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Found 18 results

  1. So Nemesis at Alton Towers is without a doubt one of the, if not the most intense and amazing ride in the UK. So is it the best invert in the world?
  2. 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
  3. Helloo my dears, It is with some degree of delight that I am here to FINALLY present you with the details of the official Alton Towers meet 2017! The current plan is to visit Alton Towers on both days, however I have heard whispers that some may like to visit Drayton Manor once again too, however they are expected to get a big thing in 2018 so it could be worth the wait! As ever though, that's for you forum lot to decide! Due to it being a weekend trip, the date for this weekend is remaining fixed at Saturday 17th June and Sunday 18th June. The plans for this weekend shall be as follows: *SATURDAY* (Alton Towers) 09:30 meet underneath the corkscrew sculpture thing whatever you may call it, the park is due to open at 10am according to the website so this is the time we'll be aiming to get into the park for 10:00-13:00/13:30 we shall be simply going about riding what others wish to ride until we get a bit peckish, at which point we'll split off for lunch, which should last for about an hour 14:00/14:30-17:00/18:00 we'll get back to those rides until park close, some may wish to do the waterpark as has been the case for the past few years, this is stated to be open until 6pm, so please mention in the poll if this tickles your fancy, as then we can get a group of sorts to head off a bit earlier to fit some swimming in, us non-swimmers can find ourselves partaking in a game of mini golf or can hang about the hotel bar area.... I'll definitely be playing golf because I have a mild obsession for it all thanks to a few of the members on this very forum 18:00 onwards we'll probably go off for a bite to eat, this will be an UNOFFICIAL part of the meet and will most likely consist of those who are staying the night before we head back to wherever we'll be staying *SUNDAY* (probably Alton Towers again) Should you all vote for us to have two days of Alton Towers, the structure of the Sunday will look very similar to the structure of the Saturday bar the swimming, golf and meal in the evening as people will most likely want to head straight home after park close. If, however, you all decide you'd like us to visit DRAYTON MANOR instead, this is what that day might look like... disclaimer: I've never been to Drayton before so it's a very rough estimate ok 10:00 meet by the park entrance, the park is said to open at this time however rides don't open until 10:30 so we'll have plenty of time! 10:30-13:00/13:30 it'll be time to get on all the rides that people may choose to ride until yet again we all get peckish and we'll go off for lunch for an ho- you know what I'm going to say I'll stop boring you 14:00/14:30-17:00 we'll get back to those rides after lunch and continue going until park close/everyone gets tired and decides its time to go home. It'll be then time for us all to part ways and head home, it's more than likely people will be simply grabbing a bite to eat at a service station on the way home so there again shall be no organised meal on the sunday a few little notes for the meet... -if you are late, we will NOT wait! Even we've been left behind before, it simply isn't fair on those who make the effort to be there on time, if you're running a bit late or are Marc then we will meet you when you arrive, whether it'll be you finding the group as we stand in a specific place for you or someone running off to fetch you... you will find us eventually, we promise! ** the polls on this topic for where we'll be headed will close in one week, at 10pm on Thursday, 20th April 2017** please read ahead if you are interested in staying over night, be it on either the Friday night, Saturday night, or both (STRICTLY OVER 18s ONLY, we CANNOT take responsibility for any under 18s overnight, but you are more than welcome to join us for the day parts!!) **from this point, you will have EXACTLY ONE MONTH to confirm your attendance to either myself or @Ryan, so you must have given us a definite yes or no by 9pm on SATURDAY, 13TH MAY 2017, otherwise you will NOT be included in the numbers as we try to work out the pricing for the hotel, location is TBC as we will be trying to find the best deal, but you will know after this date (it's always been the Newcastle-Under-Lyme Travelodge and this likely won't change, but it's worth a look ) **we will then price up the rooms and let you all know how much you will be owing if you wish to stay with us on SUNDAY, 14TH MAY 2017, you will then have ONE WEEK to transfer the amount to tpm's paypal, so the payment from you must have been received by us by 9pm on SUNDAY, 21ST MAY 2017, allowing us to make the booking ASAP as neither Ryan nor myself will be able to foot the bill unfortunately **if you don't get back to us in time, you'll have to book your own room, likewise if you have any specific preferences for who you may like to share with, or if you'd even have another hotel in mind! Once the booking has all gone through we'll let you know, there will be a dedicated group chat to keep you all in the loop as I know this is a lot of information to process. If you have any questions or queries do not hesitate to ask. Sadly I may not be able to get back to you ASAP as exam season is well and truly here so I'll only be about to update meet topics, but I'll try my best! The Towers meet is always a good one, and this will be no different who's coming?? BaronC. Doc >Marc >Mattgwise Martin.C Mitchada04 >Mer Mr Fish paige Ryan he who shall not be named terrortomb (maybe) Timber Creek (maybe)
  4. Mer

    Towers Meet 2017

    As always, it was good to see everyone again and be back at Towers I can't believe the gorgeous weather we had for the whole weekend - I've never had that oop north before! Saturday This was a very chilled day, owing to the hot hot weather Started off with Smiler and Oblivion, before going on Hex Was really impressed by the TLC! The audio in the cinema is nice and loud, perhaps *slightly* too loud BUT it's better than being too quiet, especially when you have people talking over it (I always watch it properly every time). I've said this before, but I still always think of that electricBill YouTube video and expect it to say "Fifteenth Earl of S***e" The Octagon looks sooo good now I loved the dry ice rolling down the steps on the right-hand side! Also it was fun going on someone who's never been on before (Paige)! We then had a lovely walk around the Towers, going up on the roof too. It never fails to amaze me how nice the Towers are and the beautiful views you get from the top After lunch we did Nemesis which, of course, was as great as ever and looks gooooood. We then chilled with some drinks at the Coffee Lounge, caught some sun...then headed to Duel to find it was broken (No staff member out the front but the doors were locked shut). So some of us finished off with Th13teen, where the indoor section was nice and cool! Played some Extraordinary Golf afterwards which was good fun as always, and it's nice to see it's been spruced up. Sunday Another beautiful day! Some of the fountains aren't quite lined up...snotty-nosed frog alert! Started off with some ERT on Nemesis (twice in a row, obvs) then got GalacticAir out the way while the area was still quiet Me, Mike, Peaj and Matt happened to get front row, which was just as well as we rode it without VR! I think that's the most I've enjoyed it as "Air" Next up was Duel I was pleased to see that the lighting changes last year (which made several scenes too bright) have been put back to how they were, or at least improved as it seems nice and dark again It was good to bump into Stretchy afterwards, who joined us on a refreshing ride on Congo. There was quite a delay whilst queueing due to someone jumping in the water (apparently they weren't on the ride but climbed over a fence) Despite the lack of waterfalls, it's still just as "rapidy" so we still got pretty wet, and Ryan got the brunt of the "KFC Mega Wave" in our boat After RMT and lunch we went to Intamin Forest, which was all broken Unfortunately Rita reopened so we jumped on that while the queue was short. Rough as hell but at least it didn't destroy my back this time! Then we did Hex again, went inside the chapel afterwards...even came across some Sanctuary theming Spinball was down so we did X Sector...everything looks so nice with sunshine and blue skies! Then it was time...for Battle Galleons! How could we not in such a heatwave?! In the end, it was just me, Peaj and Matt (Mike chickened out ), with some others at the guns around the ride. Was nice to have a cool down...but then, as we were near the station, the ride came to a stop. Right in front of some water guns Turns out someone in the station had got their hair caught in the handle (ouch!) so first aid had to come and help. I'm not sure how long we were actually stuck there, possibly about 15-20 minutes? Peaj and Matt were in the firing line so got drenched - I was actually disappointed out that nobody aimed at me (twas absolutely boiling being sat in direct sunlight) Or maybe the gun just couldn't turn round far enough Was the most entertaining ride I've had on Battle Galleons though! And that was the end of the meet! Some of us chilled in the Splash Landings bar while waiting for the inevitable queue of cars to die down. Newly painted theming is looking good! It was also Marc's birthday on the Saturday, so we surprised him with a card and cake! So I'll end this report with a photo of said surprised Marc: Thanks for reading! (Oh and if anyone's wondering if I will ever write that Europa trip report from the meet last year...I'm getting there )
  5. The Closed season is here, Christmas music and decorations are around everywhere and the sight of new year isn't far away. This means one thing, time to review 2016. This year will be a two part edition, with part one focusing on the UK and part two on the wonders abroad. The Merlin Machine/ Given the circumstances of 2015, it was fairly imminent this wasn't going to be the best year for them. With Park-wide budget cuts, ride closures and controversial decisions, there has been a fair share of negativity. However, not everything they've done has been unacceptable. Alton Towers As expected, 2016 was not going to be Towers's year as a result of ruthless management operations to lessen the bleeding of 2015's unfortunate events. This resulted in budget cuts, leading to staff redundancies, closures of shops and food outlets , knee jerk safety precautions and the closure of seven attractions. Whilst Hex is the only major casualty here, closing down a family park staple, sufficient flat ride and more has certainly left a big gap in the family market. Galactica for me feels like an attempt at shoe horning a gimmick onto what was already a popular ride just so it can be marketed as a new major attraction. The VR element leaves something to be desired, although I did find the audio descriptive version highly amusing. That being said, I do really like the new space styling, soundtrack and station enhancements. However on the upside, the new Roller Coaster Restaurant is a fantastic addition to the park, featuring much character and a flagship park restaurant. The Steak I had last time was remarkable. The TLC scheme has certainly enhanced run down areas of the park such as Forbidden Valley and Towers Street which look noticeably better. Though some areas are still fairly run down it's a start and if this is the only way for Merlin to do upkeep, so be it. Fingers crossed they can keep a similar scheme in place Post 2018. The Galactica fireworks were highly enjoyable too and made for a great end of a season. The park still has magic but it may be a little drier for the time being. 2017 seems to be another year CBeebies land add ons, with a round ride and indoor attraction being installed amongst it's own hotel. None of the above is appealing to anyone over 6, however if it's successful let's see what happens. SW8 construction is where it all lies though. Thorpe Park 2016 has been very divided for the park with lots of positives and negatives happening at the park this year. The park has continued an acceptable level of small improvements in places from updating the Amity toilet block to refurbishing the main Burger King which is good to see. The Tidal Wave improvements also look nice. That being said a major TLC scheme could really benefit the park as lots of park areas have been neglected for a while now, including Colossus, Rumba, Canada Creek and even Inferno (to a lesser extent). Breakdowns have been inconsistent this year with some rides such as Stealth and Samurai suffering major lengths of downtime but other rides like Swarm, Slammer and Rush remaining generally reliable all season. Some rides of course are out of the park's control when it comes to issues, but it would be nice to see a better consistency on reliability though. Derren Brown's ghost train is where things become more complicated. The ride now offers the park with a much needed indoor/dark ride. The pre-show and live action elements (though without their faults) are the best elements of the attraction for me. Providing amusement and excitement that may controversially be the best we've seen at a UK park in the post Hex days. The virtual reality (VR) element however I am not a massive fan of, the first section is okay but the second one feels disjointed and almost anticlimactic but that may just be the ride's reliability. Speaking on reliability, the attraction hasn't been great, with the attraction constantly breaking down, headsets failing and other issues. The state of the attraction last October was shocking to say the least and that's before I mention the two month plus delay. Let's hope 2017 does wonders to this ride and it can finally prove to be a solid addition instead of the embarrassing handful it seemed to be this year. Losing Loggers this year feels like a massive blow for the park, which despite it's age was still a popular and firm favourite for people of all ages. 2017's confirmation has only dampened the doubtful reopening of this attraction further which is a shame. Ending this on a positive, the street food and temporary outlets in Old Town were decent additions to the park's catering lineup. The chip place place proved to be great and a very quirky idea at the very least. The I'm A Celebrity improvements were also acceptable. The kiddie rides in Old Town is a bizzare one but if they enhance the younger guest offering which the park lacks, it can't be all bad. Chessington Right, remaining optimistic here may be a little more difficult but let's see what happens. Tomb Blaster (the park's veteran dark ride), was set for what was supposed to be a major refurbishment, giving the ride much needed TLC and restoring it into the best state in years. How wrong could we be? The new lasers are blocky, tacky and ruin the look of the attraction and the scoring system makes no sense. And not only this but the new UV lighting (which was supposed to enhance the ride) has actually ruined this. As a result of exposing out of house areas and the metal warehouse the ride resides in. The removal of ambient sound effects has only added insult to injury and goes to show what a shoddy refurbishment this was to begin with. The reduction in car stopping has only added to the rot as a result of the ride being less in sync. In the contrary, the Bubbleworks was shut down forever to make way for the next revolving door IP attraction. Whilst many will disagree here, I still had a liking for the attraction even to the end as it provided a fun ride for all ages and was an amusing experience. From the whirling fairground rides to the fountain finale. The ride may be gone but it will always have a place in my heart. Especially my last ever ride. Where my girlfriend and I shared our first kiss in the fountain finale. The rest of the park is still a mess. Bits of theming looking worn and neglected, Vampires station is still a mess, Falls is still naked and breakdowns seem to be happening more frequently. Skyway was also spited after barely surviving the last few seasons. Shame they didn't maintain or rebuild it as that would've been much better than an animatronic panda show. Glamping won't save the park either sadly. Only good things I can say about Chessington this year are the small TLC bits were acceptable, the Smokehouse place is good and I met my girlfriend here. 2017 will be interesting to say the least with Gruffalo re-theme and new Market Square carousel. Let's see. Legoland Windsor Despite turning 20 years old, 2016 has been a quiet one for the park, as a result of adding anything major or notable. The Lego Movie 4D was the main new attraction this season and is a fantastic addition to the park and one of the most amusing 4D shows I've seen. Featuring the return of many of the lovable original characters and more from the original film. 2016 also saw the Star Wars miniland extended,in the form of the Death Star occupying space previously part of the Star Wars store. The new addition is fantastic and the combination of interactive features and vast models, makes for an excellent finale. The Star Wars store has also been renovated as a result of the updates. The model makers workshop has also been refurbished marking the return of the brick busts on the top floor which is really great to see again. Whilst much of what the park has done this year, even with the opening show (it's location also resolving the terrible entrance bottleneck), one word. Farmer Joes Chicken Shack! Theming aside this is one of the worst theme park eateries I've been too as the food tastes dull and barely edible; Was rather expensive too. Change however is on the way for the park, with Dino safari and Loki's Labyrinth being demolished in the same year. A major Ninjago dark ride and area will replace the latter with the former becoming home to the park's second hotel featuring a castle theme. Blackpool Pleasure Beach The historic seaside amusement park turned 120 this year making it the oldest operating U.K. Park and one of the oldest in the world. Apart from that, not much else really happened this year, although the new bridge and ghost train scene are both highly acceptable additions. The park still retains it's charm and character well amongst remaining one of the better kept UK parks. That said, the operations over my two day visit did leave something to be desired as National and Avalanche were on one train operation over the weekend joined by the Big One on day two. However given circumstances and they're an independent park they are solely forgiven. 2018 will hopefully be the year to bring wonders here, but there's still a while yet. Paultons Park A place I've always wanted to visit for a while and somewhere I can safely say is the underdog of UK parks currently. It's not so much the big things that make paultons, but all the small touches from park tidiness, staff friendliness down to the organic feel of the place. No HB leisure or in your face upselling here. The Lost Kingdom area has done wonders to this park and set the bar high for future investments on this upcoming park. The theming is of a high standard whilst the two coasters provide the perfect family thrill consistency amongst the other great attractions. Paultons is definitely the park the watch in the coming years and once they bring in a decent water ride, woodie and dark ride, they will for sure be one of the best parks in the U.K. If they are not already. Drayton Manor Yet another place I've been longing to tick off my check list, but past opportunities encountering misfortune resulting in me not able to visit. Maybe that's an omen? Drayton is the perhaps the blandest park I've ever visited. It lacks style, atmosphere and boasts the worst main coaster double act I've seen at a park. With all that negativity said and done on to the positives. Thomas Land is a loverly charming park area and one of the parts with atmosphere. Their flats rides such as Apocalypse, Maelstrom and Air race are all enjoyable and the Haunting was actually an acceptable attraction too. So is Ben10. Still won't be rushing back there yet, until they add a major attraction or receive enough persuasion. Still it's been ticked off the checklist right? Other not-so theme parky bits Went heights of Abraham in Matlock Bath which consists of a cable car, numerous caves and ruins.The views are fantastic and the caves were intriguing to say the least, especially given one actually featured an animatronic figure (sort of). Matlock bath is also pleasant enough with countless fish and chip shops, independent stores and a mediocre aquarium. It's almost like a Sea Side Town, away from the sea. With Bikers. Thanks for reading part 1 if you managed to not get bored. Part 2 will follow shortly. Adios
  6. It isn't always the rides that I get excited about when visiting theme parks, or the shows, or even the setting. Sometimes it's the food and dining experiences too. When Towers announced they would be opening a Food Loop style restaurant for 2016, I got ridiculously excited. A lot more excited about this than Galactica and I don't think I have ever been excited for something as much as this in the UK since the Smiler. Located in the Old Air shop, the restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner. Having an interest in staying after hours, my group went for the latter. Out of hours access is achieved by walking down this new funky path that goes between the hotels and Forbidden Valley. After walking the path and through the southern sector of Forbidden, you reach the restaurant's entrance with it's striking L.E.D lit arch with a decent collage of roller coaster pictures behind. The name is obviously very creative, although I don't think they had much choice there. Once inside, you are led to your designated table. Each table has 12 seats interconnected to each coaster trough. Whilst it's quite big inside, it's definitely a fair bit smaller than Food Loop. If you are visiting on busy days or in a group over 4, I would strongly suggest booking in advance to guarantee eating here. The restaurant interior is futuristic and modern, which goes well with the nearby Galactica and contrasts the open airy Food Loop. You order food off a tablet just like Food Loop, but it's free standing instead of being connecting to the table. The restaurant sports a reasonable range of different dishes, which can be adjusted for dietry needs. For starters I had the garlic mushrooms, whilst for mains I went for the Roller Coaster Burger. A beef burger with a special sauce, salad, chips and slaw. One of the nice touches is how the plates and bowls have all been specifically branded for the restaurant. Quality is reasonable, think TGI Fridays and Frankie & Benny's and prices for the food at least is adequate. Drinks on the other hand are overpriced. £3 for soft drinks, no thanks and alcohol beverages are over £4.50 too. However one of the things that brings this restaurant back up on the marketing is it pays homage to the park's roller coasters past and present. All over the eatery is lots of different plans and drawings from all the park's different rollercoasters amongst a video playing every so often showcasing the park's current coasters with changing lights and ride themes helping add to the experience. Even the seats are named after to coasters which also have a ride name amongst a number. I sat on the Sonic Spinball seat, which interestingly appears as Spinball Whizzer when orders arrive. And if you leave late enough [depending on the time of year] you are treated to night time shots of Galactica and the surrounding area. Being summer [and just after the longest day] you can see this wasn't the best time for night shots. Roll On Scarefest I guess. The Million Pound Question-Does It Beat Food Loop? Like the Lord Of Darkness would say, the answer to that unfortunately is no. This is Alton Towers, whilst the food quality and perhaps location are noticeably better, Food Loop is still the better. This is mostly down to the merchandise selection, the larger size and operations. But probably most importantly, it is located in Europa Park. It only beats it marginally but a defeat is still a defeat. That being said, the Roller Coaster Restaurant is a fantastic restaurant and dining experience, and with the surroundings, food, atmosphere and roller coaster gimmick has to easily be the best theme park eating experience in the UK.
  7. It had been almost two years since my previous visit to Alton Towers, due to numerous reasons and terrible planning in 2015 [see my Alton Towerless weekend entry]. Whilst 2016 is set to Thorpe's year on the new ride development front, a new attraction managed to pull me in to the orbit of Alton Towers. That new experience was Galactica, the park's former flyer Air, now turned VR coaster for 2016.Would this ret-heme reach new heights or lack atmosphere without Air. Now I know what some of you are thinking, where is the proof that I actually visited the park recently following my non trip to Disneyland Resort? Here it is. Anyway, back on topic. The Entrance The entrance plaza is definitely alot more striking and eye catching from the old one. The new logo is a nice touch with the ride's name below which gives the attraction a modern and sleek personality. Most of the rocks have been repainted space grey except the one that used be between the old air sign. The Galactica floor paving is also a very attractive feature in the plaza area. The Music Soundtrack the ride has also gained a new soundtrack. Created by IMA Score [arguably the B&M of park music], the new theme is very tranquil, airy and ambient whilst entailing a sense of excitment and wonder. Amongst it's similarities with other IMA work , the music features similarities to a number of film soundtracks & Composers. These include Vangelis, The Matrix, American Beauty and Interstellar. Since most of these are Space/ Sci-Fi related, the music is definitely coherent. The Queue line/build up Aside from some improved fences and painted areas, the queue line remains almost identical to when it was Air [which was expected]. However it does look a lot more neat and tidier and builds the ride up more. The photo opportunity unit is where the old merge point was which involves placing your head in a bowl like thing and automatic photos taken moments later. Once finished, the queue continues where the ride splits in to the two stations like before. The ride's stations are considerably different whilst retaining similarities to the original. The main change that both are now fully enclosed [whilst previously being semi-enclosed]. This helps add some atmosphere prior to boarding alongside the new instructional videos through the attraction's fictional computer Eve explaining how to prepare prior to riding. One of the things I love and hate are the air gate signs. I love how they say Galactica Gate [a sort of reference/element from one of Air's old features]. However I don't like that there are no numbers on the signs, which feels like a very simple flaw [making boarding harder for guests]. The experience Once seated a ride host helps you strap on your VR goggles located in boxes/pouches connected to the restraint. The goggles can be adjusted at the back for comfort and element, whilst the focus can also be adjusted for blurriness. One thing that should be noted is that dispatch times are considerably slower than when it was Air and the gap between putting on the headset and dispatch feels uncomfortably long and under whelming. When the VR starts, it literally does start. no introduction, no build up it just begins as if someone's pressed play on a device. The VR experience starts off well to begin with [bar the sudden jump], where a narration and the ride theme accompany some interesting graphics depicting being in a launch tunnel with lots of working machinery and devices. This is visually impressive to witness and reminds me somewhat of films like The Matrix, Inception and Interstellar to name a few. Once you get to the top, a launch sequence begins where you then enter the space travel part of the attraction. Whilst it's interesting to witness on the ride, it's just as exciting off ride with the Portal element [more on that later]. Unfortunately like the ride's drop, it is here where the VR experience goes downhill. Whilst the graphics are interesting to witness, a lot happens in the VR, too much. One minute you enter this hot fiery galaxy then the next your in this cold snowy planet less than 20 seconds later. This is before entering at least 2 more different worlds and then suddenly re-entering the portal element. It is here you are told you are safe and back at HQ before the VR ends a bit suddenly. You are then told to remove the goggles before heading back in the station. Once back on foot, you follow the exit path where you soon enter the Galactica shop, which occupies 1/3 of Air's former shop. Some nice space-esque lighting. It may not be on the grand scale of the Derren Brown shop but it's still nicely themed and reminds me a little bit of Space Mountain in a way. There's some fairly decent merch in here too [though the shot glass looked a little tacky]. One of the other significant changes and additions is the portal. Located at the bottom of the drop, trains fly through this massive thematic element where a number of different light, smoke and mist effects go off in the process. This is a fantastic addition to the ride and gives Galactica that much more interaction and excitement to off riders amongst improving the themed experience as a whole. The Critical Review The Good The portal is a stunning piece of theming and has got to be the most exciting feature built at Towers since the Marmaliser. The sound track retains the fantastic quality IMA Score are renowned for The entrance plaza is much more distinctive, striking and eye pleasing prior to when it was Air The station area builds up to the ride much more than Airs used to The pre-show videos fit in remarkably well The new shop is decently themed The Bad The wait between dispatch and VR kicking in is quite painstaking Dispatch times are much slower to how Airs were The headset can feel a bit uncomftable at times The pace of the VR is off putting, it's too fast and begins and ends too suddenly Headset tries to fall off during ride VR may not be optional now Conclusion I have always thought Air has lacked style and personality compared to the other coasters [minus Rita]. It's felt rather bare, empty and a little unfished. However the retheme to Galactica has definitely given the ride a much stronger image and personality as a stand out ride which feels more like an experience as . As Galactica the ride has gained a fantastic thematic centrepiece, loose storyline of space travelling and holes of it's empty past filled in. However, it can't be helped that the VR feels like a gimmick just to make the ride's update feel more marketable. Whilst it still has some good points, the flaws including throughput, comfortability and pacing do outweigh the plus points. Unless something gives, I can't see the VR lasting by 2018 time as it causes too much hassle. The perfect ride would be Galactica's theme/landscaping with Air's original flying concept. Creeky Rating 6/10 But Lets Face It! Towers isn't about VR It's about experiencing this beuaty! As she's had a marvelous makeover this year And I don't know about you. But at 22 she still runs very fine And one the park's turds has been washed in glitter. It was running quite well that day too. However this alone can't help the fact The Uk's best experience is currently closed A much needed flat has been sweeped out of the lineup Alongside a much less popular one Alongside a family staple [even it wasn't a patch on the also closed Loggers] Not forgetting the selected shops And food outlets that have also closed up for 2016 And these massive B&Q fences only add insult to injury However I can happily cope with this closure, nothing lost here. This place is nice though and Nemesis beer? what's not to like But this needs to be great whenever it happens. Wood that be possible? However with an entrance like this, how much is there not to like So Smile always! And I'll be back in June To hopefully check out this exciting looking experience One Creeky Criticism One last thing I will however say, the park does now really lack rides. In an 8 hour day [thanks to ERT], I completed everything except Congo & Mine Train due to queues [and others not wishing to ride]. I even managed to do all coasters except Rita & Smiler at least twice alongside Duel and Skyride. Considering it's the UK's biggest park, Towers no longer feels like a multiday park. At the moment it's very easy to nail the park in one day [even with a trip through the gardens]. Lets hope the park can get off it's knees and return to greatness now.
  8. Hey there guys, Myself and a few of the team members from The Chessington Archives are planning a visit to Alton Towers at the beginning of the 2016 season in the hope of being some of the first (If not the first) people to be on The Smiler after it reopens in the new year! The proposed date is on the Saturday the 19th March 2016 (We'll be staying in the hotel the night before). Is anybody else planning on attending this year? If so would people be interested in having a little rendezvous the night before and joining us in the park the following day? Let us know! Ben The Chessington Archives
  9. Awesome news coming out of AT today! From Towersstreet news: http://www.towersstreet.com/news/view/?article=1350588946
  10. So what do you think is the best B&M Rollercoaster in the UK? Is it Air: The World's First Flying Coaster Nemesis: Europe's First Inverted Coaster Nemesis Inferno: The World's only Inverted Coaster to feature a set of Interlocking Corkscrews Oblivion: The World's First Vertical Drop Coaster Or our newest B&M... THE SWARM: Europe's Tallest and Fastest B&M Wing Coaster Vote!
  11. Many Weeks ago I had planned and booked a weekend away at Alton Towers, to check out the new attractions, re ride the existing favourites and a behind the scenes lift hill walk on the Smiler . However unfortunately, 5 days prior to our trip, a terrible accident on the Smiler occurred, resulting in the park being closed for days and the park's worst ride accident in it's history. With our plans changing constantly on the few days before including a proposed changed walk to Nemesis instead, by the friday afternoon we learn't that our park trip and lift walk just like an old bottle milk, were off. Fortunately whilst our plans were rather badly bloodened, they certainly were not beaten, thanks to pre-trip plans, clever reorganising and great help from some wonderful friends who were able to not just help make the best of a bad situation but deliver a weekend trip that was just as good from the original plans. The first stop was to Madame Tussauds to check out the brand new Star Wars section which opened recently, the rest of the attraction was very much as usual although Spirit Of London was stopping and starting a bit. You have done well Madame Tussaud's. I really liked the Star Wars area, which takes place after the Marvels show which is transitioned quite well (no idea what used to be in this area). The section included characters from all the films on top of main scenes. We also visited the Dungeons and eye in County Hall which were the same as always. We also got to see how the construction of the new Shrek adventure was progressing, there's scaffolding all over County Hall at the moment and the former London Aquarium sign has now been replaced with a Shrek Adventure one in the same style. After training it from Euston to stoke direct by Virgin trains which took only 85 minutes with no stops either before reaching our crash pad, Newcastle Travelodge. Unfortunately, Alton Towers was still closed on Saturday which meant we couldn't go, however we were fortunate to be able to visit somewhere just as good. That place was Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and this also meant I was able to try out the new Sky Force ride, which to an extent is the biggest new ride in the UK this year. For an addition this size, the ride and surrounding area have all been very well themed as it certainly looks very well themed (better themed than any of Thorpe's Flats). The ride itself was quite fun and enjoyable getting some interesting views of the area too, although I wasnt able to get much spinning done due to the strong wing and not mastering the technique all too well. I think it's a good addition to the park as it offers the park a much needed flat ride to the line up and is so far a unique ride to the UK. My only concern (something that has been mentioned here a lot) is the ride's throughput of 12 riders per cycle, as for a ride (let alone a new one) is very low on capacity and is unlikely to achieve anything over 300 PPH. It would've been nice if the park could've opted for a larger model like a 15 or 18 seater version or even install two of them, but it's still a good ride, 7/10. When it came to lunch, we all headed to the nearby (appropriately named) Velvet Coaster Weatherspoons, where I had to Hog Burger which was ok as Weatherspoons food goes. It's definitely my favourite Weatherspoons I've visited so far and is also on three floors of greatness. One of the great things at being back in Blackpool is not just getting to experience the brand new ride, but experiencing some of the ones I missed from last time; one of those was River Caves. River Caves is a classic dark ride at the park which I think is around 100 years old now and comprises several small'ish boats travelling around a series of scenes of pharaohs, dinosaurs amongst other things. There also used to be a brief interaction with the now defunct gold mine (which closed in 2012) and has been replaced by glowing lights and an eiry soundtrack. This is a loverly historic ride. If you look at River Caves from the perspective of comparing it to something like Pirates Of The Caribbean or something, you'll probably come off quite disappointed, however if you look at it from the historical point of view, it's a deeply interesting and iconic attraction that will hopefully live on for the forseable future and after all, it is the forefather of pirates to an extent. Other new Fred's on this trip included the Avatar air bender which is the most intense Disko I've done and beats Mia and Ramba Zamba with Kobra only beating it on the theming side. Dora's World Voyage was a happy little tide, basically a Dora version of its a small world but outside, I liked this ride more than I was expecting to, but could've been better and the Chinese puzzle maze which felt like a more crammed but not so good Loki's Labarynth. I also experienced the flying machines which is a wonderful piece of machinery and offers some good views in the park. We also got to re-experience most of the wonders from last trip including Valhalla which was as fantastic as ever except for the slight lack of ice this time. This is a ride that wouldn't look out of place in Efteling or Phantasialand. Big Dipper was as great as ever and ironically the smoothest woodie there despite being the oldest, Infusion was still ok first half rough second half and the grand national was as great as always although the second ride in the day was a bit on the rough side. The rest of the rides were about the same as the last time I went (though I missed ghost train, ice blast & Grand Prix this time). Wild Maus seemed incredibly rough today (even for my standards), but I still like it as this is such a unique ride whilst the Big One was shut all day due to wind, which is another of the ride's many flaws. After the park closed, we all had a walk down the promenade whilst eating chips,cheese and gravy (because why the heck not!). First stop was Coral Island and despite hating this place last time, I tried out their ghost train which for £1.50 isn't bad (based on 2 sharing). The ride's very mediocre, but is still better than most travelling fair ghost trains (along with Tivoli World's) however to an extent it makes even Blackpool's look like the haunted mansion. We also checked out the North and Central piers too (because we can) and had a drink on the latter. The piers were definitely a lot quieter than they were when I last went there in September, although that was probably because that was during the illuminations. We also visited Pleasurewood Hills briefly to try out their new dodgems set (or maybe not) And even a quick trip to Disneyland (stretchy does not approve) On our way back to the car, Stretchy gave me a very brief crash course in to getting some decent sunset ride photographs. I will leave it up to you to decide whether I passed or failed this! And then it was on the journey back to Stoke, I couldn't believe how quickly the car journey was especially to the five hour journey I had experienced last time I came, it was almost a bit overwhelming (although we were crashing in the Midlands). Knightmare by the way has been taken down, hopefully a sign the ride is getting a new home. Blackpool is still a park I very much love and whilst some of the wow factor had naturally dryed since my first trip, it was good to be back and I really enjoyed it. The park is on top form and definitely on the way up, although I would like to see better merchandise as bar Wallace & Gromit and Skyforce, there is generally not a lot to see really and like invisible ink, there was nothing to write about. Apart from getting no Big One, the only major disappointing thing in my day was not being able to buy a coaster wheel from the old parts shop as I had been particularly interested in getting an old wheel for my collection from something like the Wild Mouse. A small part of me died when I found the shop closed after planning to buy something, but oh well. Day 2 Unsurprisingly, towers was closed again on the Sunday, but that didn't stop us from going, because the secondary hotel attractions were still open when we went. However first, a very Midlands style breakfast. Oatcakes!!! Oatcakes are a novelty food I'm in the Midlands and for anyone who does not know what they are, they're essentially like Oaty pancakes and are absolutely delicious. I naturally opted for two double bacon oatcakes (because I couldn't get enough) on top of taking a pack of a dozen back home which I had for Monday's tea, I certainly didn't regret anything I did that morning! If you haven't had an oatcakes before, get yourself down to the Midlands for the weekend and try one, they're absolutely amazing and you won't regret it. The picture you see here definitely does not justify this culinary delight's greatness and outside of Staffordshire is very hard to find. From one kind of Oak, to another Oak, as we explored the nearby woodlands around Alton Towers, to find the legendary chained Oak. The Old Oak is an amazing sight to behold, and whilst the tree is now very old with some branches having now fallen off whilst some chains have loosened or dug in to the tree itself, it's still an interesting sight to behold and to think nearly 200 years ago the legendary tale of the earl took place here, The place where very same tree was cursed, resulting in the mysterious death of one of the Earl's family and then completely chained up. On top of this, having also inspired the creation of one the best dark rides in the uk. Once leaving the ancient woodland [thankfully not meeting any old women who appeared to be cursing along the way], we eventually headed off to Alton Towers [or at least what was still open to see there]. The main entrance to the park was actually closed up when we went, which meant using the staff/deliveries entrance when we arrived, which was an interesting way to the park [although noticeably longer] seeing old park signs and the like and areas of the [closed] park such as Cbeebies land and X Sector [ironic in a way really]. Once parked in the Hotel parking lot, we first headed off to Treetop quest to book a time for the high ropes course, the earliest option they had was 2:40pm, which whilst cutting things a bit fine for our train back we decided to go for and then did more exploring in the resort. Having quite alot of time to kill, we decided to play a 18 hole Extraordinary Golf which was great fun and many of the holes are cleverly designed and well themed towards rides in the park [even if around half of them no longer exist]. I drew with Daniel whilst Stretchy stood out on the game. During our time, we could see Air testing from all the way over the car park, which was a sight that definitely gave me quite a blow to the stomach. The Hex,Duel and Nemesis sound effects in the golf only added insult to injury. After completing the course, we checked out the resort's hotels starting with the Splash Landings before moving on to the Alton Towers hotels, both places I haven't visited properly before. Both hotels here are very nice and different too. Splash Landings obtains a tropical style theme which reminds me of Hotel Gold River at Port Aventura whilst the Towers Hotel seems to have a more stately traditional theme, which feels like an english version of DLP's Newport Bay. Despite the park being closed, all the hotels were buzzing with life featuring lots of entertainment characters throughout to keep hotel guests happy and still obtaining much atmosphere. I think all the staff at the resort have dealt with the current situations at the resort following last weeks tragic events very well. We also went in to one of the hotel shops where all Smiler merch [as expected] had disapeared, although they still had smiler monopoly and giant resins featuring the Smiler on, which I naturally had to buy [plus it would help waiting for my next towers visit slightly too]. Afterwards, we had a look around the park's latest accomodation offering, the Enchanted Village. I wasn't too sure about these at first, but having seen them in person, they definitely look rather rather and the area as a whole feels very much like a middle earthesque area. After an enchanted walk, it was off for some lunch at the new Crooked Spoon Restaurant which was naturally very quiet when we went, although featured another amazing soundtrack in the background created by the fantastic IMA score which very much had a LOTR and irish style feel to it. In the end, I went for a tuna and cheddar pannini with chips and salad, which wasn't bad for the price and definitely unique when it comes to appearance and style. After the fairly tasty lunch, it was time to do our Treetops Quest, however unfortunately they were running very behind there with almost an hour behind schedule, which meant in the end having to cancel out our time here [lucilly we got a full refund]. This might be the reason why we didn't get chance to do the ropes ;] After this, we left Alton Towers and found some other way to pass the time before we got our train back to Euston shortly followed by home. And this shall hopefully keep me going until next time [which might not be until 2016 now]. Despite turning in to a weekend much different from the original plans, it was still a great time away. A massive thanks goes to Stretchy whom without the trip wouldn't have been a patch on the overall outcome of the trip. Getting back to Blackpool was a bonus considering I was not expecting a return visit until at least 2016 and the towers staff have handled everything well. Whilst it's still not near enough to warrant me coming during the non themepark time, it's great to see Towers have so many additions to the resort now aside from the themepark, the hotels, the golf, the waterpark and the treetop quest which help things even more so in this difficult time. It's just ironic that the park only reopened the day after my trip away
  12. Alton Towers finally happened! SCB can tell you, we've had a countdown going for ages and finally we went, so I am no longer an AT 'virgin' as some would put it. When it came to actually going I was nervous, as a lot of hate had been spread around about low standards and operations and the like compared with last season; however this time I once again found myself in the position I was in at CWoA, not knowing what to expect so practically being an ordinary punter. So, day one. We started the day at TP, as there were a few rides I wanted to compare to those at AT (namely Colossus and Smiler, Nemesis Inferno and the original Nemesis, Stealth and Rita, and yeah you get the picture). Got everything we wanted done plus a few extras within an hour and a half; bar Inferno which was already in it's full extension with only one train running... Yeah so as we wanted to get to AT at some point that day we decided it was best to not. Arrived at Towers at around 2pm to find the car park practically empty. We definitely chose a good week to go, up North aren't on their Easter break yet, so it was mostly families and adults there, which helped a lot with both the atmosphere and the queue times for the types of rides we wanted to go on. First thing we walked straight on to Smiler, despite the signs saying it had a 15 minute queue (still would have been good), and I really didn't get what everyone was on about it being rough. Yes I am a fan of Colossus and the fact that it's rough (even though it has gotten notably worse this season) but I will at least admit that it is rough. With Smiler, I don't know if it was the rain or that they'd done some work, but I found it as smooth as I knew Inferno to be. Did all the big rides except Nemesis and Air, we had them on ERT the next day anyway and as I've been struggling with walking recently walking all the way over there wouldn't be great. So just to taunt SCB we took the monorail over Nemmy twice. Found the staff all very friendly, after going round some areas multiple times (SMILER) some of them even started to recognise us, which made the atmosphere seem a lot lighter. Those staff with roles stayed in them well, and there was this one ride op on the Smiler who was pulling faces at everyone and waving through the glass. Day two was much the same, started in Forbidden Valley and worked our way back round the park to the X-Sector, as SCB had booked a surprise lift hill walk and behind the scenes tour on the Smiler. It was awkward how they had Nemmy and Air on ERT, however two other rides over there so far out of the way that didn't open until 11. Still as we knew this we planned around it and didn't end up having to wait long. Then it came to our behind the scenes tour. Earlier that day we had spoken to the awesome Smiler op in the bag room where he made some joke about giving him $0 for the wristband (the code on it was $0) to get our bag back. We discovered his name was Dave and as we waited for our BST we found ourselves wishing it would be him to show us around. Lo and behold a few minutes later over the tanoy came "Dave can you please go to the ride entrance" Yay! Dave showed us around and showed that the ride staff all really know their stuff, telling us all about the ride systems and what they have to do in the winter maintenance - the amount they do is crazy. All the staff were joking around and chatting and made us feel really at ease, encouraging us to ask any questions we wanted, no matter how stupid. The other ride op Matt and a Smile Assistant called Anna took us up the lift hill and were really helpful, and then we toured the dark section of the ride down below the station learning one particular secret that SCB will go into more detail about in his blog all about the tour... It's hilarious. Watch this space, but for now here's a few photos I took... Evening checks from the op box The whole of the lift hill The 'Smile' taken from the pit beneath the ride The rest of the ride from the pit What the inside of the dark section really looks like Couldn't get over the view from the top of the Smiler... I think I found my next drawing project. Come day three the Sun remembered the Earth existed and decided to come out a bit, which mean so did the people. Still AT reacted to this quickly and we hardly noticed at all. We knew Dave and Matt would be opping Oblivion so we went up to see them, and Dave called out to us over the tanoy (remembering both of our names, which was more than we expected) and had a little chat to us after. We'd found out the day before that Oblivion was his favourite ride in the world and he'd ridden it over 2,500 times! Wow. So he wanted to know how we found it and made a joke about having words with us later when we said it was a bit meh. Went on Enterprise next and the member of staff there recognised us from the night before and asked how we'd enjoyed the lift hill which was really nice and made us feel really special, as he held the car for us to get out and everything. Saw Dave again later in the day opping Enterprise covering this guy's break, and he made some joke about it being my "16th" birthday and got all the people in the queue to sing for me, he also made some joke to SCB about if he felt sick my hood was right in front of him... Also we felt a little adventurous, so decided to explore the Towers themselves. They were amazing and it's surprising how much you are allowed around, plus you get some brilliant views from the roof. My only problem was at the front by the exit for Hex there is a huge stained glass window that is in brilliant condition, however you can only see it from the outside which is disappointing. It would look much better from the inside; however after extensive checks every single entrance to this particular room is blocked off. So then we went back to the Smiler Went back to Oblivion last thing to say bye to Dave and Matt and to say thanks before we went home, and Dave once again drew attention to me over the tanoy and we sang again, except this time I was 14. Typical. I do NOT look 14! He came to talk to us after and wished us a good journey back and asked us if we had any more questions, and then we went on our way. It all just proved how much the staff make a difference, and how a few personal touches really can make your trip even if it's just them talking to you a bit before the ride, rather than ignoring you like they do at TP. Before this I hadn't been to a park that was huge on theming, as both Thorpe and Chessie have gone a bit downhill in that area recently, and the difference it made was huge. The atmosphere of each area was different and the stories were clear, unlike parks down here. Meh, one can hope this might improve soon in these so called theme parks, but it seems recently all they've cared about is IPs and "world's first"s. I guess we'll see. PS, Sorry Colossus... I have a new favourite <3
  13. Welcome to part two of a bored, slightly humorous random blog post on a Sunday Evening! *PRE-WARNING, THIS IS ALL A-BIT OF FUN, PLEASE READ THIS LIGHT HEARTED* Last week, I introduced you to The Merlin Rollercoastermatic Universe, (which is like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just less Iron Man and more disappointment). There's been two main phases since Merlin's take over in (2007/08), the first one is named, hype, and you can read about it here! The second phase is called, unoriginal; The Unoriginal Phase (2012-2015) The Swarm^ (B&M, Built in 2012) - The Swarm started off well, the plans showed us that the UK is getting it's first B&M in 9 years and the theming looked incredible, but unfortunately, Merlin had to step in and create an USP for The Swarm, something all new rollercoaster's had to have now, apparently. Thus the tagline 'The Europe's tallest/UK’s first winged rollercoaster' was created. The Swarm was received well, but didn't bring the guest in, was it because the GP didn't know what a 'winged rollercoaster' is, or maybe The Olympic's being in the same year? No one really knows the answer, but a year later, to try and give this already unoriginal layout and theme another lease of life, they turned two rows of seats backwards and re-marketed it as the new attraction for 2013... The Smiler* (Gerstlauer, Built in 2013) - Let's be very honest here... The Smiler's whole planning, construction, and opening was more messy than me after 5 rounds of Tequila. The opening was delayed, not once, not twice but THREE TIMES. The groundwork being so poor, it feels like you've visited the Alton Towers Waterpark, not The Smiler, and that theme song that just haunts you for the next two weeks. The Smiler USP was very clever, 14 inversions, with most of them being hidden during planning, just a shame 8 of them try to paralyse you. Whats unoriginal about it you say? If I wanted a poorly built ride to disable me, I'd ride Saw The Ride. Flug der Dämonen^ (B&M, Built in 2014) - Flug der Dämonen didn't have a USP, that is because it really was The Swarm 2, the ride cars are identical, the theme is identical, most of the ride elements are identical... apart from that cool looking inversion! It wasn't a world's first, or Europe's first... it was just, a really good rollercoaster, that happens to have ugly white coloured track. Oblivion: The Black Hole (B&M, Built in 2015) - Talking of ugly white track, finishing our wonderful unoriginal phase, is the most unoriginal rollercoaster of them all! Heide Park got a dive coaster, then a winged rollercoaster... Gardaland got a winged rollercoaster... now it's getting a dive rollercoaster, did they get them buy one get one free or something?! The layout looks fun though! Just a shame the marketing and name of this rollercoaster, is literally two rides from X-Sector, and Oblivion 2.0. So that brings us to the present day, Oblivion: The Black Hole hasn't opened yet so we're unsure how the story will unfold, so expect an update in April time, but that is our two phases! What is the next phase? I hear you say... Well unlike Marvel who have released phase 3, we're really unsure what Merlin is going to do. 2016 is going to be Thorpe Park's & Merlin's next big investment, which we all thought was going to be a rollercoaster, but turns out, to be a dark ride... Alton Towers has rumours flying here, there and everywhere about Wooden Valley Coaster, and our lovely European parks might get a flying coaster called, Air - The Blade. Who knows? Thank you all for reading. Trolley Dolly (Liam T) Key: * - World's First ^ - Taller than 100ft USP - Unique Selling Point
  14. After a hectic 2013 season, I though I would give a general analysis in how each Merlin park has in my opinion progressed and retracted in terms of ride line up, reliability, marketing and also general park handling. Thorpe Park Positive changes/ X revamp, such a great family dark ride now, 5 points Greater relaxed atmosphere 2 points Swarm backwards, more intense 1 point Park wide events such as summer nights 5 points MOS 5 points Fright Nights 3 points Improved operations 1 point Inferno running more powerfully 1 point Snoozebox accommodation 1 point Fright Nights return to 10pm closings 2 points //Total 26 points // Negative changes / Swarm backwards confuses the queues and row 6 should still be forwards -5 points Car park now £5 -2 points Loggers tunnel being removed -2 points Slammer being SBNO for half the season (which if it happens again next year should maybe be removed (coming from a big fan of the ride) -2 points Total -11 points Overall progression in 2013, 15 points (15%) Summary, Thorpes best season since 2006. Alton Towers// Positive changes,/ Installation of the Smiler, a multilooping coaster which lasts over a minute, 14 points Marketing of the Smiler 8 points Impressive fireworks 2 points Scarefest 2 points Oblivion repaint 1 point Total, 27 points// Negative changes/ Smiler breaking down every other day and injuring guests -13 points Guests services not handling problems -5 points Ride re liabilities not being great this year -8 points Ride operations not as good as previous years -5 points Smiler can be rough in places for a new ride -4 points Total// -35 Overall progression in 2013 -8 (8%) Summary, towers worst season since 2011, Chessington // Positive changes/ Zufari, a ride that incorporates both the zoo & rides, 10 points, Creaky Cafe 3 points Jumbos refreshed 1 point Haloween Hocus Pocus 8 points Total 22 points Negative changes Dragon falls theming removed - 4 points Runaway train closed 5 points Ramesis closed (not all their fault) -1 point Burger Kitchen looks horrible -2 points Park operations declined, -3points Vampires operations dire & no 3rd train -3points Summer was a mess at the park -5 points The park was like a building site this year -1 point No zoo days (until Christmas (with no rides open too)) -5 points Total -29 points Overall 2013 progression -7 points (7%) Summary, worst year at Chessinton since 2001. Legoland // Positive changes/ Duplo area refreshed 8 points Fairy Tale Brook refreshed 5 points Park entrance reprinted and made slightly more presentable 2 points Park capacity limit lowered slightly 2 points Big a Shop refurbished 1 point Star Wars miniland improved 1 point Hilltop Cafe1 point Total/ 21 points Negative changes, The new china film is quite bland -2 points Fairy tale Brook's new audio sounds detract the ride -2 points £2.50 is too much for soft drinks -1 point Total -5 points, Total progression 16 points (16%) Best year since 2012 That's my overall opinion of the 2013 season, feel free to debate.
  15. On Sunday 7th July I took my first trip to Alton Towers - I had the opportunity to go way back in 2002 when Air opened but I chickened out because I was a massive wuss back then and the thought of being miles from home scared me I was REALLY anxious about going - mainly because of my anxiety issues and also, as before, the thought of being so far from home was pretty scary (furthest I have ever been is DLP back in 2000 before my panic attacks began). But I bit the bullet and went and am SO glad that I did (even if it did mean me needing to take a fair amount of medication). After a 3 and a half hour drive we arrived and I was feeling really excited. We parked up and got the monorail into the park entrance and myself, Mr Fish and Matt Creek met up with Stretchy. Once the kiosks opened we got our tickets (Mr Fish and I do not have MAPs so we BOGOF'ed). Went through the turnstiles and were approached by a member of staff asking if we wanted to buy a photo pass - gutted that you only get 4 photos when it used to be 5 but we wanted some ORP's - The photo passes were £25 BUT that included a free digital download for each ORP so Mr Fish and I went halves (I couldn't justify spending £25). We tried several times to contact Marc who was joining us along with Ricky & Chris, Thrillseeker Alex and Liam but had no luck so we headed straight to The Smiler. Luckily the queue wasn't too long by the time we reached it and we stood watching it testing - the dummies have smiley faces on them . At one point, one of the trains stopped almost at the top of the second lift hill and I thought "uh oh" we are doomed but the ride opened and we walked through the queue line which took about 2 years (slight exaggeration!) I looked back at the queue which was trailing right up the hill and was thankful that we got there when we did. The inside section of The Smiler is HOT - not helped by the fact that it was a boiling day anyway! We got on the ride and had the front row which was really good although I felt a bit stupid when I started screaming like a lunatic when the train had only just started moving My only concern with the ride was my fear of vomiting on people - and because the ride goes SO close to the queue line I would have been mortified had I been ill and not only sprayed my fellow riders but also potentially those waiting to go on the ride. Luckily this didn't happen (I take some amazing anti-sickness pills). I really enjoyed the ride even though it does leave you feeling more than a tad disorientated . Without that second lift hill I think I would have felt pretty ill. Speaking of which, the vertical lift hill - not keen on them to be honest because I have a crazy fear of looking up at the sky (odd I know - that is the only part of Saw: The Ride that I dislike - that, and that puppet thing ). Having been on Saw, I kind of expected a massive drop at the other end but I can't complain given that you are inverted 14 times We went back on The Smiler at the end of the day for another go - Marc and the others had bought fast track tickets for their first ride so our second ride, we all went on together.....and queued for 2 hours (although I am pretty sure it was longer than that as there were a couple of announcements apologising for delays due to queue jumpers - naughty!). So being in the queue line for a fair amount of time (whereas the first time I rode we were on the ride fairly quick) you realise just how close the ride goes - it made me jump several times! The ride also seems to roar - it is so loud and me being pretty much deaf as a post I could barely hear what the others were saying . However, being in the queue for so long gave me the opportunity to get a load of photo's and vids of the ride - which I would post here however I STILL haven't figured out how to do so When we eventually got onto the ride, I sat in the third row on the far right - Alex wanted to sit between myself and Liam to compare what we were both like regarding screaming - again I began screaming as the train left the station and as the ride left the first lift hill I think I may have come out with some unsavory language . I don't know if it was the train we got or the fact that I was sat in the 3rd row but - it was PAINFUL and I came off with a massive headache . Overall I really do like the ride and the fact that when you are in the queue line, the trains go so close to where you are standing. I thought the queue line would freak me out as you are penned in with fencing above your head but I felt ok about it. The inversions are good, a couple which are really intense and at points you don't know what the heck is going on (or that might just be me as I generally don't know what is going on at the best of times). This is the second Gerstlauer coaster I have ridden and I would say (although I don't like to compare) that I prefer Saws inside section (although not keen on the puppet!) and the drop after the lift hill, but both are brilliant rides. Ok so I appear to be waffling..... As I said before, it was really hot on Sunday which