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pluk

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  1. Like
    pluk reacted to Matt Creek for a blog entry, Ten Defunct Attractions I Wished to have  Experienced   
    In a (usually) ever moving world, parks change and update. Whether that be building attractions themed to blockbuster movies, the latest children’s book or original ideas. whilst new attractions rise, old ones will naturally and unfortunately fall. Due to age, redevelopment or reasons unknown. On the ever-growing list, here’s 10 attractions I wished to have experienced.
      1/ Pirate Adventure- Drayton Manor Theme Park Operated 1990-2015 I have quite a soft spot for dark rides, especially those with a Pirate theme. Pirate Adventure was one of several dark rides to open, taking a spin on the “POTC“Format. For example one scene apparently features a goat instead of a dog. It was one of the biggest park attractions at the time.   It closed around 2015 time on the grounds it was getting repairs, however  never reopened. This was eventually confirmed by park management. In 2020 much of the ride’s props and scenery were sold at an auction, putting a final nail to the coffin.
       I was naturally disappointed I never got to experience this, especially considering I first visited in 2016. It was likely amongst one of the most distinctive and characteristic UK  dark rides in it’s time.    2/ Transdemonium- Parc Asterix  2003-2018 It probably wasn’t the best or most technologically Advanced dark ride, but looked among of the most quirky and original ones out there. Opening in 2003 at a cost of 6 million Euros, it was the park’s only dark ride at the time. The ride system was manufactured by UK based  WGH Transportation with scenery completed by Farmer Studios, who worked on attractions such as Terror Tomb at Chessington.    It’s underground queue and mix of medieval and circus theming, helped it’s unique appeal. Including some random yet hilarious effects such as a random train horn and the exit going out through a demon-like creature. It is believed to not be  the best kept Of attractions, with temporary Halloween theming kept up amongst a determination of speed over time.   In 2019 Transdemonium didn’t open and quietly disappeared off the map. It was believed the attraction was closed for renovations and would reopen for Halloween or in 2020. However park management eventually confirmed it’s permanent closure and started gutting the former attraction. The former space  was used for the park’s winter event to house numerous temporary  attractions.   Missing this Dark ride (so narrowly too) seems one that has hit the most and summarises many things that were happening around that time.    3/ Duelling Dragons/Dragon Challenge- Universal Islands Of Adventure  1999-2017 Once an Orlando icon, but quickly falling from grace. I think the original theme and setting looked great, from it’s compelling backstory to amazing queue-line. Sure, they didn’t have the best layouts but their (once) unique duelling element made for something of a special ride.    It’s clear the ride lost it’s elements over the years. The Potter re-theme  resulted In most of the original theming being removed and never properly fitted in. What’s more, an incident meant it could never duel again. With  lessened appeal and another  Potter addition  planned , it was clear the ride’s days were numbered.    In late 2017 Universal would slay the dragons. Both coasters were scraped, making them the first B&M coasters in history to do so  (if you don’t count Hulk’s re-track). I may be a bit of a Cred hunter, but missing on these unique inverts is definitely a disappointment especially considering my hopeful dreams to visit Orlando  oneday!    4/ Knightmare- Camelot Theme Park  2007-2012 (relocated) I never visited Camelot Theme Park, but heard it was an interesting mixed bag of a park. One of the top draws to the place (for it’s latters years at least) was the installation of Knightmare, a relocated Schwarzkopf from Japan. Sure it lacked much of the impressive facade from it’s former home but was still an impressive attraction for the park it was in.    In 2012 the park closed down and a number of attractions were relocated. Knightmare unfortunately wasn’t and despite rumours of buyers, stayed put where nothing happened. At the start of 2020, the rusting coaster was demolished putting to  rest any hope of relocation. It’s such a shame that such a unique coaster ended up like this, let alone one in the U.K. Schwarzkopf coasters are a dying breed.    5/ The Great Movie Ride- Disney’s Hollywood Studios 1989-2017 One of Disney’s many ambitious projects of the eighties was to open a ‘’Movie themed’’ Park. This would not only fulfil original ideas of a Movie pavilion for Epcot but prepare Disney for it’s increase of competition with  Universal opening a year later.    Situated within a replicant building Of the Los Angeles TCL Chinese Theatre, the ride’s content was just as grand as it’s exterior. Featuring a mixture of live acting, set pieces and animatronics. Mary Poppins and The Wizard Of Oz were amongst the films included.    The ride was cut (no pun intended) from the lineup due to the park’s shift and redevelopment, where things shifted away from movie making and more towards entering the world of movies. A Mickey Mouse is  a great fit, however it is still such a shame  a former grand attraction has been removed, especially being a vocal part to the park when originally opening.   6/ Big Bad Wolf- Busch Gardens Williamsburg  1984-2009 It’s such a shame these coasters are  a dying breed now, especially given how fun they can be. The  Big Bad Wolf was definitely amongst the better models, from it’s beautiful scenery, interaction  remarkable drops. Those POVS make the ride out to be Vampire on steroids.    Hearing  such an iconic ride being torn down was naturally saddening, especially at a time when Vampire was the only suspended coaster I’d experienced. Verbolten looks an adequate successor, but it’s greatest weakness being it isn’t the Big Bad Wolf.    7/ Volcano The Blast Coaster- Kings Dominion 1998-2019 I remember seeing this coaster on countless documentaries and was instantly fascinated by this coaster due to it’s uniqueness. It’s volcanic theming and the fact it was the first LIM launched inverted coaster. It seemed quite a signature attraction for the park.   The ride appeared to have numerous reliability issues and  closed around 2018 to never reopen. In 2019 it was demolished, whilst I’ve been able to ride some of featured documentary rides, this wasn’t one of them!   8/ Eagles Fortress- Everland  1992-2009 Another suspended coaster for the list. If you thought I was obsessed with these attractions, you’d be right!    Less is known about this one than others, but it was believed to be highly unique within a stunning location. The ride’s downward hill position certainly enhanced it’s experience. The attraction became SBNO in 2009. Whilst the reasons are unknown, it is likely as a result of age and maintenance. The ride was demolished six years later. A shame for such a unique looking coaster!   9/ Back To The Future Ride- Universal Studios  Orlando  1990-2007 The Back To The Future Ride was probably amongst the most popular and iconic attractions at Universal parks back in the day. I remember hearing about this ride  in primary school, years before I became a proper park enthusiast.    Whilst it would probably look dated now, it’s such a shame this unique attraction was shuttered especially being such a big fan of all the movies. As much of a fan I am of The Simpson’s (which replaced it), it’s replacement looks somewhat inferior and appealing to what was there before. Least the train theming still exists.    10/ The Never Ending Story Rapids- Movie Park Germany (formerly Warner Bros Movie World) 1995-2004 Or Earlier Never Ending Story was one of the biggest fantasy films of the eighties. Although I only watched it for the first time 3/4 years ago, I instantly became obsessed with the movie from it’s unique and provoking themes.    When Movie Park Germany opened in 1996, it was owned by Warner Bros, who own the rights to the movie and built an attraction based on the film series. Comprising a rapids ride and pre-show, the attraction passed through numerous scenes depicting the settings and characters from the movies including the iconic luck dragon Falcon!   At somepoint around 2004, the park was sold and rebranded, resulting in many rides being re-themed. This was one of them, resulting in a similar (yet watered down) theme with the pre-show removed completely. Whilst traces of the original may have remained, the attraction was fully are-themed in 2018, resulting in any final traces heading towards the nothing.    Whilst the  new theme has been done rather well, there is a part of me that is disappointed it never got to ride with the original theme. But like all rides on this list, it shall remain a wonder I never had the experience to try.   Thank you for reading. What defunct  attractions does everyone wish they’d got to experienced? Feel free to comment below.   
  2. Like
    pluk reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, Linnanmäki Trip Report   
    Finland had never exactly been on my radar; it was more somewhere that I thought "it'd be nice to go there one day", as opposed to a "I'll go there in a few years". Then, Taiga happened, and all of a sudden, my interest popped up dramatically. And so Linnanmäki happened this weekend. I looked at trying to combine the trip with other Finnish parks (like Power Park and Särkänniemi), but given how widespread they are, Finland being the 8th most expensive European country, and time being limited, I had to settle for just the one park.
     
    The park was open 1pm-midnight, with it also being the first day of their Halloween event Iik!Week (weirdly, Finnish parks seem to do Halloween events in September, and it was very much a coincidence we ended up going to that too). On a Saturday like this, the park would normally be open 1-10pm, so still very good opening hours. The park is completely free to enter (not even a turnstile in sight), and a wristband for unlimited rides and attractions costs a slightly eye-watering €42. There's options to by 'tickets' for individual rides, priced at the even more eye-watering price of €9, or a 'bundle' of 6 tickets for...€42. Weird system but okay.
     
    Taiga
    I've covered most of my thoughts on Taiga here, but just to sum it up for completeness here too: Taiga is absolutely brilliant. It starts off the day well, and when it warms up, it's a relentless beast. Twists that throw you out of your seat, crazy airtime, ongoing speed. It's stunning. Just sheer brilliance, and POVs don't do the ride justice in any way.
     
    The ride has okay operations, with staff asking every single person as they check bars if their pockets are empty and, if not, making them empty them. A small thing, but annoying.


     
    Vuoristorata
    Finnish for 'Roller Coaster', this is a wooden coaster that's been going since 1951, and is a traditional brakeman wooden, with the brakeman at the back of the train. Also is heavily inspired by Bakken's woodie apparently.
     
    This is genuinely an utter joy. From the hilariously quick lift hill, to the fun drops and double downs and the pace it manages to keep, it's actually really fun. And at the front of the train, you get some VERY strong airtime. Between this and Taiga, it's a wonder I didn't end up with bruised thighs after this trip. We rode it 8 times during the day, which I think speaks volumes about the quality of this.

     
    Kirnu
    The first ever Intamin Zac Spin. Not a phrase that fills you with joy. I wasn't sure how I'd react to this, and ultimately I didn't enjoy it. The spinning is okay until the end, when it does it's only flip but drops you down head first. The rest of the ride is okay, but still not great. I hate to think what longer versions of this are like. In fairness, we did it twice, so it can't have been THAT awful, but it is significantly less pleasant when you board the station in the backwards facing seats. It's sad to think about how there are such contrasting Intamins in such close proximity.
     
    Staff were very insistent on balancing the cars too, which took some time, and we even saw some staff members having to ride it to ensure this balance happened. Those poor souls. 


    Ukko
    Oh dear. This thing. My first Maurer Sky Loop, and this definitely is up there with one of the most awful experiences I've had on any ride. Whoever thought that a vertical lift hill going back on itself and hanging you upside down was a good idea must have been a bloody sadist. We were sat near the front, which meant we had dreadful hangtime, and it was genuinely one of the most uncomfortable experiences I've had, along with the bad restraints of a Maurer too. Then you do an inversion, seesaw and get off, questioning your life choices. 

     
    Tulireki
    The world's only standing Mack E-Motion coaster. What's an E-Motion coaster, I hear you ask? It's basically a coaster where the cars are meant to 'tilt' as you go round corners, thanks to some springs and stuff in the cars. You notice this as you board the cars, as they bounce around a bit. But after that, you hardly notice it at all. Except for the fact that this coaster is uncomfortable, bordering on rough. There's a drop where you literally shunt and jerk back and forth, and I slammed my back pretty hard. Another not pleasant one.
     
    There's a couple of other coasters: Salama, a Maurer spinner that doesn't really spin, Pikajuna, a Mack powered coaster which, though not bad, has a long layout and goes round 3 times, making it boring, and Linnunrata eXtra, a custom Zierer built inside an old water tower. Linnunrata has optional VR goggles: I tried them on my first ride, selecting the horror versions (they had 3 choices). It was okay, nothing special, suffers from the same problems all other VR coaster have I guess, but since you don't have headphones, the atmosphere is hurt due to the lack of sound. Without the VR, there's some pretty cool space theming throughout the ride, and it's much nicer than the VR. Would recommend no VR.

     
    Outside of the coasters, the park has some really decent rides: Kyöpelinvuoren Hotelli, a very well done ghost train with lots of special effects and surprises, Hurjakuru, a rapids ride featuring some scary waterfalls, an ever-flowing sprinkler tower with fire effects, and a generally decent layout and Kingi, a 75m tall gyro drop tower, which gives good views of the park and Helsinki. 


    (their Enterprise and Ferris Wheel align beautifully at night!)
     
    But what about Iik!Week?
    It was impossible to know what to expect from the event; finding information and reviews online was difficult, and they seem to change everything each year. This year, the event included:
    -2 Halloween exclusive mazes, rated 13+
    -1 Halloween exclusive maze, for families/all
    -2 overlays of existing attractions, rated 13+
    -An outdoor attraction, which was basically a walkway, rated 13+
    -A zombie disco outdoor area; with live DJ, bar and actors, rated 18+
    -The area where most of the attractions are transformed into a scare zone, again rated 13+
     
    All attractions started at 4pm, except the Zombie Disco which started at 6pm.
     
    Despite the park being quite small, this did lead to a 'Thorpe effect' where only a section of the park felt like Halloween, and the rest of the park feeling pretty normal. Anyways, onto the attractions (with spoilers)..

     
    Laboratorio (Laboratory)
    Visitors to the park's harshest site are horribly awaited by the victims of failed human experiments who have been locked away at a research facility.
    The first maze we did and the one which was marketed as the scariest; this would set the scene for the event. Before entering the maze, you're given a rope for everyone to hold to keep you together; this seemed to just be an alternative to hands-on-shoulders in keeping the group together.
     
    A pre-show by a military person explains the backstory, and warns us to stick together, don't touch anything because of radiation, and to walk slowly. The maze itself was very well themed - a surprise from a city park where theming is sparse! Each scene is basically a room from the laboratory, where a failed human experiment is behind a window / cage. The actors themselves also looked great - amazing costumes and make up. But they weren't very scary. One experiment came out of their cage and chased us a bit, and another slammed a door. 
     
    After barely a minute of slow walk, a sign pointing you to the exit appears, but then there's a monster for one final scare. The monster costume looked stunning, and must have been over 7ft tall. The actor did a really good job given they must have had limited movement, but they were also equipped with what looked like 3 large hairdryers stuck together as a 'weapon', which felt...odd.  
     
    So yeah, a very short maze with little scares, but with great sets and great costumes and a good number of actors considering.

     
    Zombie Tunnel
    A zombie invasion created by a nuclear fallout haunts amateurs in an old nuclear silo tunnel. Horror lovers have only one way to protect themselves - the green radioactive light source causes the zombies to retreat. Step into the twilight corridor where horror-zombies scare away!
    The other Halloween exclusive maze takes place in a temporary structure in one of the kids lands in the park (with 2-3 kids rides actually closed for the event). 
     
    At the start of the maze, everyone is handed a green lightsaber (like a cheap pound shop one) to guide your way, with their in-story purpose being to scare away the zombies that await. These also serve a second, more obvious purpose though - to help you see. The maze itself only seemed to have one light throughout, and was otherwise very dark, so the lightsaber was essential to help you see.
     
    The maze was again very short, effectively a horseshoe shape. There were quite a lot of actors (again, all with very good make up), but all bar one of them were stuck behind fencing, and all they could do was slam and growl. It was a very jarring experience, as there's no fear there whatsoever (even a girl who was in our group who looked around 13/14 wasn't the least bit scared). And given the theming for the maze was effectively fences and black tarpaulin, there wasn't much too it. 
     
    Again, a short maze with little scares, but a fun concept and a good number of actors. 


     
    Kauhusirkus (Horror Circus)
    Do you dare to step into the Horror Circus of bloodthirsty clowns?
    This is an 'overlay' of the park's other dark ride, Taikasirkus (Magic Circus). The ride was open before 4pm without actors, and we tried it - it was a suspended dark ride that goes through different scenes at a circus, with fun animatronics and such. The gondolas turn/spin slightly at different points throughout the ride too, to showcase different points within each scene. There was no audio, though apparently there usually is, which was odd..
     
    After 4pm, the ride has actors (one in every scene, so about 6). The actors are allowed everyone - in the sets, in front of, behind and underneath the cars! The actors, were, unsurprisingly, clowns. This wasn't particularly scary (certainly a push to make this 13+..), but the actors occasionally hid and did (predictable) jump scares, making it a more fun/scary experience. Real highlight was an actor appearing in front of us, then as our gondola spun around, he decided to lay on the floor, as a fun way of surprising us.
     
    Again, the actors looked really good, and this was well done.
     
    Kammokuja (Abhorrence Alley)
    The dead spirits have been wandering in the corridors of Kammokuja. There is also a large butcher living in the alley ...
    An overlay of the park's 3D walkthrough (which was much like a spookier version of Hocus Pocus Hall at Chessington), which basically just included a couple of actors hidden around corners. It was fun, but the actors seemed very restricted in what they could do. For example, one actor literally just appeared from round a corner holding a tray of tea, said in a creepy voice 'Would you like some tea?', and then waited for us to move on with no further interaction.
     
    The ending featured a large and loud male actor bashing on a wall brandishing a knife. Probably enough to get younger kids out quickly, but again, this felt a bit tame for a 13+ experience.
     
    The outdoor walkway had some clown animatronics, the family friendly maze was just an outdoor labyrinth where the walls were spider webs (no actors) and the scare zone had a couple of sets of actors going round a couple of times.

     
    Zombie Disco
    The reason for this being 18+ was because of the bar; I imagine it makes it easier for serving drinks when you don't have to ID everyone when it's busy. As the park was very quiet, so too was the disco area, which meant it was lacking in atmosphere. However, the actors here did a great job; all interacting with every group personally, spending lots of time with any group there and staying in character very well. It was also nice to see zombies which don't grunt or growl at you, as many theme park mazes resort to.
     
    A shout out to the zombie footballer, who at one point started a kick about with people in the area, then proceeded to do several keepy uppies (whilst remaining in perfect character!), and then carried on as if it was nothing. That was impressive!


     
    So Iik!Week was a weird one. Clearly the park know their stuff when it comes to doing scary things: the costumes, set design (largely) and acting quality (mostly) were all very good in my opinion. Plus their ghost train is scary too. But it seems like they've held themselves back, like they don't want to create attractions which actually scare people, despite having everything there to do so. I really don't believe a park which has the creative levels they've shown wouldn't be able to get over the final hurdle of actually making something scary.
     
    It's a shame, because they've got enough variation to do even one actually scary experience, and then keep the rest more fun. I hope that whatever their reasons, whatever their thought process, they decide to change their mind and do something actually scary in the future. In saying that, I still enjoyed the event, so can't really complain!
     
    And that's that! Without Taiga, Linnanmäki would be one of those 'if you're in the area, visit' or 'if you've ran out of other parks to visit' types of parks. It's fun, but nothing standout enough. But with Taiga, they've got a truly exceptional ride, with enough of a supporting line up to be a really solid park which is well worth the visit!
     
    How busy was it?
    Surprisingly quiet! Thanks to some wet weather (which only lasted for a couple fo hours on and off), the park wasn't very busy, and we didn't queue longer than 15mins for anything. By about 8-9pm, everything was walk on.
    How easy is it to get too?
    The park is about a 30-40min bus ride from Helsinki airport
    Is there anything else nearby?
    Helsinki has a few bits; we did an indoor horror mini golf course, the Helsinki SkyWheel, Helsinki Flying Theatre and Helsinki SeaLife (which is joined onto the park)
    How expensive is it?
    Helsinki isn't cheap, and flying out there is a bit costly. We stayed in a hostel, booking a private room for 3 people which cost about €20pp, which helped reduce costs.

    (and as ever, excuse the horrid photos..!)
  3. Like
    pluk reacted to JoshuaA for a blog entry, Six Flags Great America Review: Have a Six Flags Day!   
    When going to Chicago the nearest park worth giving a sh** about is certainly Six Flags Great America (unless you're willing to drive to Cedar Point).
    They have been rapidly expanding in the past ten years or so with coasters being added left and right, heck Great America have probably got the best deal out of any Six Flags park in the past ten years.
    They received a kiddie woodie (wasn't too fussed on getting that cred), a B&M Wing, a RMC, a freespin, and recently a S&S launch.
     
    This park really gave me Thorpe Park vibes. The park is fairly compact with a lot of the rides being kinda on top of each other.
    Whizzer is right next to Maxx Force and Maxx Force gets quite close to Raging Bull and Raging Bull is next to Demon and Demon goes up right close to X Flight, ect, ect.
    Just like Thorpe a lot of the rides are very packed in to the space and walking around is fairly easy with that in mind.
     
    Goliath:

     
    Goliath is the park's groundup RMC woodie and despite not being anywhere near the level of Steel Vengeance the ride is pretty insane.
    The ride's first drop is certainly the highlight with a very steep angle and the signature ejector RMC's are known for.
    Other than the drop the ride has one more airtime moment before the dive loop which also gives great ejector.
     
    On the inversion front the dive loop is good fun and the zero g stall is orgasmic.
    Sadly the ride is kinda neutered by its shortness but I would still rank it in my top 10 because it still kicks ass.
     
    I think if this thing was longer and had more airtime I would like it more, though Zadra will probably show us what a longer Goliath would ride like anyway.
    Overall my favourite ride in the park but its short length makes it worse than New Texas Giant and Steel Vengeance IMO.
     
    V2:
    I have to admit I really was a fan of Wicked Twister, I really enjoyed the powerful launches and the spikes were brilliant fun.
    Vertical Velocity managed to wow me even more due to one of the spikes actually being just plain straight which gave the ride a brilliant drop if you were in the back!
     
    The ride like Wicked Twister is just a lot of fun and not anything mind-blowing, but V2's tight footprint and fun launches give it a pretty pivotal position in the Great America lineup.
     
     
    The Joker:

     
    S&S Freespins.. A incredibly divisive coaster model that due to the mass cloning seems to be fairly disliked,
    people seem to hate these things and honestly I don't know why.
     
    I loved The Joker, I actually preferred it over a B&M Hyper, don't @ me..
    Why do I like this ride and model? Let me explain.
     
    The Joker is a incredibly unpredictable and re-ridable coaster that always left me wanting to get back in line for.
    Its a short ride but it packs a punch and you never quite know how your cycle is going to treat you, it might be a fairly tame cycle or you might get brutally spun for the duration, you never know.
    I know some people hate this coaster because of this but I liked it, I thought it made the coaster more re-ridable as every ride is vastly different from the other.
     
    When the ride does give you brutal cycles its utter insanity, heck this is the only coaster that me feel flat out scream, you feel so out of control on this thing.
    I think for its footprint The Joker is brilliant for this park and I would love this ride at a park like Thorpe Park.
     
     
     
    Batman: (no pics cos idgaf)
    Batman at Great America is the first of the Batman clones (and the first invert)  and overall its a fun ride.
    I certainly prefer Raptor and Nemesis but its a solid invert with good intensity.
     
    The one thing that made me a little annoyed with this ride was pi** poor operations and stacking which made my Europa Fanboy heart break.
    Despite the Six Flags operations the ride was a solid invert that blows Inferno out of the water.
     
     
    American Eagle:
    American Eagle is the parks huge racing woodie built by Intamin. The ride overall was incredibly fun though it certainly shows its age.
    The ride has some brilliant airtime moments and a brutal turn-around, overall I found the bunny hills toward the end to be a particular highlight.
    The operations on this ride were honestly pretty shocking to be honest though- lengthy stacking, only one side operating for most of the 3 days despite a lengthy queue!
    Sure Gemini only runs one side a lot of the time but Gemini never had a queue and its throughput is still pretty great with just one side.
    The queue with one side operating on American Eagle was literally painful to watch.. 
     
    Overall a great classic woodie though I would like GCI to perhaps re-track some of this ride as it certainly shows its age! 
    I would also like Six Flags to be less like Six Flags.
     
     
    Viper:

     
    Viper.. Despite a unoriginal layout, what a brilliant wooden coaster.
    This ride is just plain fun with great airtime and overall just a complete classic that certainly stills remains a gem in the lineup.
    The ride is rough enough to have character but is smooth enough to be enjoyable, it really is what a wooden coaster should be.
    Unlike other rides in the park Viper had a really good crew running it and the theming was also pretty decent for Six Flags.
    Overall a complete classic that deserves to stay in the park for years to come.
     
    Raging Bull:

     
    I wasn't expecting much going in, what I got was booooorrrrrinnnnnng.
    If you think Silver Star isn't all that great you'll fall asleep on Raging Bull, Silver Star at least has a great second half and is actually interesting!
    Raging Bull is nicknamed by many as 'Raging Dull' and honestly it lives up to the name, the ride is just a bunch of forceless turns with a few airtime moments that give no airtime.
    I actually prefer Titan at Six Flags Over Texas, that ride was kinda boring but the helixes after the mid course made me grey out every time, Raging Bull was literally forceless.
     
    Don't get me wrong this isn't a bad coaster, but its certainly one of the worst if not the worst B&M Hyper.
    I get why it has a twister layout due to space but they could at least could of made this more.. Interesting?
    On the upside the crew on this were hauling with operations, they ran two trains and managed to dispatch trains before the other train even made it to the final breaks! That is pretty amazing for Six Flags! 
     
    Dark Knight:
    Dark Knight is a pretty fun enclosed wild mouse, It certainly doesn't have the most intricate theme, but its fine.
    Nothing less, nothing more. I think having a indoor coaster is good for the park though.
     
    Superman:
    This ride was kind of a tragedy to me. Let me explain.
    Superman is a great B&M flyer that completely blows Air out of the water, easily one of the top rides at the park and something you'll wanna ride a fair amount.
     
    Then you remember this is Six Flags. It takes YEARS for trains to dispatch (like 4 minute+) and this ride team seemed especially unmotivated and miserable.
    What could of been a 10 minute queue was 30 minutes, and the staff seemed about as cheerful as someone at funeral.
     
    Its a shame cos Superman is probably my favourite B&M at the park and maybe even the best B&M of the trip.
    It really sucks that the operations are god awful and so dreary, hopefully the team in other years are nowhere near as bad as this years.
    Sure a bit of stacking would be okay as flying coasters aren't the easiest rides to load but Superman was just stupid with stacking trains on sitting on the brake run for what seems like eternity.
     
    Overall an amazing B&M ruined by really depressing operations. That pretzel loop is sexy though.
     
     
     
    Demon
    Demon was a fun arrow coaster, I probably wouldn't rank it above Corkscrew though due to Corkscrew's really fun airtime hill.
    Unlike Corkscrew, Demon had some cool theming throughout its layout and it interacts with X Flight towards the end which is cool.
    All in all, a fun ride but nothing to shout at.
     
    Whizzer

     
    Whizzer was a fun family coaster but I wouldn't say its anything to scream about.
    Its got a cool lift hill and a fun tree hugging layout, like for a family coaster its cool.
    The operations were truly awful though- stacking was nearly as bad as Superman and it made a 5 minute queue at Europa into a 40 minute queue as staff just stood like statues in the station.
     
    Not the best Schwarzkopf (Shockwave is the sh**), though Whizzer is a fun family coaster.
     
