Alright, I've had a day to think over what these dungeons are like after experiencing it last Sunday and are going to be brutally honest with it now after the experience I had and will present my opinion of it as a paying customer who dedicated nearly an hour of their 10am - 5pm day on this thing; not as a theme park blogger who is in Merlin/Alton's good graces and paid zilch to experience it.
Contrary to all the positive reviews that are going around right now for it from all the theme park bloggers/vloggers/YouTube "celebrities", I'm sorry, but this is without a doubt the worst Dungeon I have done and I would go as far to say the worst attraction Alton Towers have ever given us in the 21 years I have been visiting this place year-on-year since 1998, and that's saying something. It goes almost entirely against what makes all the other Dungeons enjoyable attractions and it falls flat on delivering a comprehensive experience for guests with no proper thought or imagination put into the product and here's why.
All the other Dungeons I have experienced immerse you properly into each scene with details and theming across every corner, from the flooring, walls, scenery and the actors. Despite many of them having bare roofing such as the London one for example, you tend to forget about it all with every scene and focus your attention on the actor and surroundings, as per you should, so this missing detail never really posed a problem for me with the others. With the Alton Towers one however, the very opposite occurs.
For every scene you go through, I kid you not, there are flat black walls literally everywhere you look from the sides, behind you, the ceiling and even amongst the theming where the actor stands. It look horrendous and every room made you feel like you were in a big black box that had been assembled quickly and cheaply with timber wall panels. There was no texture to any of them, no deformation and no disguising of the walls in any room to make you feel as though you are in a dungeon. It just looks incredibly lazy and cheap and no attempt whatsoever was done to immerse guests 360 degrees unlike all the other Dungeons.
The entrance to the attraction I still hold the view looks disgustingly ugly and cheap. Whilst in-person it looks a little better than through a screen, you can tell it was built on a budget with the randomly placed barrels and crates outside the entrance, along with the temporary fire torches fenced off. Most unforgiving of all is there is still an entire section of the entrance to the left in front of the lift towers with nothing but a giant 30ft black wall. Clearly the park ran out of wooden supports to cover this up properly during construction, so their solution to this problem was to pop down to the local B&Q and buy 50L of Dulux EasyCare Rich Black paint to cover up the shadows of the deceased Oompa Loompas peeking through the 2D windows. I'm guessing with the amount of black walls inside the attraction they had plenty to spare to cover this up too...
Take a look here at what I mean. Taken on Sunday 24th March. It's so revolting to look at:
As for the Black River boat ride, it's the same story - paint every wall black and leave it. The ride follows through the same route as Charlie, but believe it or not, it's now even barer than before with very little decoration or theming present in any portion. There are a few projectors on flat walls as you go round showing the shadows of victims being tortured, a couple of water jets to get you wet, a single animatronic which just bobs up and down ever so slightly in a cauldron, a single projector on a mannequin head and a single oddly-placed smoke machine. That is quite literally it for 4 minutes straight. There are no proper special effects anywhere inside, many zones had no audio playing, there are just black walls and tunnels for 80% of it and most unforgivable is the park were too lazy to remove the old theming from Charlie such as the water wheel in the station and the mirrored section towards the end where Sonic used to be on Toyland Tours. There is so much empty space and wasted area on this ride now that it makes Charlie look like a masterpiece compared to "Black Walls - The Ride". It's so, so bad.
From here, it's pretty much your bog standard Dungeon attraction where there are various scenes stolen copied from other existing ones. Each scene did have its little twist added to the script referencing Alton Towers instead, but 95% of it was exactly the same as all the others. The Plague Doctor was 100% the same as the London one (though with very few effects) and so was The Torturer. The Judge scene was a little different but followed the same procedure - 3 people chosen, 1 found guilty after just saying where they were from. The Highwayman was identical to Ms. Lovett's pie shop mixed with Sweeney Todd at London where it used identical sound effects and audio and had the moving chairs with prodders. Lastly, the Haunting for the last scene was pretty good overall I will admit with some nice use of lighting and sound effects, similar to Witches of Warwick. Was a decent finale.
As for the acting though, I've gotta hand it to those in there, they did a fantastic job in every scene. The actors performed brilliantly with plenty of adult humour which I liked and were interacting with guests very well. In fact, I would go as far to say the actors Alton have for this Dungeon are better than any other I have done before, so well done for hiring the right people!
But that all aside, even though the acting was brilliant, the rest of it was a total mess. The biggest problem I have is the fact so many areas of the attraction consist of nothing but black walls everywhere in every scene and it's the dominating and most noticeable feature of every room. Each scene I would say is 70:30 in favour of black walls to theming and it looks really rushed in many areas, especially the transitions between each scene which once again are just black walls with no theming or detail put into them either. It is quite literally one giant yet claustrophobic rectangular black box one after the other for the majority of the experience. With the other dungeons, you at least have stuff to see, hear and feel which the London one is especially good at. But for the Alton Towers one? The only thing you can smell is the fumes of freshly coated black Dulux paint mixed with touching the sloppily finished un-sanded walls, and flooring which still has outlines of Charlie's theming and fencing present. It really is genuinely like this inside.
The thing to bear in mind is that this is an attraction every guest unless you are an AT Premium Pass Holder will need to pay £5 for in order to experience, and I am telling you right now, I was really cheesed off my money went on this experience after finishing. There is no way in hell this is worth the upcharge the park is enforcing, because you can get a much better Dungeon experience across any other corner of the country for free compared to this if you are a MAP. It's completely unjustifiable in my view given there is a serious lack of quality and finish present in this version and you are frankly better off getting two medium Costa cappuccinos in Forbidden Valley for your fiver.
Now, you might say "it's not finished yet hence the black walls", but I would then question why the heck are the park charging customers for a half-baked product if it's evidently not ready? Either open it when it's 100% right (yeah, just like DBGT remember...), or have some decency and not charge guests at all for it until it is fully completed.
Lastly, I want to emphasise on a point @Martin Doyle made above a few posts ago. You might be reading and hearing many great reviews out there for the Alton Towers Dungeon right now from all the big and famous theme park fans out there with a massive following, but please take what you hear from them with a massive grain of salt. These are the same groups of people that praised Thorpe Park's Fright Nights last year with some going as far to say it was the "best Fright Nights yet", so it's obviously evident some of them are in Merlin's good graces when writing their reviews and are restricted on what they really think about it.
Instead, I implore you to focus your attention and effort on those who have actually paid the £5 admission for this attraction and dedicated an hour of their time in the park for it. These reviews are far more credible and realistic through my eyes as they tend to speak their mind properly with no filters in place and aren't towing the company's line of being overly-positive about everything Merlin creates.
To summarise my experience of the attraction, it would be this - a lacklustre, short-sighted and rushed mess that made Charlie and the Chocolate Factory look phenomenal in comparison.
Still, it is better than nothing right?............Oh wait, black walls are nothing............
Alton Towers Dungeon - 3/10
EDIT: I rest my case when saying Alton are trying to make this thing look amazing by getting all the famous theme park bloggers and YouTubers onboard the hype train. This video has nothing but the MAP holders group, theme park vloggers like Shawn and bloggers like Cupcakes & Coasters giving their opinion: