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    Glitch reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, Halloween Horror Fest - Movie Park Germany   
    Last week, I visited Movie Park for their Halloween event: the 21st anniversary of their Horror Fest.  The park has 8 mazes, 4 scare zones and a variety of other things to bolster the number of attractions up to 19, with the park claiming the event to be the biggest Halloween event in Europe. We visited the park on Thursday, hoping it would be quiet: the park is open 10am-10pm for Horror Fest, with most Halloween attractions opening at 6pm and closing at 9.30pm. So it was a LOT to do. So, without further ado, let's get to it (with light SPOILERS)...
     
    The Walking Dead: Breakout
    The park's year-round upcharge horror maze, and it turns out this year is its last year. I did it on my previous visit in 2017, and didn't rate it much. As it was still upcharge, I skipped it, but I hear it hasn't changed, so I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it any more.
     
    From here, it's worth pointing out how the park's mazes work. The standard setting is that they let groups of 20 in every 60-90 seconds, are free flow and don't allow touching. There's a couple of exceptions which I'll point out when I get to them. All of their mazes have age restrictions, which varied from maze to maze, and these are enforced strictly: they DO do ID checks!
     
    Hostel

    Themed around the Hostel series (more specifically, the first film), and rated 18+, this is the park's goriest maze. It starts off with a tour round Amsterdam - you even walk through the Red Light District, which once upon a time had screens showing some, ahem, rather explicit sex scenes on them, but alas no more. And the maze continues quite happily for the next few scenes, with a party atmosphere and everything seeming happy; the actors do nothing to scare you. But, like the film, it takes a very sudden, very dark twist. Scares come thick and fast, with very gruesome scenes all around you, and plenty of actors in every direction.
     
    The finale sees the group locked in a large white room stained with blood, with speakers blaring out chainsaw noises, and the room flashing between pitch black and red lights. It was a solid maze ending, though it felt like it needed an actor with a chainsaw in there to really amplify it. A shame, but still a very strong maze!
     
    Wrong Turn

    This is the park's upcharge Halloween attraction, at 5 Euros a ticket, and you go through in groups of 6, and is also based off the Wrong Turn series of films. And it also won Best European Scare Attraction at this year's ScareCON award ceremony. This also uses Haunted Lantern (like Skin Snatchers at Alton Towers), but literally gives the group a lantern rather than a helmet. The maze is based in trough of the park's old Ice Age dark water ride, and likely makes use of a lot of the old scenery from the ride. 
     
    Following 2 pre shows (which I didn't really understand because they were all in German with no way of offering English translations), the maze begins. Being in the trough, the actors regularly positioned themselves above you to get really good jump scares. There were some awesome effects around too, and some clever pieces of misdirection to add to the scares. The end was quite chaotic, with loads of actors and a huge sparkler / firework style effect as well which caught me off guard.
     
    My main issue with Wrong Turn is that, because it has such a huge space to work with, is that it sometimes felt a little too open and that you were a little too removed from the sets at times. This meant the maze felt like it was missing that final ingredient to make it truly exceptional. But it was still fantastic for the most part and I really enjoyed it.
     
    Insidious 2
    The park's final IP-based scare attraction. Amazingly, this is located underneath the seating area for the park's stunt show, which was a great use of space! Unsurprisingly, the idea of the maze was to be creepy and build up suspense to try and get scares that way. It also made use of lots of big open sets to build tension as well.
     
    For me, it was a bit hit and miss. There were some unsettling and creepy moments, but these didn't last long, and often the actors took away from the atmosphere. This is a maze which would benefit from less (visible) actors, but instead has quite a lot, making it difficult to truly capitalise on the atmosphere. A shame, but a good effort.
     
    Circus of Freaks
    An outdoor clown maze - a set up with a lot of potential. However, this missed the mark. The maze felt a lot like the outdoor sections of Do or Die (things draped over fences), although better themed in fairness. There was some good bits and nice bits of humour (and a nicely executed animal area with gorilla costumes and the like), but ultimately this was one of the weaker clown mazes I've done in my time. And when compared with the quality of the park's other mazes, it really does miss the mark.
     
    The Slaughterhouse
    This is a maze crying out to be a Chop Shop style maze but, surprisingly, it wasn't! This was some weird beauty development laboratory that had gone rogue and cut people up instead..or something. It was nicely themed and had some good set pieces, and a couple of nice jump scares.
     
    The ending was a real highlight of the maze. It took place in two rooms with incredible dense smoke (you literally couldn't see more than 30cm in front of you), with actors then appearing out of nowhere. It was confusing and clever and just really worked!
     
    Campout
    Another outdoor maze, but taking place in the woods. Very Blair Witch esque in story, but a lot more open and with more 'actual' theming. It wasn't exactly memorable either. A couple of neat special effects but nothing exciting or special. It's worth pointing out this is rated 12+ (and is the only maze with such a low rating, as all others are 16+ or 18+), so I guess it isn't designed to be scary, but it's a shame there wasn't more to this.
     
    Project Ningyo - NEW FOR 2019

    The park's big new thing for the year is Project Ningyo, and replaces a previous maze: Deathpital. They made a big deal out of this: this was the only maze where Fastrack was available (at 10 Euro a pop!) and was the only maze where actors were allowed to touch you. This was also the maze with - by far! - the longest queue, at 50 minutes. We realised this was because of a terrible batching system: the maze takes place in a build the other side of a service road; groups of people are batched to the service road every 5 minutes, but these groups were usually cleared in like 2 minutes, leaving long periods of time where no one was entering the maze!
     
    Anyways, onto the maze itself. It starts off with your group of 20 being given a guided tour of a medical facility which (from what I understood) was dedicated to creating a serum to make people happy. You're guided into a room all together and locked in. An actor in a hazmat suit appears from the other side and gets you out, and you then walk through the carnage of what's behind the scenes at the facility. There's some nice theming, and some good smells (in particular, there was an animal testing scene which really smelt of rabbit poo!), but there just wasn't enough substance. Despite there being a lot of actors, it still didn't feel like enough, and the scares were just non-existent. The touching was effectively 'medical staff' frantically trying to guide you along and out of the way of danger, which I always find dull. 
     
    In general, the maze was rather lacklustre, my least favourite of the night. A shame really, but hopefully it'll continue to grow.
     
    Scare Zones
    The park had four scare zones, which actually covered the majority of the park (the kids area, Nickland, is a "monster free" zone). Sadly, only one of them felt defined, so it made it difficult to understand what exactly was going on.
    Acid Rain: Some sort of nuclear apocalypse area, with sirens going off and a variety of weird stuff.
    Horrorwood Boulevard: A collection of famous Halloween characters
    Dead West: Wild West themed, but dead
    Fear Pier: No mazes round here so never actually got a chance to go there.
     
    Apparently all the actors in the scare zone are just given an individual budget and a loose story to stick to, and they then get to create their own costume. Really gives them ownership, but definitely adds to the disjointed feel. All the actors in the zones did 'roam' very well though, and many had shovels to bash against ground for jump scares, which was different to say the least!
     
    Other Stuff
    -The park apparently transform their drop tower into something scarier at night time. All we saw was a flashing light. Yay?
    -There's a hypnosis show which we didn't see.
    -There's kids stuff in the day (kids maze, face painting, etc) which looked nice.
    -New for this year was an IT 4D experience - basically highlights of the IT Chapter 1 converted into 3D with your standard 4D effects. Solid 20 minute show which was fun.
     
    There's also a closing show, which was originally meant to be fireworks, lasers and fire, along with a video playing on the screen in the entrance plaza. Due to noise complaints, the firework aspect of the show had been cancelled when I was there. The show itself was pretty neat (the lasers were cool!), but it's fair to say that fireworks would have added to it. I hope that they can find a way round it!
     
     
    So all in all, Halloween Horror Fest is a very solid, very full Halloween event. It's not something I'd go out of my way to do again, but it's got a lot of positives going for it, and the headline mazes really are something. There's clearly a lot of thought put into all the mazes and what level they should be at too. Hopefully some of my experiences were just bad runs rather than the norm, and I'm intrigued to see how the event develops over the next few years!
  2. Like
    Glitch got a reaction from JoshC. for a blog entry, IT Experience - London Vaults - 1st September 2019   
    As the sun was setting after a fun day in London, I headed to the Vaults of Waterloo, a place which I have visited before generally for music, however today it would take a more  menacing turn of events, the IT experience promoting IT Chapter 2, in cinemas on Friday.
     
    When joining the queue down a back alley the suspense was created, with two security guards to greet and a standby line for the peasants who were unable to get free tickets through the eventbrite booking engine, the music however set the scene with a menacing tone.

    The entrance.

    9.30 quickly approached and we entered. Upon signing a waiver which I didn't read, but I guess I was signing my life away and then was given a wristband and lead into an interactive carnival scene. There were tw games hook a duck and pop a balloon. I played hook a duck and was rubbish at it, collecting a measly one duck, however this still gained me entry. The baloon game looked fun however we were ushered on before getting a chance to play.

     
     
    After an actor spiel we were made to walk through the clowns head, into the trommel tunnel and this had some force to it, making me loose my footing  few times.
     
     
    The next room contained some UV clown punch bags to play tricks with the mind.

     
    We were then greeted with the house from the movie and some characters arguing about not wanting to go inside. After a photo opportunity with the Loser gangs bikes we went through. Thememing wise it was stunning, however some members of the forum would not be impressed as the roof was not themed therefore ruining the 360 immersion effect.


     
     
    From this point on wards no cameras were permitted.
    We came to three doors, Not scary, Scary and Very Scary. The actor then split us up, I was given the Scary door which was filled with balloons that I had to run through and pop, as the lights went out an actor jumped out to scare me. The other rooms contained a mirror maze and Jack in the box however I didn't get to experience them.
     
    Next we were in a Chinese restaurant, not sure what the relevancy was here but I assume its in the new movie. I was thinking great an eating challenge as a lazy Susan and baskets were placed in front of us however all we got was a fortune cookie, my fortune being losers stick together. Inside the basket was an oversized cassette player and headphones, to be worn for the tour of the sewers, as the tones of new kids on the block blared down my ears we met our tour guide and torches were distributed into groups.
     
    In the sewers we were taken down many tunnels to a room which reminded me a lot of the middle show of DBGT. In our group the torches started to malfunction, then the boy in the yellow raincoat appeared, and then lights flickered and Pennywise himself appeared, went dark, he appeared closer to the group, that type of ending which we have all experience before, despite tension being high, I found the ending to be quite weak. However one surprise was went placing the cassettes back an actor was in the lockers for one final jump scare.
    The overall attraction lasted 15mins, short but sweet.
    I'd rate the attraction a solid 7/10 and I think the likes of TP could learn a lot from it.
     
    Overall it was fun, and had some good photo-ops despite being not too scary. I would highly recommend although the attraction closes on Wednesday. A great marketing campaign as I will not go and see the film when it comes out Friday.

  3. Like
    Glitch got a reaction from MilesK for a blog entry, IT Experience - London Vaults - 1st September 2019   
    As the sun was setting after a fun day in London, I headed to the Vaults of Waterloo, a place which I have visited before generally for music, however today it would take a more  menacing turn of events, the IT experience promoting IT Chapter 2, in cinemas on Friday.
     
    When joining the queue down a back alley the suspense was created, with two security guards to greet and a standby line for the peasants who were unable to get free tickets through the eventbrite booking engine, the music however set the scene with a menacing tone.

    The entrance.

    9.30 quickly approached and we entered. Upon signing a waiver which I didn't read, but I guess I was signing my life away and then was given a wristband and lead into an interactive carnival scene. There were tw games hook a duck and pop a balloon. I played hook a duck and was rubbish at it, collecting a measly one duck, however this still gained me entry. The baloon game looked fun however we were ushered on before getting a chance to play.

     
     
    After an actor spiel we were made to walk through the clowns head, into the trommel tunnel and this had some force to it, making me loose my footing  few times.
     
     
    The next room contained some UV clown punch bags to play tricks with the mind.

     
    We were then greeted with the house from the movie and some characters arguing about not wanting to go inside. After a photo opportunity with the Loser gangs bikes we went through. Thememing wise it was stunning, however some members of the forum would not be impressed as the roof was not themed therefore ruining the 360 immersion effect.


     
     
    From this point on wards no cameras were permitted.
    We came to three doors, Not scary, Scary and Very Scary. The actor then split us up, I was given the Scary door which was filled with balloons that I had to run through and pop, as the lights went out an actor jumped out to scare me. The other rooms contained a mirror maze and Jack in the box however I didn't get to experience them.
     
    Next we were in a Chinese restaurant, not sure what the relevancy was here but I assume its in the new movie. I was thinking great an eating challenge as a lazy Susan and baskets were placed in front of us however all we got was a fortune cookie, my fortune being losers stick together. Inside the basket was an oversized cassette player and headphones, to be worn for the tour of the sewers, as the tones of new kids on the block blared down my ears we met our tour guide and torches were distributed into groups.
     
    In the sewers we were taken down many tunnels to a room which reminded me a lot of the middle show of DBGT. In our group the torches started to malfunction, then the boy in the yellow raincoat appeared, and then lights flickered and Pennywise himself appeared, went dark, he appeared closer to the group, that type of ending which we have all experience before, despite tension being high, I found the ending to be quite weak. However one surprise was went placing the cassettes back an actor was in the lockers for one final jump scare.
    The overall attraction lasted 15mins, short but sweet.
    I'd rate the attraction a solid 7/10 and I think the likes of TP could learn a lot from it.
     
    Overall it was fun, and had some good photo-ops despite being not too scary. I would highly recommend although the attraction closes on Wednesday. A great marketing campaign as I will not go and see the film when it comes out Friday.

  4. Like
    Glitch got a reaction from jessica2 for a blog entry, IT Experience - London Vaults - 1st September 2019   
    As the sun was setting after a fun day in London, I headed to the Vaults of Waterloo, a place which I have visited before generally for music, however today it would take a more  menacing turn of events, the IT experience promoting IT Chapter 2, in cinemas on Friday.
     
    When joining the queue down a back alley the suspense was created, with two security guards to greet and a standby line for the peasants who were unable to get free tickets through the eventbrite booking engine, the music however set the scene with a menacing tone.

    The entrance.

    9.30 quickly approached and we entered. Upon signing a waiver which I didn't read, but I guess I was signing my life away and then was given a wristband and lead into an interactive carnival scene. There were tw games hook a duck and pop a balloon. I played hook a duck and was rubbish at it, collecting a measly one duck, however this still gained me entry. The baloon game looked fun however we were ushered on before getting a chance to play.

     
     
    After an actor spiel we were made to walk through the clowns head, into the trommel tunnel and this had some force to it, making me loose my footing  few times.
     
     
    The next room contained some UV clown punch bags to play tricks with the mind.

     
    We were then greeted with the house from the movie and some characters arguing about not wanting to go inside. After a photo opportunity with the Loser gangs bikes we went through. Thememing wise it was stunning, however some members of the forum would not be impressed as the roof was not themed therefore ruining the 360 immersion effect.


     
     
    From this point on wards no cameras were permitted.
    We came to three doors, Not scary, Scary and Very Scary. The actor then split us up, I was given the Scary door which was filled with balloons that I had to run through and pop, as the lights went out an actor jumped out to scare me. The other rooms contained a mirror maze and Jack in the box however I didn't get to experience them.
     
    Next we were in a Chinese restaurant, not sure what the relevancy was here but I assume its in the new movie. I was thinking great an eating challenge as a lazy Susan and baskets were placed in front of us however all we got was a fortune cookie, my fortune being losers stick together. Inside the basket was an oversized cassette player and headphones, to be worn for the tour of the sewers, as the tones of new kids on the block blared down my ears we met our tour guide and torches were distributed into groups.
     
    In the sewers we were taken down many tunnels to a room which reminded me a lot of the middle show of DBGT. In our group the torches started to malfunction, then the boy in the yellow raincoat appeared, and then lights flickered and Pennywise himself appeared, went dark, he appeared closer to the group, that type of ending which we have all experience before, despite tension being high, I found the ending to be quite weak. However one surprise was went placing the cassettes back an actor was in the lockers for one final jump scare.
    The overall attraction lasted 15mins, short but sweet.
    I'd rate the attraction a solid 7/10 and I think the likes of TP could learn a lot from it.
     
    Overall it was fun, and had some good photo-ops despite being not too scary. I would highly recommend although the attraction closes on Wednesday. A great marketing campaign as I will not go and see the film when it comes out Friday.

  5. Like
    Glitch reacted to Mark9 for a blog entry, The new Germany   
    When I say to people I'm going on a holiday with a week of rollercoasters, they ask what do I like about rides. At first I said it was the rollercoasters and all the different rides but as I've grown up it is completely all about the immersion and escapism. And nowhere is escapism more true in the Netherlands which has seen massive park expansions in the last ten years. Theme parks are fully upping their games and as I've wanted to revisit Efteling and take my first trip to Toverland, 2019 seemed like the right time to take a visit.. so...
     
    Walibi Holland
     
    We had a game plan here, to hit Lost Gravity first and all the other rollercoasters before trying out Untamed. This plan fell completely apart when both Untamed and Lost Gravity delayed opening. So instead we tried Goliath first
     
    Goliath
    .
    For those that know me, I'm not a massive fan of the earlier Intamin rides. I don't have a high opinion of Expedition Ge Force and as much as I like Millennium Force it isn't a ride with much content. Goliath was a pretty pleasant surprise. It's got a lot going on but weirdly has a lukewarm reception in coaster circles. Lots of air time, two big helixes, a pretty amazing turn around after the large hill where the train turns to its side to corner. I was pretty impressed with the ride staff too who ran a very efficient ride. For those that have been on EGF, the loading takes a long time. Here, the staff were fast and the trains never stacked. This gained a 61 minute queue through the day but luckily we only queued 10 minutes for both of our rides.
    7/10
     
    El Condor

     
    The true highlight of Walibi Holland is the stunning El Condor, the worlds first Vekoma SLC. Now we only queued 10 minutes luckily for this but later on in the day this had a 90 minute queue. It was as rough as expected and if you have done an SLC, you know exactly what to expect.
     
    4/10
     
    We took a walk round the park as the parks Rock and rollercoaster clone now had an hour queue as did the Vekoma boomerang. Lost Gravity and Untamed still weren't open so we took a ride on the kiddy coaster and the Vekoma Madhouse which was very cheesy with its early 2000's sound effects. The ride was good though, the same as Hex really just a bit less themed. I enjoyed this surprisingly.
     
    It was after having a little look around that we saw that Lost Gravity was open. We queued 97 minutes for this..
     

     
    This is a more extreme Mack then most with thrilling inversions, good air time and a very different layout. Think of a Gerstlauer eurofighter but with even more aggressive drops. Later on in the day we took advantage of the single rider queue (majority of Walibi Hollands rides have them) and got on in about ten minutes. The outer seats on this are slightly rougher then your average Mack ride but it is very good.


    The main queuing cattlepen.
     
    8/10
     
    And wallah, straight after it was over to the now open Untamed.

    This ride reminds me of the entirety of Margate with large love letters all around the queuing area and on the rides main lift hill. One issue with the queue is because it's mainly a dirt pathway, in the rain everyone just gets a bit muddy on their trousers. It also has no cover so we just end up soaked by the time we got to get on. In the sun I can imagine it might be a bit much.

    The ride is absolutely fantastic. I genuinely find it incredible that this company just installs hit after hit. When people hype things up to a degree, I normally try to keep myself controlled and not read into the praise. It makes me glad that I can come to each ride with a completely open mind and just enjoy the ride for what it is. And Untamed was outstanding. Everything I value about rides sits in this attraction such as the great drops and air time, the insane pacing which particularly at the end of this ride is non-stop and breathtaking. For me it just lacks the length of Steel Vengeance but is worlds above Goliath at SFGA.
    10/10 and easily a top five rollercoaster.
     

     
    Rest of the day was just trying to lap up the other rides and get some credits such as the Vekoma Boomerang which was far above others of its type.
     
    And so, Walibi Holland is an interesting park. I'm not sure if I'm particularly bothered about getting back as to be honest its not so much a theme park as it is an amusement park. It's clearly going from strength to strength and its future is fully secure with Untamed being one of the best rides in Europe.
     
    Toverland
     
    With no exaggeration, Toverland is one of my favourite parks in Europe. Considering the park only opened in 2001, it has gone from strength to strength to have one of the best rollercoaster line ups and themed areas I could possibly want. This is what a theme park is to me, beautiful areas and rides that look beautiful, ride well and a place where you can just relax, sit back and just immerse yourself.
     
    Fenix
    Fenix represents the last of the B&M's in Europe for me to ride. I initially completed this on Flug Der Demon last year but then this and Valkyria opened. 

     
    Fenix is quite unlike all the other B&M wing riders I've done. The others are pretty... slow is a fair assessment. But this one absolutely zooms through its layout and is by far the fastest and most intense wing rider I've done. We managed front row on both sides and also near the back of both.
    The main drawbacks is the initial start of the ride is just a bit empty box. They've attempted theming with an ice dragon head breathing smoke at you but this start is 'lacklustre'. Once you finally get going though, what follows is an intense start with great air time, massive helixes and an enjoyable ride.

    7/10
    I love a list so..
    1. Gatekeeper
    2. Flug Der Demon
    3. Fenix
    4. Raptor
    5. The Swarm
    6. X-Flight
     
    Troy
     
    Excellent GCI. When people criticise Wicker Man for being too short I sort of understand it, especially from people who have ridden Troy. It is an action packed thriller of a woodie that has a long length and great air time moments.
     
    Dwivelwind

    8/10
     
    Wow. What a ride this is. We managed eight rides during our day and each one was better than the last. This thing spins like absolute crazy and is so re-rideable. Very much a big surprise and a highlight of the trip.
     
    And the final main ride of the trip is the Booster Bike which is okay but pales into significance to the other rollercoasters.
     
    To get an idea of how beautiful this place is though, here's a few photos fro Avalon which I adored and could have spent hours in. What an enchanting and magical place.

    So yeah, Please go.
     
    We also went to Efteling and Disneyland Paris which were both excellent days out. I love Efteling so much, its a real gem of a theme park and Baron 1898 just makes me squeal. Love it.
     
    Many thanks.?
     



  6. Like
    Glitch reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, NeuroGen - Walibi Holland's Dark VR Experience   
    After visiting Walibi Holland last week, I got to do an attraction that I've been keen to try for quite a while now...NeuroGen.
     
    For those unaware, Walibi Holland is quite an..in your face park. They quite clearly are targeting the young adult market, and are unashamedly brash. Think of what Thorpe was doing in the early 2010s with the 'fatheads', except not quite as awful, and with the balls to follow through and stick with it. Their current slogan of #HardGaan (Go Fast) keeps in line with that, and you regularly see 'F#CK FEAR, HARD GAAN' plastered around the park. They're not a park to shy away from doing something extreme, as seen from the likes of Untamed. 
     
    In 2016, they introduced a new, critically acclaimed, alone-experience to their Halloween line up: The Clinic. The Clinic sees guests visit a hospital, before quickly being strapped to a gurney, and having the rest of the experience take place strapped to said gurney. In 2017, the park introduced a year-round spin-off of the attraction: NeuroGen. Here's how the website describes the 16+ experience:
     
    So far, all pretty standard wording and hype for any scary attraction. But equally, this is a good (albeit roundabout) way of describing the experience: it's like a 4D cinema, except with VR headsets (which is actually filmed and not CGI) instead of 3D glasses. Oh, and you do it alone.
     

     
    You wait outside the building and are taken in one-by-one. You're guided into a hospital waiting room, told to walk through a door and someone is waiting for you round the corner. A walk through a corridor with some special effects (loud noises, bright lights, mist) eventually leads you to a very bright, very clinical circular room, with a doctor to greet you. You're asked to select a treatment ('beach' or 'waterfall'), and then one of 12 doors around the room opens, which you're told leads to your treatment room. 
     
    Spoilers here just in case:
     
    For the tl;dr version: basically the VR film shows you taking drugs, tripping out, being in a car crash and drowning. And, what's remarkable is how realistic it felt. I haven't experienced any of those phenomena, but it certainly felt like this was as close as I could get to it without experiencing it. And that made it pretty hard-hitting. It's a very different type of scare experience, and one which I imagine could really affect some people. It's pretty dark, and pretty bleak, which I guess makes it all the more appealing for me. The fact this is a solo experience really adds to it as well.
     
    So yeah, easily the best executed VR experience I've done, and something really rather out there too. It's brilliant to see these sorts of experiences offered in a more mainstream setting, despite being for a very niche market.
  7. Like
    Glitch 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)
     
  8. Like
    Glitch reacted to Stuntman707 for a blog entry, Tulleys Shocktober Fest 2018 Review   
    My second year at Tulleys started off with high hopes following a brilliant event last year. We were fortunate enough that it didn’t rain on our visit however all the queues and plenty of tables are under cover if it had of rained.
     
    The whole event was just as immersive as before with street actors being the first to greet you as they roam around the open areas and even lurk in the bushes! 
     
    Before you continue, note that this does contain SPOILERS so avoid reading further if you don’t want to know what happens in the mazes.
     
    On to the haunt reviews in the order we did them:
     
    The Creepy Cottage
    We started off with the least scary maze to get us in the mood. It felt similar to last year, had quite a few scares from the actors. The cottage was quite dark and atmospheric in places. Not too scary but the groups were well spaced so we never caught up to another group resulting in good actor interaction. Many of them are chanting gibberish that sounded kind of like Latin which was certainly creepy. Overall a strong Tulleys classic.
     
    The Coven of 13
    The Witch themed maze was pretty much the same as last year. It starts off with the inflatable laser room with actors hiding below the lasers. I had a good jump scare from at least one here! The outdoor section was creepy but you could still see the actors coming here like last year. The actors in the cottage were targeting more scared people in our group, if you show fear you will certainly be picked on more! Just coming out of the cottage some, I’d say late teenage boys were properly jump scared by an actor who made them scream and run which was hilarious. The final scene with the caged witch was just as impressive. I’d still like to see some more separation in the outdoor sections but the rest I enjoyed.
     
    Circus of Horrors
    A great show which I’ve never seen before. There was a rather camp Vampire as the host who introduced a range of impressive acts; sword balancing, sword swallowing, fire eating, burning limbo, nose drilling, high ribbon acrobatics, contortion, cutting string out a stomach and more. The show was well paced and not too long. I found it very entertaining and in the end, definitely worthy of Tulleys lineup this year.
     
    Twisted Clowns 3D
    This maze was one of my top favourites this year. The actors in here are brilliant and highly interactive. Practically everyone in the group was picked out by someone. They’re funny yet sinister, making comments about people coming through. The electronic circus soundtrack and bright UV paint make it such a fun maze too. There are a few funhouse elements such as a shrinking corridor, inflatable corridor and a trommel tunnel. In summary a highly interactive maze.
     
    The Chop Shop
    I was fearing this maze the most from last year however I feel like it’s been toned down this year. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s a brutal maze but last year it was overwhelmingly intense. The lights which used to go off for a few seconds that I found horrible in the narrow corridors has been replaced with a constant, slow strobe. The actors don’t get up in your face with the chainsaws either and aim them lower down. As much as it is a bit of a gimmicky maze, it’s still a horrifying experience that I think I could attempt again now it’s not as insane. The blood stained corridors are endless and you’re constantly looking around corners.

     
    The Colony: Dystopia
    The epic, extended version of this maze returns stronger than ever this year. Endless fields and pitch black tunnels combined with an army of tribal actors makes this my absolute favourite attraction at Tulleys. There’s a very surreal moment where you leave the fields and enter a completely white container filling with smoke the further in you went. Actors wearing gas masks and bright coloured eyes stopped me and stared directly at me without saying a word. Honestly I thought I was hallucinating at that point and it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in a scare maze before. In the fields the actors follow you from behind moving in and out of the shadows. There are lookout points, walkthrough huts, campfires, dark tunnels, a catacomb and the end being the narrow chainsaw corridor on the other side of the farm. Even when there are no actors in certain sections, the completely dark and quiet fields and tunnels keeps you on edge making eventual encounters even more frightening. I can’t praise this maze enough, the scale and layout of it is just epic.

     
    Horrorwood Haunted Hayride
    A special attraction only found at Tulleys, it was very enjoyable. Many scenes remained the same as last year with the highlight being the amazing actors jumping on and off the tractor on the way round. The big effects returned too with plenty of fire, a few air cannons and falling platforms. The only thing I missed from last year were the pole dancing nuns. Still a must do at Tulleys as you get to have a nice sit down ride while the actors come to you.
     
    The Cellar: Imprisoned
    My other favourite maze at Tulleys has been improved and extended this year. Plenty of animalistic actors jump scare you from hidden corners. A large snake head coming out of the wall at one point was completely unexpected. The new strobed cage maze was brilliant. Very disorientating. Every section of the maze had an actor in there this year.
     
    VIXI
    Tulleys hooded maze was pretty much the same as last year. The bags completely black out your vision and there is clear instruction from staff before you start. you go through the cold wind to an area where actors sneak up and whisper demonic noises in your ear. You go past some flowing water and then into the flamethrower room. Again you can feel the heat from it every time it goes off. A staff member instructs you to remove the hood at the end so you can remove it yourself. Then you exit, or do you? You go through a meat room with hanging bodies and a cage maze with falling barrels. After getting round the actors here, you exit the maze for good. I’m not a huge fan of hooded mazes but this does have elements for your other senses so it doesn’t feel completely pointless. Personally I just don’t find this type of maze as scary.
     
    In conclusion, the event has largely remained up to the same high standard with many improvements made. It was a fun night of entertainment with only just enough time to do everything on offer. Already booked a bounce back to go again!
  9. Like
    Glitch reacted to Coaster for a blog entry, Toverland Review - October 2018   
    The second day of the Pleasure Beach Experience European park trip took place at Toverland, where we had a full day at the park followed by 30 minutes ERT on Fenix, and then a behind the scenes tour of the ride.
     
    Toverland is a lovely theme park located in the Netherlands with lots of nice theming/landscaping, an indoor area of the park and some really unique attractions mixed with a few exceptional coasters.  The park has lots of extra features such as the fountain show, assault courses and it’s clear that they put a lot of effort into the quality of the overall park.
     

     
    The park was quiet during our visit meaning that one train operations was all that was needed – in addition, the queueing areas are all incredibly well presented meaning you never felt like you were waiting around for too long.
     
    Ridecount:
    Fenix x11 (9 on ERT)
    Troy x8
    Dwerlvelwind x2
    Booster Bike x2
    Djengu River x2
    Expedition Zork (log flume) x1
    Maximus’ Blitz Bahn x1
    Toos-Express x1
    Merlin’s Quest x1
    Villa Fiasko x1
     
    TOTAL: 30
     
    Onto the rides!
     
    Fenix
    Approaching the ride’s area, the landscaping is beautifully done with lakes, fountain features and low fences meaning fantastic views of the ride are possible.  As you approach, smaller features (such as a stream running down the path?!) become noticeable, and the effort that has gone into the area becomes evident.  This place is stunning!
     

     

     
    Entering the queue-line you find yourself navigating dimly lit passageways with spiral staircases, tunnels and terrifyingly steep stairs into and out of the station.  There are a few areas once the ride starts that feel incomplete, but I believe the park are planning to add to this over the winter.
     

     

     
    Passing through a mist effect you begin ascending the lift-hill, before taking a turn and entering the first drop.  This felt a lot more forceful than Swarm’s, with there being much more of a “pull-over” at the back despite the shorter trains.  You then enter an excellent airtime hill, diving through a near miss before going up, over and into an incredibly forceful helix.
     

     

     
    Out of the helix you enter a zero-g-roll taken at a ridiculously fast pace, and then dive into the last few turns.
     

     
    Fenix is an incredible coaster, and (IMO) infinitely better than The Swarm.  Where Swarm takes elements slowly and crawls over the top of inversions, Fenix throws you into them at a much faster pace whilst still retaining the smooth nature of a B&M.  This, combined with the incredible landscaping makes Fenix a truly fantastic coaster.  My only criticism would be that it’s fairly short, but even then, it packs a punch so you don’t feel short-changed.
     
     
    Troy
    Oh.  My.  Word.
     
    As someone who holds wooden coasters in very high regard, I was excited to ride Troy but also conscious that I didn’t want to overhype it.  Similar to most rides at Toverland it’s very well presented, with the queue-line and surrounding area offering stunning views of the ride’s imposing structure.
     

     
    Navigating the first corner and lift-hill, views of the ride’s obscene layout come into view, but before you realise you’ve reached the first drop.
     
    Plummeting down the twisting first drop is incredible, and what follows is an extremely fast banked turn, then two minutes of pure joy.  I won’t even try and go through the layout because it’s taken at such a pace that it makes it impossible, but you’re thrown side-to-side, out of your seat on occasion (though airtime isn’t really the focus of the ride) and the station fly-through is awesome.
     

     
    The ride is just utterly relentless from start to finish, yet still manages to retain a sense of comfort whilst throwing you around and really bringing a new meaning to the “out of control” sensation associated with wooden coasters.
     

     
    I think it’s become my new favourite coaster.          
     
    Dwerlvelwind
    A really fun family spinning coaster with some surprising force in places, and the onboard audio is fantastic.  With it being compact I’d say one of these would be perfect for a UK park with limited space, and of course with it being Toverland it was fantastically decorated both inside the station and around the ride’s area.
     

     
    Booster Bike
    A fun coaster, the launch is more forceful than I was expecting and the turns/hills at the end are good fun; also, the unique seating position adds to it.  Probably not quite as good as Velocity, but still good.
     
    Merlin’s Quest was a little bit of a disappointment as it was taken far too slowly, and felt like an ordeal waiting to get back into the station.  With that said, the indoor section is excellently themed though I didn’t appreciate the bugs on the outdoor section!
     
    Maximus’ Blitz Bahn is a unique ride, and a lot of fun.
     
    The rapids were a bit terrifying in a full boat, and the log flume was good (though very weird!)
     

     
    During the behind the scenes tour of Fenix we were treated to a walk along the brake run, as well as a look into the ride’s control panel, a walk round the first turn after the station and a long look into and walk round the maintenance shed (it’s huge!) with the second train in storage – we were only allowed to take pictures on the brake run and in the station.
     

     
     

     

     
    Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Toverland; it’s a lovely family owned park and they clearly put a lot of pride into everything they do.  With investments such as Fenix I think it’s definitely one to watch.  A few more photos below
     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Spot anything strange about this picture?
     

     
    Hmm...

     
    There were YouTuber's filming a stunt show of some sort at the park, earlier on in the day they jumped onto our boat on Merlin's quest and then back off again whilst being filmed by the park!
     
    Thanks for reading  
  10. Like
    Glitch reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, Polishing off Creds - Auschwitz & Krakow (No Creds)   
    No creds or parks to report on in this blog post, but there'll be a few visitor attraction things. So yeah, still give it a read...
     
    Monday morning came and, for whatever reason, no parks seem to open on Mondays in Poland during off peak (Legendia only opened Friday-Sunday, Energylandia closed on Mondays). So, in an unusual twist for my trips, we planned a full day of non-theme park stuff and culture.
     
    The first stop of the day was Auschwitz, which was just over 30mins away from Legendia. We didn't go for a guided tour, instead opting to tour the area ourselves. I won't really go into any more details, as I don't think I need to explain just how harrowing of an experience that is. We spent a couple of hours there.
     
    We then made the hour long drive into Krakow, where we were going to general touristy stuff, bit of sightseeing, eat at the Hard Rock etc. A bit of research the night before gave us some really interesting-attractions to visit:
    Lost Souls Alley - a horror maze / escape room style experience
    Krakow Pinball Museum - a 'museum' where, for a small fee, you can play over 40 different pinball machines and classic arcade games as much as you like
     
    After a bit of wandering round, we found a third attraction of interest - Exit Room, an escape room.
     
    Exit Room
    https://www.exitroom.pl/
     
    We stumbled upon Exit Room whilst trying to find Lost Souls Alley, and decided to book a room. They had 8 to choose from, and we opted to go for the Wolfenstein themed room. Not related to the video game series, bit sharing the same story. You are locked in a room, have an hour to escape, and the way to escape is to find the pieces of a gun to shoot an animatronic Hitler(!). It also started out quite nicely, as we were blindfolded at the start to disorientate us, and one of us was locked in a separate room to escape from as well. We didn't escape, and sadly there was no timer to give us the encouragement, but it was a very well presented escape room, and staff spoke excellent English!
     
    Krakow Pinball Museum
    http://www.krakowpinballmuseum.com/aboutus.html
     
    This place is a real fun little gem! For about £8, you get unlimited access to lots of machines and arcade games (some classic, some new). It's a really chilled out, relaxed atmosphere, not busy, etc. Drinks were also cheap as well (everything in Poland is cheap, but in comparison to the rest of a city centre, the drinks were cheap too!). The best part was you were given a wristband, and could pop in and out throughout the day. We really got our money's worth!
     
    It's a little bit geeky, maybe a guilty pleasure for some, but it's definitely something I'd recommend looking into if you're spending the day round there.
     
    Lost Souls Alley
    http://www.lostsoulsalley.com/index-en.php
     
    I don't even know where to start with this. This is an experience which will probably stay with me for the rest of my life, and not in a good way. I didn't want to write a dedicated thing about it, but I think I'm going to have to. It requires so much explanation and set up to truly understand what this attraction is, and why it haunts me so much.
     
    So yeah, suffice to say I didn't like this. Standby for more details; I'll link the thread when I've written it...
     
     
    Krakow was a wonderful city to explore in general though. Lots of pretty buildings, the people were brilliant and the food was ace. The day we visited happened to be the anniversary of the Soviet Union invading Poland in the lead up to WWII (1939), which is also when the country's President and Prime Minister fled the country. There were memorial services throughout the day in various locations, which again were pretty hard hitting.
     
    Another standout feature of Krakow, which sadly I didn't get a decent photo of, was a fire-breathing dragon statue by the river. Completely random, but very cool.
     
    We left Krakow in the evening to go to our nearby hostel, which was very nice and simple. As I've said, it's a wonderful city, and it was nice and different to for me to spend a fully doing non-theme park stuff on a theme park trip...
     
    Coming soon, Energylandia, with it's 10000000 creds, and other random stuff.
  11. Like
    Glitch reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, Polishing off Creds - Legendia   
    It feels like half of the European coaster community has decided to venture over to Poland this month, following the opening of that small coaster Hyperion, and with rapid expansion taking place at the two major Polish parks - Legendia and Energylandia. But how do they actually fair?
     
    We flew to Katowice on a Saturday evening, arriving at our hotel late, giving us the perfect opportunity to arrive at Legendia Sunday morning. Legendia is based in Silesia, an old mining district of the country, and now in the process of truly being redeveloped into a tourism hot spot (indeed, around the area are plenty of mining headframes which have been turned into prettier sites!). With Legendia being bought by a new owner a couple of years back, it's clear the park aim to capitalise on this.
     
    To our surprise, Legendia is very much a city park, literally just based off a main road through the city, and all the surroundings just being standard city stuff. Interestingly, the park operates a one-price ticket system, for 99 zloty (about £20). However, you're only allowed to leave for 15 minutes, and if you want to return after that, you need to buy a new ticket. Clearly a tactic to keep people in the park as long as possible, eat on park, etc. The park also has VERY good opening hours (minimum 10am-8pm, with park gates opening between 9 and 9.30), meaning people can pop in at various hours of the day.
     
    The park opens with a little show, where kids are handed out free sweets and balloons and encouraged to take part, whilst adults are given free fudge!
     
    The park has 4 coasters - two Zyklon Galaxis, a Soqeut looping coaster, and Lech, a new-gen multi-looping Vekoma. The Zyklons are bog standard, with some okay facades, and the Soqeut was closed due to it being rethemed for next year (plus the track looked in HORRID condition). So let's get down to Lech...
     
    Lech Coaster
    Lech is mental. The layout features a very steep drop (maybe even beyond vertical, I couldn't really tell), 3 inversions (one going through the station), plenty of airtime, twists, turns, and is partially over water. It flows so well, is incredibly smooth, the airtime is fantastic, and the vest restraints are surprisingly comfortable (and feel almost necessary with the amount of airtime you get!). And, finally, the first drop and inversion is intense. Extremely intense. I greyed out on every ride I did. We did 2 rides back-to-back, and that was a mistake as I felt quite wiped out afterwards. It's at a point where it's arguably too intense, as it put me off wanting to re-ride it too much. Nonetheless, it's still a fantastic ride, a truly brilliant investment (just over 4m euros) and something which has put Vekoma back in people's attentions, and rightly so.
     

     
    Bazyliszek
    The park's new for 2018 ride is a shooter dark ride. Themed around a house with lots of monsters, where a Basilisk has escaped. Trackless, and a combination of work from ETF, Alterface and Joravision, this is actually something very special. The queue is spectacularly themed. The ride features interactive sets and screens, which is transitions between very well. The shooting aspect isn't the only focus of the ride, with some story driven points too. It is genuinely astounding. There are a couple of minor issues though - it's never really explained that you have to hit targets multiple times before they are destroyed (I only realised this mid-way through my second ride!), and some of the real theming looks quite basic, and thus tacky and out-of-place compared to the other. 
     
    Aside from that though, this is a true winner of an attraction, a real gem, and one of my favourite dark rides!
     

     
    Dragon Riders
    Dragon Riders is bloody mental. I have no idea who designed this ride, how many of these there are in the world, or any general clue really. But I imagine anyone who's thought "this is a good idea" has been on some hardcore drugs.
     

     
    To try and explain the ride. You sit in your pod, with nothing more than a - rather loose! - lap bar to keep you in. You then start going round in a circle, like you would in a carousel. Your pod then starts to spin / roll continuously. Think of Slammer, but faster, in a smaller radius and for a lot longer. You do this for a while, then go in the other direction. And this lasts for about 3 minutes. Due to the loose lap bar, you bounce around in your seat, getting slammed every single way, and it's just general sickening. And unlike with many spinning rides, this doesn't have a 'warm up' period - it just seems to go straight to max speed!
     
    I felt queasy for a good few hours afterwards. I'm not a huge fan of spinny rides, so I knew it would leave me feeling meh. But with something this insane, you have to try. You may regret it after, but you have to try it.
     
     
    The rest of the park is pretty average to be honest. They have a log flume / boat ride thing which has terrible throughput, has staff specifically instruct you to brace yourself on the drops so you don't slam into row infront, and is generally a burden to ride, but has decent splashes. There's a few other funfair style rides, run incredibly well, but nothing that stands out.
     