    X Flight
     

     
    X flight as a whole just reminds me of Swarm.
    They both have a similar-ish layout, similar stats, and just overall I would rank them about the same.
    X flight feels a smidge bit longer and the layout doesn't have that awkward turn around like Swarm does so I think I give X Flight a slight lead, though honestly they are about the same in my rankings.
    If you have ridden Swarm you know its a very graceful ride (perhaps a little too graceful) and the ride overall is all about the wing sensation, these wing coasters aren't really built for high forces or crazy elements.
     
    Overall X Flight pretty much rode how I thought it would, its a fine coaster and its something different in the lineup.
     
     

     
     
    Operations:
    After such great operations at Cedar Point and Europa I think Six Flags was a bit of a shock. Cedar Point and Europa are incredibly efficient with operations and Six Flags Great America just weren't.. These ops were probably the second worst I have ever seen at a major park, only behind Portaventura. If you haven't guessed from this review, I value operations quite high when I visit parks so this kinda got on my nerves.
     
     
    Overall: 
    Six Flags Great America overall is a park with a great lineup of coasters (especially now they have Maxx Force) which is certainly a fun time for credit whores.
    I do think when it comes to operations and beauty Great America really is very lacking which means this park is really about the rides and nothing else.
    On the upside the food is pretty decent and Six Flags is pretty reasonably priced, so in terms of cost its a pretty good deal.
     
    I think Great America is a park that you should do at least once if you have the opportunity, I don't think its a park I would visit again unless they added another big coaster but its a good park nevertheless. I'm certainly not itching to go back like Cedar Point but its certainly a good park.
     
    Anyway hope you enjoyed,
    peace.
     
     
     
     

  4. Like
    pluk reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, Ich bin ein Doughnut: Little Big City and Strawberries   
    Last weekend, I visited Berlin and Leipzig for a quick cred run and culture trip. I had originally planned to go to Finland and hit up Linnanmaki this month, but since Taiga opens next month, we opted for something a little different..

    After arriving in Berlin Friday morning, the first port of call was Little Big City. Owned by Merlin, LBC is one of their newer midway brands, and is basically a miniature village which goes through the history of Berlin. This one opened up about 2 years ago, and one opened in Beijing late last year, so it's struggled a bit so far. We had free tickets thanks to a member of the group being a Merlin-worker, and hit the attraction up at 11am.

    We were the only one in the pre show room (which is basically a projection explaining the concept), and there was probably only about 10-15 other people in the attraction whilst we were there. It's not a large attraction, and all the exhibits take place in one large room. However, it is well done: there's lots of interaction points, you can get very close / touch basically all of the models, and it's really informative and relaxed. It handles the more sensitive parts of Berlin's history well too. We spent about 50 minutes in there, but a family / more interested group could easily spend closer to 90 minutes I'd say.

    So yeah, it's a shame this isn't doing better and the brand isn't taken off. It has potential, but feels poorly marketed and in an awkward location. At about 13 euro for entrance, it's perhaps a little steep in price and I probably wouldn't have paid to do it personally, but I reckon for those who are interested in learning a little about a lot of the history, it's perfect.
     



     
    We then made the 45 minute ish drive down to Karls Erlebnis-Dorf Elstal. This came onto my radar last year when they opened up the abc tube coaster K2. For some more context, Karls is a massive strawberry farm brand, and we saw a few strawberry stands in Berlin in our brief time there in the morning. The place itself is a bit weird: it's like a garden centre, mixed with a market, mixed with an adventure playground, mixed with a small theme park in the making. Over the past couple of years they've added more rides and more to the theme park side of things.
     

     
    Entrance to the place is free, and includes a few attractions (mostly adventure playground stuff, like climbing frames, outdoor maze, etc), and the rides are pay per ride (1-4 euros per ride), or unlimited rides for 12 euros, the latter of which we opted for. After a delicious and reasonably-priced lunch, we moved onto the rides.
     

     
    K2 is one of the biggest surprise coasters out there, given it's unassuming location. The ride is themed to potatoes / harvesting potatoes / a crisp factory. The queue line (which is exceptionally long), is beautifully well-themed. It's like walking through a crisp factory, going from the harvesting of potatoes to the prepping of them into crisps. For those who have been to Phantasialand, it's similar in style to Maus au Chocolat's queue line. And it is themed amazingly. This is honestly one of the best themed queues I've ever been through: in the same league as Maus, Flying Dutchman at Efteling, etc. Which in itself is a feat.

    The ride itself is great fun. The cars have a lot of room and only have a seatbelt to lock you in. You go through an indoor pre-lift section which shows the harvesting of potatoes, before climbing up the 80ft lift and going round. There's some nice little pops of floater airtime, and it's just a fun, speedy coaster. It hits a MCBR which kills a lot of speed, before going through a couple of helixes and hitting the brakes. We did it multiple times and it's just as fun every time.

    Another quick thing to add: the throughput. This ride was running 4 cars, on a Friday afternoon when the place was super quiet. It occasionally had a queue, but it was running really well and cars were constantly flying around. Was really great to see!

    The rest of the park is fairly standard fodder. There's a Zierer water carousel thing (like Squid Surfer at Legoland), a water drop thing (the first one I've done: it was terrifying), mini drop tower, tractor ride, etc. All were really well styled and worked really well. And in saying that, we had a really good time. The place is really relaxed and a lot of fun, and has plenty to do, especially factoring in the non-park stuff. The place is usually open 10-8 as well, so it's easy to visit whenever you want. 

    The place clearly has a bright future, financial backing and a long-term place, since they're planning on adding some form of hotel / camping / resort experience in 2021 too. Definitely one to watch!
     

    That's all for now. We drove down to Leipzig (a couple of hours away), ready for a..erm...fun day at Belantis tomorrow...
  5. Like
    pluk reacted to JoshuaA for a blog entry, The Wickerman- The Truth   
    *This blog is getting bumped rip*
     
    So I have to admit that during late 2017/early 2018 I was incredibly cynical and skeptical over Wickerman during its construction.
    the layout to me just looked really mediocre and in a way I just writ off because its layout looked a bit naff to me, I think this was amplified even more due to Wodan being my only experience with GCI and with it being more than double the height and size of Wickerman.
     
    "
    ...
    So last year as a enthusiast I kinda failed.
    I only visited Lego, Chessie, and Thorpe, I just didn't get round to going up north and riding Wickerman or Icon.
    Even worse my only only abroad park was  Portaventura.. Yuck.. Thorpe is better than..
     
    This year though I think I am somewhat going to redeem myself. I'm heading to Europa in May and going to Six Flags GMerica and Cedar Point in June,
    I'm not gonna fail like I did last year.. One trip this year though left me with "would I make it?" and that was Alton Towers.
    After a bunch of last minute plans I finally headed to ride Wickerman, I would finally be able to form a proper opinion on the ride.
     

     
    So after a 3 hour drive I headed into the park for ERT and a early ride on Wickerman.
    I have to say it looks pretty sexy from afar.. 
     
    So I have to admit I wasn't expecting a pre-show, it caught me off guard a little.
    Overall the pre-show was kinda neat, it certainly was well done but I found it was a little dark for a coaster that has a 1.2 restriction, I also felt on repeat rides it got a little old too..
    After exiting the pre-show I was very lucky to be instantly batched to the front row on my first ride, I nearly snogged the guy giving out the rows.
     

     
    So as soon I get off Wickerman I was instantly very impressed- its well paced, fun, full of airtime pops and some fun GCI banks.
    The coaster is a lot better than I was giving it credit for, its really what Alton needed.
     
    The theming around the ride adds to the ride in a fun way (especially in the front row) and the main structure itself looks very cool.
    The coaster I found had a few minor pops of air in the front but had some pretty aggressive ejector pops in the back, if you want a more intense ride I would say the back is your best bet, especially on the first drop!
    The coaster runs very much like Wodan, it has a constant fast pace to it and never seems to slow down, its also decently long too.
     
    The coaster itself was running three trains on my visit (which is great for a merlin park!) but it did stack quite a bit so don't expect Wodan style capacity.
    Overall Wickerman is probably my favorite on park and maybe even my favorite in the UK.
    Its not quite as insane as Wodan but its still a great ride in its own right and is a great ride for those who can't be arsed to go to Europa or Toverland.
     
    Wickerman is proof that Merlin can build good rides, hopefully Merlin decide to add more GCI's in the future.. #Thorpe4GCI
     
    8/10

     
    With that last post, I wasn't wrong.. But Wickerman is brilliant for this country and I'm glad I can get my GCI fix closer to home now.
    3 rides on this beast only hyped me more to ride Wodan again.
     
    Hope you enjoyed the review
  6. Like
    pluk reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, Bear Grylls Adventure - Review   
    Opening autumn last year, The Bear Grylls Adventure already feels like a forgotten Merlin attraction in some sense. No real fanfare when the attraction opened, and still no advertising, it's a weird scenario. Apparently a big advertising push is coming this spring though, so maybe that will help get the word out there a bit more.
     
    What is it?
    This is one of the hardest questions to answer, but I'll try. BGA is split into several different activities, and you can pay to do basically any combination of these:
    -Basecamp. 4 activities in one: Survival maze, Escape room, Archery and Assault course
    -High Ropes Course. Outdoor free roam high ropes course
    -Climbing. Indoor rock climbing on several different types of wall
    -iFly. Indoor skydiving experience
    -Snorkelling. Self explanatory
    -Diving. Dive in a cage surrounding by animals, including sharks
     
    Basecamp is very much the standard go to option, with maybe one or two extra activities added on. To do all activities is an 8-9 hour day.
     
    I ended up doing this today, opting for Basecamp, the High Ropes Course and Climbing. You choose timeslots for the activities, and we went for Basecamp - 11am, High Ropes - 1pm, Climbing - 3pm.
     
    Bear Tags
    Bear Tags are the big piece of tech for BGA. It tells you where you need to be at what time, vibrates when it's nearly time, acts as a check in for each activity, your key to a locker (lockers are free, as you're not allowed anything with you on any activity), etc. It also acts as a ticket for scanning photos to you too. You can put your card details on there and use it to pay for stuff too.
     
    Ours proved to be temperamental during the day, with one dying half way through, sometimes not vibrating at the right time, not scanning, etc. The idea behind them is nice, so hopefully the technology can work out too.
     
    Basecamp
    Basecamp is the hardest thing to describe, as it's a very mish-mashed experience. You share this experience in groups of 16-20, and is advertised to take 90 minutes, as well as a Bear 'ranger' who guides you round the activities.
     
    You start off with a Survival Maze:
    This is basically like what I'm a Celebrity should have been. It's hard to describe it without giving spoilers, but in short it's a 20 minute guided tour through various challenges and activities, based on certain fears and survival elements. As I say, imagine Thorpe's IAC maze, but amped up a level to actually try and test people.
     
    I'm not quite sure how I felt about it in the end. It's hard to tell whether it's "so bad it's good" or "bad". Our guide was very over-the-top cheesey at times, and again, hard to tell if it made it worse or better. So I finished the first element unconvinced. 
     
    Escape Room
    After leaving the maze and having a photo opportunity (not forced, and you get digital copies included with the Basecamp ticket!), we were then guided around the building towards the escape room. 
     
    The escape room is a 7 minute timed challenge, up to 10 people per team (there's two rooms so no waiting around), which simply requires finding one 4 digit code. The ranger guide gives you a clue at the start, and you have to decode messages, radio clues and writing on the wall to crack the code. Neither team in our group managed it, and it's one of the weirdest escape rooms I've done. I don't like the way it presents clues. 
     
    Rather awkwardly, the escape room leads you to an unthemed, essentially staff area, to get back out.
     
    Archery
    Archery is archery - it's what you'd expect! You're given a very thorough briefing and demonstration, and then get to shoot 10 arrows. It's good fun, well presented and though it's always nice to have more arrows, this felt like a good fair number.
     

     
    Assault Course
    Up until now, the Basecamp experience had been linear and we were guided in a group. After Archery, we were told we were free to do the assault course at 'any time', and you get two goes for it. Basecamp is advertised as a 90 minute experience, we were an hour in and the assault course is 25 minutes, most of which is spent warming up and safety talks. With High Ropes booked for 1pm, we decided to have a lunch break, and then do the assault course later.
     
    We did it at about half 2, and honestly, this is full on! Said to be based off a Royal Marine's assault course, you spend a lot of time before stretching, running on the spot, etc (which in itself was pretty tiring). You're part of a large group, but sent round in groups of 2-4. The assault course is fairly standard fodder - balancing, high/low beams, crawling under nets, climbing up nets, and included a jump over a 6ft wall and ascending/descending monkey bars. You can skip any element you can't do (I tried the monkey bars and failed miserably).
     
    Rather nicely, you're given an anklet which acts as a timer, so you can see your time. I managed it in about 2m40s, which was in the top third of everyone in the group. Fairly happy with that, but it left me proper exhausted!
     
    High Ropes Course
    The High Ropes Course takes place outside, in a stand alone structure which - at its highest - is about 60ft tall. To leave the building, you zipline from above the entrance (themed to a helicopter) towards the course - normally the finale of a high ropes course, but still fun nonetheless!
     
    The course has over 30 different features, spread over 4 levels (and the higher you go, the more challenging the features supposedly get). Despite the odd look, the course was very good fun, and extra challenges were had due to the rain and sometimes quite fast wind! Out of curiosity, I asked if they shut it down in windy conditions, and they said they have a limit, but haven't reached it yet. I managed all but one feature, a particularly tricky spinning log which I didn't fancy due to the weather conditions (and my shaky legs at 60ft!).
     
    You can either get down by walking back down, or doing a death drop - essentially just being harnessed up and jumping from the third level in a very mini bungee jump like situation. Again, that proved very fun.
     
    A nice feature of the high ropes course is you can effectively take as long as you want. 90 minutes is the recommended time (including zipline and safety briefings), but there's no one checking the clock on you. I imagine within reason, you can stay up there as long as you like.
     

     
    Climbing
    Climbing came directly after our go in the assault course. Already with achey arms, and me not having good upper body strength, I knew this wouldn't be great for me. 
     
    The session starts off with 20 minutes of bouldering (low level rock climbing), then 40 minutes of climbing up 8m high walls, of varying difficulties and surfaces. You can pick and choose what you attempt. Despite all my best efforts, and help from the instructors, I simply never got the hang of it. Wasn't totally unexpected, but a shame nonetheless. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like maybe there could have been a couple more very basic / entry level walls? Couple of others in our group struggled too, but ah well.
     

     
     
    Food, Retail and Theming
    There's an onsite restaurant which serves hot and cold food, such as pizzas, nachos, sandwiches, etc. Standard Merlin fodder really, but at a reasonable price, with good value meal deals and AP discount still applicable to them! There's also a shop with BGA and standard Bear Grylls merch. Unlike other midway attractions, like Shrek, the prices are very much in line with theme park prices, and you can get AP discount on it all.
     
    The theming is a weird one. All of the activities are well presented, and within the area there's some very nice themed features and elements. There's good ambient music (the iFly area actually plays the old Air theme!!), and thematic lighting, though perhaps a bit too dim. However, the ceiling is not themed at all, and makes it clear you're in a warehouse. Given you look up quite a bit, it is a bit of an illusion breaker, but something that could be easily - and cheaply - remedied by just some cheap cargo netting! Also, as mentioned, the walkway after the escape room is terrible.
     
    Other Thoughts
    The Basecamp idea is weird. It is advertised very linearly on the website, but the activities are spread out through the attraction, making it feel a bit clunky. Given the space has been built from the ground up, I'd have thought they could have designed it so one activity leads directly to one another. 
     
    It seemed fairly lively in there, and according to a member of staff we spoke to, about 200-300 people do the high ropes course over a weekend, and 150-200 do the climbing experience. Those numbers seem quite low, so it'll be interesting to see how it develops, especially once advertising kicks in.
     
    Cost
    Given all the different options available, the cost very much varies. The basecamp experience is £20, which isn't terrible, and add-ons vary and start from £15 (you have to Basecamp I believe). But there's bound to be offers floating around, and they're experimenting with different offers for Annual Passholders (at the moment, Basecamp by itself is £1 for example). So it can be quite an expensive day (all activities together cost £160), but it's not exactly bad for the variety you get. Even better if you get a special offer!
     
    Overall
    Overall, Bear Grylls Adventure is something complete different, and offers something for everyone. If you're a well-trodden high ropes goer / climber / whatever, those specific probably won't offer much for you, but if not, it's a really fun experience to be able to do a variety of different things. Definitely something worth trying out if it does sound up your street!
    (NB: As phones aren't allowed in the activities and the lighting was low-level, I've just stolen photos off the official website)
     
  7. Like
    pluk reacted to Coaster for a blog entry, Phantasialand Review - October 2018   
    The third and final day of the Pleasure Beach Experience European park event took place at Phantasialand, where we were expecting a 30-minute ERT on Black Mamba and lunch included.
     
    Before I review the park itself, can I just say what incredible treatment we had from their corporate/events team.  Having expected the above, we also got a night time ERT on Taron (joining the hotel guests) followed by 2 PBE group rides, early morning rides on Maus au Chocolat and Chiapas (before the park opened) as well as both cycles on Mystery Castle at the end of the day.  In addition, we were given four fast passes each and of course the lunch, it was truly incredible and the park went above and beyond to make sure we had a good day.
     
    Onto the park itself, I was absolutely blown away by the scale and detail of some of the theming, it puts anything in the UK to absolute shame in that respect; from the dark tone of Klugheim to the vibrant areas elsewhere, and queueing for Talocan felt more like watching a show!  The landscaping, theming and audio truly sets this park apart from anywhere else I’ve ever seen in terms of a themed experience park.
     
    The park was incredibly busy on the Saturday however operations were slick meaning we managed to ride most things, unfortunately River Quest was only using one of the two elevators and the queue moved extremely slowly as a result but apart from that, everything else was run very efficiently and queues were always moving.
     
    Saturday Ride count
    Taron x11 (10 during night time ERT)
    Black Mamba x8 (ERT)
    Chiapas x2
    River Quest x1
    Talocan x1
    Winjas Fear x1
    Winjas Force x1
    Raik x1
    Colorado Adventure x1
    Mystery Castle x1
    Maus Au Chocolat x1
    Geister Rikscha x1
     
    TOTAL: 30
     
    Sunday Ride count (non-event day, in park 10:30 – 4pm)
    Taron x1
    Black Mamba x1
    Raik x1
    Winjas Fear x1
    Colorado Adventure x1
    Talocan x1
    Feng Ju Palace x1
    Temple of the Night Hawk x1
    Hollywood Tour x1
    Wurmling Express x1
    Geister Rikscha x1
     
    TOTAL: 11
     
     
    Onto the rides!
     
    Taron
    Taron is truly an incredible coaster in every respect, from the landscaping, theming through to the coaster itself it’s near-perfection.
     

     
    Entering Klugheim the twisted metal track becomes visible through literal mountains of rockwork, with the audio blaring out, it’s just stunning and features such as the waterfall, launch audio and night-time lighting all add to the experience.
     

     

     
    The queue-line starts well but unfortunately goes through to a poorly-decorated cattlepen area, a shame really as all the work building that immersion into the area is lost the moment you enter that.
     
    Queue aside, you enter the station, board the train and the launch audio kicks in… following a short corner you’re launched forcefully into an overbank, followed by an incredible airtime hill (it looks tame but is crazy!) and a sharp turn then snap to the right; following a few more meandering turns, you’re dropped down into the second launch which is INCREDIBLE.
     

     
    The surrounding walls and nearby theming adds to the sensation of speed as you enter the second launch, and the sound is just amazing… following this you’re thrown up (getting splashed slightly by the waterfall if you’re on the left) and into a fantastic second half; it has all the qualities of the first and more, with closer interactions with the theming, sharper transitions and some very forceful turns.  The only criticism I have is the trim brakes on the final airtime hills.
     

     
    Overall, Taron is an absolutely spectacular roller coaster.  I actually like the fact that it isn’t flat-out intense all the way through, with some of the turns offering breathers before you enter the next section.  The theming is incredible for the most part, audio is fantastic and the coaster holds its own and would be amazing even without everything else.  10/10.
     
    Black Mamba
    A very fun B&M invert, again the theming is incredible and some of the near-misses are terrifying, I’d go as far to say it’s the most effective use of near-miss elements I’ve ever seen on a coaster.
     

     
    I really enjoyed not knowing where the layout was going next due to all the theming, and the spiral section at the end adds a lot to the ride IMO.
     

     
    The queue line and station are very atmospheric, with the station area being in near-darkness until the train enters the station.
     
    Very fun coaster.
     
    Chiapas
    A fantastic log flume, I loved the catchy music and it’s clear the ride system is very smart and manages to do a lot very efficiently.
     

     
    Much like everything else the theming/landscaping is just incredible, walking over the bridge with the drop on one side and the splashdown on the other feels quite surreal with all the decoration.
     

     
    River Quest
    River Quest is absolutely insane, having not done much research my reaction upon exiting the elevator and seeing what followed was basically, what the...?!
     
    Good ride, came off drenched, only downside was the capacity issues.
     
    Winjas Fear and Force
    How haven’t I heard about these before?  They look like standard Maurer spinners in a building on first approach, but caught me completely off guard with all the surprises.  Absolutely excellent coasters.
     

     
    Mystery Castle is absolutely amazing IMO, the queue theming is stunning but the ride itself is just so much fun, without ruining too much I’ll just say it’s become my favourite drop tower ride by a country mile.
     

     
    Talocan is a topspin, but with the added thematics it's transformed into a really good experience; with the audio, fire and water, it feels more like watching a show from off ride!
     

     
    Colorado Adventure is decent enough, the pitch-black section was fun and the capacity excellent.
     

     
    Raik is okay, but much more about the theme than the ride experience itself IMO.
     
    Temple of the Nighthawk – how can you do so little in so much time?
     
    May be an unpopular opinion, but I really enjoyed the dark rides Geister Rikscha and Hollywood Tour – definitely in the “so bad, it’s good” category but IMO parks need rides like this to fill a gap, and they were great examples of how dark rides used to be.
     

     
    Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Phantasialand, from the rides themselves, theming and of course the way the park treated us, it has instantly become my number 2 park.
     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Thanks for reading
  8. Like
    pluk reacted to Mark9 for a blog entry, Cedar Point Part 1   
    I'm going to go via the park layout when talking about the rides here, its easier then trying to remember the order (Millennium Force will be the exception).
     

    Ah Cedar Point. Ever since I first got properly into rides in 2003, seeing the Top Thrill Dragster documentary on Ch4 (I think), I've been endeavouring to get out there but things stopped me. But no more.  The first thing that surprised me really was the park layout. The front of the park is absolutely loaded with attractions, Raptor is right on the midway for example and sandwiched in next to it is Valravn. Rougarou and Millennium Force being just a stone throw away. But then Maverick and Steel Vengeance are a good fifteen minutes walk right at the back of the park and in-between that is only really Top Thrill Dragster. People will hate me for this potentially but the park has zero atmosphere. I guess this comes from preferring theme parks to amusement parks, every single ride is just completely silent, the only sound coming from bored Cedar Point staff asking you if you enjoyed your ride or the ride itself. Its bizarre, even Six Flags rides have music around them. But not here. I also think their fastpass system absolutely wrecks the place. Basically, the basic package is around $79 and this is al the high throughput rides like Raptor, Rougarou and Gatekeeper. But if you buy the $99 package you get all the low throughput stuff like Steel Vengance, Maverick, TTD and Force. It's no surprise that Raptor is going around with a 5 minute queue, whilst the lower capacity rides have 30-60 minute queues. It's an oddly unbalanced place.
     
    Anywho..... with that out of the way..
     
    Gatekeeper
     
    With any ride at Cedar Point, there's always an expectation especially as this is one of the most talked about theme parks in the world. With GK, its always come across as a very average ride, some saying the Swarm is better. I don't care if I am an exception to the rule though and I absolutely loved Gatekeeper. I thought it was the perfect wing rider with near misses that actually work, a large sprawling layout that does the wing rider concept justice, no awkward shuffling of the trains through transitions and no effects that are turned off to safe money. It looks gorgeous sweeping over the entrance to the park and never ran less then three trains keeping queues to a minimum. It was a big surprise and even my fiancé liked it (and he hates all wing riders). 

     
    Raptor
     
    This is no exaggeration. Raptor is an absolute beast and one of the most intense inverters out there. It took me a little bit by surprise as I was expecting a tamed down version of Monster at Walygator, but no trims on here, just a pure thrill ride that is not for the faint hearted. My favourite part was the final helix which whips you into the break run. I also loved the loud roar from the ride, it's absolutely ferocious and B&M certainly don't make them like this anymore. It also looks wonderful in its colour scheme.
     

     
    Valravn
     
    This was something of a disappointment for me. To be honest its completely pointless at Cedar Point. Steel Vengence, Maverick and TTD already do pretty much this ride but do far more interesting things. Valravn just feels like a bog standard dive machine but it was always busy and suffered a lot of downtime during my visit. It may (have been) be the tallest, longest dive machine but for my money, Baron1898 and Oblivion are far superior rides and in a park like CP, with many tall rides, Valravn is a bit of a let down.
     

     
    Iron Dragon is next up, this was an ok suspended but it doesn't really seem to do much with its concept. It doesn't really swing much and when it feels like its about to get going, a lift hill appears or a break run. What was nice to see was how busy this ride was. It always had a 15 minute queue. 
     
    Rouragou
    Another orange B&M (seriously, why are the B&M's at the front of the park?), this time the former stand up coaster now floorless coaster Rourgarou. This ride is pretty odd, its former Mantis state making a very abstract floorless coaster. More positives stand in that it always ran three trains so queues were at a minimum and its a very fast ride with another very loud old school B&M roar. What it isn't though is smooth, the trains do tend to knock you about a bit. For my money, Raptor is a far superior ride, I do think Rouragou's first drop is a bit of a guilty pleasure though.
     

     
    Millennium Force

    So this ended up (by careful planning) being my 300th coaster credit. I think it was a rather apt choice. I have a love/hate relationship with Intamin at the best of times and I am glad to see MF really impressed. I like that its a coaster built purely to show off some speed. It's not really an air time ride like most gigas/hypers are, its purely to show off some height at great speed. We only rode on the back row for our rides but I thought it was a fantastic ride. I particularly liked the two tunnels which the ride speeds through.

     
    And onto the final ride of this part.
     
    Top Thrill Dragster
     
    Intamin acceleators are really not my thing. Whilst you get this really impressive launch, the ride rarely ever carries that momentum on for long. Kanonen was probably the best for having an interesting layout and Rita/Desert Racer try their best, the majority are simple letting their impressive speed make up for lacking rides. Top Thrill Dragster is very much one of those rides that impresses with speed but feels completely unmemorable to me. Controversial maybe, but I much prefer a ride like Maverick, Icon or iSpeed which have far more then just an 8 second ride. The launch is fantastic, don't get me wrong but if I'm going to be queuing an hour (plus with rollbacks and breakdowns may I add), then there are much better choices at CP to waste your time waiting for. No point in hitting 420 foot if you only have a second to really appreciate it. I think I may be in the minority for this but its been 15 years since Dragster opened and rollercoasters have moved on from just being record breakers and nothing else.

     
  9. Like
    pluk reacted to Matt Creek for a blog entry, Seeing The Point: Creek goes to the USA Part I   
    America! It’s somewhere I have wanted to go and visit since I can remember. 
      I had always dreamt of visiting here, since seeing it in films, television and more. The style and the culture.    Recently that dream became a reality, thanks to a great opportunity with some great mates. Bringing not only a chance to visit the states but one of it’s most iconic parks Cedar Point.    Now you’ve probably already read Mark9’s informative trips from here, so a different scope should be required. In my reviews I will not only mention of Cedar Point, but my full experience of the States, being my first trip outside of Europe as of 2018.   Day 0/ Sunday- Going West Wise and I parked  up at Gatwick’s long stay before joining the transfer to the terminal. After uniting with Doyle, we were good to go beginning our long descent to America!   After devouring a Spoons brunch, we hopped onboard our first of two flights with Icelandic air, who despite being relatively unknown proved to be better than expected; the engines were loud though. Like very loud!   This would be my first long haul flight (having previously flown 2 HR 40 max  on short haul). I expected a long, boring and tiring flight, but it wasn’t as bad, thanks to some on flight entertainment. Dead pool and Isle Of Dogs were amongst my choices with the odd Fawlty Towers episode.  Three hours later we arrived at Reykjavik Iceland, where we literally changed to our connecting flight  immediately. This plane was even better than the first apart from one of our screens being broken, which was unacceptable.  Another  five and a bit hours later , we finally landed at Cleveland Ohio. This was it, I was finally in America! Not after customs though.    The American custom process is much stricter and complex than the European one ( pre-Brexit at least). You are asked a number of questions upon arrival. Although the staff seemed friendly enough all instructions must be obeyed! This did take longer than first hoped. Another security check took place before we were finally out. A quick bus to our hire car company commenced before we were finally on the way once we chose our vehicle.  It was interesting to note the differences on American roads. From yellow traffic lights and lack of roundabouts. Even the cars were different in many respects. Red indicators? No front number plates? All here in America.  We finally arrived at our hotel for the trip, Cedar Point’s Express Hotel. Although simple  it was clean, tidy and welcoming.  Ride pictures above the beds is such a nice touch!  McDonald’s was our first stateside meal  (conveniently located across the road from the hotel). The burger was certainly more tasty amongst a bigger portion and unlimited refills (a common measure in US eateries).   Day 1/ Monday- The Magnificent Seven-teen Despite the long flight, I managed to wake up bright and early. Then again, I was still running on UK time so, 6am Cleveland time would equate to 11am in London.  Monday would be the first of three full days to visit Cedar Point.    Home of seventeen coasters (eighteen including both of Gemini’s track), the park boasts the second highest coaster count in the world. Least until a few years time when Energylandia will probably top it all.  The park features it’s own road/highway which may be the only major access route to the park. The views of the ride skyline make it what is arguably one of the most beautiful and impressive theme park views around!  They didn’t lie about it being a roller coast.  We parked up and arrived promptly. One of the advantages of staying at Cedar Point property is being allowed to enter for early ride time, one hour before main opening.  After playing the Star Spangled Banner, we made our way to our first attraction of the day, Steel Vengeance (the patriotism there is impressive).  New for 2018, this RMC replaced the ageing Mean Streak coaster, taking it’s layout and making it better.  The hype for this ride was unreal. I know I shouldn’t judge an attraction before riding, but I was unbelievably excited to experience this!  Such a beauty! Watching this ride going around it’s circuit!    So, how was Steel Vengeance you ask? Absolutely Incredible! The ride is impressively tall, fast and packed with airtime (both floater and ejector) and hangtime amongst a lengthy ride duration.    I came off this ride immediately knowing it to be my number one coaster, and that was just from a middle row ride!   Cedar Point may not be specialists  when it comes to turning, but SV definitely had some (if you look hard enough). From it’s styled lighting and story boards. They even feature different dispatch announcements for each train (Chess, Blackjack and Digger).  This was my first RMC, so fingers crossed I haven’t set the bar too high already and don’t appreciate others as a result.    My only criticism is naturally their ‘no phone in queue line’ policy, where phones must be put in a locker prior to riding. They even had undercover staff in the queue looking for anyone who snuck their phone in! There was also a security/police personnel at the entrance in case of abusive guests.    Things aside, Steel Vengeance is an incredible ride and worth tracking out  for alone (amongst Cedar Point’s other amazing rides).  Maverick was the second ride of our trip. This intamin blitz coaster opened  in 2007 replacing the former flume ride. I really like how they have preserved the old  station and reused it as Maverick’s queue even if it is just  your average cattle-pen.    Maverick really surprised me. Whilst I’d heard great things about this coaster, this thing literally wowed me!  From it’s tight intense transitions, landscaping down to it’s hidden launch which was just amazing.  This ride for me narrowly beats Taron due to it’s variety of elements. And turnsurprise launch. There is also a back story to this attraction too.    We had a bite to eat next at this Smokehouse place. We all had spicy sausage, chips and a muffin.  It looked a lot more delicious than this photo suggests,  I like the details on these presumably old posters and signs.  Millennium Force was number three. The hype this coaster gets is absolutely insane, so I was concerned it would be overrated (given it’s mixed reception from enthusiasts).    I queued (ages) with an open mind trying not to think of how much I might like the ride.    Millennium Force surprised me! Often ranked very highly on coaster polls I was greatly satisfied this ride turned out to be just as good (if not better) from what I was expecting.    From it’s 300 ft plus cable lift hill, the ride delivers in plenty ways. There is definitely plenty of force as this coaster flies around it’s circuit. There is also plenty of interaction a lot more airtime than I was expecting too. Who said it was forceless?    I honestly came off shaken, in a good way which is why Millennium Force gets fifth place in my top 10 (speaking in September 2018).    N.B the gap between the 2-7 on my coaster ratings is pretty minuscule.    Having done what are arguably the three biggest (and best) rides at the park it was time for something comparatively smaller, Iron Dragon.  Opening in 1987, this Arrow suspended coaster is one of just five that remain operating (once 10). It’s also the oldest to remain operating (fourth one made).  The ride wasn’t anything remarkable, although  I suppose it is one of the older ones of it’s type. Least I’ve now managed to one with the old Cars I guess.  Rougarou was next. This B&M coaster used to be a stand up but was converted to a floorless a few years ago.  I was pleasantly surprised with this ride. Like really surprised! The pacing and momentum through those inversions and helixes was superb. Truly an underrated coaster here and everything Dragon Khan should’ve been.  We headed east next to Gate Keeper, however it was down so we did Wicked Twister instead. This was a pleasant surprise and definitely a lot better than expected. The feeling of those launches and seeing the track top above was one crazy feeling!    Blue Streak followed, which was first and last wooden cred of the trip. This ride was pleasantly fun and reminded me of Big Dipper and Nick Streak at Blackpool. At 54 it is also one of the oldest coasters too.  We headed back to Gate Keeper which was now running which would by my second B&M Wing Rider.  Apart from the view onto the car park, I thoroughly enjoyed this one, from it’s selection of elements to the interactions near the entrance and theming elements! A better ride than Swarm in some areas but not in others.  We took the Sky Ride down to the entrance to experience Raptor. Not the Towers one. This version is an absolute classic and similar to the ones the first Magic Kingdom park’s used to have. They offered pleasant views of the park and peninsula. A shame Drayton spited theirs!  Raptor opened in 1994 (the same year as Nemesis) which is also a B&M invert. It was hear we also experienced our first ‘in line shutdown’. No P.A announcement but they managed to get the ride up again pretty quickly in around 10 minutes. The amount of people leaving the line without appearing disgruntled was remarkable. They certainly seem more relaxed out here! We managed front row on Raptor which turned out to be an impressive invert. It was a bit like Inferno but bigger and better. Some of those inversions really pull force and put you off guard, especially that reverse inline.  Currently my second favourite of four inverts (just four?) and favourite B&M in this park!   We grabbed another of many soft drink refills from the Coadter’s Diner before making a move to the further North Coasters in this park. The amount of free style refill and drinks choices out here is remarkable and offers considerably better choices than back home. Jamie Oliver is one of many reasons why the UK doesn’t get nice things anymore! We did Corkscrew, another of several Arrow coasters at the park. Despite its age I found it surprisingly enjoyable.  Magnum XL was our next ride. In 1988 This beast was the tallest coaster in the world at 205ft tall, until it’s slightly taller sister the Big One stole it!     I found my first ride on the Magnum noticeably jerky and uncomfortable almost to the point I proffered The Big One. It’s a good job I didn’t just do it once! It’s still popular too.    Gemini followed. This is an interesting attraction in that it’s a racing coaster that looks like a woodie in places but is actually a steel coaster. It’s height implies it’s a thrill coaster, but it mostly rides as a thrilling family ride.  Whilst Gemini may not have the frills and excitement as other coasters at the park, it perfectly serves it’s purpose as a fun and exciting ride. The racing element here likely helps enhance this factor. After Gemini we raced over (pun intended) to Cedar Creek Mine Ride, the final of C’s Arrow quintet. This is the second oldest coaster operating at the park, which you can tell from old fashioned restraints style which are manually functioned by ride staff. It also occupies one of the larger footprints too. Aside from it’s historical significance, there isn’t anything remarkable about this ride as nothing really sticks out for it. Least the location is nice though. Still beats El Diablo. We took a quick break from our coaster and soft drink hoarding by going on Sky Hawk, the park’s S&S Sky Swing. This was honestly tonnes of fun and swings much higher and longer than Rush indefinitely. Valravn would serve as our final ride and Cred of day one. We joined the queue just before it closed and spent most of the time chatting an American family who seemed quite friendly; I found most people during my trip out there friendly. Timing it right (when staff asked for a three), we finally boarded what would be our final B&M we hadn’t done at the park.  Although Wise and Martin seemed to like it, I came off feeling like something was missing. Like key wow factor moment. It probably didn’t help being asked to randomly swap seats with another rider.    Despite it’s height, the drop felt empty and I think the reason for this is largely down to the lack interaction. Whilst CP isn’t a park that specialise in theming, they could have at least added a tunnel or something as that alone would already be a noticeable improvement both to the ride in appearance and experience. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a terrible coaster (far from it). But I just feel I csme off it feeling a little disappointed and wanting more and preferring Oblivion to it despite being a longer ride. I think the second half is generally better on this one! Least Yukon Striker actually has an impressive first drop! Now your probably thinking I’m missing out on an important ride here. Something that you can’t help but notice really impacts the park’s ride selection and skyline. The answer Unfortunate is No. we didn’t go on Woodstock Express on day one! Oh, and Top Thrill Dragster was down due to some cable replacing work, so looks like we’ve been spited a Cred here. Or have we?    End Of Part One      

  10. Like
    pluk reacted to Stuntman707 for a blog entry, First visit to Blackpool review   
    My first experience of Blackpool started off before I had even arrived. Driving into the seaside town, the first thing you're greeted by are miles of banners for Icon. Blackpool is first and foremost a tourism hotspot and the Pleasure Beach is very much at the centre of this town. My first impressions of the promenade are not entirely positive. The street is quite tacky; donut stalls, arcades, casinos and pink horse rides are found along length of the street. The amazing views out to sea and sandy beaches redeem it somewhat.

    On my first day at the Pleasure Beach, I was pleasently surprised. There was no lengthy wait to get in yet the park was thriving with guests on Saturday. This continued with relatively short queues compared to rival UK parks. What I love most about BPB and what has driven me to visit are the unique rides and layout the park has. All of the coasters are intertwined within one another in a way like no other park I've visited before.
    The park maintains a diverse range of attractions with something for everyone to enjoy. Paired with very strong transport links, this makes BPB a great place to visit for anyone.

    Presentation & Service
    The park has a uniquely historical charm. I will say the main ticket office is quite grand inside, the staff here are well presented in classic suits. The office and the entrance were well staffed with more than enough people to handle larger crowds. Most of the staff in the park were cheerful apart from a few which can really make or break good a day out for guests. Fountains, fountains and more fountains were everywhere in this park. in the floor, on the coasters, ride areas, paths and are an attraction within their own right with a nice little show every 30 mins.

    Food & Drink
    Many of the Bars and the new Coasters restaurant have a modern, tasteful and clean look to them which I really liked. Most of them even served champagne. There were of course the standard fast food outlets too found at any park. We ate at the Coasters restaurant on the first day and I was very pleased with the quality and the price of the menu. I thought it was excellent value and I really hope to see more of this standard of food with similar affordable pricing at the park in the future.

    The Rides
    The Pleasure Beach has a number of historical rides with by far the best one for me being River Caves. This indoor boat ride feels untouched, all the effects and scenery still look to be in working order. There are no gimmicks, just gentle background music, some narration and great atmospheric sets that the boats sail through. It's just a really nice boat ride.

    Grand National is by far the worst historical ride at the park. This is a duelling wooden coaster that bounces and partially derails around the corners. It's set through a beautiful workshop behind Valhalla with tufts of grass growing through the tracks. The Big Dipper and the Velvet Streak are much better wooden coasters for their age.

    Steeplechase is the most unique and rare coaster at BPB being the only ride of it's kind still operating in the world. It consists of three horse shaped vehicles running on vertical track rails. The track moves freely over the terrain with minimal support structures and has the ability to tilt the horse vehicles around the bends by offsetting the lower rail.
     
    Forming part of the Blackpool skyline, The Big One is the second Hypercoaster I've ever been on and the tallest in the UK at just over 200ft high. The Hill and first half of the ride are the real highlights, you can see all of Blackpool at the top! The first airtime hills as of any hypercoaster are breathtaking and unlike any other coaster experience. The lower half of the ride feels more like a shopping trolley in a carpark however with a very jerky ride. A real shame that the station is literally a warehouse. No attempt at theming was made at all and frankly I've seen better industrial units. It's still worth riding for the experience.
     

     
    Infusion is highly regarded amongst many as a terrible ride. The theme of the ride is simple yet so dynamic with water jets crossing streams between the twisted steel, it almost looks like an engineering water sculpture. I want to end the negative hype and say that the ride is not as rough as people say it is. It's not smooth either but I've been on worse. I would ride it again if I returned.
     
    Revolution was a strange coaster for me. The station is at the top of the ride. As there are no airgates, there's a constant safety announcement on loop along with the original yet dated claim that it will be "the most thrilling ride of your life". It's a shuttle that sends you round a loop forwards and backwards, the backwards part being more nauseous than thrilling. The best thing about Revolution is the classic Arrow loop support structure.
     
    Notably the best dark ride at BPB is Wallace & Gromit's Thrill-o-matic. Each scene is beautifully crafted to look just like the films. The voice overs, audio, lighting, everything is spot on and the ride has a decent length. It's charming, funny, northern and colourful. "I've got patent pending on that", "You'll be hearing from my solicitor about this!", "Cheeese" ?The ride cars are like giant slippers which is just fantastic. It brings back childhood memories for me too, For me it's easily the best dark ride in the UK.
     


    My gosh where do I start with Valhalla? It is an epic boat ride experience. The sets are impressive and the drops are brutally soaking wet. I started by submerging my shoes in a half filled boat. The flames were impressive, the steam was intense, the ice scene was frosty. It's really a one of a kind boat ride. A must do at BPB.
     
    The first Mack coaster at BPB; a bobsled called Avalanche twists and turns between Revolution and Icon. The station and surrounding area feel as close to Euopa Park at Blackpool as you can get.  The Swiss music and chalet really have a similar atmosphere. Avalanche itself however is much better than it's Europa Park cousin. It has fast, snaking turns that pick up speed ending in two intense helix turns towards the bottom.
     
    Finally the newest Mack coaster, Icon is by far the best ride at the park. I'm still in a dilemma about where it ranks in my all time favourites as it is that good. Frankly I was overjoyed when I found out Pleasure Beach were building a Mack megacoaster in the UK. I loved Blue Fire at Europa Park and this is no exception.
     

     
    Mack launches are not entirely linear. The best way to describe it is like being pushed on a swing, it starts rolling and then builds up the momentum. If you expect an Intamin style launch, you will be disappointed. The airtime hills, swaying turns and punchy acceleration made it such a smooth and enjoyable ride. Riding on the front row, you get a very floaty and fun ride. On the back row, the ride is the most intense with forceful positive G's and sharp, quick pops of airtime. The momentum of the ride doesn't end until the last turn as the second launch takes you up and over probably the best designed immelman I've ever seen.
     

     

     
    The theme is minimal yet exremely well presented. The music is dramatic and catchy. The seats are open yet comfy, the OH restraints feel like lap bars and they swing down and spring up making dispatch lightning fast. The Mack bag flaps are convenient yet secure. It eats through the queue line so even waiting for the brand new ride is quick. All I can say is BPB have got something really special here. Overall, Icon is just a fantastic attraction. I think it's the best new coaster we have had in the UK this year and the one I've most been looking forward to.
     

     

     

     


    Conclusion
    Blackpool Pleasure Beach is a very well rounded, affordable park which is easy to get to with plenty of staff on hand and is home to several unique experiences in the UK. The very reasonable entry price along with the new ride Icon really gives main rival Merlin parks a run for their money this year. It also helps BPB that their operations are much better than Merlin's have been this year in general. I'd definately return just to ride Icon again but I'd stay for the charm of the undeniably british family run park.
     
  11. Like
    pluk reacted to Coaster for a blog entry, Why Wicker Man is the best UK coaster since 1996   
    Wicker Man.  I think it’s fair to say that I had very mixed feelings during the construction and build-up process for this ride.  Whilst I was happy to see a new wooden coaster finally grace the UK line-up, I had reservations about how good it would be; there weren’t any huge drops in the layout, so would it pick up enough speed to be thrilling?
     
    On approaching the ride, the excitement builds from the moment you see the hugely impressive Wicker Man structure and entrance signage come into view with the music droning in the background.  I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing – it’s such a compelling sight, nothing looks out of place and everything just ‘works’.
     

     

     
    Moving into the queue-line, the design is fantastic with so many vantage points for the ride – small items of theming are expertly placed creating brilliant photo opportunities.  Throughout queuing there are many good places to watch the coaster from, and it’s so pleasing to see that everyone seems to be enjoying it.  I really like how the smoke effect is pulled around the corner by the train after exiting the second tunnel, in particular.  Being surrounded by the roar of a wooden coaster combined with the soundtrack, theming and screams of joy is really something quite special.
     

     

     
    Onto the preshow, I enjoyed this and found it delivers a lot in a short space of time.  The transition is clever and the show lasts just long enough to stay interesting whilst not becoming a burden after a few rides.  I found the theatrics and changes in atmosphere particularly impressive, however it was a shame on one of the rides I had that the automatic doors at the back of the room kept opening.  Exiting into the station, the lighting and dispatch/unload audio keeps the theme consistent and is very impressive.
     
    With the thematic elements done to a very high standard, how well would the coaster itself hold up?  After five rides on two separate occasions, I absolutely love it.
     
    Dispatching out of the station, the pre-lift section is very Nemesis Inferno-esque (with the mist-filled tunnel) and sets the scene for the ride very well.  Ascending the lift hill, the views of the ride are excellent and the audio helps to build anticipation throughout.
     

     
    The first corner and drop help to build up the speed, and the tunnel adds a level of disorientation, as you exit already facing the ground.  The section that follows is truly sublime; after going over the second hill in the tunnel, you emerge blinded from the light to be thrown (yes, THROWN) first to the right, then to the left and into a ground-hugging turn.  This is my absolute favourite section of the ride; the forces are much better than I expected and the transition from right-to-left is just so much fun.
     

     

     
    Diving through the Wicker Man structure and up into the turnaround, this offers a nice view of the queue-line and theming structure before hitting the two small bumps (which are much better than they look!) and then plunging to the right through the structure into yet another fantastic and unexpected sideways-banked drop.
     

     
    I found that the flat corner goes a long way to making the ride feel longer, as it gives you time to process the elements you’ve been through before heading into the next section.  The straight drop which follows provides a nice feeling of weightlessness, however on the back row at the end of a rainy day there was some incredible airtime there!  Following this is a sharp right-hand-turn through the structure, before turning left under the lift-hill and into the brake run leaving the clank of the lift chain ringing in your ears.
     

     
    After some time to think it through, I can say in full confidence that Wicker Man is genuinely one of the best roller coasters I have ever ridden.  Firstly, it’s the first time Alton have delivered a fully complete theme under Merlin, with no obvious corners cut and nothing looks out of place.  I could nit-pick, but it's the best we've had in the UK for years - so I won't.  The coaster itself is great fun and is a superb example of a wooden coaster.
     
    Combined, it’s a masterpiece.
     
    My only concerns going forward are the reliability issues the ride is currently having, and maintenance of effects.  The fire, smoke and audio add a lot to the overall experience, and with the fire already broken, I only hope that Alton can manage to maintain them to a high standard.
     
    Thanks for reading, a few more photos below.
     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Wicker Man = AMAZING. 
  12. Like
    pluk reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, The Walking Dead - The Review   
    So, I figured I may as well give a bit more insight about my views on The Walking Dead - The Ride.
     
    I know plenty of people have pretty much written it off already, and it's almost trendy to hate the idea, but I do think it's worth going into this with an open mind.  The overall experience is good, well themed, and does justice to what the ride and building was designed to achieve.  
     
    The entrance portal is nice.  It is standard run down Thorpe style, but it is still good.  The queue is, again, standard Thorpe in that it's "how much queue can we fit in one space", with just little nuggets of theming - in the way of themed signage and Easter Eggs to the show - to go with it.  There's no extensions or anything, so on quiet days, you will have to walk through the whole thing, which is a pain..  Audio in the area is nice and creepy, and the watchtower looks alright to be fair.
     
    Bag room is now outside the building, and is clearly unfinished at the moment.  Hopefully it can be themed up, especially to the standard of the inside of the ride.  After that, groups of 20 (so 2 trains worth) get batched into pre-show.  The pre-show is extremely basic - a minute long video featuring a character talking to you, encouraging you to make your way through the building because we're under attack.  It's well done, and I don't think it will get tedious during re-riding, but I feel like they could have done more here.  Some big special effect, to give you the personal reason to get moving, rather than some guy on a screen telling you...
     
    The walkway to the station is exceptionally well themed.  You go through different areas of 'the safe zone', and as you go through them, audio is triggered saying how those zones are under attack, encouraging you to keep moving.  The tone is perfect here, and really sets up the experience well. 
     
    The ride itself is themed to a 'transit system' in the safe zone, and is being used to transport you to safety.  It's clever, and gives you a reason to be on the ride.  From there, it is just X, with special effects, and I don't think that can be stressed enough.  I really hope that people have ended up being ignorant the OTT "it's the scariest thing ever" marketing approach, or are able to just look past it, else it sets the ride up to fail.  In saying that, the special effects that are there are good, and really do enhance the ride experience.  There aren't any animatronics, just zombie mannequins (which aren't the greatest, but to a casual rider will more than do the job).  There's also screens, smoke, audio and lighting effects, all of which are used very well.  The one stop during the ride is a real highlight actually, fitting in with the story perfectly, and just being a lot of fun!
     
    The ride ends with us still being under attack; everywhere in the safe zone is overrun with zombies.  The post-ride experience happens, in the form of a loud noise, and is...just a bit naff?  There's terrible noise bleed from there to the waiting bit before the station, so if you've been unfortunate with timings, it does spoil it somewhat.  There is more to it, but I believe that tweaks were still being made, so I don't know what to say / expect from that for now.  There is a lot of potential there, but it needs a bit more direction.
     
    So yeah, to round it all up...
    +Fantastically themed experience
    +A fun ride experience, with good special effects
    +An experience that stays true to what the original X:\No Way Out aimed to do
    +A cohesive story which is easy to understand
    -Pre-show could do with a bit more oompf
    -Post-show needs a bit of clarity / more direction
     
     
    But before I go - One final thought.  
     
    I like this, I won't deny that.  I also liked X.  I haven't decided whether I like this more than X or not, but that's neither here nor there for now.  Personally, I think X is the better thing for Thorpe now; it had potential to be a fun ride which was accessible to all.  
     
    I can't help but wonder what Thorpe could have done with X if they had the budget this had.  Or even half the budget.  They really could have created an attraction where you rode "on a wave of light (and sound)", went through tunnels of light, etc.  I imagine that having the trains 'chase' lit up track, with lasers and smoke effects around, along with an extended original soundtrack would have been more than possible, along with some fun lighting effects in the entrance and exit walkways.  I reckon I'd have loved that, as would a large majority of people.
  13. Like
    pluk reacted to Mark9 for a blog entry, 'Wicked' Man.   
    The Worst GCI in modern history. Wicker Man will be **** we all know it. Doesn't look very interesting, not very fast at all.
     
    Just three ways Wicker Man has been described over the closed season on this forum. There's a wealth of material, of people lining up to give the first modern woodie in the UK in 22 years a good kicking. The point where coaster enthusiasts have already ruled themselves judge, jury and executioner on a ride way before anyone had even had the chance to ride. Here we are a good two weeks later from the preview event and I think there's proverbial egg on peoples faces. I remained quietly optimistic, keeping expectations in check. What I expected was a well paced, fun, mildly thrilling family wooden ride and that's exactly what I got. I knew this wasn't going to be Wodan, it wouldn't be the airtime machine that Megafobia or Tonnerre De Zeus are. But what I did get was the best rollercoaster Merlin have ever built..
     

     
    Now before you decry my last sentence as hyperbolic nonsense, understand something. I love a thrilling rollercoaster but what I really love is an inventive, interactive, original layout. I love getting on a ride, hearing the people around me screaming, loving every moment, hitting the break run and then shouts of amazement, the joy that emanates from the riders. Hit the break run on Nemesis, Inferno, Swarm, Oblivion and you hear nothing, just complete silence. It's just another steel rollercoaster going through the motions. But for the first time in a long while I heard something from a UK ride. People love the Wicker Man. They can't believe that such an old looking ride (bare with me) can deliver thrills, excitement on such a scale. Europeans and Americans are used to the thrill of a wooden rollercoaster but the UK has forgotten that wooden rollercoasters are more then a match to their steel counterparts. For me, this is the first time that Merlin have hit the nail on the head and got it right. 
     
    So why is it so good?

     
    To start off with, I like how little of it you can see from around the resort. There was a lot of discussion around Alton's limitations and how they get around them and Wicker Man is another example of that. The way the ride seems to work on several different levels to gather pace and momentum is right out of the Nemesis/Smiler handbook, the way the ride descends to the bottom of the Flume lake, or the oddity of the lift hill, the way the ride dips through the Wicker Man structure three times, each time getting more and more intense or the way the compact layout eeks out the ride length perfectly. The queue line which features very few switchbacks and naturally uses the terrain to get you close to the structure or the balcony which overlooks the majority of the ride giving great photo opportunities.  The mercifully brief pre-show which I thought was perfect for the ride, telling us the story without getting bogged down in details. At its core, this is a very simple story on a pretty basic woodie but the ride is more then the sum of its parts. The soundtrack which I really like slowly builds up in drama the further into the queue you go. This feels like the kind of ride that you couldn't get anywhere else, tapping into legend in the same way that Hex does. This is right out of the Towers rule book and is all the more stronger for it.

