to display it in any form.
  20. Thorpe won three of those awards at this evening's event... Best Theme Park Event Best Set & Design (for Trailers) Best Scare Zone & Roamers (for The Crows of Mawkin Meadow)
  21. I've noticed that the Nemesis Inferno area has been playing the original music recently. A weird decision in many ways, but at the same time, I forgot how much I like it after hearing it again.
  22. JoshC.

    Wicker Man

    So I experienced Wicker Man's pre show for the first time since 2019. And gosh, I really do not like it. Okay, the actual premise is okay. Let's tell a short story about how this mysterious random group are sacrificing guests to a mysterious being and you'll be fed to the flames. And the presentation is nice (the reveal of the Wicker Man head gets a few oohs and ahhs). I think it's a bit unnecessary and could have been done in other ways, but that's not really the point I want to make. Operationally, the pre show is dire. 1. Let's crowd as many people into a small dark space as possible. Get them to squeeze into all the nooks and crannys. 2. Let's stop guests right below the screen so those at the front can't see anything. 3. Let's also stick a fence near the front that people can't see because it's too dark so they walk into it. 4. Let's have a small queue after the pre show that can fit less people than the pre show room. 5. Let's have an automatic door that tries to shut on people queueing after the pre show. 6. Let's play the pre show even when the door hasn't shut and people are still queueing to get batched. It's all just a bloody nightmare. Maybe I'm just being a bit nitpicky, but I really just do not like it.
  23. Had a visit to Towers Tuesday and Wednesday. Some scattered thoughts: -Like Mark says, the Retrosquad's inclusion are effectively serving as replacements for Hex and Enterprise right now, defeating their original purpose. -The Tuesday was a bit busier than I expected, I guess from people who avoided the Bank Holiday Monday. Wednesday was very quiet. -Operationally, coasters were running well. I question the need on a day like Wednesday to run 3 trains on Thirteen, for example, when the team was effectively sending one empty all day. Surely that just ultimately leads to unnecessary wear and tear and more work for the engineering team in the long run? -I will expand on this in the Wicker Man topic, but I truly hate the Wicker Man pre show. -The park were running their 'Festival of Thrills' event still. They have live music / acts around the park, themed in some sense to the corresponding areas. It was fine, but even on the livelier Tuesday, didn't seem to garner much attention. Have to wonder if the money spent on this entertainment could be spent elsewhere more effectively. -All coasters had staff batching you into rows. This is obviously good when things are busy, but on the Wednesday especially, it felt unnecessary. When there's literally no queue, having a member of staff tell you what row to go in, and then batch others into the same row just feels a bit OTT. Maybe this is also a bit of me having gotten used to 'Covid rules' of not being sat next to strangers, but heyho. I also stayed onsite at the Splash Landings Hotel. First time staying there, was nice. However, the resort offerings are pretty...minimal. The park closed at 4pm on Tuesday. So does the water park. The mini golf shut at 5pm. So what's there to do at this resort? Eat dinner, or listen to a singer or two in the hotel bars. Just feels like they could do things so much better. Surely the indoor water park can stay open later, and attract more visitors? Surely they should be something to do at a big resort theme park after 5pm that isn't akin to something you could see at a local bar / fancier pub? All in, I had a nice couple of days with a decent ride count. But it still feels like there's a lot of steps that Towers need to do to get back to the top of their game
  24. https://www.merlinentertainments.biz/newsroom/news-releases/2022/merlin-entertainments-nick-varney-chief-executive-officer-to-retire/ CEO of Merlin, Nick Varney, and CDO Mark Fisher, have announced that they intend to retire over the next 12 months. Nick has been CEO of Merlin since it was formed in 1999, and Mark Fisher might not be a name everyone is familiar with, but he's played a significant role in Merlin as well. Both leaving the company at a similar time could lead to some pretty big changes.
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