    We ate at one of the newer restaurants by Lech, and the food was decent and well priced (I believe I had a main meal, drink and dessert for about £7.50). And you do get wonderful views of Lech too. Speaking of food though, one thing which really stood out was how they didn't serve any snacks or bottled drinks at any of the shops - they were only at the food places. And the food places had very long queues from 1-5pm. The park, surprisingly, has lots of shops with lots of ride merch though!
     
    Two things really stood out to me with Legendia. 
    1) This park isn't a full day park. The park was, admittedly, very quiet when we visited, but even when busy, I can't see you needing more than a 10-6 day at the park. Given how the park's ticketing works, this is a bit disappointing, as it means you can't enjoy the park at it's opening and at it's closing (ie - night rides) without either buying two tickets, or having a very boring lull mid-way though the day.
     
    2) Legendia has a future, and a very bright one at that. The park has a fantastic infrastructure and is clearly set up to hold a lot of people (Lech and Basilisk's queues were HUGE too). All the staff we interacted with spoke perfect English (and they even have flags with what languages they can speak on their name badges). They've got a fantastic entrance area. They know who it is they want visiting, and they know how to attract them. The thing that's missing at the moment is quality. Lech and Basilisk fill two very obvious holes, and have done so quickly and reasonably cheaply. A new water ride is coming in 2020 (hard to know what it could be based on the location, but a proper log flume or rapids would suit the park perfectly right now). And with the new ownership, they've clearly got the money to be able to bring in the new, high-quality additions.
     
    So yeah, give this park 5 years, and I have no doubts they'll have a solid line up with some great filler attractions. In 10-12 years time, though, I really do see this having the potential to be one of Europe's most charming, most fun parks - a real gem in the making!
     
    We left the park at 5-6ish in the end, after really dragging out the day. We spent some time exploring Katowice (and sadly, basically nothing was open because the Sunday we visited, EVERYTHING WAS CLOSED), and then got ready for a day of Polish culture...coming to a blog post near you soon...
  12. Like
    Glitch 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 


  13. Like
    Glitch 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.
  14. Like
    Glitch 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)


  15. Like
    Glitch reacted to Stuntman707 for a blog entry, First Time At Chessington Review   
    As it was my first time at Chessington, I thought I would write a review of my first impressions of the attractions we visited. So here goes…
     
    Ride Reviews
    Scorpion Express
    I was surprised to learn it has exactly the same layout as the Flying Fish at Thorpe. Unlike the Flying Fish, the overall theming was very good. It has a very immersive queue which goes under and over the tracks in the middle of the ride area. The pyro and water effects also worked on cue for every run. To me it shows what can be done with a standard ride layout if they are consistent with the theming and maintenance of the effects.

     
    Rattlesnake
    The first thing I noticed about this ride was how small the cars were. I was struggling to get in so I definitely think the they were smaller than the cars on X for comparison. The ride very much felt like a classic wild mouse and was a lot of fun. The brakes on this though are way too strong, the cars come to a very sudden stop at the end. I say stop but it felt more like a controlled crash.

    Rameses Revenge
    It instantly reminded me of the much loved and now quietly removed Ripsaw. The state of the ride does not look good, as if it’s on it’s last legs. A lot of the panelling was clearly removed underneath the seats with visible wiring and hydraulic lines. It’s all very dirty (But Merlin don’t seem to clean their flat rides in general) and the sound of grinding metal was not very reassuring. The ride was still very fun however and just like Ripsaw, still draws a crowd to watch as riders are drowned by the fountains. 
     
    The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure
    I thought that the new theming was very well done. There aren't any signs of reused props from the old ride and it appears to have been almost gutted and redone entirely. The timing for each scene was out as each bit started just before we entered. The boats were getting stuck and bunching together, there must have been a low water level at the time we were on. It was good to see that some of the fountains were kept in the final scene and are still a great part of the ride. The mist projection at the end was a nice addition, similar to what Merlin have used before at Madame Tussaud’s. Overall it’s a great ride which with any new attraction, just needs a few tweaks. 

     
    The Adventure Tree
    It’s a great centrepiece for Chessington and looks great. The ride is very short however so I wouldn’t recommend queuing a long time for it.

     
    Dragon Falls
    It’s great that Chessington still has a working log flume since the loss of two flumes within the space of a few seasons. The water on this ride was crystal clear and very clean which very much enhanced the ride for me. On the drops, being at the front I did not actually get too wet.

     
    Dragon’s Fury
    This is the best spinning coaster I’ve ever been on. The car I was on spun a lot! I like how the ride area is not enclosed and travels around the park. It was certainly fast and furious, definitely worth queuing for.
     
    The Vampire
    Definitely the best ride at Chessington by far. It felt very unusual seeing the train in-front swaying from side to side. A very unique rollercoaster in the UK. There was a great atmosphere in the station, however it was lacking more theming. This is a must go on if you visit Chessington.

     
    The Temple Restaurant
    Later on, we went to the Temple Restaurant for dinner...
     
    The restaurant was nice and modern looking. I think it really sets the benchmark for all of Merlin’s new hotel restaurants. There’s a very impressive show including multiple elements such as lighting, wall mounted screens, the main fountain and black lights. The show does not happen too frequently as to not get too repetitive. It’s a very immersive experience which reminded me of the immersion found in the Rainforest Café. The food was only acceptable and there was not a huge variety of choice at the buffet. There wasn't any specially themed menu despite the great theming of the restaurant itself. Overall, the food could do with improving to reach the same level as most of Merlin’s other hotel restaurants. If it had better food, then it would definitely be on par with the Rollercoaster Restaurant at Alton Towers.
     
  16. Like
    Glitch reacted to Marhelorpe for a blog entry, Derren Brown's Ghost Train - Technical Rehearsal Review   
    On the 1st July 2016, Derren Brown's Ghost Train officially opened to the public for technical rehearsals and I was one of the lucky few to be able to experience it before it's official opening. What follows is an extremely long review and walkthrough of the attraction which will be summarised by bullet points in addition to long paragraphs to make it easier to read.

    (I uploaded a previous review yesterday regarding the experience which some of you may have read. I deleted it because after reading it back, I thought I could re-write it a lot better so this is more of an updated review than a new one.)

    PLEASE NOTE: There will be some spoilers ahead in this review with detailed explanations of what happens, so unless you would like to know what happens, please don't read ahead. I didn't need to sign an NDA or form when I rode this 3 times.

    So to begin the review, I'll start with the exterior and queue-line:

    1) Queue-line and exterior

    The queue itself has two photo booths which you pass through before you begin your experience. The first one involves you looking through a glass window and focusing your eyes upon a red dot on a TV monitor screen which displays certain images related to the theme of the ghost train. During this stage, the dot moves up until it turns green telling you the picture is taken. You are given a "one way ticket" with a barcode which you must scan on the reader in both photo booths in order to get both types go photo at the end.

    About 20 minutes down the queue later, you approach the second photo booth and there are signs giving the symptoms of an infected person such as white, bloodshot or dilated pupils which all relates to the vague fracking theme of the attraction. In this booth, using the tickets you were given earlier, you then individually place your heads onto these stands and look straight into a screen to align your eyes with the camera. Once it's aligned, 3 cameras (one at the front and two on each side) scan your head using LED's to light your face up from all angles which I presume is for a 3D rendered head in a jar souvenir you can buy at the end of the ride, as well as a regular additional on-ride photo with your head in a green jar. After you've been "disinfected", you proceed to the last section of the queue which is roughly another 20-30 minute wait if the line is full.

    As for the queue speakers, the audio kept on cutting in and out constantly on an average time of 15 seconds and it happened all day through all the speakers. Not sure why this was happening but I can only guess it's a glitch with the audio system in the queue as they were testing the exterior audio all morning it seemed. Sure it will be fixed very soon, but the audio itself really did build up tension whilst waiting in the queue!

    Lastly, you are then grouped together with about 55-60 other people outside the baggage booth. Here, you just simply wait outside whilst dropping off your bags until the green curtain slides back and you are then welcomed inside the building. Unlike the other indoor mazes which involve a staff member telling you all the safety instructions before you go inside, this didn't happen. Derren himself tells you this inside the building which leads to the next part of the experience.

    2) Pre-show

    After passing through the green curtain, you enter this very dark room which has a stand for you step up onto and you look upon a scene which involves a vacant empty chair under a spotlight, and a black chalkboard behind. Above you are a series of about 10-12 differently styled light bulbs all lit up dimly, all with an old-fashioned look and feel to them all. Above the scene in front of you are two projectors displaying text on the walls which are used for directional purposes to lead the audience in and out of the room before and after the show has finished.

    When the show begins, Derren appears in front sitting in the chair and he discusses about what the meaning of fear is, how it links to enjoyment and what awaits ahead inside the Ghost Train. Amongst his speech, he subtly goes through the safety and recommendations for those who might find it a bit too much to handle. Before long, he finishes with "I'll see you on the other side" before disappearing from the room promoting you to proceed to the next star of your journey.

    I found this pre-show very entertaining to watch as it was very well executed and convincing for the audience, plus it built up more tension for the other guests I noticed! So for the pre-show, great intro and build-up for what's to come!

    3) The Ghost Train (Part 1)

    As you leave the pre-show room, you are led up a few stairs round the back of the building and you then enter the warehouse with the victorian train carriage suspended by chains in the air. From first impressions, the carriage is a lot larger and longer in length than I was expecting and the platform you walk along is quite high up. Whilst you wait in the warehouse on the suspended platform for the next train, you can hear various sound effects coming from all angles inside the warehouse, such as bats flying above you, screams from the ghost train, and the sound of trains moving along the rails below the suspended carriage. I must admit, the sounds coming underneath the carriage on the gravel floor sounded identical to the real London Underground trains when they move along the rails so it was a very realistic sound effect also coupled with an echo effect just to make it more realistic.

    Before long, the carriage doors open and the previous guests from the train carriage leave the platform and exit through another door whilst your group proceeds to board the train through the other set of doors. The train conductor and actors are there shouting "All aboard!" dressed in uniform and directing you inside the carriage. Once inside however, the atmosphere changes entirely. Gone is the dark, old-fashioned sound and feel to the red carriage you just boarded and instead, you are greeted by two London Underground staff instead inside a perfectly identical replica of a London Underground train (more specifically the ones used on the Northern and Jubilee lines). The detail inside is so close to the real ones that I begin to wonder if the creative team had the designers from the real tube train involved with this project.  There isn't a seating arrangement or plan once inside, you just take any seat you can find and get your headsets ready.
     
    TIP - even though there were a couple of headsets that weren't working, make sure the headset you put on has a green LED light lit up and NOT a red one, otherwise the content won't work. They don't make this obvious but please bear that in mind when you board.

    It also became obvious why the number of seats recently went from 60 to 58. In each carriage(s) , two seats next to each other were stripped back room for wheelchair users, so there's no need for disabled passengers to leave their wheelchair, which also helps with the throughput.

    TIP - when you put on your headset, the best and more comfortable way of doing it is to place in on the top of your head then before you place the goggles over your eyes, pull down the two speakers for the headphones instead. They are ergonomically shaped to fit your ears so you'll know if they are fitted on correctly. Once they're set, just pull down the headset and adjust the tightness of the headset with the velcro straps just like Galactica. Even though my vision was fine all 3 tries, I couldn't work out how to focus the image through a mechanical dial like Galactica has. Maybe I'm being stupid and missing it, but I couldn't feel or see anywhere to adjust it. Not that I needed to, but maybe someone else will.
     
    I won't go into too much detail about what happens inside, but rest assured, there's a lot more to this ride than you would be lead to expect and it certainly makes the experience very thrilling and engaging. The first half is by far the best part of the entire experience!
     
    On e this section is over and you've got off the train (as it does physically move into another section of the building) the next part of the journey begins.

    4) The Evacuation

    As the underground staff guide you out of the train, they lead you through to a room which stinks of this gas they mentioned telling you to cover your mouths. Once you've evacuated the station, you find yourselves inside the underground tunnels itself with various other underground trains parked stationary. There is also a giant leaking pipe which the construction workers inside are trying to fix. The whole feeling and atmosphere here made me quite nervous as it was very loud with the noises of train passing through the tunnels and the stench coming from the gas leak.

    Here as a group, various effects happen which include of a moving train, shadow, light and sound effects and acting from the underground staff. Again, I won't say much here, but it certainly surprised me the first time!

    I must say, some of the effects used in this section really had me for a few moments. This coupled with the smells and nosies really made this section a thrilling yet mildly scary section of the experience.

    5) The Ghost Train (Part 2)

    As before, you take your seats in the underground carriage with the VR headsets on (don't forget to find one with a green LED light on it) and the final section of the experience continues here. The underground train through the headset is empty again and the train moves virtually and physically again for a quick moment here. Then, out of nowhere, one of the creatures rips apart the entire side of the carriage you are sat in and you can see outside a street in London with lots of cars and vehicles congested and abandoned whilst your carriage is held upon a bridge.

    What happens next is rather not say but it does involve more visual effects with the headsets as well as more physical movement from the train carriage, including a brief sensation of falling.

    After this, the ride experience is over and you exit the carriage from where you started through the victorian carriage, you are then lead down some stairs to the baggage hold area and finally through the ride's shop.

    Now, I'd like to quickly talk about the VR headsets as that had quite an important role in this experience.

    6) VR Quality

    Compared to Galactica's headsets, I can assure you that these ones used on Ghost Train are of far higher quality for the following reasons:

    • Everything was much higher definition with more pixels and a wider viewing angle.
    • Unlike Galactica, the VR content was a smooth 60fps film from start to finish making the quality much nicer.
    • The headsets I find are much more comfy to wear and the speakers are louder than that of Galactica's.
    • The headsets used two images for each eye but at slightly different perspectives. What this resulted in was all of the content being rendered in 3D making the experience even more immersive.

    7) Conclusion

    Overall, I would say that this is a solid investment for Thorpe and it certainly delivered in many areas I was hoping it would, some of which exceeded my expectations. The VR quality was great, the build-up worked effectively, the theming is some of the best we've seen yet at any theme park in the UK and it thrilled me with fear and excitement which is what the ride is designed to do.

    The best thing about the experience is how all of the technology, mechanics, engineering and theatrical elements all bind together to create this very unique experience. If Thorpe can keep them all in sync together as it currently is and enhance the experience a little more with some slight alterations, this can in my opinion be one of the best ride experiences out there currently that I know of.