     
    At the moment the rides biggest issues are operational. The park hasn't really got to grips with how to run it yet with very slow dispatches and numerous breakdowns. It only ran for two hours on my visit (didn't help that Nemesis was down all day, curse you Towers) and when Wicker Man was running trains didn't seem to go out very quickly. I don't think the way rows are labelled is very clear in the station either, the darkness and moodiness of the station means people can't see the numbers hanging above their heads and numerous times people were just wondering back and forth lost. If you've ever ridden a GCI woodie you know what to expect here from the Millennium flyer trains. They are comfortable enough to ride in whilst durable enough to take it when you go slamming from side to side on the rides cornering. I won't cover the ride in too much detail as frankly it differs massively from front to back but what I will say is that when this thing beds in, those back row seats are going to be absolutely fantastic. Our first ride was row 5 and then onto row 8 and the difference was staggering. 

     
    I have two main worries. The first is the effects. Lets face it, Merlin are hit and miss with this and as you can see from the Smiler most of it no longer works. No sprayers, no screens, no car wash. The effects on Wicker Man tell a story far more then the Smiler and the danger of the Wicker Man structure having no fire or smoke must be pretty high; I'd be surprised if they still work by June. That's ignoring all the smoke effects before the lift hill, on the first drop tunnel, in the break run. If Towers want this ride to continue to have the positive reaction it currently has, it is essential they stay on top of this. That being said, I think the strong layout helps but on an effects driven ride, that can only do so much. My second concern is the rides longevity. Wooden coasters aren't steel coasters, they need consistent maintenance to keep them from getting too rough, too shaky, too unbearable. I question whether Merlin can give this ride the love it needs five years, ten years down the line. Based on their track record with Colossos for example, they let that go SBNO for two years. I don't want to see that happen with Wicker Man, in my view it's the closest to perfection Merlin can ever get.

     
    So its safe to say, I'm a big fan of the Wicker Man and I call it a triumph for the UK industry. When people were lining up to rip it to shreds, I stayed positive and optimistic and whilst I don't want to say I told you so, I told you so. My biggest hope that comes out of this wooden ride though is that parks like Paultons, Drayton, Flamingoland, hell even Thorpe and Chessington look at what can be done with a ride like this and build their own. The wooden ride genre is big in America, China, all across Europe and yet here, they are seen as dangerous and unsafe. Telling people I work with that I was going to Towers to ride a wooden rollercoaster, they thought it was a disaster waiting to happen. I can only hope that the Wicker Mans success leads to more and more and who knows what that could lead to.
     

     
    Thans for reading and as for a score, Wicker Man is a solid 8/10. I can't wait to get back up there. 
     
    Next time I'll be Enthusiastic Icon. 
  14. Like
    pluk reacted to Marhelorpe for a blog entry, Wicker Man - The Truth   
    When it comes to reviewing something, I try to be as honest, straight-talking and truthful as I can to the reader because above anything else, integrity to me is the most appreciated value I admire in someone when I am seeking for advice with their opinions. That way, if I decide to pluck down my own money, time and effort on something, I can be assured there is nothing being kept hidden when trying the product myself and therefore, trust can be built.
     
    I believe this first paragraph needs to be put at the very start of this review because after trying Wicker Man for the first time, I want to be as honest as I possibly can in what you are about to read. There are presently a lot of exaggerated claims, promises and expectations being thrown around about this coaster at the moment by various people and I refuse to fall into this category, so everything below is exactly what it is with no filter in place, for good and bad.
     
    Now onto the ride itself. I’ve been moderately quiet during the construction of Wicker Man these last several months despite the constant updates, advertising, drone footage and leaked name ages before, primarily because time and time again, I have stupidly built false promises and expectations with a lot of Merlin’s recent investments these last several years. Promises which inside I knew they couldn’t deliver but still believed in nonetheless and as a result, I have been scarred by it all and have a real grudge against the majority of Merlin attractions that have been built across the parks from 2014 onwards. To be blunt, I approached Wicker Man with a pessimistic view from the day it was announced until the day I finally rode it.
     
    Wooden coasters for me are something special; special in a way that cannot be described easily. Because despite not having fancy elements, being the fastest or tallest or the most amazing coasters out there, they tend to be underestimated a lot of the time and can really surprise you with how great they are. I’ll never forget that first ride on Megafobia at Oakwood, Wales back in 2010 where it left be stunned. Also quite recently sitting on the back row of Balder at Liseberg, Sweden in 2017 and being shocked and amazed by the extreme forces you go through, especially down the first drop after the lift hill. It certainly is an amazing feeling!
     
    So whilst I was pessimistic given Merlin’s track record for the last 4 years, coupled with their management of special effects, I was secretly all this time really excited to try Wicker Man and didn’t want to jump to any conclusions too quickly and then regret what I said all the time before trying it (e.g. - Derren Brown’s Ghost Train). I simply didn’t fall for any of it this time and approached the coaster with an open mind for a change.
     
    But my word, I’m really glad I did that now, as this coaster has been quite a surprise!
     
    To begin this thorough and in-depth review, I’d like to begin with the setting and scenery of the attraction which will be the first thing every person sees upon experiencing this ride:
     
    APPEARANCE AND SETTING:
     
    When I was at the park’s fireworks display last year and finally saw the majority of the track constructed, I can’t lie, but it did look quite impressively large and dominant through those window fences. However, when seeing it fully constructed and running, the thing looks wonderful!
     
    Everything about this ride looks brilliant. The track is moulded against the landscape very well, the rumbling sound of the trains really dominates the area similar to Nemesis, the audio sounds superb and there was a huge amount of buzz and excitement flowing through the entire area on it’s opening ceremony day. Another nice touch was seeing a wooden coaster fresh, because I’m so used to seeing wooden coasters where the wood has faded into a dull, grey colour that it was nice seeing it all looking and even smelling fresh and yellow for once! As silly as this sounds, it made a nice change for once.
     
    The entrance plaza and queue line is nicely routed, landscaped and constructed too. Seeing loads of fire beacons filling the plaza with real fire used, coupled with the nicely themed entrance and bizarre-looking vegetation to match the rest of the ride’s theme made the whole area feel more permanent, complete and designed well, unlike the ugly-as-heck-yellow-box-of-an-entrance The Smiler uses. A small touch I liked in the queue were the little bits of theming present used for lighting and signs as you progress nearer and nearer to the station. Unlike the typical laminated, dull-as-anything printed signs we see so often across other rides across Merlin, these were all shaped and sculpted to match the theme, which was a nice detail I appreciate the team for doing. Also, having a queue line for the most part which is linear and doesn’t have endless cattle pens like Smiler and Rita was another touch I appreciated, plus, the queue oddly seemed wider too compared to most other rides.
     
    For the landscaping, this is a mixed bag. Whilst some areas surrounding the coaster have clearly been worked on with new plants and turf mats installed, others have not and look as though they are still in the middle of being constructed with dirt and soil everywhere. Also, something I wished the team did before opening this ride was to clean the concrete supports holding the track in place because they were filthy all over and looked quite off-putting, especially in contrast to the freshly installed wood for the track. If the park can clean these concrete supports using a jet washer as well as laying down turf or giving the remaining sections of the area some green grass, I believe it will neaten the overall profile and presentation of the ride, since it was a bit mixed in several places and could have looked better. Just a smaller detail compared to everything else, but an important one regardless.
     

     
    THE WICKER MAN EFFIGY
     
    Always knew from the moment the name was announced back in January 2018 this figure of the Wicker Man himself would be the centre of all attention and man, I can see why after finally seeing it in-person as it looks really lovely! The scale of this effigy is huge and very nicely themed and detailed, so much so that I would put it up there with something we would expect to see at Phantasialand. OK, I know that might be an over-exageration here, but that’s what I gathered after witnessing it for the first time.
     
    The wood looks genuine even though it isn’t, especially around the shoulders, the shape and design of the two-faced head looks impressive and the attention-to-detail used even for the small holes the train passes through three times was looked after which was a nice surprise. Plus the amount of mist (yes, water mist, not smoke) used really filled the inside of the figure and the holes through him, which was especially great when passing through on the train! Also, I loved how there were audio effects used every time a train passes through which sync with the real fire effects.
     
    Probably the best thing about this effigy is when you are passing through the second time after making the banked u-turn, because the position of the track which passes straight through his chest is perfect! The brief view you get when passing straight through the centre of his chest is ideal, especially coupled with the mist and fire effects used on the shoulders. It captures your attention and is a really effective head-chopper effect, especially with the small bump present in the track just before passing through. Very effective and convincing effect used!
     
    However, I have to admit, whilst it looks pretty when you see it in real-life, it will not be as impressive up-close as opposed to a distance of at least 20m I theorise. The reason for this is because those fire effects used inside the figure are actually just TV screens playing a loop of some generic flame behind a black background used when filming, plus, the resolution of these displays are not that great because up-close, you can see the pixels used and cameras can pick up some artificial flickering from them, similar to when filming Thorpe Park’s entrance screen on any smartphone or camera.
     
    Another detail that aggravated me was the size and position of the fire used on the shoulders, because when standing on the ground, you barely even see the fire used when they are lit normally, but it’s only when they are enlarged in size whenever a train passes through you can see them properly for only a few brief seconds. Not a major issues, but be aware the flame effects might not be as impressive in real life compared to what they look through promotional videos and pictures.
     
    But besides from that, the effigy is a really nicely and detailed piece of theming which I welcome being there for the coaster and can really enhance the experience, even though it has some flaws when seeing it up-close.
     

     
    AUDIO
     
    When it comes to hearing audio on an attraction, to me, this is absolutely crucial to get right as it’s a very effective piece of theming to any ride regardless of how small or big it might be, plus, it gives it an atmosphere and defines it’s character. Rides like Chiapas, Taron, Helix and The Smiler I simply wouldn’t love as much if it weren’t for their audio in all honesty, so the audio on Wicker Man had to be loud, dominant and catchy for me to appreciate as a whole much more and thankfully, this is the case!
     
    This is probably the biggest secret weapon of the coaster, because I noticed across all areas of the ride from the plaza/entrance, start of the queue line, end of the queue line, baggage/pre-show room, station and track sections there were various different pieces of audio playing from the lovely guys at IMAscore.
     
    Upon seeing the effigy around the entrance and plaza, the first track you hear sounds very happy and charming similar to Klugheim village at Phantasialand, which gives the impression to riders the whole ride itself has a welcoming theme to it all, but as you progress through the queue, you begin to notice the tune, pitch and instruments used changes and the closer you get to the station the darker it begins to sound as you get ever-closer to the baggage room. After walking through the entire queue, I am certain it’s done in a similar way to Big Top’s audio where there are at least 3 variations of the same 30 minute track, only each one has a darker and more unsettling theme to it.
     
    It’s once you are inside the building itself the more vocal sections of the audio are used similar to the snippets found online. Drums are used, the tune changes and a more honestly scary-sounding track plays inside the buildings amongst the darkened rooms. In the station especially where whilst the audio is lower in volume compared to outside, that coupled with the burning wood effect creates a really unsettling theme inside as though something bad is about to happen.
     
    A really excellent thing the park have taken advantage of is in the badge waiting room for the pre-show and station, the doors and train dispatch have themed audio playing alongside the use of lighting, which creates a really exciting atmosphere for riders and builds up a lot of anticipation! When the train dispatches, a loud roar of drums starts and the lighting in the station begins to change and flicker, similarly to how the dispatch looks on Nemesis Inferno and Black Mamba, only this time, much more effectively I would say! Same for when a train arrives back into the station too which has is timed to when the train stops on the brake run and people disembark.
     
    Just in case that wasn’t enough, even the darkened waiting tunnels once the ride finishes have themed audio matched with smoke and light effects inside, which means even the wait caused by the stacking of the trains is looked after which I thought was great! Also, the lift hill has timed audio with the train too, making the excitement and anticipation even greater for the rider!
     
    But in summary, Alton Towers and IMAscore have done a fabulous job with the audio management for this ride and should be commended for their efforts. Excellent job!
     
    PRE-SHOW
     
    I’ll keep this brief without giving away any spoilers for the viewer, but this was quite a nice addition made. The inside is shaped like a dome tent with pieces of theming all over the walls and flooring with a big projector screen right above you in front. All this scene does is give a little insight as to what the Wicker Man is, how it works and preparing you for what awaits ahead such as “The time has come for the wicker man to rise!”. The audio was nice and loud, the picture was sharp and the video was 60fps which was lovely to see.
     
    However, I have to be honest here, this scene felt unneeded and superfluous and didn’t really add much to the experience at all, mostly because of how short it was to watch. Heck, it’s only just over a minute long. To me, this seemed more like another batching room to help reduce the number of people in the station, nothing much more.
     
    A nice touch, but a needless one.
     

     
    STATION
     
    If you were to ask me “What is your favourite station for any coaster?”, I would have to give it to Wicker Man here. The station is great!
     
    Unlike a lot I’ve been through, this one did not feel crammed or overcrowded inside as the platforms on each side of the track were nicely spaced out with plenty of room to move around whilst waiting/disembarking the carriage for a start. The next part being the lighting used inside as it wasn’t too bright or dull, but instead, nicely orange/red filtered, themed and lit perfectly inside to match the rest of the ride.
     
    Also, I always look for details on the ceiling and walls for a station so that the entire room is consistently themed, unlike Thirteen with black cloth everywhere and Galactica with industrial machinery everywhere. In Wicker Man’s case, both of these areas have been attended to and look really nice with the wooden beams, themed drapes and flickering lighting on the walls for a fire effect. Glad finally to see a station where all areas have been looked after for once, yay!
     
    But to summarise, the station for Wicker Man is really well done and everything about it is perfect from the lighting, to the audio, to the theming and the consistency. Excellent work here!
     

     
    RIDE EXPERIENCE
     
    Now onto the best part finally and goodness me, this was surprising! My first ride was incredibly lucky because I was allocated the very back two seats of the train on my first go and couldn’t be happier as it’s always the best. xD
     
    The trains themselves look great, neat and fully detailed all over and they are quite comfy to sit in too. Haven never ridden a GCI woodie before, I was expecting something really uncomfortable such as Tomahawk, Stampida and even Balder to some degree, but the seating was wide, spacious and relaxing. I could easily move my feet and legs around a bit when on the train and didn’t in anyway feel cramped or pinned down in the restraint, meaning it was a really comfortable ride from start to finish. Quite pleasantly surprised by the comfort of those seats.
     
    Once dispatched and the train immediately turns right under the building, you go through a massive jet of smoke (smoke, not mist this time) filled with lots of red lighting and sound effects of wood burning. It must be said, the amount of smoke which fills this room as you turn to exit the lift hill was huge and obscured your vision for the briefest of moments. Quite liked this actually and hope it stays!
     
    Once ascending the lift hill, the audio as mentioned earlier plays through the speakers and whilst you get a lovely view to the right of what awaits, I did find the lift hill incredibly slow which killed the great pace the ride had at the start exiting the station at a surprising speed. That coupled with the absolutely stupid bend on that lift hill made it worse. I’m probably the only person who has a problem with that bend on the lift hill as whilst it was needed due to the design of the layout, to me, that should have been designed better as it frankly looks dumb, especially when you climb it.
     
    But once you reach the top where the tunnel lies, everything begins finally. What I didn’t expect on the back row was that left turn before the drop was declined slightly and as a result, was whipped round that corner incredibly fast which took me by great surprise! And even though the first drop is quite small, the airtime you get at the back going down it is quite big and was a great start to the ride!
     
    Next was the bunny hop into the second tunnel and the S-bend which follows after and this was by far the best section. Because not only are you whipped again over the second hill, but because the S-bend goes downhill the whole way, you pick up some seriously high speeds down this section and the banking of the track can whip you around a fair bit on the back row! Not uncomfortably so, but enough to make the sudden changes in orientation a lot of fun with even more airtime moments! Without doubt the best section of the layout here.
     
    Once passing through the effigy and performing the u-turn back through again, the speed does slow down a moderate amount here noticeably, but not enough to kill the pace thankfully. The bend is nicely shaped and isn’t too extreme for the riders until you reach the small hump as you race through the effigy again everything becomes faster once more. The small drop as you exit the 2nd pass-through of the figure has a bit of a noticeable jolt similar to Smiler’s 12th inversion, though nothing unpleasant, it just gives another small dose of airtime to the rider!
     
    From here onwards when the ride continues to make turns, smaller drops and twists, the train does slow down, but it still keeps a strong pace from start to end with more airtime hills and strong forces exerted on riders. Probably the weakest section of the layout is the flat and slow 180 degree turn you make just before dropping back down and passing through the figure again. To me, if this was banked or had a small dip in the middle similar to the way both of Smiler’s turns work for both lift hills, this could have made it a little more interesting.
     
    Soon later, you reach the final brake run and the main section of the ride is over.
     
    Something I need to mention is regardless of where you sit on the train, be prepared to get a little wet from the mist effects used in the effigy, especially when you pass through the holes. Apart from the mist, water is dripping from the jets used and will drip on you as a result, especially when you go through the 3rd hole. Nothing too major, but enough to notice!
     
    You enter the darkened tunnels again with themed audio and more smoke effects before getting back to the station and disembarking to leave for the exit. The ride is now over.
     
    If I’m to summarise the experience in one word, it would be “WOW!” Sure, it’s not a Megafobia or Balder killer, but compared to how it looks and what it’s actually like riding, this coaster has some serious surprises to it, the least being the several moments of airtime you get sitting at the back over various parts of the course! This coupled with the comfort of the trains made this a really fun and exciting coaster to try, even though the layout isn’t amazing. The pace is constant after the lift hill, it feels faster than what the statistics say, the interactions with the scenery and effigy are great and it’s just intense enough to allow those as little as 1.2m onto the ride without it being too much for them. Plus, even though the coaster has a few jerky moments that throw you around a bit, it wasn’t rough at all anywhere and didn’t try breaking the rider’s back like Stampida does.
     
    SHOP
     
    Again, the theming continues here too and the shop looks really nice too! Loads of detailed theming everywhere similar to DBGT’s one with theming across all the flooring, walls and ceiling and some of the merchandise was pretty nice. There was a hand-made figure of the Wicker Man available in the shop too, but for £3,000? Nuuuuuuuu thanks.
     

     
    OTHER POINTS
     
    Here are some other points worth mentioning when you try it:
     
    • There is a baggage hold for this ride staffed by workers, but I thought Alton were eliminating all of them……? Very confused…
     
    • If all three queues are full, the ratio will be 1:1:1 for main, fastback and disabled, so the waits can get incredibly and frustratingly slow at times.
     
    • Be aware the lift hill is incredibly noisy when you stand underneath it.
     
    • The shop is routed, so it may be difficult or cumbersome to reach one side of the shop to the other.
     
    • When this ride breaks down, be prepared to wait a fairly long time. Over an hour was spent sending the trains round when it broke down with full and empty trains going round constantly. I believe the ride was experiencing weight issues, hence why 3/4 rows were running round empty all afternoon.
     
    • The on-ride photo camera is at the bottom of the first tunnel drop straight after the lift hill.
     
    • Be aware there is a major design flaw with placing the camera here. Honestly shocked nobody has picked this up yet, but the smoke in the 2nd tunnel if blown in front of the camera can make your on-ride photo look very strange with a weird ghost effect. Below is this issue me and Martin ran into, so you have a 50:50 chance of this appearing. Didn’t appreciate this after waiting 2+ hours and making it our only ride on it that day:
     

     
    CONCLUSION
     
    If you have read all of what I’ve put above, you probably most likely realise by now despite going in with low expectations, pessimism and serious doubts given Merlin’s recent track record, this ride has honestly surprised me on a level I haven’t witnessed before. It’s surprised my because during all the construction stages, apparent rumours the first drop was re-profiled by John Wardey, negative stabs from enthusiasts and the constant, vacuous marketing WORLD FIRST claims I was seeing for this thing, Wicker Man has delivered on being what I can only describe as a superb family coaster. It really is!
     
    Whilst I still have some doubts and questions of the theme behind this ride for a family coaster, especially if one has seen the films or does research behind the whole sacrificial belief behind it, the park have done a superb job with theming the ride as a whole and must be given credit for it. The smallest of details have been looked at, especially in the station, the audio matches it perfectly and everything feels complete and not half-finished like Smiler still does today.
     
    But my biggest concern is regarding the special effects used. Whilst for now they might all be working great with no flaws whatsoever, I seriously and honestly cannot see this lasting too long. It won’t be long before the sprayed mist on the effigy starts to degrade similar to The Marmaliser’s The Giggler leg, or 1+ of the screens displaying a flame inside breaking, or even one of the fires on the shoulders breaking. I might be sounding paranoid here, but for a coaster that for the most part lives on the promise of the effects working on this figure, that is incredibly risky of Merlin/Alton. Hopefully I’m proven wrong over time, but I still think eventually they will begin to break one bit at a time.
     
    But besides that, if the park can get the coaster to run perfectly with no hiccups regarding the operations and technical faults it has, maintain all the effects to a working standard every day beyond 2018, they could be onto a real winner here. 
     
    Already I say this is their best family coaster without a doubt at the park, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying this is the best coaster in the country like some YouTubers and vloggers have said. It’s still loads of fun regardless and is a solid addition, but all I’ll say is don’t expect anything amazing here. Instead, expect to be surprised by it and really enjoy it for what it offers because it executes at being a fun, enjoyable woodie really well!

    Just to add a little more to this review, besides from the masses of pictures above, below is a short video showing many off-ride views, including a naughty sneak of the pre-show. Don't worry, that section is only 5 seconds long!
     
     
    So in summary, Wicker Man to me is a solid addition to Alton Towers, deserves credit for all the teams who put it together and should go down really well with it’s target audience. Heck, if it gets a 3 hour queue just from one day, I can only begin to imagine how big they’re going to get this summer!
     
    Wicker Man - 8 / 10 


  15. Like
    pluk reacted to BenC for a blog entry, Something Stupid: Thorpe Half Marathon 2018   
    Something Stupid: Thorpe Half Marathon 2018
     
    How far would you go, as an enthusiast, to build your collection of Theme Park tat?
     
    ...
     
    Take out a Wonga loan to cover the cost?
    Break up with your long term partner so you can free up some space?
    How about run a half marathon to earn it...?
     
    Well, last Sunday saw me do Something Stupid as I found myself running the 21 kilometres of the 2018 Thorpe Half Marathon, all in an attempt to nab the jazzy coaster-themed medal bestowed upon those who manage to get over the finish line.
     
    And here for you, dear reader, is how I got on...
     

     
    Thorpe Half Marathon 2018
     
    The Thorpe Half is now in its second year, having enjoyed a successful - if wet - debut in 2017. Unfortunately as it's held in February, the park is closed, so the only real connection to Thorpe Park is that it starts and ends in the car park; there's no sprinting past Stealth and dashing around Depth Charge. What it does have to offer however is a pleasant run through the Surrey countryside, along a relatively flat-profile road-closed course - perfect for those chasing a personal best.
     
    I was, it must be said, not chasing a personal best. I was just in it for the medal.
     

     
    So, first things first. Sunday 25th February 2018 was cold. Bloody cold. The event organisers recommended that participants arrived at the car park by 07:45am, to allow good time before the race started at 09:00am. At 07:45am on Sunday 25th February in the Thorpe Park car park, the mercury was touching -1 degrees C.
     
    But this hadn't deterred anyone! Indeed, the car park was busier than the average in-season Saturday when I arrived, and the place was buzzing with excited, committed runners. Many of whom seemed happy to be out in nothing more than vests, lycra, and shorts. In -1 degrees.
     
    At this point I must admit that I took a large gulp and wondered what on earth I was doing here - and this wouldn't be the last time this particular thought crossed my mind.
     

     
    It's also worth saying that I wasn't prepared for doing this. At all.
     
    The fault is squarely mine, but I had done such minimal training beforehand that it doesn't even really merit the name "training". Since I booked a place at the event back in November, I had managed a grand total of two 3 mile runs on the roads around my house. Two. And on one of those I very nearly threw up at the end of it.
     
    I am not a runner. I don't especially enjoy it, so, at best this was going to be a struggle. But there was only one way to get that medal...!
     
    At this point I decided I'd take my mind off the impending challenge by having a nose around the site.
     
    First up was a mosey on over to the park entrance - which looked very bare without an actual sign there! Does this happen every season, or might we be about to get a new sign design? And whilst they're at it, the paintwork could do with a good looking over too...
     

     
    Alas I was allowed to go no further, because this sign had both red writing and underlining - doubly authoritative.
     

     
    Thanks to my trusty zoom lens though, I could peek in a little closer...
     
    ...but there wasn't really much to see.
     

     
    The Annual Pass building seemed to be getting a good dose of TLC though. Looked like it was having a new roof fitted, given the scaffolding.
     

     
    Given the red underlined signs everywhere, it was pretty clear that the toilets by the entrance were out of bounds and out of action.
     
    So bring on the portaloos!
     
    Unfortunately, you can never have enough portaloos, and in this case, there weren't enough portaloos. Queueing is par for the course at any Theme Park, but queueing in sub zero temperatures is even less fun.
     

     
    A quick look over the back of the bogs revealed very little of interest - although Zodiac standing stationary in a half-upright position looked quite strange! There was no visible work being done to X / WDTR.
     
    However, it is photos such as this one that make me think how lucky we are to have a park as pretty as Thorpe in our country.
     
    Thorpe Park is rarely praised for looking good. But with bright blue skies and deep blue lakes top-and-tailing it, it can't be denied that this is a sweet view. Reminded me strangely of a (very) mini Cedar Point...
     

     
    OK - back to the action. The event organisers had done a great job with the central runners' village area, which contained a Cookie Bar, Coffee Stall, Massage Beds, Medal Engraving, a bunch of running-related retailers...
     

     
    ...and a stage!
     
    Pictured here are the Epsom Rock Choir, who were singing with gusto despite the bitter cold. Did I mention that it was cold?
     

     
    08:45am. Nearly game time. I got changed into my kit, which naturally featured a vintage Thorpe t shirt, and made my way over to the start area.
     

     
    There were nearly 2,000 runners taking part in today's race, including many that had been bussed in by their local running group for the event.
     
    The "why am I here?" thought flickered across my mind once more.
     

     
    And we were off!
     
    The route took us past the annual pass building, down towards the car park entrance, and off to the left.
     

     
    Geek Photo #1 - the Protecting The Magic sign.
     
    Do you know the Six Spells for Safety?
     

     
    The route continued to track along the Staines Road, through the backstage areas of the park. Lots of industrial-looking buildings and infrastructure.
     

     
    And then, behold! Geek Photo #2 - I spy nostalgia!
     
    These look to me as if they've been saved from Chief Ranger's Carousel (RIP), which is great. But what will the park do with them?! Hopefully not leave them to rot...
     

     
    OK, back to the race. The course had kicked us out of the Thorpe Park grounds at around 1 mile, on to Norlands Lane, then Coldharbour Lane, past Thorpe Farm (RIP), and up to the Thorpe Bypass.
     
    At this point, my lack of fitness was really kicking in. The Sunday morning jolly at the Theme Park had suddenly turned very real, and I was wheezing after just 2 miles.
     
    What didn't help was this section of the course, which involved running half a mile up one half of the road, only to turn around and run straight back down the other half. Sigh.
     

     
    On the plus side, some great views of the M25. Oof.
     

     
    But to be fair, much of the route was through very pleasant countryside, and if I'd been more fit it might have even been enjoyable.
     
    As it was, it was a real mental effort to keep my head down, and keep moving. Just keep going. One step in front of the other. The coldness issue dropped away after 4 miles, because my body was generating so much heat.
     
    I was overtaken plenty of times, and I had to just walk up anything resembling an incline. Spotify was a massive help.
     
    The breakthrough for me came at about mile 10, where I realised that I'd made it around 75% of the course and that finishing was achievable!
     

     
    At mile 12, I could start to see the tops of some of the rides peek over the skyline - wow. Never have I been more motivated by seeing the crest of Tidal Wave's lift hill!
     
    My legs were properly turning to jelly, and the last pushes were really stop / start. But with a view like this, and the end in sight, I forced myself to go for a sprint finish for the last few hundred yards.
     

     
    I threw myself over the finish line and doubled over, my chest burning and my legs on fire.
     
    I'd done it!
     
    2 hours, 1 minute, and 17 seconds of running later, and I'd completed the Thorpe Half.
     

     
    And what was all this endeavour for?
     
    Another addition to my collection of Theme Park tat! But what an addition it is.
     
    Genuine blood, sweat and tears went into getting it, so I suspect it will remain amongst the more treasured of all the tat in my possession. It's a good looking, weighty medal and I'm proud to have earned it!
     

     
    So, will I be running the Thorpe Half again next year to add another medal to my collection?
     
    Absolutely not!
     
    Immediately after the race my legs seized up to such an extent that I almost couldn't drive home. In the days following the event, my muscles were so sore that walking - anywhere - was a very real problem. And I later found I'd sprained my left foot along the course, and one of the toenails on my right foot had filled with blood and fallen off. Yuck. And did I mention the nipple chafing?
     
    These injuries are, of course, preventable. As I said at the top of the piece, my running the Thorpe Half was Stupid. I certainly don't recommend following my lead and just running a Half Marathon in freezing temperatures with no prior training whatsoever in order to obtain a coaster-themed medal.
     
    However, for those in better shape (or with a greater commitment to training) than I... it was a very well organised event. Why not give next year's a go?
     
    ~
     
    Thanks for reading! Comments very welcome below.
  16. Like
    pluk reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, Liseberg   
    So I visited Liseberg back in July, and I just wanted to share a few thoughts on the park...  Majority of my photos were like so bad so I'm just stealing photos from the park's website to break things up.
     
    Ultimately, I was left a bit...unfulfilled? by the park.  I don't know how to describe it.  The quality of some of the attractions at the park is really good, but the park itself just do 'it' for me.
     
    Helix
    Let's get this out the way.  Helix is truly fantastic.  It's got everything - a lengthy layout, inversions, speed, airtime, a nice style and good audio...everything.  And it all works, which is more important in some ways.  I really loved the style of the ride - the slightly futuristic / game feel just works SO WELL.  It's a bit of a shame that the queue is a bit worn - it needs a good clean and spruce up really.  But aside from that, I have no real flaws.  The ride is fantastic wherever you sit.  The back is fab.  The front gives you the force and speed.  And at night is great <3 It's just great!
     

     
    Balder
    Balder was a wonderful surprise.  So much airtime, a really decent layout, that's nicely concealed, and just really good fun.  It's glass smooth which makes it feel weird, but a good weird I s'pose.  It's easy to see why it's so highly rated, and it's high up on my list too - my favourite woodie for certain!
     

     
    Lisebergbanan
    This classic Schwarzkopf is perhaps a bit of a hidden gem in the park now.  Which sounds weird to say given it's not hidden at all.  But in a park with Helix, Balder and soon Valkyria screaming in your face, it's perhaps something which will slide out of view.  Lisebergbanan was the only coaster where staff didn't bother stapling me in on every go (the staff on Helix and Balder seemed determined to split me in half...), which resulted in some awesome airtime and being flung about in every direction.  We also had a couple of rides in the rain which really added to the experience.  Just a shame about that final brake...
     

     
    Rebalder & Stampbanan
    A couple of small creds finishes up the coaster line up.  Nothing special, but Rebalder ended up being my 100th cred - woohoo!
     
    AeroSpin
    I'd always wanted to try a Gerstlauer Sky Roller since I first saw them, so I was excited for this.  I rode is 3 times over the course of 2 days - I struggled on my first go to get any spins, but managed a solid 27 on my second go, which made me very queasy...  Goodness knows how people cope with 50+ spins...

     
    Uppswinget
    So this is basically Rush on a hill.  It has loads of potential, but it just didn't deliver.  The ride cycle was disappointing, and the location just didn't work - instead of making it more intimidating, it makes it less.  It meant the ride experience was rather lacking all in all.

     
    AtmosFear
    A really tall drop tower with Stealth-style restraints.  It was alright, gave nice views of Gothenburg, but that's about it.  I think after Detonator's forcefulness and brilliance, other drop towers feel lacking for me..

     
    FlumeRide & Kallerado 
    The park's log flume is a nice scenic tour really.  It's also gives a good pop as it starts down the drops.  Nothing special, but good fun!
    The rapids were great - they start quite slow, but gradually builds up and up and it just works really well!

     
    Liseberg Wheel
    Oh god.  This was blooming awful.  It's a ferris wheel, but the loading procedures were bad.  It got every pod emptied / filled (which naturally takes ages), and then cycles round 3 times, and then starts the unload/load process again.  It's just so boring.  It didn't help the views were poor because of rainy weather, but even with clear weather, there's not that much you'd see again a second. third or fourth time round...

     
    Loke & Mechanica
    The two newest rides at the park; unfortunately they didn't appeal to me.  Loke, an Intamin gyroswing, is a ride that makes me feel awful after riding these days, so I didn't fancy it.  And I didn't want to waste time with Mechanica when there was other stuff I could do..
     
    Majority of their other attractions are all standard stuff, and they weren't that great really.  A bit of a shame.  Their dark ride (which is closing soon / might already be closed?) was truly awful though.  However, one final noteworthy attraction...
     
    Gasten Ghost Hotel
    An upcharge scare attraction (priced £5/£7 depending on what ticket you have).  Themed around a spooky abandoned hotel which is over-run by spiders.  I hate spiders, which naturally put me on edge.  The maze was very good; a good length, VERY well themed, and some fantastic use of special effects (smell and feel were particular scents that were attacked!).  The only downside was that it lacked in actor numbers, which is a bit of a shame.  Nonetheless, a good scare attraction which did leave me cowering at some points...
     
     
    On a more general note, operations at the park were generally very good and quick.  I'm not a fan of their shutdown policy (Helix shutdown when we were near the station, and it resulted in a full queue evac.  It opened about 10 minutes later and must surely have only been a small problem), but I guess that's a small grumble.  I love all of the sideshows and games they have - so many of them were themed which was fantastic, and they just had such a good atmosphere about them (it was also good that staff weren't pressuring people to play).  
     
     
    So yeah, Liseberg was a weird one.  I enjoyed their 3 major coasters, and they have a couple of other good attractions.  But the park feels lacking in...something to me.  But I don't really know what.  Despite wanting to go back and ride Helix, Balder and Lisebergbanan, I don't really feel compelled to visit Liseberg as a park any time soon (even their new coaster isn't that tempting).  It's disappointing in some ways, as I want to like the park, but I just don't as much.  I think it's at least partially down to the fact it's more or less an amusement park, rather than a theme park, and I'm more of a theme park guy.
     
     
  17. Like
    pluk reacted to Marhelorpe for a blog entry, A Newbie's Trip to Tulleys Shocktober Fest   
    It's no secret to those that know me well that I passionately believe Halloween as a whole is just an overblown annual event which leads to disappointment, scare-less attractions, cringy atmosphere and nothing but annoyance with masses of people flooding the events held everywhere across the country. The problem for me is for over 9 years in a row now between 2008 - 2017, I have only ever managed to attend one event during this entire time of year and that's Thorpe Park's Fright Nights and to be brutally honest, I am now getting tired, bored and frankly sick of the event. 

    The event during the 2008/2009 season was excellent with consistent operations, brilliant audio, tons of park-wide decorations, great use of smoke and lighting effects and most of all, every single maze at the time was home-brewed and original, some with inspirations from other IP's such as Se7en for instance. Asylum, Se7en, Curse and Hellgate were awesome! But now however, hardly any of this is prevalent at the event anymore and hasn't been since 2013 when Lionsgate started taking over everything, and now AMC's The Walking Dead. It's gone to the point now that when someone mentions the words 'Fright Nights' to me, all I can picture is long queues, crappy operations, overselling of Fastrack, needless use of IP's, mediocre scare mazes and up-charges everywhere you go. The whole thing now just feels like a giant cash grab and rip off frankly with very little meaning behind it where every year that passes, it's fun-factor is diminishing like a burning flame. Fireworks/bonfire night however does have a meaning and historical relevance behind it in Britain, which is why it's by far my preferred event at the end of each season and I'll never stop requesting Thorpe to bring it back after it's last appearance in 2011.
     
    Now, you might ask by this point why am I talking about Fright Nights when this blog is titled 'A Newbie's Trip to Tulleys Shocktober Fest'? Well, it's because this review is going to highlight such a stark contrast I experienced between Thorpe's version of a Halloween event and Tulleys, and I feel it's needed to set the premise of this review, because it's important to note at this point after visiting Tulleys on the 21st October 2017, despite Storm Brian interfering with the weather, that night has restored my faith and excitement in these types of events once again. These are words that I honestly thought I would never say!


     
    Similar to my other couple of previous blogs, I warn at the start my reviews are detailed, precise and very long, and this is no exception. So if you're someone who wants to have a quick read, focuses on the main highlights or doesn't want to get bored of reading my analysis by the end of the first paragraph, this isn't for you I'm afraid!


     
    So to begin, I would like to start with my overall first impressions of the event upon walking inside the site and the general atmosphere of the place:
     
    

Initial Impressions and Atmosphere:


     
    I've know Tulleys Farm for as long as I can remember ever since I was just 4 years old during the summer when on the other side of the field the wheat maze was open with other smaller activities, as well as picking your own fruit during June for the strawberries and raspberries. But despite this, the way Tulleys have set up this event made the place almost unrecognisable to me. It turns out that instead of the event being held in the small area near the front where the huts, cafe and fields are it is instead directly behind all of this on a massive open grass field on a gentle slope which I have never ventured onto before until now. So whilst in some places it felt familiar, the majority of it felt as though it was an entirely different site to what it's like during summer!


     
    Upon the entrance next to the grass field for parking, the entrance stands amongst the trees with flames on either side and giant pumpkin scarecrows lit up in orange, filled with smoke, creating a very natural, dominating yet familiar atmosphere to how I've know Tulleys before. Once going under the entrance hut into the ticket booth area, the entire roof is covered with white canopy tents which I appreciated very much as it ensured we didn't get wet whilst waiting to have our bags searched and collect our tickets on the muddy green fields. It reminded me a little at first of Fairford's Royal International Air Tattoo event every July with the way it was all handled, which was organised very well by the staff, so kudos for keeping the system easy, quick and simple with the large number of people at the event.
     
    

Once outside the tent and you've got your tickets/wristband, you are instantly surrounded by lots of attractions, food/drink stalls, stages, rides and seating which I guessed immediately was the centre of the whole event as all of the eight attractions were scattered across the field within equal distance of each other. A small detail I really liked was consistently across the fields there were small fires being lit with burning wood to keep guests warm at night and blend into the whole 'festival feel' of the place. The smell of burning wood in these fields felt comforting and familiar, especially as someone who once was part of the Scouts and went on these camping trips all the time! The audio used across the park wasn't blaring or obtrusive anywhere either and instead was subtle, evenly balanced and played quite a lot of Midnight Syndicate's music both old and new across each area which was a nice touch. After their audio was banished at Thorpe Park starting in 2013 with Lionsgate (grrrrrrr), it was nice to hear it once again. Also, there was tons of smoke everywhere across the place with lots of roaming actors interacting very well with guests which was quite amusing to watch!


     
    The attractions from this centre are situated down either the south or west sides of the field down slopes. To the left of the square you will find The Colony, The Chop Shop, The Cellar and Twisted Clowns. Directly in front you will see the couple of rides the event has which was a Booster ride similar to the one on Brighton pier, and a bouncer similar to the one which can still be at Hastings years ago, as well as on Brighton pier outside the Haunted House which was nice. And lastly, to the right down the hill, Horrorwood Haunted Hayride, Creepy Cottage, VIXI and Coven of 13, as well as the shop, paintball alley and further food and drink stalls.
     
    

It's also worth mentioning that behind you in this centre there is also a stage where a live band is held and plays several chart music hits which was nice, including many which fit in with the Halloween theme. Further down the hill on the right there is another live band too performing for guests. Inside the tents across a few areas, you could buy pumpkins which I presume the farm has grown for guests to purchase at the event, some of which were enormous and very heavy to handle! It's the smaller things with simple decorations like pumpkins that can make a big difference sometimes to the overall feel of an event. It adds to the Halloween theme, unlike Thorpe who still for some reason think little/no decorations = Halloween atmosphere.
     
    

With all of these points taken into consideration, this has a very different vibe and feel to it all compared to what Fright Nights is, and really, I loved it! The whole place felt just like being at a festival with all the canopies for the queues, muddy fields, live music, great theming, large variety of food and drink stalls, the many small campfires everywhere and the consistent feel the place had where nothing seemed to stick out like a sore thumb anywhere. Compared to Fright Nights, the only fair comparison to be made here is that Tulleys clearly know how to create a better atmosphere at night for their customers which is more relevant to Halloween and better organised than Fright Nights has ever been.

    Food & Drink:

    As mentioned above, all of the food and drink available at the farm was available through these temporary food stalls which you typically find at most events similar to this, but the variety and close proximity between them all was quite convenient and was all situated in the centre. Everything from hot drinks, takeaway food, sweet snacks and even a hog roast were available for guests and the variety offered was quite good.

    Although, the prices were a little too much for what I expected to pay. I went to the noodles bar and ordered pulled pork curry noodles and a large spring roll which came to £10.25 altogether without a drink and a regular cup of coffee was £3. So whilst the variety was great and you get large portions, the prices here did feel too high compared to what I would comfortably pay for typically and was the only area where I felt ripped off slightly by the whole event. £3 for a regular Americano was too much! Not surprising, just thought it’s worth noting to those who have yet to visit to be prepared with enough cash in their wallets.

    Operations:

    As a whole, Tulleys demonstrated to me exactly how you should manage events with lots of people going through the attractions. There was only 50 VIP and only 200 Fastrack ticket holders in the entire field that night, which meant the queues for Fastrack were extremely small or non-existent most of the night. Dispatches were fast and frequent for all the mazes, especially for the Haunted Hayride and every bit of effort was made by the staff to keep the queues to a minimal as long as possible throughout the night. When you consider all mazes at Fright Nights in the evening have Fastrack overflowing for all attractions, some of which can actually be longer than the normal queue, this was a really pleasant surprise for me.
     
    If there were a slight niggle I had with the handling of letting people through the mazes, it’s that some of the groups put through each time were quite large, some as much as 20 people at once. And if you are leading the group, if you’re a fast walker through these types of attractions, it’s not uncommon for you to at some point through the maze bump into the group ahead. Whilst it wasn’t a major issue considering all of the attractions were excellent, it did hinder the scare factor a little when too many people are in the same room with you. I wish the dispatches were a little slower when the queues were shorter at the start and end of the evening, but I suppose you get that with any scare maze really.

    Fairground Rides:

    As mentioned above in my initial impressions section, there were just two rides available at the farm in the evening, so with the time available between 5pm - 11pm, I only did the Booster catapult ride which is identical to the one which can be found on Brighton Pier. One ride costs £6 and you get throttled several times both backwards and forwards and at night, it was really great fun and very intense! Plus, despite the wind speeds reaching 42mph gusts in the evening, the ride still ran flawlessly without any problems and didn’t stall at any point as a result (unlike Thorpe who now fear Flying Fish and Banana Boat will stall with just 20mph gusts).

    So if you are planning on visiting this year or maybe next year if these two rides remain, I do recommend trying Booster at night and you’ll have the peace of mind that even if it’s raining or winds reach 42mph, you’ll still find it open.
     
    Scare Attraction Reviews:

    Now onto the best part and that’s with small mini reviews of all eight scare attractions available at the farm. As a whole, I must report the quality, length, amount of fun and scariness in these attractions is far superior to any maze I have done at Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights in the 9 years I have attended the event! All of them were excellent and had their own unique qualities behind them, one of which used a really cool effect which reminded me of a scene from one of my favourite films. Another reason is because every single one of them was original and didn't need an IP to market itself and I'm a big fan of original ideas as it sparks innovation in these types of attraction.

    So to begin, I’d like to start with the ‘least excellent’ one which was Twisted Clowns:

    Twisted Clowns - 6/10

    I should admit at the start clowns as a whole do not scare me one bit and never have done, so before walking through the entrance I wasn’t expecting an enormous scare factor behind it and true enough, it didn’t scare me at all this one sadly.

    You are given at the start 3D glasses which act as a filter to bring out the colours inside on the walls and props present inside and quite a lot of the artwork present popped out quite well, especially with the luminous colours. Throughout the whole of the maze, you wear them and walk through several dark rooms with lots of these UV paintings to fit in with the theme, to which I must point out they are all hand-painted which I really appreciated and admired when inside. Think of the rooms similar to Hocus Pocus at Chessington only with a different theme.

    In addition, actors inside were jumping and appearing all over the place, including one which jumped on a bungee swing from the ceiling which really took me by surprise the first time with how close they hovered over me! Whilst the actors at no point touched guests, they interacted with them brilliantly with lots of props from swings, car horns, wigs and clothing to name a few. The makeup they wore was also nicely done and had popping luminous colours on their faces similar to all the dozens of paintings throughout the maze.

    But as a whole, this just didn’t deliver any real or genuine scares for me sadly, which is a shame because I love 3D mazes like this. However, I will say the quality of the actors jumping all over you with props inside, the amount of work with the paintings which went into this and most of all, the incredibly long length of this maze were the best qualities it offered.
    Other smaller details like a themed safety announcement at the start, to Midnight Syndicate’s audio used inside, to the huge number of actors present did make this a lot of fun to go through.

    I suppose the bigger problem is Big Top at Thorpe whilst might be a lot shorter than this one is ultimately better in lots of ways. Elements such as better audio, better disorientating rooms and a great finale make it better than Twisted Clowns and therefore, this is the only maze Tulleys could do with some improvements on next year I feel and was a little disappointing.

    VIXI - 7/10

    When I discovered this involves you placing a bag over your head to obstruct your view the entire time, the first thing that came to my mind was “Oh no, It’s Tulleys version of that damn awful The Passing maze at Thorpe Park back in 2012!” But after going through it, whilst it did feel very similar The Passing for 3/4 of the maze, the quality of the scares delivered and surprise factor was far superior in comparison and I happened to really like it as a result!

    From the start you must place these black bags over your heads as though you are about to be sent to the gallows for execution and ultimately death, again, very similar to The Passing at the start. But these bags used are with a much thicker material as it is impossible to see through them in any way possible. But once you start the attraction, you must follow the rope on your left side which will guide you through the maze and over all the hurdles for the first 75% of the maze.

    Whilst you can’t see a thing out of these, the interaction and tricks this maze plays on you inside is brilliant. Various sound effects are used everywhere and effects such as smell, wind, water, fire and very uneven surfaces were used. In addition, actors interacted with you from both sides of your ears, so it became quite unsettling at one point with all the effects and actors in play and really got my heart racing being unable to see anything!

    But the best section is towards the end of this experience. The last corner you turn with the bag still on your head is into a room which was very hot inside and within seconds it became apparent why that is. There is one giant flame thrower inside the centre of this room which goes off every few seconds and the noise of it is incredibly loud, so much so that the heat, light and shock made myself and several others scream the fist time it went off! It’s a simple but incredibly effective scare used and you are less than 1m away from the flame, so you can really feel the heat from it.

    Finally, in the last quarter, you are asked to take the bags off your head and give them to a staff member. Now, like The Passing, you are lead to believe this is the end, but oh no, there’s more! You go down this pitch black corridor, turn the corner and you are inside a very dark warehouse with what appears to be burnt bodies of corpses lying on a table and an actor behind it with a giant knife and blowtorch. He instructed us to go down the stairs quickly, only to encounter behind a metal cage even more fire effects, this time less than a metre away which was another excellent jump scare for guests. After that, you zig-zag down the ramps and find yourself outside once again and the experience is over.

    The concept of this maze might sound simple and remind many who did in at the time of The Passing, but the interaction with guests in this one and the effectiveness really pays off and was tons of fun, and was the first maze in probably about 4 years which really got my heart pounding at certain points due to the unknown which awaits ahead due to the fact you can’t see anything. Then to top it all off, the ending finishes the maze perfectly and the use of fire in this maze was executed perfectly and was a great use of the effect. Plus, this was also a very long maze, lasting at around 11 minutes inside according to the timer. Thumbs up overall!

    Creepy Cottage - 7.5/10

    This was the maze I was most familiar with because it has been at this event for years now and I remember a few times during Autumn when visiting Tulleys years ago seeing preperations being made for it in time for October, so was most intrigued to see what it was like inside. Whilst it did have it’s moments of scariness to it, the selling factor behind this was the attention to detail inside and overall creepiness it delivered, which also explains why it’s available for younger kids too during the day. The best way to describe it is imagine walking through a much smaller, cramped and longer version of the haunted house from the play and film ‘The Woman in Black’.

    From the start where you are greeted inside the first room, you are immediately surrounded by lots of theming and details everywhere which hint at it being just like an old historian haunted house, with the furniture, fireplace and props inside with all the cobwebs and candle lights present. As you progress through each room, the corridors and roofing is very small and narrow, so you do feel quite claustrophobic inside and it’s incredibly dark too.

    The atmosphere inside doesn’t feel chaotic like Big Top, Living Nightmare and Saw Alive are. Instead, it has an eerie, cold and creepy feel to it all with very subtle uses of sound effects and music used inside and in every room making it feel very abandoned. It also made me quite tense throughout because you expect something to either appear out of nowhere all of a sudden or an effect scaring you, but as said above, this maze relied purely on feeling unsettled inside than being jump scared.

    The quality of the props and attention to detail was very noticeable with every corner of every corridor and room looked after, from the wallpapers, to the chandeliers and lighting, to the physical objects laying around everywhere and the surface of the flooring and smells inside. One prop particularly caught me out and that was what appeared to be a child’s doll of Chucky. It too me 2 walk through’s to notice it! Plus, towards the end of the maze, you need to walk through a corridor with loads of corn field plants surrounding you, almost as if you are navigating through the maze Tulleys have during summer which was a nice touch.

    The only disappointment was the ending as it just involved a small room with an actor inside surrounded by more props. Nothing seemed to stand out in this room which indicated it as the finale, just another room added at the end simply.

    So whilst it might not be the most scary out of all the mazes, it was certainly the most unsettling and eerie feeling maze with all the actors inside each room dressed to fit the theme of an abandoned cottage from the last century, so it’s good for me!
     
    The Colony - 7.5/10

    This was quite an interesting concept for a maze as it incorporated elements which were both used outside and inside and the overall vibe from this maze is one set back in time to the medieval ages and honestly, a novel which is going to be implemented into a ride next year at Alton Towers. It certainly delivered on scare quality and the length of this thing was mad! On average, it takes between 15-20 minutes to pass through all of it!

    The first corridor you pass through is almost like an abandoned underground mine with the lighting and planks of wood holding the ceiling and walls together and then you instantly go outside onto the field which is guided by very high wooden planks similar to that which you can find in Alton’s new maze ‘The Welcoming’. Whilst I haven’t done it yet, the overall look and feel for the outdoor sections looked similar to this from the pictures looking down at it on the Sky Ride.

    Once navigating your way through outside, you go back inside through these huts and buildings with lots of lighting, audio and smoke effects present, as well as actors hiding in the shadows. From here onwards, you are constantly going inside/outside and it’s an equal balance between the two overall. Some outdoor scenes were really interactive and involved you having to crawl under and through narrow gaps, which was a nice touch you don’t often get with other scare mazes as they tend to be wide and open to pass through many people at once.

    The actors in this maze were excellent. When each approached you, they all spoke in what I can assume is Latin as I couldn’t understand any of what they were saying, but their body language gave hints to what they were trying to communicate with you. By this point, it isn’t necessarily super scary, but unsettling similar to Creepy Cottage.

    When navigating your way up and down the field with indoor and outdoor sections, towards the end, you pass through a corridor which has two pathways and in the centre of these two paths you can take, a chainsaw guy in strobe lights interacts with you, very closely I might add too! After that, you are outside again and the experience is over.

    The best quality of this maze was the length and variety delivered by several different scenes and actors, and it provided a consistent and very enjoyable experience from start to end, especially with the finale. Although, the scares weren’t quite up there to get me really nervous with this one.

    I mention this gave me an impression of Alton’s new coaster for 2018 and considering we now know it’s going to be themed on Wicker Man, this maze kept making me think of that from start to finish. Heck, there’s even a bleedin’ scene with honey bees’ nests hanging from the ceiling you must pass through! Just a fun thought I had with this maze which kept making me think of it, but overall, I really enjoyed this one as it feels to me what Sanctum should have been.
     
    The Cellar - 8/10

    Probably the best way to describe this is imagine Creepy Cottage mixed with The Colony. This was excellent!

    Already the start is nicely done with the safety announcement in the greeting room which was funnily themed and spoken as though it was a witch, and you were passing through their home. After that, you hold each others shoulders and it’s worth noting this is the only maze at the event where you are required to do this. All the others are free-flowing.

    From the start of your journey, the rooms and corridors are incredibly cramped inside with low ceilings and narrow walls and the number of actors present in this maze is the highest out of any of them, which really made the experience quite intense inside.

    Probably the most frightening section for me was at the first walkway which involved the inflatable cushions you must pass through similar to I’m a Celeb near the end just before you climb the hill to go down the slide. Because you are limited by how fast you can move due to it pushing against your legs, it was obvious something was going to jump out of nowhere, and long behold, there was. To the right of this walkway, an enormous and very heavy serpent’s head jumped out of the wall and was big enough to cause me to nearly fall over to the side as a result. It was very heavy and nicely detailed, but my, I personally can’t stand snakes myself and seeing a giant head of it grab my shoulder like that really got to me by that point as it was very unexpected! This is a great element to the maze and took me by complete surprise the first time.

