There's a lot going on there. Quite a bit of good. A bit of not good too.
Okay so first, the upcharge mazes. Ultimately to be expected. If you can only go through a maze with the people you visit with, it's going to drastically reduce the throughput. If you have it as a free for all like normal, you're going to be left with ridiculously long queues and people will be unhappy.
There's the second issue of the park needing to make money. The park have missed out on half a season. So they're going to want to play catch up wherever they can. And they haven't extended park opening hours like the rest of the Merlin parks (except for one day). Which suggest they may not be doing as well as the other parks. So using Fright Nights to make extra money is a good idea.
There's also the third point of maybe they should start charging for some mazes. Towers' system works because they charge for mazes - they spend money on the mazes, they charge for them, they get the money they spent on them back from maze tickets plus more, meaning they can invest more next year and still make a profit. It's a nice, neat closed system which doesn't rely on park entrance tickets or Fastrack or whatever. Thorpe just put a pot of money into Fright Nights each year, the number depends on how the entire park performs. A pay per maze structure works much better in a long term sense. And it's something I know Thorpe have considered for a while now.
The issue, though, straight up is the price. £10. That is a heck of a lot for one maze. I've been thinking and thinking, and I can't think of any standard scare maze which has a higher price. I can think of special / extreme / alone maze experiences which are priced higher. But standard experience? No.
(Okay, actually, I lie - I can think of one. Walibi Holland have introduced a new maze to their - severely Covid impacted - line up this year, which is priced at 10€. It's not clear if that's a standard maze experience though, so wait and see there..).
Sure, Thorpe may do something different, but does anyone honestly expect that? I expect not. Especially when their hands are tied with Covid restrictions. It's a very high price which will command very high expectations. And honestly, I don't think it can be met. This is particularly the case for Platform 15, which has been free for 4 years. And even then, Roots of Evil in Blair Witch's space can only do so much and only be so different to the maze that was there for 2 years previously.
The idea of charging for mazes is one I can get behind (though Thorpe should always balance that with at least one free maze imo). But this is way too high, and too much of a change too soon. I can only see that ending with a lot of unhappy guests.
Also, another issue - there's still charges for Standard Merlin Passholders and Thorpe Season Passholders. At peak period, these people have to pay £25 to enter the park, plus pay for mazes. A bit of a kick in the teeth for them, especially when Towers' set up has entrance included for those types of Passholders.
Enough moaning about the charges now...
As for the maze offering. Platform 15 is going in reverse this year. Brave it Backwards if you will... I love the idea in theory, as it means you can have a weak, but potentially unnerving, start with the tunnel, build up through the village, then have the train explosion, then have a chaotic finale with the space they have. Obviously with the space they have they couldn't do that normally due to there being nowhere for a queue to go. Covid seemingly forces their hand here as it means they can control guest flow through the tunnel better.
The issue is, the maze is designed to flow from the train station to Samurai. The village looks great going that way, and boring going the other way (because you're not meant to see the back). The train is facing the wrong way and has less impact. The ending will be very open and weak. These are things which aren't easy changes, or cheap changes, and a quick fix round them isn't going to have much impact. So again, nice idea, but I can't see them executing it well.
Roots of Evil is a nice theme and backstory. As I said earlier, I don't see what they can do with the space to make it feel different to Blair (given that not much work has gone into the area at the moment). But hey, Blair was decent enough the past couple of years, so it'll be okay enough in its own right I'm sure.
The scare zones, however, sound good. I'm not fussed either way about IPs, but this is the first year since 2016 that IPs haven't been the focus, and the first since 2009 where we've had no IP maze. It's also a nice varied thematic line up: vampires, werewolves, hillbillies/chainsaws, clowns/freaks and aliens, plus the roamers (btw, a stretch pushing roaming actors as an experience, but whatever) and the ghosts and dark/creepy theme of the 2 mazes. They're not doing anything particularly original or groundbreaking, but sometimes that's a good way to get the quality right.