    However, due to the fact it was a technical preview, there were a few bugs I experience the 2nd and 3rd time I rode it. At one point, the headset I wore in the final section forgot which direction I was looking and very quickly zoomed to the left, and the other bug was when I looked to far down the carriage on the left the 2nd go, the graphics seemed to shake and wobble slightly. But thankfully, for both of these glitches, they automatically fixed themselves both in less than a second after I noticed them, so the system involved detected the glitch and fixed them almost immediately.

    Another little disappointment I had was the entire experience wasn't as scary as I was expecting it to be. Don't get me wrong, it still made me pretty nervous in some areas, but not terrifyingly so. Mind you, a lot of the other guests seemed pretty scared as a lot of them were screaming inside the carriage, so it might just be me being used to scares delivered at theme parks probably.

    So even though there were a couple of downs, the rest of the experience was superb in my opinion and I will happily give it a high recommendation to any park guest to try and do. Bear in mind it was a rehearsal, so it wasn't 100% delivering, but as it stood when I rode it, it's fantastic and is in the top 3 rides for me at the park now.

    Derren Brown's Ghost Train - 8/10

    To finish, below are a series of images taken from the day in addition to the on-ride photos you get which are both included in the DigiPass. Enjoy! 

    Also, if you would like to ask me any questions about the experience, please feel free to ask.
     

     

     

     

     

     

  17. Like
    Glitch reacted to Matt Creek for a blog entry, Liseberg: The Hills Of Helix   
    Two weeks after experiencing the wonders of Europa, I would be experiencing another new European park. This park was Liseberg, Sweden's largest amusement park located slap-bang in the middle of Gothenburg home to a fine number of flat rides and coasters. Prior to 2014 I knew nothing about this place until a certain ride helixed into the lineup making this park leapfrog onto my list of must do parks. 



    After checking in and dropping our bags off at Gothia Towers we headed over to the park. This is a lovely hotel which is beautifully modern inside and conveniently located across the road from Liseberg and worth a stay. It's striking appearance almost makes it look like something from the Matrix. 

     Such a simple, but highly effective entrance.

    New for 2016 is Aerospin, a Gerstlauer sky roller, which is similar to sky force but riders are positioned on a raising tower instead of an arm.

    This ride is mixed bag for me. The views from the top of the ride are absolutely stunning offering some lovely views below but trying to spin on this is even more difficult than on the sky fly models. That said trying to freely spin over 200 ft in the air is terrifying enough. IMA score soundtrack for the winning though.

    Also new at the park for 2016 is this traditional looking carousel and this lovely looking garden area.The park used to have two S&S drop towers and small wheel in this area but they were removed last year for Aerospin and these. Parks need quiet/green spaces aside from the rides IMHO. 

    Another of the park's recent flats is Mechanica, a star shape which opened last year.

     


    all this theming and attenton for a flat ride? Amazing! Mechanica has to be one of the most intense rides I've ever experienced too.

    They also boast a decent afterburner, this time from Zamperla. Flamingo need one!

    And a better and more scary version of Rush. This one goes over a cliff [ if you're looking the right way].
     
    There's also a Jukebox themed polyp ride which is great fun and an automatically operated Waltzer which can do some crazy spinning if the timing is right.


    They also have a log flume which features an impressively original name. What makes me even more happy is that at over 40, this is a working log flume. Good drops though.



    The park also boasts a fun and wild set of rapids. Whilst Fjord is still my favourite, this is still better than Congo and wipes the floor with Rumba.



    Liseberg is also home to Europe's largest drop tower once observation tower. Whilst the drop isn't the best, this is made up for this with the superb views at the top and atmosphere. The ride is actually called Atmosphere.

    There is however only dark ride at the park, the Fairy Tale Castle. The best thing about this ride is that it's indoors and plays the dream flight soundtrack.
     
    Their scare maze Hotel Gasten however is absolutely amazing and worth the paid extra [around £4].

     But there's another important aspect to Liseberg.


    The coasters. The park is home to four major coasters, the first of these is Kanonen, an intamin launch coaster.





    Considering how small this coaster's footprint is, the layout is remarkable. Unfortunately, the ride's setback is the restraints which are rather tight fitting and dig in during the ride. Well done Intamin. Still a good coaster, but probably not a great one due to the restraints alone. 

    Liseberganen is the 2nd of the park's large coasters. A 1987 Schwartzkopf


    Whilst at nearly 30 years this may be the park's oldest coaster, it packs one amazing punch and is an amazingly fun thrilling ride. Flying through twists and turns, hills and helixes on the park's hillface. The ride's only minor issue is the brakes, which hit you worse than absinthe. It literally feels like you've almost experienced a car accident each time they kick in. 

    Then there's Balder, the park's intamin woodie which has apparently won a number of rewards since it's existence.

    Which features  number of other coasters in it's queue. Nemesis, Grand National and Megabobia all feature here.




    Which is a fantastic coaster. This features some brilliant moments of ejector airtime throughout the ride, although the corners are unfortunately a little dull honestly speaking. It doesn't beat Wodan but is still one of my favourite woodies. 


    And now for the ride you've waited for. Helix














    And what a spectacular diamond she is. Helix alone is worth travelling out to the park for. From it's modern airy sci-fi style queue line to it's amazing ride soundtrack. The ride starts as it means to go on, hurtling into a corkscrew immediately after leaving the station followed by a vast array of inversions, twists, turns, helixes [no pun intended] and hills delivering a significant amount of ejector airtime. This ride never shows any signs of slowing as it ascends into the second launch before the ride gets stale in anyform, launching round more exciting elements before entering a final corkscrew into the brake run. 
     
    As a result of the ride's immense layout and superb styling amongst being one of the most photo friendly coasters around, makes it my new number one coaster even over taking Wodan. Never have I been on a ride so many times in one trip and still been wanting to go back for more. Once Blackpool gets one of these, it could well be a game changer. Throughputs on this were also very good, no faffing around at all. I would say most park-wide operations were on a par with Towers overall.







    And it's in one of the most picturesque  parks out there amongst being my favourite amusement park [not theme park].

    And Darkadder won a giant Toblerone!
  18. Like
    Glitch reacted to Ryan for a blog entry, Reign of Kong - Universal Studios Orlando - SPOILERS   
    KONG…
     
     
    This has been an attraction I’ve been following for a very long time, I just knew that if the ride was going to be as good as the facade, then Universal have done it again. Boy oh boy have they done it again. They have well and truly hit it out of the park with this ride. From the moment you enter the queueline, to the moment you step out of the mammoth ride vehicles at exit, you are fully immersed in the world of Kong.
     
    The story stars with myself and Amarghh regularly checking to see if Kong would soft  open each day for the past week. We had been past when construction walls were down but they were doing previews for team members whilst they ironed out any problems. Today, they were planning to do previews from 4-6PM, but the park shut at 8 so we knew there’d be a chance of soft opening for guests from 6-8PM. We were making our way through CityWalk at 17:55, half hoping and half waiting to be disappointed for softs, when we saw on Twitter that TM’s had told guests to start forming a line outside of Kong. We ran… and we are so glad we did because shortly after they closed the queue for it. Talking of the queue, it was proper scary.
     
    So obviously you start at the entrance to the ride, with the large rock work Kong sculpture dawning down on you, the intimidation starts early. Weaving around the outside queue, with good views of the ride vehicle swooping past you, you slowly make your way into the ride building and the anticipation builds. There are multiple animatronics, scares and sounds in the queue line that help to make it a part of the attraction. 
     
    You will be greeted by an animatronic of an old witch like lady who is summoning Kong, at the end of her speech comes a large roar from the gorilla himself (don’t worry, this one doesn’t get shot). There are fire effects going off around her, and you are making your way closer to her throughout this part of the queue. 
     
    In the background you can also hear native chanting, which really helps build anticipation and makes it feel like you’re being watched at all times. This is where the HHN style queue line actors come into play, yes, queue line actors. There are obvious peep holes where the actors pop out from, but me being me was expecting them not to be around for this soft opening. I peeked my head into the hole to see where they’d be and a loud sound came from the hole followed by an actor jumping up. I crapped myself. Throughout the queue you can hear people screaming and actors jumping out, this really does make you feel immersed in the story with the natives watching you and making you feel uneasy. 
     
    The carved rock work in the queue matches outside of the entrance, it’s fantastic. There are skeletons, demon body things etc carved into the walls to really make you feel like you’re in this old cave. 
     
    There’s one amazing animatronic of the slug/snake/worm creature that is very freaky, every 30 seconds or so it’ll start moving and hissing at you, very cool stuff.
     
    Gradually you make your way towards the station and a massive truck greets you, it carries around 72 people I think? So you’re batched into rows of 6 (I believe) and put into this truck. These trucks are so clever, they are all controlled wirelessly with no drivers. In the front of the truck is a tinted window with an animatronic driver sat there. There’s 5 drivers that you can get, each one has their own storyline that they give to you during the ride. 
     
    Now onto the ride itself, it’s brilliant, it really is. You make your way out of the cave and round a winding track, until you’re faced level with the large Kong doors. They swing open and you head inside. On your left hand side is a large skeleton and on the right are some very cool large animatronic bats. You stop shortly after this to a screen portion of another vehicle being attacked by some bats, which carry one of the characters way and you give chase. One thing I want to say here, is this screen part and the next are very very brilliantly done. Some screen based rides I find disappointing and unrealistic, but not this. They blend in with the physical cave elements very nicely and give a lot of depth to the cave. 
     
    So you speed off to the next scene which is also screen based, and has the characters being attacked by the large worm creatures (the ones like the animatronic in the queue). Your vehicle starts moving up and down slowly in this scene, I guess it’s some sort of muddy/quick sand area. The creatures attack the vehicle but the badass main lass in it shoots the crap out of them which sprays  you with ‘blood’. Unfortunately, one of them grabs her and takes her away and you never see her again. The whole time this is going on, your animatronic driver is narrating and pooping their pants (depending on which one you have). 
     
    This is where you come up to the main 360 dome screen part, with dinosaurs and Kong himself wrestling all around you. There’s a lot of movement with the vehicle in this part as Kong throws you, climbs over you and catches you before you fall to your death. It’s done so well and you’re continuously looking from left tok right to left to right in your vehicle to catch all the action. It really is going on all around and on top of you! What I don’t like about this section, and what brings the whole attraction down a notch, is that if you are sitting on an end seat then you can very clearly see the bottom of the screen next to you. Whereas if you sit in the middle you can’t see the edge of the screen.
     
    You zoom off to the final part, which for me is honestly the best part of any theme park attraction I have ever done. A three story high (you only see from the waist up, he’s huge) animatronic Kong. This animatronic might well be one of the best theme park attractions ones ever done, the facial expressions are perfect, the sound coming from him is crisp and you can smell his breath! The best part is you slowly crawl past right next to him for like 30 seconds, so it’s not a blink and you miss it (ayyyyeti). But yeah it’s a brilliant and massive animatronic that does look very realistic. I love it!
     
    All in all this is a really good attraction from Universal. It’s not their best (doesn’t beat Harry Potter or Spiderman for me) but it’s a great ride. My only negatives from it are the ability to see the edge of the screens on the 360 dome bit if you sit on the end, and the fact it just seems quite short? It’s supposedly Universal’s longest ride, but it seems like it’s finished so soon? It might be that the excitement of the opening day of it has got to me, so I will try and ride it as much as I can over the next week. But I know this is going to be a very popular attraction for the park!
     
    Final point, we broke down on this just as we were about to enter the cave, which sucked and killed the momentum of the great outside portion. But the staff were lovely and let us go on it again straight away! Another great thing which I love with this ride, if anyone tries to stand up in the vehicle the animatronic driver immediately tells them to sit down!
     
    Enjoy some photos I took  














  19. Like
    Glitch reacted to BenC for a blog entry, Stuttgart Sojourn: Holiday Park   
    Stuttgart Sojourn
     
    Welcome to Part 2 of the Stuttgart Sojourn; an April weekend exploring the regional Parks of south Germany (if you haven't read it, Part 1 is here). Following an overcast, but very enjoyable, day at Tripsdrill, a good night's sleep in one of their cosy Schäferwagen, and a hearty continental breakfast in a log cabin in the middle of the WildParadies (a second gate Wildlife Park next to the Theme Park), it was time to make the hour-long drive north to Haßloch's Holiday Park!
     
    And what a difference a day made to the weather; out was the blanket grey cloud, and in were bright blue skies with warm sunshine. Theme Parks generally look great in any weather, but they look especially great when the sun has his hat on .
     

     
    Holiday Park
     

     
    Holiday Park is based 12 miles out of Neustadt in Haßloch, and much like Tripsdrill before it, is set in the middle of vast areas of German countryside. Rather more "corporate" and polished than Tripsdrill, the Park was owned and run by the Schneider family from its opening in 1971, and was sold on to Studio 100 (who own the Plopsa brand) in November 2010.
     
    Since then, Studio 100 have made significant efforts to "Plopsa-ify" the Park, importing into Germany the characters so prominent in their other Parks (and if you haven't heard of Plop the Gnome, Wickie the Viking, and Maya the Bee... well, you're not missing much). And there are now lofty ambitions for Holiday Park, which had suffered in the years prior to the Studio 100 takeover, with the stated aim to drive gate figures up to 1.2m through a phased €25m investment (to match visitor numbers at the flagship Park, Plopsaland De Panne).
     
    It's easy to spot the new owner's influence from the moment you enter the car park - Holiday Park now sports a jazzy new themed archway at the entrance, much like the one at its sister Park.
     

     
    The eagle eyed amongst you will have already spotted the Park's signature attraction in the above photo, and it was indeed the first ride we made a Maya-the-Beeline for as we entered the Park.
     
    Expedition Ge Force's reputation precedes it; winner of the (revered?) Mitch Hawker Best Steel Coaster Poll 5 times in the last 10 surveys, and never dropping below third place over that time. With three of my personal favourite coasters coming in at 8th (Shambhala), 9th (Nemesis), and 11th (Katun) respectively, it would be fair to say that I was hyped to get to ride the so-called "King" of the leaderboard.
     
    The ride is loosely themed around an expedition, with jeeps / backpacking gear / kettle drums scattered around the queueline, but the station is essentially an unglamorous tin shack, and the unthemed trains are of the standard Intamin lap-bar variety, commonly seen on their megalite rides (although these had tedious seat belts around the waist as well as the lap bar).
     