    After that, you navigate your way through various further rooms which had some very narrow walkways and overall, this was extremely dark inside with hardly any lighting visible, just tons of actors hiding in the shadows waiting for the perfect moment to scare you. Some of which had some excellent detail to them all and used several effects which made guest jump, including some very powerful air canons.

    The ending however was a little weak and didn’t stand out from the rest of the maze, but the number of actors used in this maze coupled with the length of the attraction made up for that. The best moment was the giant serpent’s head near the start as it genuinely terrified me the first time!
     
    Coven of 13 - 8.5/10

    Coven of 13 overall was a combination of The Cellar, Creepy Cottage and The Colony as elements from each of these attractions were used throughout, but the best part by far was the start where you need to pass through what I can assume is a deep swamp in the middle of a forest.

    This starting scene where you navigate through the marsh was a great use of smoke, lasers and sound effects as when you passed through the walkways with the inflatable pillows again, there was a layer of mist which helped with the theme of treading through a swamp up to waist level. Probably the best way I can describe this effect is similar to that scene in the first Alien film where John Hurt ventures through a cave with all the eggs and describes a layer of mist above a blue laser effect. When watching it back after trying this maze, it looks identical to that effect used!

    After navigating your way through the swamp scene with actors jumping out and scaring you, you head through more corridors with plants and trees obscuring your path and they are set up in a way which it hides the ceiling and wall panels very effectively, so much so that it definitely felt more like being in a forest that a plain, ordinary corridor.

    You go immediately outside after that and cross into another building which has been themed on a small mini haunted house with some very effective lighting, atmosphere and props used. It did honestly feel just like being inside a mini haunted house as the rooms were a little larger in comparison to Creepy Cottage, bud sadly, the scares in this bit weren’t as effective as a result. However, the attention to detail and quality of the actors made up for this scene, so all is balanced.

    After that, you go outside again and this next section felt the weakest section of the maze. All you do is navigate around a central campfire through different areas around the perimeter of what was the shape of a semi-circle. Each section had it’s own actor in to scare guests, but it felt too open and predictable to deliver any proper good scares sadly, especially when you can see what awaits ahead.

    Finally, you go through inside one last room and that’s what looks like an actor being burnt to the stake in a giant wooden fire and the use of smoke, lighting, heat and audio added to this scene, but like before, just not enough scares here. Also, it’s reminiscent of Wicker Man again and SW8. Sorry! After that, you go outside again and it’s all over.

    Whilst the scares were certainly prevalent throughout the first half of the maze, the 2nd half felt a little tame in comparison unfortunately and fell apart a little. However, the use of effects in that swamp scene at the start were delivered brilliantly and that’s why this is my 3rd favourite attraction as a result.
     
    The Chop Shop - 9/10

    Before trying this I knew it was going to be an intense maze as many have told me it’s the best maze at the event and goodness me, it was certainly the scariest one! The whole theme of rotten meat, blood and flesh makes me feel physically sick, which is why the gluttony scene from Se7en years ago at Thorpe really made me want to vomit when passing through it and I wasn’t expecting anything different here. But what I didn’t expect was the intensity behind this maze which is hidden quite well behind those walls, with the exception of the noises from several chainsaws present.

    The start of the maze isn’t too bad as it’s an exploration through a garage with lots of machinery, equipment, vehicles and tools on shelves everywhere and the lighting is dim, quite reminiscent of scenes from Saw The Ride and the workshops in the Saw films and the actors did a great job at introducing you to their chopping shop. But after this, it gets worse and scarier as a result.

    Once out of the garage, you instantly go through what I can presume is a freezer with lots of frozen meat, including hanging pigs and cows amongst blood everywhere over the floor and walls. Then, an actor breaks through the door in front with a chainsaw and scares the group and this is only just the half-way point!

    From here onwards, it gets even worse because it’s an endless array of zig-zag corridors, rooms and flaps to pass through, all under a constant strobe light. Around several corners, actors are hiding, all with their own chainsaws waiting for you to walk past them. Then, to make it even worse, some rooms have the lights turn off temporarily for about 3 seconds, so you are in complete blackness for a short period of time and all you can hear is the sound of a chainsaw either in front or directly behind you, some of which got as close as 6 inches away from my face! It was truly and honestly terrifying and this lasted for 2/3 of the entire maze, so it became extremely intense at certain parts and got my heart racing the fastest out of any other attraction that night as a result!

    The only advice I can give is do this maze once it is dark outside because the 2nd half has an open roof and if light leaks inside, it can ruin the effect slightly of those dark moments. So if you want a moderate experience, try it before sunset. If you want an extreme one, do it once the sky is completely black. Best maze by far and also the scariest!
     
    Horrorwood Haunted Hayride - 9.5/10

    This was without a doubt the most fun during the entire night and is the best attraction out of everything you will find at this event. It’s very unique, incredibly interactive, long, innovative and ultimately fun. Nothing else out there can be compared to this!

    Whilst it might not have been necessarily scary, the whole idea you are transported through the fields on a tractor ride with various scenes themed to different genres in the movie industry was an excellent idea and was reminiscent of Studio 13 slightly in some areas. Every scene has unique visual and audible effects, the entire ride changes it’s audio depending on what scene you are in and probably the best part was the actors in each scene climb onto the tractor with you and interact with guests using their character. Characters such as clowns, cowboys, hotel butlers, witches, pole-dancing nuns and zombies clambered onto the vehicle through each scene and played their characters perfectly in sync with the audio and movement of the truck. It’s a very consistent and funny experience which I greatly appreciated.

    In addition, each scene had great props and sets used such as falling billboards on guests, flame effects which were incredibly loud and powerful, deaf-defying loud bangs, great uses of audio SFX and lighting used and best of all, the chainsaw people themed on I believe the story of the three little pigs getting extremely close to the guests and even revved the machines against the benches you are sitting on, creating the impression they are cutting through the wood you are sitting on!

    I don’t want to give too much away of what each scene involves for those who have yet to try it, but I very strongly recommend you try this as the must-do attraction of the evening. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed by it one bit!
     
    Conclusion:
     
    So there we are, all my reviews for each attraction, the atmosphere and overall impressions of the event.

    After going to this and leaving the evening, I didn’t in any way feel angry, tired or disappointed like I usually tend to with Fright Nights in recent years. Instead, I felt lively, thrilled and greatly surprised by the whole night because it’s as if I have finally found after 7 years of searching something better and worth it’s value for money compared to what I was typically used to during Halloween and it feels great! Tulleys Shocktober Fest has surprised me hugely with what they offered as I never imagined they were able to pull off such a quality event like this before, especially knowing it for years as a farm with pick-your-own fields and a maze during summer.

    Tulleys has proven if special events are executed very well, it has the ability to change minds of sceptics like me who for years have detested Halloween for all the wrong reasons. In return, I have started to get excited for Halloween once again after this amazing evening I had! The only problem with this however is because Tulleys have set a new bar far higher than any Fright Nights delivered these last 7 years, I am likely going to detest Fright Nights even more now as a result unless there are some radical improvements and changes made to the event which aren’t focused on compromising customer experience for bigger numbers on Merlin’s many dozens of net-profit Excel spreadsheets at their head office.

    Tulleys, like my blog on Liseberg back in May has proved to me again there are places out there which value customer experience above profits, and it's these types of places I appreciate the most. I can happily say I'm absolutely going to attend Shocktober Fest again next year, and likely many years to come now. Well done Tulleys for creating a quality Halloween event for guests.

    It might have taken me several years to finally try it, but my word, the wait was absolutely worth it! 

    Tulleys Shocktober Fest - 8.5/10

    (Some pictures from the event below I took):
     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  18. Like
    pluk reacted to Matt Creek for a blog entry, Phantasialand: Ein Deutsches Winterwunderland   
    Phantasialand is one of my favourite theme parks, it may not be the biggest park out there, but they certainly know how to mix a combination of attractions within remarkable footprints.
     
    Just over a year following my first visit, I decided to make a return visit for Winter to see the park beautifully lit up and decorated for Christmas.

    Berlin Street, a beautiful park entrance (at least once you get past the street). It borrows some elements from Main Street but also makes it’s own in many ways too, like the Chairswing at the end and Fun House (Hotel Tartúff).

    This time I finally got the chance to go through the Tartúff. I can safely say it’s one of the craziest (and longest) Funhouse attractions I have experienced. It must’ve taken at least 15minutes to walk through it. Worth the wait too.
     

    Last time around I was criticised for not mentioning enough love for Chiapas. Here goes, Yes that’s an enhanced entrance too which looks amazing.




    Words can it describe just how impressive and magical this attraction is, it’s such a happy upbeat attraction that aren’t common enough in main park’s. There is nothing I can fault about this attraction, from it’s dark segments, backwards drops and pacing throughout. The disco room is by far one of the best inventions in modern attractions. They even play a Christmas variant of the main theme too. Sheer perfection.
     
    Subtle yet Christmassy.

    Talocan was running just as impressively and intensely as last time. Certainly a stunning beast and just as much a show as a ride. Not one for after lunch.

    Speaking on lunch, we went back to Rutmoore’s (which does these amazing hearty meals). The eatery is certainly holding it’s own with decorations too amongst delicious food.

    Savoury Crepes Yum.

    Taron is still absolutely amazing (and narrowly misses the top spot to Helix). I just adore the ride’s empowering launches, floaty airtime and interaction with nearby buildings and pathways. It’s just as much a piece of art as much as a coaster and much more than a series of twists and turns for sure.
     

    Taron in the sunset looks even more beautiful for sure.
     
    Whilst Klugheim is still park’s latest addition (Taron’s 120 minute queues are proof), it won’t be too long before the park’s next investment (albeit delayed until 2019) arrives, Rookburgh. Replacing the old Atlantis Simulator (removed before my first visit), the new area looks to boast a steampunk style theme, a surprising move away from the park’s signature rock Styles. Rockwork to Phantasialand is perhaps what shipping containers are to Merlin.
     

    Whilst I am (naturally) highly excited this new area, I am going to be quite controversial now and say I’m slightly disappointed the area’s headline attraction looks to be another coaster (opposed to a dark ride). The park lost a major dark ride (Silvermine) so Taron could be built and I would like to see them gain a modern (animatronic heavy) dark ride. I’m sure Fly though will still be fantastic though and rumours suggest it will have dark ride elements which is a start.
     



    Far on the other side of the park (away from the glamorous Chiapas and Klugheim) lies the sad sorry ageing duo that are Temple and Hollywood. It’s almost difficult to believe they are in the same park. The left side does generally feel noticeably inferior to the right, but then again it’s literally towards the back of resident’s gardens. I wouldn’t complain living there tbh. 
     
    Some say these will be the next attractions to be ripped out from the park (to makeway for the next park redevelopment). Whilst I won’t shed a tear when Nighthawk goes (a 10 minute confused journey in pitch black darkness), I will miss the Hollywood ride just a bit. The cave, jaws and Frankenstein scenes are my favourites in this sorry forgotten dark ride.
     


    I’m probably in the minority but I actually really like Geister Riksha. Although it is one of the park’s oldest attractions (it’s 36 years old) the ride still feels like it holds a place even in modern Phantasialand. It certainly fits in more then Temple and Hollywood and feels better looked after too. I would rather the attraction extensively updated than ripped out entirely should China ever become redeveloped.

    Spot the mistake.
     
    Black Mamba was still amazing, Colorado crazy in the best way and Mystery Castle somewhat on the shorter setting. I enjoyed Maus Au Chocolate more this time which is great to see so much theming between the screens. Winjas Fear is definitely the better track. Bizarrely we had to enter through a back route to the entrances due to the main area playing home to a private function. 
     
    Due to a national holiday, there was no music on the second day in many park areas until 6pm.
     





    Phantasialand at night just looks absolutely spectacular, here’s the China Area. Whilst this area doesn’t House the park’s best rides it’s still one of my favourite areas in the park. That said I like 
    pretty much all the areas of the park, the Fantasy not so much though.












    Absolutely stunning. I don’t think these photos give the park justice.

    The park at Winter also plays home to not one, but two night-time shows. The first one of these uses the park’s ice rink where numerous costumes performers actout. The loose plot basically comes down to something ruining Christmas and someone coming along saving it and ending on a firework finale.
     
    The second show features a projection/fire show around the Chiapas ride plaza. Unfortunately no photography was permitted (Phantasialand are quite notoriously for being one of the stricter parks for this), so I wasn’t able to get any pics as I didn’t fancy getting shouted at in German.
     
    I definitely enjoyed both shows for what they were but wouldn’t necessarily say they were out standing. They certainly weren’t terrible either. Perhaps my insufficient German didn’t help.

    During my visit  I was very fortunate to stay at Hotel Lingbao, which was just stunning. I absolutely fell l in love with the place from it’s oriental styling to it’s quaint surroundings. Many of the items in this hotel are said to have actually come from China itself.


    Would strongly recommend staying here if you can as it’s definitely worth it. Otherwise H+ is a suitable place if you are on a budget.
     

    On the second day, we ventured (or should I say attempted) some cultural stuff in Cologne. Unfortunately this wasn’t as successful as hoped due to the Chocolate Museum being closed, but we did what we could out of it.

    Cologne Lock bridge.

    I also had my first Hard Rock Cafe experience here. I strongly enjoyed this (however Tomb thought it was average). Not sure how others compare.

    Old Cologne. Sadly most of Cologne is modern brutal buildings. I’ll let Basil Fawlty do the explaining.

    Tradional German Market, we actually visited two but I definitely preferred this one.

    Random animatronic goodness. You can pay a euro for the duo to play a tune of your choice whilst drinking beer. 

    I will end this update with Cologne Cathedral at night. 
     
    If the closed season becomes too much, just book a winter trip to Phantasialand (opening hours vary). Merry Christmas!












  19. Like
    pluk reacted to Mark9 for a blog entry, End of year review 2017   
    If 2015 and 2016 were anything, empty would be the main word. I'd lost my coaster enthusiasm in a big way with only trips to the Disney parks across Florida, California and Paris being real highlights, their blend of capacity, good hours and efficiency being real draws. Any time I'd visited Merlin parks, I'd been frustrated with just how boring and badly run they had become. If I remember 2017 for anything, it would be the year that I got back into theme parks in a big way. It happened relatively late on in the year though, with only a trip to Disneyland Paris in February before the 25th anniversary celebrations begun.
     
    I had been planning a trip with a few others for the beginning of April. This was the real kickstarter frankly. Parc Asterix, Nigloland, Holiday Park, Phantasialand, Movie Park Germany and Efteling on the agenda. This was a sublime trip with big parks and some fantastic rides. I could wax lyrical about Alpina Blitz at Niglo for hours. This to me is why Mack rides are so exciting. Intense, full of air time, perfect restraint systems and operations. It's been a long time since I've gone back again and again for a rollercoaster, let alone ride that same ride 10 times in a day. But Alpina Blitz is something special. This is why the idea of Icon at Blackpool is so exciting because Mack rides are rerideable and damn good fun.

     
    Getting back on Oz'Iris, Black Mamba and Taron filled me with delight too. I always wondered if I had just over-rated Oz'Iris back when I first rode it but now I know that I hadn't. It's a genuinely good, unique inverter and the operations were absolutely perfect. Whilst Tonnere de Zeus was a bit disappointing this time around, I still maintain that Goudurix is just brilliantly awful. The thrill comes from wondering if you will survive.
     
    I was still disappointed with Expedition Ge Force. I know why people like it and even get why this was rated Number one rollercoaster for years But we've moved on now and the stupid loading procedures and strictness of the ride holds it back in so many ways. Don't ride Alpina Blitz the day before is all I can advise. A ride that did surprise was Van Helsing at Movie Park. Wow. It's just a simple Gerstlauer bobsled but it was a big shock at how good it was. Very forceful cornering that compete with our own Rattlesnake at Chessington. The final park was Efteling which I wish we had longer at. It's back on the agenda for 2018 because I just didn't feel like I got the full Efteling experience. I really liked Baron 1898 for what its worth and the fairy dark ride was pure class from start to finish.

    (side note, has anyone seen that seven rollercoasters you need to ride in 2018 video thats been going around? Why is Baron even on that list?!)
     
    With that excitement over the next trip was IMO the best park in the world, Europa Park. It's no secret that I love Europa and every time I go it surprises and delights at every turn. It was weirdly quiet, managed to stay on Blue Fire twice in a row for example and we didn't really queue longer then 20 minutes for Arthur. We didn't know it was to be our last rides on EuroSat 1. It was running fantastically well. There's something about these older dark rides that just surprise at every turn. Wodan was also running fantastically. Every successive trip, it just seems to get better and better. Whilst I prefer Blue Fire, Wodan really is a great coaster. Coupled onto this trip was a few days at Paris to do all the 25th anniversary shows and to experience Hyperspace Mountain. Yuck. I don't really like it when a ride like Space Mountain has a theme chucked at it in such a haphazard way. The new trains are fine, but the use of Star Wars doesn't work here. New Illuminations is also not very good. There I said it. Stop trying to sell me your brands in such a blatant way. 
     
    July time and it was off to Walygator for Monster. This is a pretty damn good B&M and whilst Walygator is a bit of a dump, Monster almost makes up for it.

     
    One final trip to Paris happened (annual pass fun) and then November and off to Florida for a two week vacation. (lol America)
     
    I'll first talk about Busch Gardens and Seaworld before descending into Disney. Do Busch and Seaworld ever get busy? For example, I've never queued longer then 10 minutes at Busch for anything. Walk on Montu, Cheetah Hunt is lovely but surely it shouldn't be that way in Florida. Suffice to say my feelings for certain rides has changed. I'm not sure what they've done to Kumba for example but it felt like the wheels were squares. It was running quite roughly throughout whilst was slightly disappointing as I'd previously loved it. Montu was fine but it really doesn't compare to Oz'iris, Monster, Nemesis. It's first half is fine, but the second half is just the train wondering around finding its way to the ending. Sheikra is excellent. So much force and air time throughout. I hear that it's hated in theme park circles and I really don't get why.

    Cobras Curse was new last year and seemed to be having a lot of problems. We managed two rides and it was an okay enough ride but was a bit haphazard in its execution. 
     
    Seaworld has three top quality rollercoasters and thats it. Luckily, these are B&M"s and three very strong ones at that. I'll start with Kraken (or Kraken Unleashed) which has been completely wrecked by VR. I'm not sure how the queue works anymore because the queue is closed off with a gate for the whole day and you have to ask to ride without VR. If you want VR you have to grab a virtual queue ticket. You could easily lie however and just queue normally and get straight on. But if you have a virtual queueing ticket you get priority onto the ride and can still just choose not to use the VR if you so desire. It was weird. The VR is fine but again it take away from the quality B&M experience you could be having instead. I'd never really liked Kraken that much before but I really enjoyed it this time around. It felt a bit rough around the edges and less smoother then before so maybe I like the more visceral experience.
     
    Manta is excellent. The flyer is a bit of an under-rated gem in Europe to be honest and its a shame its never really taken off because from what I've seen and experienced, the flyer is the most intense B&M product available. I know some don't like pretzel loops but I absolutely adore them. MORE PRETZEL LOOPS PLEASE.

     
    And finally... Mako. My experience with B&M Hypers is ashamedly lacking. I've only been on Silver Star and Shambhala so far so I was looking forward to Mako. A few things with this first. Most hypers have nine rows, Mako has seven so it looks really short and oddly shaped compared to the norm. I think this may explain why Mako is so much more airtimey and 'intense' compared to the others I've been on because the air time here was far more in the Intamin category of air time then the norm. The first half of Mako is excellent and surprisingly intense. It felt far more violent that I'm accustomed to from Shambhala for example which takes everything far more calmly. Mako isn't like this at all. What does take away its edge though is two trim breaks. WHY DO THEY DO THIS. Mako has two and the first nearly kills an air time hill, the second makes for a poorer ending then Mako really deserves. What Mako does do is deliver another excellent B&M for Seaworld who IMO have one of the strongest B&M line ups in the world. There, I said it. 

     
    So Disney World. This was all really about Animal Kingdom frankly.  It delivered. There's a slight bit of animosity towards Pandora: The Land of Avatar and I get where that comes from. But it pales into significance of how incredible the area is. It's immersive, its full of little details and each walk through of the area is full of surprises. It's particularly amazing at night when the pathways come to life, full of colour, the plants shine, the waterfalls glisten. 

    There are two rides in the area. Flights of Passage is the big one which gets 180 minute queues from the start, all the way to the end of the day. The other is Navi River Journey, a small boat ride that takes you through the land of Pandora. For all my money (and worth), I think Navi River Journey is the better ride. This goes slightly against the grain but to me, I prefer the physicality of River Journey with a particularly impressive animatronic. Flights of Passage only just justifies its long queue time and if I was being cruel, it's just a slightly more impressive Star Tours. There's no doubt that what Disney have done here is tried to put you on a journey, to wake you up to the damage being done to our world, albeit very subtlety. I just find the pre-shows over long and full of faff, impressive faff but faff nonetheless.
     
    What does impress however is Expedition Everest at night. Disney are the masters at lighting and riding Everest in pitch darkness has to rate as one of my favourite rollercoaster experiences. Rivers of Lights, Animal Kingdoms new night-time show is impressive in its small scale. It's not like the castle firework shows where its essentially a Disney clip show. RoL is about how we live with animals and our bond with nature. I really liked it. 
     
    Nothing to really report about Hollywood Studios and Epcot was it's usual retirement home of locals and retail. Frozen Ever After is fine if unremarkable but just about enough to justify its queue times. Happily Ever After, the new firework show at Magic Kingdom is fantastic. The Christmas event was fun but no way on earth am I queuing three hours to meet Moana.

     
    And with that another theme park year is over. It's been one where I finally feel back into the theme park groove. Hope this wasn't to long a read and congratulations if you've made it to the end.
     
  20. Like
    pluk reacted to Mitchada04 for a blog entry, Efteling Summer Festival   
    I have intention of writing a bumper Halloween blog post with all the scare events I'm visiting. But to do this I should really catch up. So from a good 3 months ago, here is Efteling and their 13 hour day celebrating summer nights or something.

    We were staying in the very nice Loonscheland Hotel. Our room was suitable for up to 5 people, not sure how comfy that would have been but for the 3 of us it was fine. Very nice bathroom, comfy beds. All good. We had a view of the service yard. Fresh breakfast each morning was great though with breads etc.


    Climbing frames and goats made it even more fun!

    1st July. First day of the festival and Symbolica opening. We used our ERT to wait for it to open

    Pardoes (?) happy to get a ride about him

    And the hoards arrive! We made the first batch of guests (should I brag about this?) and it's a very nice attraction. Fun for everyone.

    Enough of this. Let's start the party! Commencing at 6pm, there was a parade

    Which was basically of all the entertainment that'd be on offer that night

    So each land had an offering and a timetable of different events. There was so much going on it was fab


    And a marching band. Think there was one near the front too

    So Ravelijn land had sword fighting

    And other stuff. Was like a mini Warwick castle

    We then went and got some food from this pop up stand area, was nice. And then these guys got involved, with an amazing repertoire of music they were much entertainment. As can be seen, Josh has a video  

    Carnival had a random sing-a-long session.

    The area by the rapids had these dancers and Flamenco

    The Swiss (?) area by Bob had this guy, Steinbok. He was very popular, a comedic singing act. Had like a cult following it seemed.

    Was a very nice atmosphere though

    The best in my eyes were the street performers in Arabian Nights land.

    This guy not giving ice cream (it was free if you could grab it from him)

    Some magic act. And I think I might have been roped into buying an authentic rug?

    Flying Dutchman had one of those not moving people who then does move.

    And then it started to get dark!

    Steinbok still holding a crowd!

    And then the beautiful fountains. They had 3 shows on that night, Aquanara as normal, symphony 1 and symphony 2 which were different music configurations from the attractions around the park! We ended up seeing both symphony's and had an amazing night. Possibly one of the best theme park events I've attended. All included in your ticket price



    It must have now been 11:20 but the park were in no rush to kick us out. So much so they had all the acts from throughout the park at the exit area saying bye to everyone, taking photos etc

    The entrance is annoyingly large and doesn't fit in my photo.
     
    Next time, Liseberg and the city of Gothenburg!
  21. Like
    pluk reacted to Han30 for a blog entry, First trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach   
    Second attempt at this  damn my phone!
     
    Well as the title states, I recently took a trip oooop North with @Roodieto visit the famous pleasure beach.  Having never been that far up the country in my life I was a tad anxious as I don't go too far from home generally - however, stepping out of my comfort zone was worth it.
     

     
    The sunset on the drive up was pretty lush so I took a fairly standard photo 
     
    We stayed over at The Big Blue Hotel which was really nice and meant that we didn't have to travel in the morning as the pleasure beach is next door - the staff there are really friendly and helped out with a few questions we had.
     
    As it was half term when we visited and was a tad busy we decided to get the VIP speedy passes - unlike Merlin these things are more affordable at £45 - but because we stayed at their hotel we got them half price - definitely worth it as we were only there for one day.
    There are some rides not included in the speedy pass - Steeplechase, Skyforce, Wild Mouse (possibly others) and you only get one go on Grand National with it.
     
    We kicked off the day on Blue Flyer which is a cute little coaster and neither myself nor Roodie had ever ridden a woodie before so it was a gentle introduction - although I thought my knee caps were going to smash as its a bit of a squeeze.
     
    After that we headed to their dinky log flume (I forget the name) "yeah that looks tame" - wow I got drenched - a rather sizeable wave decided to pay me a visit as we splashed down so that was nice - thankfully it was hot so I dried off quick 
     
    Over the course of the day my ride count was as follows -
     
    Log flume X 1 Valhalla X 5 Wild mouse X 1 Steeplechase X 1 Blue flyer X 1 Big Dipper X 2 Infusion X 1 Nick streak X 2 Big one X 1 Wallace and Gromit X 1 Avalanche X 1 Sky force X 1 Alice's wonderland X 1 Derby racer X 1 Grand National X 1  
    Big Dipper
    This is such an iconic ride at BPB and I was excited about riding it - first go on this thing and my butt was flying off the seat so much which was fun although I randomly began screaming which I have a habit of doing on rides I'm not familiar with - love this ride - the first drop is pretty good and I love the tight turns on it and the whole layout 
     
    Nickolodeon Streak
    This one surprised me as I thought it was going to be really tame considering it is in the Nickolodeon land area of the park - apart from a rather noticeable jolt at the top of the lift hill I loved it - the hills, the layout, the fact that embarrassingly I screamed .  The seats are so comfy - like mini sofas with a lap bar.  Not keen on the colour of the ride but then orange has never been my colour 
     
    Steeplechase
    Well....firstly I was worried about how I would get on the flaming horse (I once got stuck on a horse on a carousel which was awkward).  Managed to get my leg over ok then we got strapped in and I'm thinking "hmm what's to stop me falling off" - this was all before the ride even started.  And blimey when it started I screamed and continued to do so for pretty much the duration of the ride - every corner we went round the screams got louder- I don't have a great sense of balance and was convinced I was going to come a cropper.  The ride itself is pretty cool and I would love to try the other tracks as we only did one ride on it - as we came back into the station I got a few funny looks but was more worried that I'd done my throat damage from my sqwaking.
     