Interestingly, Swarm: Invasion isn't said to be a Scare Zone on the website, whilst all the other scare zones explicitly say 'Scare Zone'. So I have reservations there...almost not expecting actors, just set pieces.. But we'll see.
Fearstival Arena looks like it'll be a mini freak show, and will probably reuse some Big Top props. A stage has been set up opposite Ghost Train for Oktoberfest, so they'll probably use that.
Hopefully Lycanthorpe High is another dance show type thing. Make it feel like a competition between the two. Links things together a bit more.
So all in all, some cause for optimism, but also a lot to be weary of. I hope for Thorpe's sake that the price point of the mazes. Some other stray thoughts...
-I like that they're calling it Fright Nights Fearstival. Helps show that it's not a normal Fright Nights.
-I wonder if any of the scare zone themes will develop into fully fledged mazes in the future? Or if any of those themes were meant to be mazes this year?
-It's great to see practically the whole park have something Fright Nights based now. Swarm island, Lost City, Jungle, Amity, Old Town all have something! The quality of those things remains to be seen, but it's a start.
Tulleys Shocktoberfest tickets go on sale 2 weeks today. Personally, I can't see them doing it this year as things stand... with Thorpe/Towers halloween events, they can always tweak things / change the offering/description with the huge back up of the fact you can ride coasters into the night. Fright Nights/Scarefest are just events that happen as part of the year as an addition - people aren't buying tickets for Fright Nights 2020 in 8/12 months in advance, knowing what to expect etc - whereas with Shocktoberfest, obviously the whole event is based on up-close scares, mazes with lots of indoor sections, interaction with actors. I just can't see Tulleys being able to operate in the manner that people are used to and expect, and more to the point, to the level that people who have bought tickets in advance in their pre-sales would expect for parting with their cash well in advance. The most expensive VIP tickets were a touch under £90 each.
There has been radio silence from Tulleys regarding Shocktoberfest on official since March, and there was a comment by the owner Stuart Beare on ScareTour that said "I remain hopeful but I cannot currently see how any scare attraction with actor interaction can be run Covid safe".
Tulleys have to start building mazes to an extent too, and it's a case of once you press the "go" button on that, there's no turning back. Appreciate main infrastructure is there for a fair part of it, but as soon as you start spending out, all it needs is a local lockdown/COVID test positive for an actor/staff and in theory the site would be closed for the forseeable. In short - it's a massive gamble with no fall back option.
Hi guys, just to let everyone know I'm heading to THE ISLAND LIKE NO OTHER on Monday with my mate, we have paid full price of £39 each online to ensure the ongoing financial stability of our beloved MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS ❤️ We have even paid for our CAR PARKING up front too.
Bit gutted that Rush is currently dead, can't lie, but excited for my first Stealth fix of the year - will try not to break it.
Nothing much to add to this discussion really, other than it's been an interesting read!
I can't see the future looking too bright for DBGTROTD and would agree with @JoshC. to be honest... can't see that it will open in 2020 at all. It would take quite some retheme to change it to something else minus VR. It has been, and is going to continue to be, a huge problem for the park.
One thing I will say - and have always said - the show building exterior (generally), the pre-show, and above all else, the Victorian carriage exterior, the tube train interiors, the Underground station and the fake shop (minus the guy in the white t-shirt) are all pretty much world class - and I say that without a sense of irony at all. They've nailed those. It's just such a shame that the rest has always been a bit of a confused mess. Maybe that bodes well for keeping it and rehashing it to something else, I don't know. For it to be removed in it's entirity after the Derren IP expires, or before, would be unheard of - but I don't think it's out of the question. The money pot isn't never ending, and there comes a point where you have to admit defeat, especially with the added complication of coronavirus (and the very valid points about the storyline featuring corona symptoms, plus people probably not wanting doom and gloom when they can finally go to a theme park after all this has passed) - it's going to be morbidly fascinating what happens next.
I still to this day don’t know how I didn’t throw up on XNWO - this was many years before I discovered motion sickness tablets. At least you boffed in the corridor and not on some unsuspecting fellow rider 🤣