     
    So far, so average. Also average were the operations - one train op, with the 2 ride attendants checking and re-checking both bar and seat belt twice each before the train was dispatched. We were lucky that despite the glorious weather, the Park wasn't overly busy - but had these ops been on a busier day, the resulting queues would have been pretty intolerable.
     
    What isn't in any way average though, is this ride's scale. In a small-ish Park, it looks absolutely huge (at 171ft tall), with a monstrous sweeping layout that takes up a pretty large amount of Holiday Park's available space.
     
    The cable lift hill is speedy, and affords some magnificent views of the surrounding countryside, along with the large twisty mess of track that riders are about to navigate. And as with Shambhala, the anticipation (and feeling of vulnerability) on the ascent is tangible.
     

     
    There are many standout moments on this ride.
     
    The 75mph first drop is an absolute winner; steep and sharply twisted down to the ground - in the back row particularly it's a killer. The numerous airtime hills, like the one below, deliver a sustained shot of ejector airtime. And the head choppers towards the end of the ride, where the track doubles back on itself underneath the supports of the first airtime hill, are some of the best I've experienced for maintaining the illusion of collision.
     
    CoasterForce have a video of the ride that's well worth a look. GeForce is really, really good fun.
     

     
    And yet, despite all this, it is hard to recommend it as the best coaster in the world.
     
    The ride was built in 2001, around the same sort of time as Thorpe's Colossus. Aside from the lack of OTSRs, the train and track construction is pretty similar. The trains sound the same as Colossus as they roar around the track. And the comparisons with Colossus unfortunately extend to comfort: Expedition GeForce has exactly the same level of constant vibration / roughness that Colossus has.
     
    For some people, this may add to the ride - no-one can claim that GeForce isn't exhilarating, or that it doesn't "give you a good ride". It's quite the thrill. But it does, especially in the back rows, mean that rides can come off GeForce feeling a bit beaten up.
     
    And alas our old friends - the Intamin lap bars of doom - also don't help this feeling. Granted, they're far preferable to Colossus' restrictive OTSRs, but they do crush your thighs, especially over those ejector airtime hills, making re-riding more of a difficult choice than it should be. How Richard Rodriguez spent 104 days on the thing I've no idea.
     
    So, Expedition GeForce: brilliant in many ways, but not, in my opinion, the best coaster in the world.
     

     
    The Park's other big attraction is 2014's Sky Scream, a Premier LSM launched coaster with a small footprint; identical to Superman Ultimate Flight (the 2012 original) at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Part of Studio 100's €25m investment plan, the ride replaced the ageing Vekoma Corkscrew Super Wirbel, and a la Towers' entrance, corkscrew track from retired ride has been installed over the pathway towards Sky Scream as a nostalgic decoration.
     
    And as you can see, the old overgrown Wirbel area has been completely transformed by the new ride. Anyone for a quick trip in the Sky Scream Limo of Horror?
     

     
    I was not expecting to come away with a hugely positive review of the ride, thinking that the experience would be similar to Parque de Atracciones' Abismo, Linnanmäki's Ukko and the like (in short: fun Maurer rides, but too short, and with stomach-hugging, oppressive restraints).
     
    I was surprised.
     
    Sky Scream is smooth, intense, and well engineered. The train shuttles out of the blocks into a half-powered set of LSMs, pushing it halfway up the incline. Then it shuttles (backwards) into the station, where the LSMs (now with reversed magnetism) push it nearly all the way up the incline on the opposite side. Gravity does its bit to take the train back down (forwards) into the station, where the LSMs (at 100%) boost the train right up the incline and over the top of the 150ft structure.
     
    A slow inline twist follows at the top (as with the Maurer SkyLoops), and then a short holding brake (seen below) creates suspense, before the train bombs down again at a very steep angle into the non-inverting loop, and then down again back into the station. The train overshoots the station once, before being comfortably braked coming backwards in to stop.
     
    Sky Scream is a lot of fun, with decent Gs felt across all of the elements, and the (comfortable) lap bar restraints meaning the rider can properly enjoy being thrown around the circuit. It's worth saying that the trains come complete with a leg bar as well as a lap bar - which could be an irritation for taller people - but (at 6'1'') this didn't materially affect my enjoyment of the ride.
     

     
    Holiday Park chose to open the ride without any of the associated themeing in place (see an early photo here), but a mention must be given to the final product, which is now of a very high quality. The queueline acts as a walk-through Haunted House, with jumpy TV-screen effects, detailed set scenes, and loud noises (chains, dogs barking) startling prospective riders throughout. The Park actually has banners outside the entrance advising under 14s to stay away! I particularly enjoyed the lenticular portraits that changed from "normal" to "spooky" as you walked on past; done before, but nonetheless effective.
     
    Overall, Sky Scream gets a thumbs up. Yes, it's short, but for the size of its footprint I think Premier are on to a winner, besting Maurer's ride by having intense launches, and being less clunky and more comfortable. And with two of these rides having opened last year, and two more opening this year, I'm clearly not the only person to think so.
     
    Given its limitations, Sky Scream clearly can't compete with the very best coasters out there, but I'd ride again without hesitation. Couple that with an impressive themeing package, and Studio 100 have done a great job here - no bad thing if this is indicative of future quality from Holiday Park.
     

     
    The Park's final coaster comes in the form of Holly's Wilde Autofahrt ("Holly's Crazy Car Journey"), a brightly-themed 2010 Maurer Wild Mouse from the now defunct Loudoun Castle, not dissimilar to Rattlesnake at Chessington. There's not a lot to be said about these rides, other than this one was running well, with barely a brake in sight... other than at the very end! The cars screech around the corners with gusto, throwing all riders uncontrollably into the side of the vehicles.
     
    Brutal, but fun!
     

     
    It's easy as a coaster geek to undervalue common ride types, such as the wild mouse, the boomerang, even the wacky worm... but for 99% of a Park's guests, particularly the younger ones, these rides are as fresh and exciting as anything else out there.
     
    I was reminded of this when watching riders on Holly's Wild Fart (yes, a fart gag) - almost every car was filled with guests screaming their heads off and having a thoroughly good time. These ride types are successful for a reason, and although we goons might have ridden many identikit versions of a type ourselves, this doesn't make their existence any less worthwhile.
     

     
    Onto the Park's supporting attractions, and first up was Sky Fly, a new-for-2015 Gerstlauer, um, Sky Fly. Whilst not winning any awards for naming innovation, the Park have presented the ride well in a colourful new area surrounded by stalls, cafes and a toilet block. I am a huge fan of this ride type, which involves riders tilting the wings on their individual aircraft left and right in order to induce rotation, all whilst being whirled around a central support via a giant arm (much like a Mondial Top Scan).
     
    Holding the left wing down / right wing up will rock you in one direction, holding left wing up / right wing down will rock you in the other. Get enough momentum up and you can make it over the top and complete a 360. Keep your wings "fixed" in the wing position (up / down) that pushes you over the top, and you'll continue to rotate in that direction like a madman. Of the 12 guests per ride, usually 2-3 will grasp the concept and make it over the top.
     
    What is brilliant is that the rider can set the intensity of their ride by how much they want to rotate their aircraft. What is also brilliant is that if you get the rotation momentum right, the resulting spinning is downright insane - and easily one of the most intense flat ride experiences out there. If you have read my mini Trip Report from Nigloland in 2014, you'll know that their Air Meeting gave me a subconjunctival haemorrhage, as well as an uncontrollable fit of the giggles. Whilst the eye problems were thankfully not repeated in Holiday Park, the giggles certainly were, and I came away with a big grin on my face, along with lots of strange looks from the waiting crowd.
     

     
    The Park also has a Star Flyer, the 260ft Lighthouse Tower, from Funtime. I like these rides mainly for the fab views (yes, more German countryside), but with only a few chains holding your chair onto the central spinning structure, I can see why some otherwise-confident guests chicken out of riding...!
     

     
    Burg Falkenstein ("Falkenstein Castle") is a German hill castle in the Harz mountain range, located between Aschersleben and Harzgerode, dating back to the High Middle Ages. It's also the name of Holiday Park's only dark ride!
     
    Built in 1987, the ride certainly looks the part from the outside, complete with wooden stocks and well-established plants growing up around the aging brickwork...
     

     
    ...and long-time visitors to Thorpe will recognise the inside - it's Phantom Fantasia!
     
    Sort of. Mack provided Holiday Park with this version of the omnimover-style ride 4 years after they furnished Thorpe with theirs, and 5 years after they gave Europa Geisterschloss.
     
    Alas time has not been kind to the Burg on the inside. Burg Falkenstein has to be one of the most badly-aged dark rides in Europe, with only a tedious journey around supposed "animatronics" that are either falling apart, squeaky, or stationery, to offer. The attraction is very dark, and there is the impression that scenes have been removed over the years; there are some entirely blank spots during the ride. Altogether very dull.
     
    It's a well above average dark ride building, and a well below average dark ride. A shame.
     

     
    Much more impressive is Donnerfluss ("Thunder River"), an Intamin rapids ride that also happens to be Holiday Park's oldest ride; built in 1983, Donnerfluss was also Germany's first ever rapids.
     
    Sporting the same boats as Thorpe's Thunder River (also an Intamin creation), this rapids has all the components of a great water ride: good rockwork, thunderous waterfalls, surprise geyser bombs, and most importantly, some pretty hairy rapids sections! 3 out of 4 of our boat got very wet; only one of us came off unscathed, and thankfully that was me .
     

     
    And on the subject of good water rides, Wickie Splash is another solid addition to the Park's lineup. The Mack flume was opened as Teufelsfässer in 1992 ("Barrels of Hell"; darkly-themed with the devil, skeletons, and fire effects), but received a family-friendly Plopsa re-brand in 2014.
     
    The re-theme is fantastic, brightening up the whole area with shiny, colourful buildings and characters from the Wickie the Viking series (if you still aren't familiar, you can enjoy / waste 3 minutes introducing yourself here). And the log flume itself is excellent; 3 fun drops including one backwards, with the inside turntable sections allowing for some storytelling with Wickie and friends. The final drop is an airtime-filled double-down, much like Logger's Leap's (now sadly missed), but a smidgen higher at 65ft.
     
    Good length, multiple drops, a backwards section, well themed, wet but not too wet. You can't ask for much more from a Park flume!
     

     
    The final ride of note in the Park is Anubis Free Fall Tower; the first free fall drop in Europe, standing tall at 230ft. I love Intamin drops, common though they are, and this delivered as consistently as any other. That said, having opened in 1997, its age does show - the fall itself was pretty unrefined and clunky, and there was definitely a greater than average amount of shaking on the way down!
     
    It's also worth saying that the link to Anubis, Studio 100's successful kids drama, was tenuous at best - there were a few posters of the show displayed in the queueing area... and that was it.
     
    Previously the ride was simply called Free Fall Tower. Nothing like shoehorning in an IP when it's not required...!
     

     
    And last, but by no means least, we come to the Park's all-season Wasserski Stunt Show, staged at least once a day in the Park's 1,300 capacity Aquastadion.
     
    Replacing the incumbent show of the last 2 years, "Hollywood's Talking Dead" (um, OK ), for their 45th birthday Holiday Park debuted a brand new spectacle: "Die Jubilaumsshow Holiday Park - 45 Jahre" ("The Anniversary Show of Holiday Park - 45 Years"). There was even a giant celebratory cake floating in the middle of show lake.
     

     
    The Holiday Park waterski show remains Europe's first and only waterski stunt show in Europe, and against any metric, it's an absolute winner. A team of c.10 stunt performers showed off some serious skills on the water, involving waterskis, waterboards, high speed boats, jetskis, and jetpacks. There was also some abseiling and high-wire work across the audience.
     
    And the whole show was set to a pumping up-tempo soundtrack, with gunfire, cannon-fire, pyrotechnics and party streamers thrown into the mix!
     

     
    Perhaps the best thing about the show though was its bonkers storyline. My German's not exactly great, but from what I could gather...
     
    Holly (the Park's original mascot; not a Plopsa character) wants to throw a party to celebrate Holiday Park's 45th birthday Holly has made a giant birthday cake, and needs help lighting the candles Comedy French bad guy (in a comedy cape, sporting comedy mustache) turns up with his comedy French henchman, having arrived all the way from Disneyland Paris (in a Mickey-Mouse themed old banger) Disneyland Paris bad guy claims that Disneyland is the best Park in Europe, and therefore must ruin Holiday Park's 45th birthday celebrations Holly attempts to eliminate the Disneyland bad guy, via many high-speed chases and stunts on the water Having had no success, Holly rings up good friend Roland Mack (!), who provides Holly with a Europa Park stunt boat (!!) Holly saves the day by arriving in the nick of time on the Europa Park stunt boat Both comedy French bad guy and henchman are blown up in a big fireball via a cannon The cannon is then filled with fireworks and directed towards the cake The cake explodes with colourful fireworks, streamers erupt into the audience, Holly does a dance, much jubilation, etc...  
    Utterly hilarious, and great to see such tongue-in-cheek rivalry between Parks on the continent...!
     
    Holiday Park flatters itself by making the comparison to Disneyland and Europa, but still... top stuff .
     

     
    So if it wasn't clear already, I had a great day at Holiday Park, with GeForce, Sky Scream, and the Wasserski Stunt Show being reason alone to make the journey over to Haßloch. It's in a period of transition, with the new owners investing in both new areas (Sky Scream) and redevelopment of old areas (Entrance Plaza, Wickie Splash) - and long may this investment continue.
     
    There is certainly more to do; the Park's layout is strange, and the quality is inconsistent; generally, things that have been Plopsa-ified are of a far higher standard than the legacy areas from the old ownership (I'm looking at you, Burg Falkenstein...). So there's a way to go before the whole thing feels coherent. But I am confident - seeing the improvements to date, and having the backing of the chain behind it - that this upward trajectory will continue.
     
    And any Park that invests heavily in entertainment gets my vote. In addition to the Wasserski Stunt Show, Holiday Park puts on an energetic daily parade involving all the Plopsa characters, as well as regular shows for little ones in the main plaza area.
     
    Thanks for all the smiles, Maya the Bee!
     