    Avalanche
    Prior to visiting, this, along with The Big One were the 2 coasters I was a tad concerned about - The Big One because of the height and Avalanche because - IT HAS NO TRACK!  So I'm thinking "well what if this thing rolls over and and my life ends mangled on the floor" - NOT that I overthink things.  Stood and watched it for a bit but that annoying laughing man thing (what is that?!!) was beginning to grate so we headed up the exit to ride.
    Despite screaming the entire time I actually loved this thing - it's so twisty and actually moves a lot swifter than it looks.  My onride photo captured the terror on my face- actually I've never had such a look of fear on a coaster picture before - so I bought it.....

     
    The Big One
    Ok so I hate heights - I can't even go on The London Eye because the one and only time I did go on it I had a bad panic attack.  I'm only ok with Stealth because I've ridden it so many times but I don't notice the height much on that thing because if you blink you miss it.
    I remember when this thing opened and watching a news article on it thinking "noooope" but back then I was a huge wuss.
    After taking an anxiety tablet and waiting for it to kick in I decided to just do it - Roodie has a much worse fear if heights than me so I went on my own.  Was actually fairly chilled on the lift hill going up though I was in the middle of the train so was focusing on the persons head in front of me - was feeling quite chuffed with myself until it went down the first drop - I screamed and some very fruity language emerged from my mouth.  I've watched POVs of this thing but that drop when you are on it is high...and steep.  Then I randomly screamed in other places - not because I was scared but because heck that thing is rough!  The ride length is decent and the track layout is pretty good but the roughness was a bit much at times.  I'm glad I rode it and I would ride it again if I ever go back but after that first drop its a bit anti-climactic. It's crazy to think this thing opened the same year as Nemesis though I shouldn't compare the 2 - I know which one has aged better 
    This is my ride pic which makes me look like I was chilled...which I wasnt 
     

     
    Infusion
    THIS has to be the worst pain I have ever encountered on a coaster - and I don't mind a bit of roughness (I've ridden Saw 9 times in the space of an hour before).
    They should have kept with its original name of Traumatizer because I felt like I had some sort of brain trauma after that experience.  We sat at the front and I dread to think how horrific it must be on the back row.  From when the ride left the lift hill to when it hit the brake run both myself and Roodie were screaming "owwww" "ouch" with the odd swear word chucked in on particularly horrific moments. I can only describe the experience as akin to having my head repeatedly bashed against a brick wall - in fact, I have had my head smashed against a brick wall and I can honestly say it was more pleasant than this thing.
    Ive read about Vekoma SLCs being rough but jeez I didn't think a coaster could be THAT rough.  They could really do with having mini air bags at the side of the restraints to cushion people's heads - I might pitch that idea to them.
    Its not all bad though - the good points of this coaster are that its a nice shade of blue - I also like the water features surrounding it which, to be fair you don't notice whilst riding because you're too busy having your brain bashed.
    Our on ride photo is very deceiving - it almost looks like we are enjoying the experience but when the pic was taken we were both mid-"OWW"
     

    "what sort of cheese was that?"
     
    Wild Mouse
    While queuing for this I was informed that it's mean to be pretty scary - ummm how? It just looks like a very small standard wild mouse - but no - this thing is a wooden wild mouse and the structure wobbles a tad which is fab for putting anxiety at ease! There were kids riding it, couldn't hear much screaming so I wasn't concerned.  How wrong was I?  As we headed up the lift hill I thought "well this ain't bad" then that quickly changed.  I don't think I've ever screamed so much on a ride as that one - I've also never been more terrified on a coaster than wild mouse.  Looks are so deceiving with this one - it's a small layout but it's full of very tight turns, drops, air time and (if you're me) seeing your life flash before your eyes.  I kept thinking this coaster is old and I genuinely thought the car was going to fly off the tracks.
    Where Infusion was the most painful coaster I've ridden, Wild Mouse is certainly the scariest - in terms of not feeling safe (you only have a seatbelt aswell) - of course it's safe but jeez it scared me so much that it is one of only a couple of rides I've done that I don't think I could re-ride.  The plus of our ride was the noises coming out of my mouth which got some funny looks and possibly entertained people queuing for all of 2 minutes.
    I think IF I ever rode this again I would need a few anxiety tablets as my nerves were shot to bits after. Yeah maybe I'm a wuss!
     
    Grand National
    So upon arriving at Grand National there is a sign that warns that it can be intense. Ok no problem - this is a ride I've wanted to try for a long time. I can handle a bit of roughness.
     I wanted to love this ride...but I didn't.  Now it may be that we rode it just after the hell that is Infusion so my head hadnt properly recovered and I had one epic headache brewing.  We sat at the front and headed up the lift hill - after the first drop that was it - I never thought it possible for my head to rattle quite so much on a ride that just has a lap bar but I felt like a nodding dog in a car doing 120mph.
    The layout is good, the fact you are racing the other train is good but it was a bit too much for my head to take.
    I would love to ride this again when my head is normal (well normal for me!) because I'm sure my brewing headache didn't help the situation.  This is another iconic ride at the pleasure beach and was very popular so I think it needs another chance before I can properly judge it
     
    Thats the coasters covered - The only one we didn't do was Revolution but as it goes backwards that's probably good that we swerved it as I don't do particularly well on things that go the wrong way!
     
    Wallace & Gromit ride I really enjoyed and they sell some interesting items in the gift shop - cheese stick of  rock anyone?!  
     
    Alice in Wonderland ride was ok for what it is - not something I would personally queue for though.
     
    Derby Racers is adorable and thankfully I didn't get stuck getting off the horse at the end 
     
    Skyforce is ok - the indoor queue but was hotter than a sauna though so I wasn't able to pay lots of attention to the instructional video.  This thing surprised me because it actually goes higher than it looks - I did managed about 75% of one spin on it but freaked out - also it's hard work trying to manoeuvre so I gave up after a while - it's a nice ride but on really busy days it must be horrific to queue for due to its low throughput.
     

     
    I saved my fave ride for last - VALHALLA!
     

     
    I have so much love for Valhalla - we ended up riding it 5 times.
    The theming outside the ride is brilliant and I love the fact that you can't see any of the actual ride so you have no idea what to expect (unless you've seen a POV which I hadn't).
    Its hard to believe this ride has been at the park since 2000 because it is so impressive and unlike Tidal Wave which opened the same year offers so much more and shows just how good a water ride can be (just to add I've only so far done UK water rides so I'm sure there are better ones elsewhere in the world).
    Ive always found water rides fascinating - and back before I conquered my fear of coasters and anything really thrilling, Tidal Wave was my fave ride at Thorpe and I would ride it on my own while my sister went off to go on the coasters.
     
    I know Valhalla and Tidal Wave are very different rides (and I enjoy both) but for me I love Valhalla for the theming, the audio, the length of the ride, the drops - everything.  Tidal Wave you go up, you come down and you get drenched which is fab on hot days.  Of course Valhalla will get you wet - soaked even (front row left hand side especially) but for the experience it's worth it.
    We didn't bother with ponchos as it was a warm day.  I was drenched - my feet were soggy but unlike rides like Storm Surge where your feet get crazy wet for what I think is a naff ride (putting it mildly) I didn't mind so much after Valhalla - later on in the evening the waft from my damp trainers was not pretty but that was the only down side.
     
    I love the effects used in the ride - though has anyone noticed that the ice room has a hint of a vinegar aroma about it? ?
     
    This is our ORP from the 4th of 5 rides we did on it - and where I got the most drenched
     

     
    Summary (well done if you've got this far!)
     
    The park was bigger than I thought it would be even though the coaster seem to be on top of each other (if that makes sense)
    The staff are really friendly as are people up North in general - seriously if some of those people came to where I live they'd think every Southerner is a miserable git.
     
    It was great finally being able to ride some wooden coasters (and face my fear going on The Big One)
    Being away from home is hard for me at times with my anxiety but I coped fine with it and next big trip is further away
     
    There are some rides we didn't get the time to go on and other rides I would love to do again.  Construction for ICON is coming along nicely and it would be fab to go back when it opens.
     
    All in all a great day - we did Alton Towers the following day as it is en route back home so we took the chance to have a quick snooze on the RMT...as you do 
     

     
    Choo choo
     
    Thanks for reading - this is the first blog entry I've done in ages so apologies if it is waffly - I'm on the caffeine and can't sleep!
     
    Next blog will be in Sept/Oct after visiting Efteling and Phantasialand with @Roodie -I'll try to make the next one less waffly ?
  22. Like
    pluk reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, The Walking Dead: Breakout Review   
    Following the recent-ish announcement of The Walking Dead coming to Thorpe, I thought I'd share a review of TWD: Breakout, Movie Park Germany's 5 Euro upcharge scare attraction.  And also share some expectations I have for Living Nightmare and Sanctum as a result..
     
    I have to say, I was really looking forward to this.  Movie Park are well known for this Halloween event, and they continually bring in big name IPs as well as original concepts (this year, they've got an 18+ maze themed to the Hostel series which looks to be at least partially an alone experience for example), so that sets a certain bar.  The maze itself was really pushed hard, on the website, on leaflets, on the park map and on park too - it was almost like it was a crowning success for the park; their gem along with their big new ride.  They advertised "the latest technologies" which helped achieve special effects, along with the standard 'intense, scary' jargon that most mazes get.  And even though I haven't watched the TV show (and still haven't yet), I knew how much scope the franchise has.
     
    Breakout Review
    Warning - spoilers
     
    After doing some queueing in some shipping containers, you reach the entrance of the maze, which is themed around the Harrison Memorial Hospital (apparently from the first series).  You could hear lots of banging to the right of the wall, which I thought was a bit of a spoiler, since an actor was bound to appear.  
     
    You get batched in in groups of about 8, and encouraged to stay together, but it's not a conga line maze.  The first scene just ends up being a standard safety scene (delivered on TVs in multiple languages), and then an actor appears from a hidden route to your left (despite the loud noises you hear outside coming from what should be your right).  It was a clever bit of misdirection, and though not scary, showed some promise.  The actor then chases away to go down the corridor on your right, banging the walls to encourage you to leave..
     
    Unfortunately from here, things go downhill.  You walk past the famous 'Don't Open, Dead Inside' doors, with no sort of effects or actor or special lighting or anything; a particularly disappointing thing since that was so widely pushed in advertised.  An actor appeared, shouting 'Boo', and doing some general arm waving to try and invade our personal space.  No context to the scenes, and I realised that it was actually the same actor as from the first scene, which begun to ring alarm bells as to the number of actors.
     
    You continue through more scenes, which are very well themed, but had little sound effects and no special effects.  Occasionally an actor appeared, but they all did the same thing - shout 'boo' and walk like a zombie who'd an accident in their underwear...  Though the theming was nice, you weren't given any chance to really interact with it - you were always well away from anything of note, and given tonnes of space with nothing filling it.  It was the worst thing a scare maze can be - boring.  
     
    The ending was cliche to say the least...  Large open space, couple of barrels and a door at the end of the room.  Oh, except a big burly man with a chainsaw appears out of nowhere by the door.  Been there, done that.  However, a tiny ray in the ending was the fact that the actor kicked down a barrel onto the floor, creating a huge, echoing thud - easily the biggest scare in the maze, and shows that there was at least a glimmer of thought put into 'how can we actually scare people' when designing the maze.  
     
    So yeah, TWD: Breakout was a very poor maze.  Few actors, little-to-no use of standard scare tactics introduced and nothing exciting or interesting to go with it.  Maybe having done a few good mazes over the years has hardened me up a bit too much, but there was just nothing of note.
     
    Thorpe Expectations
     
    Something which still sticks in my mind about Breakout is how well themed the maze was, and how well designed the sets were.  Looking at photos of the maze and looking at images from the show, they are very similar down to the small details.  So I expect that AMC / Fox have quite high expectations and demands about the theming of the maze that have to be met.  Given the Paragon Creative have been spotted on park (the company who also did a great job when making Saw Alive!), I expect that those expectations will be met, especially with Living Nightmare.
     
    From the brief description that Thorpe have released, it sounds like Living Nightmare will be in a similar vain to Breakout in that there are a variety of scenes from the show in the maze that you go through, except that they are including Season 7 in there.  Also, as we're told that we can "choose your path and decide your fate", there might be the possibility of multiple routes akin to Cabin - a nice touch which works nicely with the 'assorted scene' vibe.  
     
    I must admit I'm concerned about what sort of scares we're in for.  Thorpe have gotten a reputation that their style of scare is 'growl in people's face, brush against their arm and slam against a wall' and move on.  Though I don't strictly agree with this (and we've seen them move away from that with the likes of Big Top, Blair Witch and Platform 15 in my opinion), I certainly see where people are coming from.  And it feels almost inevitable that we could be in for that treatment here.  I'd really love to see some effects that play on the senses more here - smells are something which are particularly under-used by Thorpe.  And I feel like having a hospital scene, for example, which is literally 'cold' would work well.  Couple in some other effects here and there, and it would work really well.  But I'm just not sure we're in for that.  
     
    As for Sanctum, given it's said to be an outdoor maze, and from the little we've seen of it, I get a feeling like it will be a bigger, better, more-coherently themed version of Dead End.  The general story seems to be 'death and destruction wasteland, you enter a safe bit, but oh wait, it's not safe' - something that Thorpe can do well.  The containers could act as means to create a long route to walk around, and be used for impact scares.  Chuck in a couple of set pieces and bits and bobs and it'll be a fun little maze.  I'm not expecting anything groundbreaking, but it has the potential to be a perfect filler maze, as well as helping spread the crowds around.
     
     
    tl;dr - Germany's Walking Dead maze is on the whole, naff, but the theming is good.  I expect good theming at Thorpe and hope they can produce something different in terms of scares.
  23. Like
    pluk reacted to BenC for a blog entry, Stuttgart Sojourn: Tripsdrill   
    Stuttgart Sojourn
     
    The 2016 Theme Park season is upon us, and what better way to kick off than a weekend hop over to visit our deutsche Freunde in Baden Württemberg. The reason for the trip was to explore two of the more regional, and less-well-travelled parks, in Germany: Tripsdrill and Holiday Park.
     
    Planning was a cinch, involving a Eurowings flight out to Stuttgart (£50) and overnight stay at the Wyndham hotel on airport (£30) on the Friday evening, 2-day car hire from Avis (£30) picked up on the Saturday morning, entry to Tripsdrill on the Saturday (£17), overnight stay in the Tripsdrill Schäferwagen on the Saturday evening (£40), entry to Holiday Park on the Sunday (£24), petrol for the weekend (£8.50), and BA flights home on Avios (£17.50); all prices per person, based on 2 travelling. At £217 each, it's great value - and I'd encourage anyone thinking about planning a similar European trip to jump straight in - there's a huge variety of Theme Parks on the continent, not all that far from us, at relatively accessible prices.
     

     
    As you can see, both Tripsdrill and Holiday Park are easily driven to from Stuttgart airport, although flying into Frankfurt could also work. And for a three day trip, Europa Park is also just under 100 miles away...
     
    First up, on the Saturday, was Tripsdrill; a Park marketed as "featuring over 100 original attractions depicting Swabian life in the late 1800s... remarkable attention to detail, dedication to authenticity and respect for nature truly set Tripsdrill apart". And I'm happy to report that there's no marketing hooey here: the above sums up Tripsdrill really rather well.
     
    Tripsdrill
     

     
    This here is a Swabian man - let's call him Günther - from the late 1800s. Goodness knows what he is doing, or what he has on his back, but Tripsdrill is stuffed full of animatronics such as Günther - the Park really is a mecca for rural German history, if that's the sort of thing you're into. There are whole areas of the Park filled with both static tableaux and moving scenes, and you can easily spend an hour wandering around the place exploring all the exhibits.
     
    This, along with its gorgeous rural location (in a valley, surrounded by vast rolling fields), gives Tripsdrill a very "homely" feel: it would come as no surprise to anybody that it remains family owned (the Fischers have run Tripsdrill since 1929; it's easily Germany's oldest Theme Park). It's clearly important to the owners that the Park integrates as much with nature as possible; wood is used for most buildings, and there are trees and flowers everywhere. And being family owned, there is a more "relaxed" approach to H&S (although I never once felt unsafe), operations were excellent, and there wasn't a queue-jumping scheme to be seen.
     

     
    First up for us was the 2013 Gerstlauer Infinity Coaster, Karacho (no literal translation, other than "a lot of power"). The Park's newest and most intense ride, Karacho still manages to nestle in very comfortably with its countryside surroundings. The ride features Infinity trains with similar assemblies to Alton's The Smiler, but with only 2 rows rather than 4, and lap bars instead of OTSRs.
     
    Themeing on the ride, as with all of Tripsdrill, is excellent, with scenes around the queueline telling a story about a madcap inventor designing his perfect roller coaster, surrounded by plans, prototypes and the like. Karacho is the result of his work, but as riders disembark, they are treated to one final animatronic of the inventor throwing up (water) into an oil drum. Not so perfect for him, then.
     
    The ride itself involves a 180 degree turn out of the station into darkness, a "surprise" indoors heartline roll in the same vein as The Smiler, a peppy 55mph LSM launch out into the light, and an outside layout that involves a 98ft top hat, 2 dive loops and a corkscrew.
    Operations were excellent, with fast, regular dispatching of trains - the operator would give each lap bar one push down and one pull up, and that was it; away we went. Top marks.
     

     
    I was expecting Karacho to be a solid Gerstlauer installation, in the same vein as Lynet at Fårup, or Anubis at Plopsa. Solid launch, decent layout, OK trains. So I was really surprised to find that Karacho was actually bloody fantastic.
     
    The trains are a large reason as to why - the Gerstlauer clamshell lap bar is a triumph; allowing maximum freedom whilst not exerting too much pressure on any one part of your thighs (I'm looking at you, solid Intamin bar of doom; see my Italy TR for more musings on this). For me, Karacho's are the closest coaster seats in terms of comfort to those found on Mack's megacoaster product - high praise indeed.
     
    This elevates an enjoyable experience to a brilliant one, as the rider has complete freedom to be thrown about the remarkably well-tracked layout - which, in contrast to certain other rides, features absolutely no jolting or shuddering whatsoever. It's super smooth, and super fun.
     

     
    By far the highlight of the ride is the 2nd dive loop, shown below. Not only does the ride tunnel underground, but the transition from the banked curve (seen at the back) and the dive loop (at the front) is very tight, meaning that riders get sharply "pulled around" into the dive (in a similar way to blue fire's final inline twist). It's an example of where OTSRs would have caused all sorts of painful head bashing, but with clamshell restraints, the ride remains intense but comfortable.
     

     
    A final nod to the ride's lighting package. The well-themed trains look even better when they connect to the power supply in the station, as the two rear "engines" start to glow a vibrant red. It's a simple LED effect but really showcases Tripsdrill's attention to detail, fostering a nice anticipatory atmosphere in the dimly-lit station.
     
    Overall, Karacho came very close for me to being the perfect mid-sized coaster. Although it probably wouldn't trouble my top 10, it would get fairly close - and it's by far the best Gerstlauer I've ever ridden. It actually prompted me to consider a trip to Finland to ride its brightly-coloured brother at PowerLand, and seems to me to be the perfect investment for parks with mid-sized budgets; I can imagine Blackpool and Drayton would be good candidates in the UK for this sort of ride.
     
    And finally - why, oh why, could Merlin not have opted for lap bars on Smiler's Infinity trains...?!
     

     
    Next up was 2008's Mammut ("Mammoth"), a pre-fab wooden coaster from Holzbau Cordes (similar to Intamin's pre-fab efforts with Balder and Colossos), themed around German saw mills. Cue more tableaux in the queue line of workers, saws, wood, etc... you get the idea. Strangely, no mammoths to be seen. And again, Gerstlauer were involved - this time producing the trains.
     
    It's an imposing ride for a smaller park like Tripsdrill (98-foot tall, 2,822ft long), and I had to set my camera to "panorama mode" to fit it all in...
     

     
    We were lucky enough to get 4 back-to-back rides in the morning (it turns out the Park doesn't get so busy during dreary Saturdays in April...!), and I'm happy to report Mammut is a good 'un.
     
    An entertaining pre-show before the lift hill (with a "saw mill goes wrong" theme), a killer first drop (especially in the back row), and a varied layout including a tunnel, all add up to a solid ride. Operations were good, albeit one train only.
     
    It isn't hugely intense - although I suspect that's not the market Tripsdrill's after - and there is a little bit of roughness during some parts of the ride - although there's a good argument that this is part and parcel of a wooden coaster - but these are minor quibbles of an otherwise decent coaster.
     

     
    You also get the advantage of some superb views of the rolling green countryside as you ascend the lift hill.
     
    It's no Wodan or Troy, but just look at the curve on that drop. Phwoar.
     

     
    Moving on, and this is G'sengte Sau - the Park's first "big" coaster, from - you guessed it - Gerstlauer. Indeed, Tripsdrill's involvement with Gerstlauer goes back a long way, as G'sengte Sau was Gerst's first ever coaster, back in 1998. And what is remarkable is how smooth and accomplished the ride is, given that it was Gerstlauer's very first effort.
     
    The ride is built around a schwäbisch castle, featuring the wild-mouse bends and tight helices typical of these bobsled coasters, with some good near misses around the building structure. More than most rides at Tripsdrill, this one felt truly integrated with its environment; the bunny hops towards the end of the layout felt more like they were following the terrain than having been artificially created.
     

     
    It most reminded me of Thor's Hammer at Djurs, which was no bad thing - and no surprise either given that Thor was Gerst's 2nd ever bobsled ride in 2002. A little rough in places, but capable of pulling some great forces around its tight layout.
     
    Note how close the ride track is to the public pathway; no netting obscuring the view, no fencing or bars erected in the name of H&S. It makes a big difference to the organic feel to the ride, and was great to see - the Germans are clearly more trusted than we are to not do anything stupid...
     

     
    The other side to the castle hosts the wonderful Badewannen-Fahrt zum Jungbrunnen (translation: "Bathtub Journey to the Fountain of Youth"). This is an above-average Mack flume ride, where riders sit in comedy bathtubs meandering around various animatronic bath time scenes - some featuring a fair bit more nudity than you'd see in other countries! I have photos, but we must remember that TPM is a family website...
     
    There were three drops, including a backwards one, and some nice interaction with the aforementioned G'sengte Sau. The drop was visually impressive, but didn't get you all that wet - which is the perfect combination for a cloudy April afternoon in my eyes.
     

     
    By far the best bit of Badewannen-Fahrt zum Jungbrunnen however is the figure - let's call her Maike - that greets you when you disembark your bathtub.
     
    She surely has to be one of the most gross characters to be found at a Theme Park, ever.
     
    Some things cannot be unseen...
     

     
    Onto some of the Park's supporting attractions, and we come first to Doppelter Donnerbalken (literally, "Double Thunder Beam"). This is a quirky set of two 50ft drop towers from Premier, facing each other, both themed to large trees. "Forest Brother" Huzelin lives in these trees, apparently, and the only way to visit him is to ride the tower. You know it makes sense.
     
    What was quirky about the ride, apart from the fab Tripsdrill themeing, was what happened for the finale. For most of the ride the towers acted like oversized frog-hoppers, bouncing around whilst catching the expressions of those on the tower opposite (made all the more thrilling by only having a small lap bar to hold you in). The finale though involved both towers being raised to the highest point, and then a pretty fast, aggressive lurch forwards towards the riders on the opposite side.
     
    This maneuver was genuinely surprising, and only a touch away from being "too rough" - with only a thin lap bar to hold you in, the experience could be compared to having a minor car crash.
     
    A nice idea, but I have no doubt that the same effect could be achieved in a more refined way. It's telling that I didn't rush around to ride it again, and I'm a big fan of drop towers (for the record, Thorpe's Detonator still stands as #1 drop tower for me, even up against other towers three times its height...).
     

     
    The Park also has a decent kiddie coaster in Rasender Tausendfüßler (translation: "Raging Centipede" ), a Zierer Tivoli with a high-capacity train that snakes around a lake with a fountain.
     
    Some decent landscaping - and two laps around the track rather than one - elevate this coaster above the majority of similar kiddie rides.
     

     
    Tripsdrill also has an excellent rapids ride in Waschzuber-Rafting ("Washtub Rafting"), a Hafema installation themed around an old washhouse from 1808. The queueline was, as ever, excellently themed, although old mangles and first-gen Miele washing machines aren't the most exciting of things to view whilst queueing...
     
    I've always been a fan of Hafema rapids (their best creation surely being Phantasialand's River Quest) due to their innovative 3-piece boats that allow water to slosh around everywhere. This rapids was great fun as expected, with some seriously choppy bits, a thundering waterfall section, and a mock whirlpool, seemingly a Hafema hallmark.
     
    Note again how close the Park's public areas are to the trough of the rapids. There's only a small wire fence between the pathway and the ride, meaning that an idiotic guest could easily jump right on in...
     

     
    ...and the same applies for Mühlbach-Fahrt ("Mill Stream Ride"), the Park's kiddie flume with a teensy 11ft drop - the cobbled area shown on the bottom right of this photo is a public area, but with absolutely nothing to stop a guest falling / jumping in to the water. I wonder how many kids in the summer have attempted to jump in!
     
    In today's age of hyper-sensitivity to H&S and litigation, Tripsdrill's approach is unusual, but refreshing - let's just hope their more trusting attitude doesn't spell trouble for the Park down the line.
     

     
    And finally a quick look at some oddities that make Tripsdrill, well, Tripsdrill. This ride, Weinkübelfahrt ("Wine Barrel Ride"), looks like your typical cars-on-a-track affair (R.I.P. Miss Hippo), but when various sensors are tripped around the course, the barrels spin like a lively teacup. Fun!
     

     
    Fittingly, just behind the Weinkübelfahrt is the Vinarium, a free museum dedicated to German viticulture that offers all those who enter a free Tripsdrill glass ( ) and a walk around (yet more) exhibits of Swabian culture.
     
    More of note was the cellar of this Vinarium, which turned out to be a fully operational bar. Manned by a local guy with absolutely no understanding of English whatsoever (A Level German suddenly became very useful to me), locally-produced wines from the region were the order of the day. I went for a glass of red (€1.50), which proved very palatable.
     
    Tripsdrill are onto a winner here: if only more Theme Parks would give out free merch and sell cheap local wine in pleasant surroundings....
     

     
    Laughs were had on the Park's Wackelräder ("Shaky Wheels") bikes, which had asymmetrical spokes on the front wheels, making them pretty hard to cycle around. I crashed into a wall once, and very nearly crashed into another guest barely a minute later. Good fun, with up-charging conspicuous by its absence.
     

     
    In all, Tripsdrill is a really lovely place, filled with good quality, well themed mid-sized attractions.
     
    Karacho is a stand-out ride. The fact the Park is family owned and run is evident throughout, and although it was pretty when I went, it must look really gorgeous in the summer. The flowerbed : guest ratio, even in peak season, must be approaching something like 3 : 1 .
     
    It's also a place filled with German heritage oddness, which can range from educational and interesting to just plain strange.
     