     
    And thanks to you for reading; comments welcome as always.
  20. Like
    Glitch 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!
  21. Like
    Glitch reacted to Matt Creek for a blog entry, California Feeling   
    Every so often through the years theme park enthusiasts get to experience something which changes their scope of theme parks forever. This can push the boundaries on what the best parks and attractions in the world currently are, amongst notching up figure counts too.
    Considering prior to 2015 I hadn't been to any large parks outside the UK, my progress steamed ahead in 2015 with a few trips (and more to come in 2016). However there was one trip I definitely didn't foresee to happen. At least this quickly anyway.

    That was California. Ive literally only been here a couple days now as part of a 12 day trip which is related mostly to a rare opportunity relating to my work.

    So far, I have been able to visit the Disneyland Resort & California Adventure. Whilst I've not been able to try all the rides out there, I can safely say they're both amazing parks which are very different from each other and better than anything else I've seen (even Paris).
    So far, here's the things that have stricken out for me.

    Disneyland Park
    The charm and atmosphere in here is unbelievable despite its smaller size than Paris. The original Main Street looks so amazing as does the Castle (despite its smaller size).
    Matter Horn bobs is such as fun ride and has to be one of the most enjoyable coasters I've ever been on. Haunted Mansion is so so much better than the Paris one along with Pirates even with the jack animatronic. I even love the It's A Small World here unlike the Paris one, which may be as Walt built it.

    Jungle Cruise is a fun ride though, with so much humour nestled in to it so much. I didn't find Space Mountain & BTM as good as the Paris ones, but the finale on the one here is immense and I can't wait until Paris gets it.
    I'm still yet to experience most of the other rides, but found the Alice ride very good and certainly miles better than the Blackpool version too. The only thing I didn't really like here was the tommorow land as it felt rather lacking somewhat.

    California Adventure
    Where do I start?
    Beuna Vista street is amazing! So is the Carthay theatre at the end.

    Cars land was by far the best ride here, just so amazing and richly themed, never seen any immersion near this scale before at a theme park. California Screamin is such a fun ride. What it lacks in inversions, it makes up for in length, amazing ride.

    Midway Mania was a fun ride, sort of reminded me of Laser Raiders but much much better. The Little Mermaid ride was a charming attraction too, some well themed scenes here. I look forward to doing the Magic Kingdom version one day.
    Tower Of Terror, think I preferred the Paris one again, but the location to say the least felt better here, maybe being near Hollywood helped. The fun wheel was a crazy but really fun concept too.

    The shows at both parks were really good too, Disneyland Forever was stunning, the parades were highly enjoyable and so much more entertainment than the Paris one too. World of colour reminded me a lot of Aquanura at Efteling but was just as spectacular in its own way.
    Well, that's all so far. I'll probably spend another day here on my stay, but it's unlikely I'll get chance to visit any other parks like Magic Mountain & Universal as I have so much to do and doubt I will get time. The lack of pictures and video is due to not having time to get anything done.

    Until next time, adidas
    It started with a little mouse
  22. Like
    Glitch reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, JoshC.'s Review of the Thorpe Season - 2015   
    Yeah, I'm doing this thing again. It's my 5th season doing a 'season review', and it's interesting seeing not only how the park has changed, but also how my general views of the park have changed, in that time. Here's some links to 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014's reviews if you're interested. This entry will be a lot less photo-heavy than the rest, mostly because I've taken less pictures this season, so I'll try and keep the writing to a minimum too. With the boring points out of the way, "prepare for Detonation"...
    New for 2015 - I'm a Celebrity "Maze"
    At this stage last year, it seemed likely that nothing new would be added. But in February, the announcement of the IAC maze came about, and well, when I first heard about it, I'll admit, I laughed. I thought it was a joke. And even after it set in that it was actually happening, I was a bit sceptical. But at the same time, I had a lot of hope - I could see the potential there, and that it could be something quite different and fun; features which were desperately lacking at Thorpe.
    Throughout the season, IAC has been a mixed bag. Even though not all the effects were working (and some planned effects never came to fruition), it was good fun and had a smile on my face all the way through. One of the great things about it was how plenty of little tweaks could be done, keeping the attraction fresh for regulars, whilst still being fun for newcomers. However, towards the end of the season, it became a bit flat. Less effects, scenes skipped and less coherency. Maybe it's because of the numerous run-throughs that I feel like that, or maybe it really did go down in quality; it's hard for me to say.
    All in all, IAC isn't a bad investment. It fills a gap that Thorpe were missing, and has some great quality theming. It has a bad throughput (though one that isn't far off the demand it will have in future seasons I expect), and won't last more than a few seasons, and the money invested in it could have been better spent elsewhere. But for the time being, it's a neat little side attraction.

    Looks pretty at night.

    Minimalist queue line theming.

    A very unflattering photo of me as King of the Jungle.
    New for 2015 - Other Stuff
    In terms of general improvements, touch ups, etc., there isn't exactly much new to speak of. The refurb of Bar 360 to Fin's Bar and Grill was fantastic; with a nice general atmosphere and good food to go with it. It's nice to see things begin to link together, with the Shark Hotel, Fin's and the bits of island / shark theming in the Dome have created some consistency in the park's main hub - I'd just like to see more of it!
    Other than that, there wasn't much of note. A few bits and bobs got a bit of cleaning up (Depth Charge submarine, Stealth signage, Swarm billboard, etc), which is nice to see. A name change to the BBQ to try and push IAC a bit more, and a couple of new game stalls moved about, showing that on the whole, this season really was low key.


    What a difference a year makes (thanks Thorpe!).

    New Swarm billboard, which should hopefully last a lot longer too!
    Birthday Celebrations!
    The S&S duo turned 10 this season, a birthday I'm sure many of us thought at one point or another Slammer wouldn't reach. In fairness, Slammer did have a good 4 and a bit months of pretty much continuous, day-to-day, operation this season, which hasn't always been the case in recent seasons. And it did manage to make it to the last day of the season, even if it did have its Fright Nights rest. But still, we're talking about a ride which opened over 2 months late, had to close every day for engineering checks, isn't exactly very popular and can't be trusted as far as you could proverbially throw it. Thorpe must be commended for keeping it for so long and such, but surely it's almost time to give up the ghost.
    Rush, on the other hand, is still swinging all the time, but seems to still be troubled with out-of-time swings and short cycles. It feels like both of these things should be sorted, and shouldn't have been a trouble for so many seasons now. One can only hope that this is sorted...

    Still Slammin'...just.
    The Coasters
    Not much to say here on the whole, since my opinions on the coasters haven't changed that much really. I guess the long-standing issue of reduced operations should be mentioned, with specific mention to Colossus and X starting the season off on reduced capacity for quite a while now. I always feel like Thorpe shoot themselves in the foot when they say 1 train op is down to 'lack of demand', as it feels like a kick in the teeth to anyone waiting in those queues which can be up to 45 minutes in my experience.
    Saw's extended period of closure following the Smiler incident was also a big hit for the park too. From an operational standpoint, it didn't seem like queues were affected that much by it, but I guess the decrease in guest numbers would also explain that.

    Random summer stuff happening by Stealth.

    Colossus saw a lick of paint...in some places.
    Other Rides
    I'll keep this short and sweet, since there isn't really much to say. Samurai died again, but was resurrected (again). Rumba Rapids still needs a lot of TLC. Tidal Wave closed early, and whilst the ride itself isn't missed in the line up, the area feels distinctly lacking without the crashing of a wave every few minutes. Vortex also died for a what felt like a good couple of months.
    This seems to be a problem Thorpe will face in the very near future. Some of the filler rides are becoming less reliable, even less popular and lack the general appeal in the modern theme park environment Thorpe are trying to create. One does have to wonder how long it will be before we see some of the bigger name rides removed...

    Samurai just about existing.

    This nice themed bench appeared by Teacups. It lasted a couple of days before being removed due to damage. But it did return, fully fixed!

    Storm Surge makes a mess as usual.
    February Half Term
    For the first time since 2009, Thorpe opened its doors in February. With a very small ride line up, a large Brainiac show and some small Brainiac stalls set up around the park, it was an interesting idea, and perhaps a slightly risky one given how the previous events went down. I unfortunately didn't attend because of uni stuff, but on the whole, it sounded alright, but it was still a case of the park not being ready for such an event yet.
    For something like this to be successful, you need a show or two, a couple of indoor attractions and a mixture of rides, from major to minor ones. The event just didn't have enough of this. Hopefully, in a couple more years, the park will be ready to have another, more successful, shot at this. I'm not surprised that it's not returning for 2016 in all honesty.
    Easter?
    No Easter event this season was a disappointment. They seemed to be onto a winner with last season's event, and it would make sense to push Angry Birds every Easter in my opinion. But yet, we had nothing. Lack of budget, maybe? Who knows. A shame really, but let's hope they can do something for 2016...
    Island Beats / Summer Nights
    8 weeks of live music acts, including some big-ish names, at a theme park with interspersed with late-closings. It sounds like something which could really work at Thorpe. And with over 70 acts performing, including some established names and some up-and-comers (including Louisa Johnson, this year's X Factor winner!) it feels like something which had to work.
    However, it just didn't seem to do the trick. Maybe there wasn't enough marketing? Maybe there wasn't enough interest in visiting theme parks in general? Maybe it was just too confusing? Maybe the two just don't mix? I don't know. But Island Beats just didn't seem to work for the park, and it strikes me as a lot of time, money and effort for something which just ultimately wasn't worth it. It'll be very interesting to see what happens next summer.
    On the other hand, Summer Nights had a successful third season - let's hope that it not only continues, but also grows.


    Fright Nights
    I sometimes think people forget just how huge Fright Nights is, and how, theoretically, it is brilliant value for money if scare attractions are something that interest you. You get 5 free attractions (some of which are quite different to your run-of-the-mill scare attractions), with the option of a 6th one to pay for, along with roaming actors and general change in atmosphere. There's few places which offer the quantity that Thorpe offer, especially when you consider how little they raise their prices compared to non-FN days.
    This season saw a very clear shift away from the Lionsgate partnership, which is a shame. It could have been used so much more than it was. Instead, we had the clown-focus (which, in fairness, was good), along with Big Top, which was far too inconsistent. It was an ambitious maze for Thorpe, but ultimately they just couldn't find the sweet spot. Containment was also new, and was pretty good on the whole, but just marketed as way too scary for what it is.
    For me, Blair Witch was the best attraction all in all, and I do hope that we see Thorpe continue to use that route in the future. I also loved Face it Alone once again, and it's great to see Thorpe pushing boundaries even further. I was disappointed at the lack of overnight experience this year though - was planning on trying it out this season!
    It'll be interesting to see the direction taken next season, especially since the Lionsgate partnership is rumoured to be done. And with the overhaul Scarefest saw this season, Thorpe do need to consider upping their game once more.

    My post Face it Alone face...
    Reserve n Ride
    RnR happened again this year, with some much-needed improvements to previous years. On a personal level, I thought the system worked great and still believe that if properly implemented, could be the way forward for Thorpe.
    However, it might seem that Thorpe themselves disagree. Given that trials were planned to take place during the entirety of Fright Nights (and rumours of it even being trialled in September too), but didn't, would suggest some concerns internally. Whether they simply did not want to risk it after a bad season, wanted to change it, or had just lost faith in the system is anyone's guess. But after the plug being pulled, I am somewhat doubtful we will see the return of RnR next year..

    RnR advertising was subtle, meaning no one knew about it...
    (Please make sure the screen doesn't break again for so long Thorpe!)
    Food and Merchandise
    Not much to say on the food front, since essentially all my meals were eaten in the aforementioned Fin's Bar this season. Was nice to FINALLY see the Freestyle machines introduced on park, even if it is a shame that it is one unit, by the front of park, and only opened on peak days. Hopefully this can be the beginning of them being rolled out across park though..
    Merchandise was once again good this season, as seems to be the case with all the Merlin parks. A nice variety of things, and it was good to see them trial limited edition stock in Fright Nights and WC16 merch. Given how quickly some of the FN stuff sold out, I expect we'll see an even bigger range next season too.


    Fin's, as done by Scruffy Dog.

    Freestyle pricing.
    VIP Experiences
    This season, I did coaster climbs on both Colossus and Inferno. These are truly great experiences and something I would roughly recommend people looking into! They are on the pricey side, yes, but as with all things Merlin, there's always going to be an offer on them at one point or another; so jump on them if you see them.
    What I find a bit novel about my experiences were the different weather conditions - I did Colossus on a very cold, windy March day, and Inferno on a very wet August one (so both very different to be sunny Swarm experience in 2014). It made for all the experiences to be very different in more ways than one!


    These experiences are JoshC. approved.
    Loggers Leap - RIP?
    After many rumours circulating, Thorpe confirmed via Twitter that Loggers Leap wouldn't open in the 2016 season. However, it isn't clear if this closure is permanent or not. It's hard to know what to believe at the moment, but in any case, the closure of Loggers seriously dents the 'fun for all' ride quota at Thorpe. Fingers crossed that, whatever is happening, we're not left without a log flume for too long...
    A Look Ahead
    WC16. Simply put, WC16 has to be a success. It has to draw in the crowds and it has to be a well received attraction. If it's not, then I am genuinely worried how badly Thorpe could be affected in the future. What would be the point in throwing large amounts money at Thorpe if it doesn't pay off, especially when Merlin are trying to minimise the aftermath of the Smiler incident?
    Personally, I'm still not "excited" for the attraction, since I struggle to get excited over something I know nothing about. However, I'm intrigued by it all, and do really look forward to trying it out, whatever 'it' is.
    As for everything else... Well, I have no doubt we'll see the odd touch ups around the park, nothing special, just the standard little bits they've done in recent closed seasons. I'd really like to hope that this is the season they bring back themed areas too. But I would like to see it done right, rather than the park just slapping names to sections of the park, so I wonder if it's a bit too much to ask?
    A Personal Touch
    As some on here will know, last year I had a brother join me in this funny old world. So, back in March, at a mere 5 months old, my baby brother went on his first trip to Thorpe. Not quite as soon as me (Thorping since I was 6 weeks old, oh yeah), but still a good start...

    Just a shame the Carousel couldn't have stuck round a little while longer for his first Thorpe ride!
    And that's about it. Unsurprisingly, I said I'd keep things short and I haven't; oh well. Thanks for reading!
  23. Like
    Glitch reacted to Matt Creek for a blog entry, Howl For Halloween   
    For several years now, there's been something on my theme park bucket I've always been wanting to tick off now for a long time. No, not Baron 1898 [although soon hopefully], not Europa Park either I'm afraid, however keep an eye out for MC16 which is happening soon, some hints to what this may even appear in this very blog entry.