    To finish, I'll leave you with the latter; yet another Tripsdrill character - let's call this one Stefanie - who was found towards the end of the Tripsdriller Eheinstitut (translation: "Tripsdrill Institution of Marriage"; itself an odd attraction).
     
    You saucepot, Stefanie.
     

     
    N.B. We stayed overnight in one of Tripsdrill's Schäferwagen ("Shepherd's Carts"); essentially a classier, all wooden Thorpe Shark Hotel, set in gorgeous woodland surroundings. Theoretically you can fit 5 in these 13 sq.m.carts, although it would be a squeeze even with 4: two bunk beds hang over a central double bed, with a couch doubling up as a potential fifth bed. Toilets and showers are situated in a (well maintained) central block, but for those with a bit more cash to spare, full blown 6-person 35 sq.m. treehouses (with integrated bathrooms) are also up for grabs.
     
    It was more than comfortable, and didn't just provide €7 pizzas delivered to our door and a great night's sleep, but a hearty free breakfast the next morning. At €100 (£80) a night all-in, including free entry to the Tripsdrill Wildparadies Nature Park next door and discounted Tripsdrill Theme Park entry, it comes recommended to those looking for an overnight option.
     

     
    Thanks for reading; comments welcome as always.
     
    Next up: Holiday Park!
  24. Like
    pluk reacted to Marhelorpe for a blog entry, A Newbie's Trip to Liseberg   
    It's not often that I tend to have the persuasion and determination to visit theme parks outside of Britain, primarily due to the costs, travel and venturing into the unknown when visiting another country. But Liseberg is different. Liseberg drew my attention more than any other European theme park for 2017 because further research into what the place offered and the ease of travelling there entirely on public transport and not hiring a car got me seriously interested. Of course, Helix was the draw factor for me more than anything because I have found it almost impossible to find a single negative review about the ride since it's debut back in 2014. For too long Nemesis and Shambhala have both always been my top coasters and nothing since has ever managed to come close to them... until now!

    This review will consist of my experience of the park over 2 days earlier last week, flying out on Friday 12th May until Monday 15th May and I will be detailing every little detail I noted, so please understand this is going to be a very long and precise review of travelling there, the park itself and it's attractions it has to offer. If you like to read quick and to-the-point reviews, this is not for you! The aim of this review is to familiarise readers who are considering visiting the park for the first time everything they should know and expect, especially considering a new dive coaster will be opening here in 2018 which is guaranteed to draw quite a few Brits to visit.

    So let's start at the beginning and that's transport and travel to the park, including costs:

    1) TRANSPORT TO & FROM THE PARK

    From what I understand, there are three airports in or around London which fly directly to Gothenburg Landvetter airport which are Ryanair from Stanstead, British Airways from Heathrow and Norwegian Air from Gatwick. I flew with Norwegian Air since Gatwick was the closest airport from my address (Pompey) and even though I admit the flights are cheaper with Ryanair from Stanstead, I was not willing to travel half way across the south to get on a plane, so Norwegian Air was my choice. My outgoing flight from Gatwick was at 19:35 which cost me about £30 single each way (8 weeks in advance booking, no reserved seat).

    Once arriving at Gothenburg, follow the signs to the airport bus service called Flygbussarna which runs every 20 minutes right outside the entrance to the terminal and takes you directly to the city itself which is about a 25 minute drive. Price-wise, at the time of writing this review, tickets are 185 SEK, which equals to about £14 return approximately. There are 4 stops along the way, each getting closer and closer to the centre where the terminus train station is located. Since I was staying in a hotel just 10 minutes away from the park, I only needed to get the second stop, the first one being directly outside the park's entrance and the Gothic Towers.

    So as you can see, it is perfectly manageable to get into the city through the use of public transport without the need to hire a car. A recommendation I make is try and get a flight to the airport which is not scheduled to land after 23:00, because the last bus service is at 00:50am and if there is any delay in your flight, you could risk missing the last one and having to spend about £34 at least with a taxi to get to the city instead, so bear that in mind.

    Now that's out the way, now onto the park itself:

    2) PARK ATMOSPHERE AND THEMING
     
    If you were to ask me to compare the park to any other I know, I would find it very difficult because it's unlike any other theme park I have been to. The first and most obvious difference is that it's located right in the centre of a city with motorways, skyscraper buildings, housing and museums surrounding it everywhere. In some ways, similar to Alton Towers, it has a unique feel to it all because seeing a theme park in the middle of a large city/open countryside is the last thing you would expect!

    Once inside, if you go through the main (north) entrance, you are greeted immediately by a long walkway surrounded by small buildings with gift shops, restaurants, ticket booths and in my case, market stalls (it was their green weekend where the whole of the plaza area and theatre was dominated by fresh plants and flowers). To the right you can see the dominating tower of AtmosFear and the Ferris wheel overshadowing you as walk along the pathway getting ever closer to the centre of the park. Through these alleyways, music played which mostly consisted of chart music, both modern and retro, giving the place a good and clam atmosphere for guests.

    Presentation wise, this is something I will keep mentioning in the review further down, but the park have done a great job at keeping all the buildings, pathways, lighting and signage looking clean and well-maintained at all times which has really put a lot of our parks here in the UK to shame. Instead of having rotting roofs, mouldy walls and broken lights, it was great to see all the smaller details looked after such as all the lightbulbs for the street lighting working with none that have blown or the roofs and walls of the buildings looking like they have just been cleaned overnight and don't have mould or overgrown weeds everywhere and there was no trace of litter anywhere. Being used to the state of our parks today, this was a pleasant surprise for me, regardless of how small it might be.
     

     
    So overall, it might not be the Swedish version of Main Street or Towers Street, but initial impressions of the atmosphere and theming are good so far with everything being maintained and cleaned on a regular basis (from my perspective anyway).

    3) FOOD & DRINK & PRICES

    Now being a tourist attraction in the middle of Sweden's biggest city, I was expecting much like every other theme park on the planet for the prices of food and drink to be high and it absolutely was. Being used to getting the 20% discount on all food and drink at Merlin's parks for many years, I had forgotten how expensive theme park food can be and some of the prices did seem too high for me. For instance, if you get their Max burger meal deal at one of the many stalls in the park, that will set you back about 89 SEK which is about £8 roughly. A cup of coffee (cappuccino) was about 45 SEK (£4) and a bottle of water about 19 SEK (£1.75), so in comparison to the food prices here in the UK, you are looking at about an average price increase of about 10-15%.

    Despite however the prices for their food and drink being quite high, I will say that you definitely get a filling meal for what you pay for. On the second day for lunch, I went to the sandwich shop and had just a full salami and brie baguette which was about 65 SEK (£6.10) and it was pretty large and filled properly and was enough to keep me full until late that evening. So bear in mind even though you might be paying more for an average meal at Liseberg, you are getting bigger average portions as a result in comparison to other theme parks, so that might make up the extra cost for you.

    Another great thing about the food and drink at Liseberg is the variety they provide. Here in the UK it's your typical burger stalls, pizza, pasta, donuts and hot dogs. Whilst Liseberg did offer all this, they also offer as mentioned above some alternative choices, such as the baguette shop, seafood, stir fry, Italian, Mediterranean and Austrian food just to name a few. So regardless of your preference, they are sure to have something to suite your taste and the variety offered was great.

    4) OPERATIONS & RELIABILITY
     
    The first thing that jumped out to me was how efficient the park was at running all of their rides. The staff were loading and dispatching guests as fast as they can on all coasters, one simple check of the restraint was all that done and the guests I noticed don't tend to carry a lot of bags with them when riding, so essentially, this massively sped up the process and reduced the amount of faff some guests can create to a minimum. Lisebergbanan for instance is a great example because not only were they running all trains on the track despite a 10 minute queue all day (take note, Thorpe Park), but the dispatch procedure was quick and simple - gates opening whilst guests were leaving the train, baggage taken onto the trains down by your legs so it doesn't fall out, one quick check of the handle bars with two staff on each side of the train, a simple thumbs up and they're good to go. All of this can take as little as 20 seconds and the queues as a result were moving especially fast, giving you the opportunity to manage more later in the day. If only our parks could run all their rides this efficiently, there wouldn't be the need for Fastrack most days anymore!

    As for reliability, I don't know if I was extremely lucky, but I did not encounter a single break down or stoppage across the entire park on both days I visited. Not one. Every single ride was open, at full capacity and ready for guests, regardless of whether there was a queue or not. Perhaps our rides keep breaking down a lot because of the paranoia surrounding what happened with The Smiler where any little thing out of place involves calling an engineer over the rectify it now, but Liseberg could be a lot more relaxed over it or simply because their rides are purely more reliable machines. Part of me reckons it could be to do with the great amount of maintenance and work done to the rides every year which might have something to do with it, which will be mentioned in a moment.

    5) PRESENTATION

    This was perhaps one of the most surprising things for me about all of the rides at Liseberg - everything looked as though it was brand new. Things such as mould and rust on the coaster tracks was gone, or the queue lines being clean with almost no wear marks, or the trains on Helix looking spotlessly shiny and polished with no marks anywhere, or all of the lights working fine on Mechanica at night. Simply put, everything had a great presentation and didn't look like it was neglected and left to rot. This is what the standard should be at all theme parks - to keep your rides looking spotless and new as long as possible. You know something is wrong when Lisebergbanan, a 30-year old coaster looks better than The Smiler at just 4 years old...... pretty embarrassing if you ask me!
     
    Other smaller details visible across the park and its rides such as the queue line fencing everywhere being freshly painted, to all the queue TV screens working, to all the signage looking untouched & clean and the vegetation trimmed back so it's not overgrown on the rides are what I appreciate a lot with theme parks and it's great to see details as small and noticeable as this being looked after on a frequent basis. We need an attitude like this across all our UK parks where presentation is key because from a customer's perspective, it is.

    6) THE RIDES

    And now onto the best part - my opinion of their 7 signature rides, including Loke being their new one (spoilers - it's awesome!). Here I'll rank them in the order I found to be best in ascending order and I'll being with AeroSpin:

    • AeroSpin (6.5 / 10)
    I wouldn't say this is a bad ride or anything as it definitely wasn't, but I just found it to be a little short and uncomfortable for what it offered. The seats are exactly the same ones you have on Saw and Smiler with the addition of a seatbelt (believe me, it was comforting to have that there for me!), so it wasn't the most comfortable seat for me since I find the restraint to crush my shoulders too much when inverting, and boy, it certainly did it to me on this.

    When you spin in the air, the two mini wings you control are moderately easy to control and are smooth to tilt with your arms, although you might need to put a bit of effort into them as it can strain your arms a bit if you flip too much or too fast during your flight. Depending on the speed of the wind which you are flying in, getting yourself to spin upside down and tilt can really be hit or miss. My first ride I managed 46 flips and then the second only 16. If the wind speed is minimal, you are really going to have to put some effort into getting your plane to spin upside down and the best way to do this is to flip the wings quickly and in perfect sync with the tilt of your seat. If you can manage nice and smooth tilts, this will be easy enough for you to manage. But if you take quick and small tilts with the wings, you barely make it over the top unfortunately.

    When flipping upside down, the first time actually scared me because once I got my wings into position to enable me to flip 46 times, it really goes fast and can make you feel quite dizzy very quickly. Plus, considering you are about 100ft above the ground or 200ft if you include the mountain it's on, flipping that fast feeling as though you are not in control did scare me, especially when the spins got faster and faster and you are sitting in isolation next to nobody else.

    The problem I had most with it was the restraints used and as a result, I had bruise marks on my shoulders after riding it the second time (my own fault) since all the pressure can rest directly onto them if you are held upside down for too long. Also, the ride seemed very short too at only around 1 minute in the air and that's it. Wished it lasted a bit longer, especially considering it would cost the rider 3 tokens if they didn't have the wristband.

    So whilst it's great fun for the views, the soundtrack by IMAscore and multiple flips you can manage, I just found it too uncomfortable and short for my liking unfortunately.
     

     
    • AtmosFear (7 / 10)
    If there is any type of ride at a theme park I am still scared of to this day, it's a drop tower, and AtmosFear really was a struggle for me to get on the first time. Being the tallest in Europe, I almost chickened out on this as a result. But the way I saw it before riding is it cannot be any worse than Detonator which has the most horrible free-fall experience I know on any ride out there and considering I managed Hurakan Condor back in 2013 (yeah, the first ride didn't end well), this surely cannot be any worse. Thankfully, I was right.

    The restraints are almost identical to the seats used on Stealth and Rita with the exception of the shoulder bars being a firm nylon material instead of the padded metal bars used on the coasters. As a result, I could close the restraint using the adjustable fastener to a perfect fit against my chest making sure I was securely strapped into me seat with no give anywhere. When you begin to rise, there's a mist at the top of the building you pass through before you are outside slowly rising to the top.

    It takes a while to get up there which was a great opportunity to get some amazing views up there. The best viewing point is northwards in the direction of the Liseberg wheel when the river down the the harbour goes. Once at the top, there is no countdown or hint at when you are going to drop, so the first time you ride this, it could come as a shock to you.

    When released, the initial release does have the proper free-fall feeling for a split second, but unfortunately, despite picking up more and more speed as you fall down, it doesn't get worse and instead, it feels as though the drop has been tamed to quickly due to the brakes reaching up the first 50% of the tower. I would say the first third of the tower you fall down is forceful, but after that, it doesn't feel as bad in all honesty, so the worst bit is the initial release but once you fall, it doesn't feel too bad.

    I still rate this higher than AeroSpin for the fact it offers better views at the top, travels much faster and doesn't have uncomfortable seats. It might be the most forceless drop tower I've been on yet, but it's still great fun to go on, especially any sunset. In addition, due to the height, this is the first drop tower that has made my ears pop once you've fallen from the top to the bottom in just 3 seconds. That should give you an idea how fast and tall this really is!
     


    • Mechanica (7.5 / 10)
    Initial impressions of this ride from looking at videos of it online were Samurai meets Slammer, and after riding it, that opinion is pretty accurate!

    The overall theme and look to this ride I loved. The queue line with all the carpentry tools and equipment and molten metal in the barrels, to the great soundtrack (also by IMAscore) and the overall look of the ride's support and pods really looked visually attractive. I'd go as far to say at night, this is one of the best looking themed flat rides I know with all the orange lights and flames lighting up the structure and seats in the dark.

    Now as for the ride experience itself, the seats and restraints are far more comfortable compared to the ones used on Samurai (different manufacturers I know, but it reminded me too much of Samurai) and didn't crush your thighs or chest once closed. Plus, there's a good amount of gap between each of the 5 seats on the pods, making moving your arms a lot easier this time. The restraints when closed do not mould against your body unlike Samurai, they instead fix into place on the closest notch they can lock onto. So in my case, there was a bit of give between my stomach and the restraint, which made it easier for me to breathe and adjust thankfully.

    Now onto the ride experience itself, the shocking thing for me was how differently the pods tilt in comparison to Samurai. These pods on Mechanica tilt a lot easier and in effect, you are tilting and flipping much faster and more violently as a result. Some may see this as a disadvantage as it makes the ride quite violent, but I didn't mind and thought it made the experience better.

    The gondola spins quite slowly when it rotates both directions, but this was enough to not make you feel dizzy or to pin you against the side of the restraint either. Instead, it was slow enough to offer you some really good airtime when the arm flips you all the way over, especially if you get the right pod at the right time where you can be plummeting straight to the ground looking straight down whilst feeling weightless. Really good moments and a long ride too!

    The only downside I can say about this is even though the pods flip you a lot more than Samurai's, the structure in my experience seemed to shake a little too much from side to side, probably due to the counterweight at the top being too light and as a result, my head lightly bashed from side to side a bit a couple of times. It's not like Colossus which violently tries to shake your brain out of your skull level, but instead, it's more Dragon Khan levels of head bashing instead. So if you are trying this, I recommend you rest your head against the right side of the restraint or to get a seat closer to the inside to reduce the amount of force on your head. Apart from that, great flat ride and looks very pretty!
     


    • Lisebergbanan (8 / 10)
    This was the first ride I went on in the park on my first day as I wanted to leave Helix until later and experience it properly for the first time with a queue instead of walking straight on. I must say, despite it being 30 years old, it kicked one hell of a punch for a family coaster, to the point where I begin to wonder how on earth can they get away with a height restriction this low for it?!

    The train seats and restraints are very similar to Olympia Looping and Thunder Looper with just a lap bar in place and no divider in between the two seats, leaving you're entire upper body vulnerable to moving from side to side. It was comfortable enough and the seats were quite low down, so there wasn't any thought of losing your bags placed in-between you legs on the floor.

    Once dispatched and getting to the top of the lift hill, the first helix down the hill and over the garden area is a lot, lot faster than any video online YouTube will show you. I had the very back of the train the first time on this and immediately after going down the first drop, I was shocked by how fast this thing goes when the train is full! It really is quite intense for a family coaster and you even get some great airtime at the back too!

    Once the first bit is over and you go down and under Uppswinget three times, this is where it really gets fun as you are going what feels like almost 60mph under the tunnels several times over and over again and due to the design of the trains, you're upper body can shake side to side a fair bit when going down the drops and again, this is a family coaster? It seems very fast and intense to be one for me!
     
    After that, there's one last small helix around the tree and an airtime hill added before you enter the brakes and I must warn any new riders, if you ever rode the Black Hole when it was at Alton Towers, if you remember the brakes at the end of that, you'll know exactly what these ones are like! They are really very violent and sudden brakes which can lurch you forward in the break run and when you re-enter the station, so my suggestion is when you see the yellow sign saying "Broms" on it, hold the handle bar in front of you and brace you arms ready for impact to stop yourself lurching forwards.

    Overall, for a family coaster, this was incredibly surprising for me as it goes a lot faster than it looks, it's long, the restraints are minimal and it has a classic feel to it which reminds me of Nemesis, so it get's a big thumbs up from me.
     


    • Balder (8.5 / 10)
    Their wooden coaster Balder was another great coaster which reminded me a lot of Megafobia at Oakwood. The trains were comfortable with both a seatbelt and a lap bar restraint holding you in and thankfully unlike Gwazi and Stampida, this was lovely and smooth and didn't feel horribly jerky or rough anywhere on the train.

    The lift hill is surprisingly steep for a wooden coaster and for seats like these ones with no back rests, it felt almost as if I was going to fall out backwards if it wasn't for the restraint. When you consider the small space this is located in, it makes sense to have it this steep.

    Now onto the ride itself, the back of the train is by far the best place to sit. The number of times you are whipped over all the dozens of airtime hills on this thing is huge and from beginning to end, there is not a single moment to relax or take a breather since the hills get sharper and tighter making up for the loss in height and speed towards the end of the ride.

    The addition of the tunnels also made the experience great as one of them was small enough to create a head chopper effect!

    It's easy to see why many people regard this as the best wooden coaster they know and it certainly is. The face it's so smooth with airtime after airtime after airtime made this incredibly fun to ride, coupled with the length of the ride makes this a great wooden coaster. For me, it's not quite as good as Megafobia, but it comes close!
     


    • Loke (New for 2017) - (9 / 10)
    I've always found flat rides which swing like Vortex and Rush to be fun to a certain point until they become repetitive and boring, so I wasn't building any huge expectations for this ride despite the advertising and delayed opening it received. But when seeing it in-person, oh my word, this thing is bloody massive!

    Never ever ridden Maelstrom at Drayton Manor before so this was my first Intamin Gyroswing and what made this ride very special for me besides from the size, speed and theming was the design of the restraints and seats. They are very comfy to sit in and they are very similar to the ones you get on The Swarm. Just imagine Swarm's restraints but without the foam vest holding your chest. That's Loke's seats in a nutshell. The thin metal bars which are there to lower the restraint across your waist were widely spaced and positioned quite far back, so when you fasten the restraint using a seatbelt similar to Stealth/Rita, there is nothing in the field of view from where you are sitting. This in effect made you feel extremely vulnerable and reminded me a lot like Rush with just a lap bar holding you in, only this time, the seats are much comfier and aren't deep this time. Heck, they're similar seats to Nemesis to give you an idea, so imagine Nemesis' seats with just a lap bar. That's the best way I can describe them.

    Once the floor lowers and the thumping bass from the soundtrack filling the ride starts up, it begins to swing higher and higher very quickly and the speed of the spinning gondola is not too fast to make you feel dizzy, it's just about right and it also gives you the chance to get multiple angles whilst in the air at maximum height too.

    Once it picks up speed and reaches it's full height, it doesn't matter which direction or angle you are at, this ride is epic! The sheer speed you are travelling when it swings downwards is faster than Rush and the weightlessness feeling you get when falling back down again is forceful and offers some brilliant views when you're looking straight down. Plus, the close proximity between you and Balder makes this even better. When looking down, you are either staring directly over Balder's structure and the people below, or the nearby river directly over the water. In total, you get about 8-9 full swings before it begins to slow down and lower again.

    It's quite a claim to make, but I consider this to be the best flat ride ever built that I have ridden. The size and speed of this monster is what sells it and the comfort and lack thereof of restraints holding you in makes you feel incredibly vulnerable and doesn't distract you when swinging. In addition, the paint work and theming of this ride looks very nice during the day and night and the soundtrack played with the thumping bass from the speakers really build up a huge anticipation when waiting.

    Thorpe Park or Alton Towers seriously need one of these rides at their parks with the same restraints, capacity, height and speed, because this beats the living hell out of Vortex and Rush combined in my opinion. It truly is a superb flat ride and is my favourite one out there right now as a result!
     


    • Helix (9.5 / 10)
    And yes, as expected, Helix is my number one ride at the park and indeed as mentioned at the beginning of the review, my new personal favourite coaster. Never before have I been left speechless by a coaster after trying it the first time and Helix was the first to deliver. What a magnificent coaster Liseberg have here. 26 rides later in 2 days and it's still brilliant every time.

    From the beginning of the experience to entering the queue line, you are instantly transported from the dull innards of the dome to a futuristic, modern and cool looking maze of stairs, platforms and metal walls and mechanics lying around everywhere in the queue line, all lit up in bright neon green lights on the walls, flooring, rock work and ceiling. This coupled with the soundtrack which was blasting though about 30 Bose speakers in all of the queue line in perfect synchronisation gave me goosebumps the first time entering this area. It sounds and looks visually impressive in the queue and the maze of stairs and platforms getting you ever closer to the station builds up some huge anticipation and excitement.

    Whilst queueing, you can see various windows looking through the walls of the station and underneath, you are able to see a sneak of the brakes, wheels and trains passing over the track entering the station ready for the next batch of people to board the train. In addition, once directly underneath the platform, you can see how the platform gates work with the mechanics underneath the flooring where every minute or so, the bars move in perfect synchronisation which in effect opens and closes the gates. Nice thing to see whilst waiting (not that there was much of a queue!) as I've always wondered how they work.

    When the queue got bigger during the day, I eventually stopped to watch the TV screens and noticed you can download an app on your smartphone which is a game for the ride where you in synchronisation with other guests can play these mini games to gain points and whichever player every 15 minutes get the highest score, they get a free Fastpass for Helix presumably. I tried multiple times to win but only managed to get as high as number 4 on the leaderboard, mostly due to the fact the app was all in Swedish with no English option making me guess how you play each game by improvising.

    Once you go up the stairs into the station, you are free to choose any row of seats you want and you are not allocated them by a member of staff. I was so glad this was the case as I wanted front row on my first ride, which I did. The trains themselves look stunning, especially when it gets dark. The fact all the seats underneath are lit up in green and the front of all three trains and along both sides have these very bright white lights made it looks visually stunning at night as it whizzed round the track. Plus, they looked nice and fresh with a shiny gloss finish added, making them look as though they are still brand new.

    The seats themselves are extremely comfortable to sit in. The lap bar that lowers down is nice and tight and moulds perfectly to your body. There are also grooves on either side if the bar allowing you to rest you arms on when grabbing the handles and the design of the back rest made it comfortable to rest my shoulders into. Plus, despite it being a floored train, the seats are high enough for your legs to dangle allowing you to move them freely as you wish. The difference these restraints make to this ride in comparison to a traditional shoulder restraint are huge and make everything so much more fun.

    Now onto the ride experience itself, the experience offered is unparalleled to anything else I know. The experience is so smooth from beginning to end, the two launches are lovely and smooth too with no extreme forces exerted on you body and each and every element assembles beautifully together. This is a ride where it gets more and more extreme as you go round as each inversion become tighter, the speed of the trains get faster, the drops become larger and the twists and turns become more and more forceful.

    The airtime on this thing can be shocking if you get the two very back seats and it's obvious to me now why there's a minimum height restriction of 1.5m for these seats. The airtime over the hill straight after the second launch and top hat at the back of the train is so strong and forceful that it pins your thighs to the restraint almost painfully for a brief second. It's that good!

    The interaction the track has with it's surroundings is mastered perfectly and you can tell the designers of this ride have really thought this through and been clever at making the most of the surroundings they have. The fact it snugs so closely to the ground at various points makes the experience really quite intense, especially the helix just before the second launch which throws you straight into your seat thanks to the extreme forces.

    One of the concerns I had been hearing from a few people was this ride was not fast enough and didn't have forces that were extreme enough. In my experience, the speed of this ride is perfectly fine and is fast enough for me to enjoy going on again and again and surprisingly, despite this having 7 inversions, I didn't feel sick or dizzy at all when riding it several times in a row unlike Colossus, Smiler and even Nemesis. Helix even reminded me a lot of Nemesis as it constantly has speed and force from beginning to end and never seems to slow down, and this certainly matched Nemesis in terms of the pacing.

    If I were to find any criticism of Helix, that would be the lack of on-board speakers used in the trains because the grills have been installed but no audio is played through them. If they can add music similar to Blue Fire from what I've seen, this could make the experience even more exciting for guests. And another criticism I have is when you leave the station into the first inversion, I find the train vibrates a bit too much where you can feel and even hear it. That is literally all I can think of!
     


    I would usually supply lots of images of it in action, but I thought making a video would be better, so here it is:
     

    So to finalise my review of Liseberg and, if you are visiting for the first time and considering it, do it. The park has great opening times during summer between 11am -10/11pm at the weekends, all the other rides like Kallerado (better river rapids ride than Alton's one), FlumeRide, Hanghai are lots of fun and the atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed. For me, Helix alone is worth the journey and it will be a firm favourite if you ever get the chance to ride it, so make sure when you visit, you ride it.

    I myself have have an awesome time visiting both Gothenburg city & Liseberg, and this park is certainly one to keep your eyes on for the future since every year they are currently relentlessly installing more and more exciting and great rides, which reminds me a lot of Thorpe's days in the mid-2000's. In particular, Valkyria looks to be an excellent dive coaster when planned to be opened in April 2018, which is a great reason to visit again. It's very likely I will be visiting this park on a frequent/yearly basis now as they have some truly kick-ass rides for a park that is not on the scale of other European theme parks, so my next visit will likely be April/May 2018.

    Here's a full record of all the 230+ photos and videos I took whilst I was there if you're interested in having a look:

    https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B3MFeYFbViDuREFNOV9rRDdUNVE

    Liseberg - (8 / 10)


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