    This something is of course on home soil and relatively simplistic in all honesty. It's Chessington's Howl O ween event. It's been something I've planned for over two years but until had not worked out, due to not getting chance in 2013 and absolute rotten luck in 2014, very narrowly missing out on going [big emphasis on the very narrowly].
    However due to numerous reasons [cough cough budget cuts], the two former fantastic mazes from the last few years were gone despite receiving strong reviews in their time and in were two new mazes [although in different locations to those], which begged the question. Would they remain as strong? Wait & see.

    One thing to note about Chessington is how much theming and decoration there was set-up, which made it feel a-lot more in swing, certainly more than Thorpe too.

    Pumpkins, lots of lots of pumpkins.



    Not bad theming for Chessington.
    BTW, I would recommend the Chicken Shack for food at the park as I'd say it's the best eatery there by a large'ish margin, especially if your fed up with Pizza, Pasta buffets or don't want miniscule fish & Chips either.


    But this was definitely the most impressive Halloween thematic element though, and looked even better at night.
    Review Of The Mazes [why the heck didn't I take more pictures]
    Curse Of The Lost Tomb
    The Main new maze for this year, with the absence of Haunting & Mystery [as mentioned earlier], this was the maze I was looking forward to the most and it had a lot to make up for. The maze was located in Wild Asia where the conference centre was [there might have been a stage there once too]. From the outside, there wasn't much to see really, just a standard temporary cattle pen like in to a building [bit like Thorpe really], not to mention was taking a bit of time for the queue to move. But the question was, did the maze itself prove to be worth it?
    Overall rating 9/10.
    Really enjoyed this maze, which featured an original storyline and features [game show like in a way] but unlike Thorpe's mazes were your just straight in to the action and are scraed silly, this had not just more of a backstory and not to mention a general reason why you were here in the first place.
    Trick Or Tweet Woods
    Located on the grassy area near Hocus Pocus where the log cabins continue to still exist. Being out in the open, not the best setting for a maze [though Blair Witch copes well] not to mention the cabin and trees were some cause for concern. Due to these reasons, we avoided the maze during the day and only did it once it was starting to get dark, hoping it would turn out better. But were we in for a trick; or a treat?
    Overall rating 2/10 [I'm feeling generous]
    That's 5 minutes I won't be getting back, makes Blair Witch MK1 look amazing, bring back Haunting In The Hollows!
    Though feeling hugely let down by that second maze, there was one good thing now, it was completely dark and meant it was time for some night rides. With the park closing at 8pm this year [something that will hopefully remain for next year], this gave us over 2 hours to experience rides fully in the dark [over 3 hours once the clocks change].







    Night rides we managed were Scorpion Express which looked quite impressive at night especially the orange fire effect.
    We queued for Vampire next, which the dimly lit queue in the darkness really added to the experience even more than it does in the day. Unfortunately the ride broke for a while when we queued but was well worth it in the end, as the ride at night is superb. The way the ride interacts with the trees as it helix's through the shrubbery, it was absolutely amazing, shame there is only 10 days in the whole season you can really experience this ride at night.
    We did Fury after which turned out to be our final ride of the trip, which proved to be just as good at night, the darkness made the ride more fun and disorienting, not to mention the view from the lift was highly impressive [why I don't see that in the day is astounding].
    Howl'O-Ween Summary
    The event as a whole was very good. Absolutely loved the Curse Of The Lost Tomb maze and the night rides, where the park as a whole looks amazing, even more so than Thorpe [except Stealth], as there was different coloured lighting and effects park wide which greatly added to the atmosphere. The park's soundtrack helped set the scene but was a little repetitive in all honesty.
    Whilst in some ways this event was better than Thorpes [There I Said It!], like the park's current state, there were a lot of flaws. Firstly ride operations were hit and miss. Some rides were OK such as Scorpion and Falls, but others left little to be desired. Rattlesnake especially which was going very very slowly and took 45 minutes to queue for from the cave, plus Vampire didn't seem to operating as fluently as normal, whether this was because of possible ride issues remains another story.
    Aside from Trick Or Treat being disappointing, this years event was described as not being as good as previous years [gutted 2014 never happened], but the overall absence of two fantastic mazes replaced by one that was very good and one that was poor, amongst there being a severe lack of live entertainment and roaming actors, which made Thorpe look like it was flooded with in comparison. The factor that Ramesis once had lasers and did not continue to this year, only added insult to injury. There was even slightly less theming this year too [so I've been told].
    If the park had kept Haunting In The Hollows, at least one live stage show and live roaming actors, the event would've been amazing to the degree it's better than Fright Nights. However, unfortunately due to the line up being a little on the small side, I would say Fright Nights at least maze and entertainment wise is better.
    Chessington need to get their act together and pick up the disco ball they once held, I've heard some amazing things about their Halloween events in the park and though this years was ok, it didn't seem to quite up to it's previous amazing standard. With much investment, TLC & efforts Chessington could once again become the creme de la creme of UK parks but has since become very stale.
    Scarefest is definitely at the top of next years Halloween list.
  24. Like
    Glitch reacted to JoshC. for a blog entry, Why Angry Birds Land is better than Diagon Alley   
    Next month, Universal Studios Florida introduce their 'Diagon Alley' expansion to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It sees the headline attraction 'Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts', the Hogwarts Express, as well as numerous shops from the Harry Potter universe.
    As to be expected, everyone is excited about the development. However, why should we be so excited? We've got a newly opened area which is much better than Diagon Alley ever could be - Angry Birds Land at Thorpe Park! Travelling all the way to America seems pointless when most of us on this forum can pop down to Thorpe in under a couple of hours to enjoy the delightful Angry Birds Land.
    First of all, let's look at the rides and attractions in each area. Angry Birds Land has a 115ft drop tower, perfect for thrill seekers, some fun dodgems, which are perfect for everyone, and a 4D cinema experience, which again is perfect for everyone. So, here, we have a land which caters for all ages - we have a ride which is solely dedicated for a thrill audience.
    As far as thrill rides go, Detonator: Bombs Away! is as thrilling as you can get; there's not many better drop towers around after all. Then there's a good set of dodgems. Okay, so dodgems aren't anything special, you can find them anywhere. But people like dodgems, and if people like something, you give it to them! Finally, the 4D experience is clearly something that's been designed for a younger audience, yet it works for everyone. What's most surprising about it is how immersive the attraction felt - it's a film about a set of cartoon birds, who don't speak, trying to get the precious eggs back from some bad pigs. Yet you feel a part of the film, you can create emotional bonds with the birds, and you feel like you're there with them. For a cartoon, that's pretty darn impressive.
    Now, Diagon Alley. We have a headline attraction being ride about escaping from a bank. Escaping...from a bank. Just let that sink in for a moment. And this will have loads of goblins scattered about. Not gonna lie, those goblins looked pretty hideous in the films, I imagine they'll look even more hideous in real life. Not exactly a family-friendly thing to have is it? Especially considering this is already a ride about escaping from a bank that you've broken into (great moral values there!). Now, this ride is apparently some epic dark ride/coaster combo. These types of rides are always risks, since some people's expectations can really shape how they react to the ride. Expect a coaster, you may be left unthrilled. Expect a dark ride, you may be left unimmersed. It's a really, really big risk.
    Then you've got a train ride linking two parks together. Now, it will of course be more like a 4D experience, and this all sounds well and good. But it's not going to be easy to create a 4D experience about a franchise which already has so much going for it; very difficult to create an emotional link to the story. I have so many concerns.
    Then there's also theming. Okay, Angry Birds Land's theming isn't the greatest, and there's room for more. However, let's step back and look at what Diagon Alley's theming will entail. Firstly, there's a dragon that breaths fire. Fantastic. That's better than anything at Angry Birds Land. However, this dragon doesn't move, from the looks of it at least. Talk about unrealistic! What's the point in having a creature for theming if it doesn't move. You're meant to be in a world where a dragon has just escaped; it's not gonna stand still, lording it over everyone else puffing some fire occasionally. It's going to move.
    Angry Birds Land's theming at least makes sense; you're in a snapshot of a game, where some birds have just been catapulted, others are about to be, and so forth. It makes perfect sense to the story. Diagon Alley's dragon does not. Then there's all the shop fronts. They're shop fronts from shops in a back alley in London. Where's the excitement in that? The transportation to a whole new world? You can't get that here. It's basically just like walking down a part of London with shops you've never seen before (which isn't exactly difficult). Poor theming really; it's taken realism a step too far.
    There's other things as well. Harry Potter is an outdated IP. The last book was released 7 years ago. The last film 3 years ago. Even if it's still popular, and there's a spin off film series on the way, the main Harry Potter IP is outdated. It's got little more than nostalgia now. It's time to let go. Take away the nostalgia and all we have is a kid's story that finished many years ago, and whilst still memorable, should be left alone, instead of picked away until its dignity has gone away. Angry Birds is about to get its second wave of popularity. There's a major film to be released in 2016. Mobile gaming is still huge, and a new game could easily make it to the top in 24 hours. Now that's a popular and current IP for you.
    I think that's all I need to get my point across. Harry Potter is an outdated IP, and Diagon Alley is shaping up to be an overhyped dark ride that teaches bad moral values and a 4D experience which could go really well or really badly. Perhaps not the best family area. Angry Birds, however, is a current, popular, IP, with Angry Birds Land having a quality 4D experience and rides for everyone, which everyone will enjoy. It also teaches good moral values (don't steal, fight for what you believe in, yadda yadda yadda). If that's not quality, I don't know what is.
    So save your money. Avoid Diagon Alley. Save yourself the disappointment. Take a trip down to Thorpe Park and bask in the greatness that is Angry Birds Land, and smile to yourself that you're in a better place than some hocus pocus area set about robbing a bank. You deserve it.
  25. Like
    Glitch reacted to ThaliaKleio for a blog entry, Fright Nights Trip Report 27/10/14   
    Thorpe Park Trip Report 27/10/13
    After our short 25min drive from our hotel (following our 4.5 hour drive the day before) we arrived at Thorpe at around 10:15. We then proceeded to the MAP office to pick up our shiny new passes before heading in to the park just after 10:45, I checked the queue times using the app and saw that the majority of the rides were still on 5-10 min queue with the exception of saw and swarm which were both already up to an hour.
    We headed toward X as we hadn’t been here since it got turned around and wanted to try it out. The ride seemed a lot tamer this way round in my opinion but I’m not sure if this is because we went to universal in the summer and spent a lot of time on The Mummy.
    After this we headed over to nemesis and it’s 5 min queue, as we got into the building we decided to queue for the front as there was not that much of a queue. However at this point the ride decided to break down on us and was then only running on one train. After about 15/20 mins of waiting it was our turn to ride and this was one of the best experiences I had that day, it is definitely better at the front and seeing the track appear before you without another car in front was an unusual experience, and one I haven’t experienced very often.
    Next we decided to buy or directors cut fast-tracks for later on in the evening an while we were there purchased some fastracks for the swarm backwards as this was something else we had not experienced yet. We then headed straight over to swarm and “braved it backwards” it was definitely odd going backwards and the only downside was that the theming and near misses were all missed
    due to you not seeing them till you’ve gone through them.
    We then headed over to Saw and it hour queue, but as we got inside we noticed that the queue was a lot shorter than it normally is when it’s a hour so we thought we’d be out quicker than expected, However after about 15 mins of queuing the ride broke down, we decided to stick it out an after around 20 mins the ride was up and running again, however after another 10 mins the cars
    disappeared again and we were left waiting another 10 mins before it was up and running again and we were finally lead into the building to “play a game”.
    By this point it was lunch time and we headed over to calypso for some chicken and watched a man Eat a ton of ribs (was that there all season or just fright nights).
    We still had an hour before our fastracks kicked in so we headed to Colossus as it had a half hour Queue, once we got the fastrack entrance the woman asked how long we’d be queuing, we worked it out to be 15/20 mins and she was surprised by this fact (even asked us if we meant this queue ) we then rode the 10 loops and headed over to asylum to watch the chainsaw guy in action.
    Then it was our turn to venture into Asylum, this maze seemed a lot longer than the last time I went in 2 years ago. Also the strobe lighting made it look like the walls were moving at numerous points during the maze, we lost half our group at one point due to a door being left open and the front of our group escaping outside, we then saw the group that went in before us being called back in and were then right behind us for the rest of maze making our group very large. I must say that the theming of the maze has had no lasting effect on me and I can tell that the actors in the maze were not real mental patients and that is not how they act.
    Our next maze was my bloody valentine, upon getting to the entrance we were told that we couldn’t enter as they were “dealing with an issue” so we waited around for about 10 minutes before witnessing a group of irish travellers being escorted out of these and threating to set off the fire alarms in the park! We then ventured into the maze and got told to be careful about driving home due to the storm before being told the story of Harry Warden. I’ve seen the remake of this film so kind of knew what to expect but other people in my group were a bit freaked by the first scene. We keep checking all the dark corners and actors made use of these very well. This was the only maze which made me scream (due to actors jumping out of darkness and right into my face). We escaped harry and carried on with our day.
    Our last maze was cabin in the woods (we didn’t bother with saw) this maze was my favourite of the new ones and I hope it’s back next year so I can experience it again. We had kiko this week but I don’t remember seeing her during the maze, the rooms I remember are a forest, wallpaper and deer head (with a door to the control room but didn’t get to go through) a room with a guy that was proclaiming his love for the girl in front of me, a tunnel, the room from the facebook videos, some long corridor that turned on itself with about 4 actors in it and the last room with the plaques.
    After surviving the mazes we headed for some rides in the dark we did swarm, Colossus and nemesis, the last two were not as fun due to the rain starting and hitting me in the face. We were going to queue for blair witch but we had a look when we came off nemesis and it looked awfull :l it was also raining pretty heavily by then so we called it a day at 9:30 and went back to the hotel.
    Ride list
    X x1
    Swarm X1 backwards X1 forwards &dark
    Saw X1
    Nemesis X1 Day X1 Night
    Colossus X1 Day X1 Night
    Mazes X1 (except saw)
    This is my first trip report so sorry if I’ve done anything wrong :L it also seems to be a bit long :L sorry again.
    ThaliaKelio
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