meant that the park was pretty busy - meaning that my ride count was low, however, that didn't affect the fact that I had an amazing day and also conquered my fear of one particular ride that the thought of bothered me.....OBLIVION. After riding The Smiler we headed over to Oblivion which had quite a short queue - I was feeling really anxious, bordering on a panic attack. I really hate the feeling of falling - although I have been on Detonator 3 times and panicked on the way up but each time loved it. The ride decided to have some technical issues whilst we were queuing so some people decided to leave the queue line but we remained in it even though I was desperate to run off . It didn't take long before the ride was up and running again and I was getting closer to having a heart attack. We got front row (yay) and I was almost in tears going up the lift hill - I just wanted it to be over and done with ASAP which it was and I actually loved it! I thought it would be far worse than detonator but you don't get the same force so I would have happily gone on again had there not been a queue. I felt really pleased that I did it - not only because I was bricking it, but also because I had only previously ridden 2 B&M coasters (Inferno and Swarm) - I would love to ride every B&M coaster but my fear of flying plus lack of money is a bit of a block to this! So after riding my 3rd B&M, myself, Stretchy, Mr Fish and Matt Creek headed off to meet up with Marc and the others (who had already managed to get on Nemesis, Nemesis Sub-Terra Battle Galleons and Th13teen! Whilst waiting for them they had 3 staff members entertaining the crowds and I had to restrain myself from joining in. So I stood there watching (and singing into my microphone aka water bottle) whilst they were dancing along to "You Can't Stop The Beat" - would be great if Thorpe did similar stuff to this as it was really entertaining and a group of girls joined in and were obviously having fun (not that I was jealous) Marc and the rest of the group arrived and we headed off to ride Th13teen. The queue times were clearly not updated as we were in the queue for what seemed like forever - but we played Mr Fishs game which consisted of picking an envelope which contained the name of a theme park and then having 30 seconds to name as many rides as you could. I got Thorpe Park but confused myself as they have way too many rides which begin with letter S, so I lost to ThrillseekerAlex who got Alton Towers and beat me - then went on to win the prize which I had my eye on - a pacman soap on a rope. Stretchy made me laugh when he genuinely didn't believe that Monkey Swinger at CWOA used to be called Billys Whizzer - the look on his face classic! To be fair, Stretchy has never been to Chessington which I think needs to be sorted out - however with the current state of the park I wouldn't suggest he visit any time this year We eventually got into the Th13teen station and I was slightly scared because I think it was Ricky who informed me that you get electrocuted or something (or I may have just made that up). There was an amusing moment when both myself and Alex counted 10 people in our group when there was actually 9 of us (my excuse is that I counted my imaginary friend ). I sat next to Alex who I think could tell I was a bit anxious (not helped by the fact that, whilst going up the lift hill he told me that the ride has 2 loops - NOT funny when you are sat there with just a lap bar - if I am going upside down I wanna be fully secured thank you very much) Thankfully I had already ruined the element of surprise by watching the ride on the internet so I knew what to expect however this didn't stop me screaming - A LOT! I think my screaming got worse when the first mini drop happened followed by the slightly bigger one then I began screaming like a complete lunatic when the ride went backwards - I HATE going backwards, even on a train but screaming actually helped otherwise I may have been a bit We had lunch at Woodcutters which was really nice and the service was good in there, and then headed to Hex - when we got inside, the ride was having issues - typical, but it was sorted fairly quickly. I had NO idea what to expect from this as it is one of the rides I hadn't really read much about. Whilst the first film was playing I could feel a breeze on my neck and felt a bit anxious, then turned around and realised it was Liam! The end bit of the ride seriously disorientated me - we walked into the last room and I said "Oooh we can sit down" - then when the lap bars came down I began to wonder what the hell was occurring (no one in the group warned me about it) - holy cack, I nearly pooped myself (yes I am a bit of a wimp) - and things that mess with your mind (especially mine as it is a tad bongled already) I am not keen on and it got to the point where I had to close my eyes and lean my head on the lap bar thing. After Hex, Marc, Ricky, Chris, Alex and Liam went to use their fast track on the Smiler, so myself and the others heading towards Nemesis - we were going to catch the sky ride but thankfully it was busy (the thought of cable cars scare me senseless) - however, after trekking what felt like 20 miles I would have happily got on a cable car just for a rest . So, after taking about 5 hours to walk to Nemesis I was just about ready to collapse - stretchy and Matt Creek were walking way faster than myself and Mr Fish - I am so unfit I had to take my inhaler(!). Nemesis had a bit of a queue but it seemed to go down quite quick, and we decided to go front row - I am always a bit anxious on rides I have never been on before (I even screamed on the dragon coaster at legoland ) but I felt pretty much okay about Nemesis having ridden Inferno 5 times in a row at the ERT event. I sat front row, far left and absolutely LOVED it - B&M coaster count up to 4 and I have to say that you would never know that the ride will be 20 next year - it was pretty smooth and just amazing! Although I have only ridden Nemesis once and Inferno about 14 times, I would probably rate Nemesis higher in terms of intensity and general enjoyment. Again as I have said before, I don't like to make comparisons with rides but they are both B&M inverted coasters and have the same blinking name in them. I personally think Thorpe should have called N:I just Inferno because people are naturally going to compare the two, even those who aren't particularly enthusiasts. Although I do prefer Nemesis to Inferno, I like that on Inferno you have the pre-lift hill section and the tunnel with the mist darkness which I think is pretty enjoyable but the ride layout of Nemesis in my opinion is far better - plus actually has theming. I was a bit worried about feeling rough after Nemesis but I felt completely fine - Inferno leaves me feeling dizzy for some reason and I am not sure how I managed 5 consecutive rides on it although I had to run off after ride no. 5 as I thought I was going to be ill. I really wanted to get an ORP from Nemesis but some of the flaming screens weren't working grrrrr so our picture didn't come up. Random thought here (my ride knowledge is extremely limited) - is the vertical loop on Nemesis bigger than Inferno?! It has to be - it looks mahoosive in comparison. Ok so I am still waffling and on my way to typing a flaming essay/novel..... I really wanted to ride Air but it had a 60min queue and we needed to meet up with the rest of the group. Ripsaw was looking quite tempting with those water fountains but we made our 5 hour journey back to meet up with the others - the sky ride was busy so we burnt off about 2000000 calories by trekking it back We all met outside Battle Galleons and as, by that point I had already sweated off about half a stone I was in desperate need of refreshment so myself and some of the others went on. Wow - I had NO idea I would get SO wet. It also made me realise that some kids can be completely annoying as we had a bunch of them in the boat in front shouting at us - just spray the water people, and shut ya cake holes Again I screamed on this every time I got pelted with water when I wasn't expecting it - at one point I was the only person in our group on one side of the boat so I attempted to multi-task and use 2 guns at the same time but then realised that it didn't work out so well as I couldn't move the guns unless I had a 3rd hand Towards the end of the ride we spotted Liam and Alex waiting to drench us so we were on a mission to get them as soaked as possible - however, they were no where near as soaked as us when we got off the ride - I was literally drenched - almost "Tidal Wave" drenched but it helped to cool me off . I didn't realise that you can get an ORP from this so when we walked past the screens, the pic had been taken when I was on one side of the boat by myself so all you could see was me looking tired and behind me, the other guys backs! By now it was just gone 5pm so we all headed over to The Smiler for our last ride of the day. I really wanted to do Oblivion again but it had a long queue and we didn't want to risk not getting another chance to be corrected flung around and upside down 14 times. I won't repeat myself (for a change) as I have already typed up a bit about the second ride but all I would say is - first row was great - third row = massive headache! Smiler merch is.....not cheap, although I quite fancied the onesie they do. However Stretchy pointed out that a lot of the products are poor quality so I just bought a small bag (which would probably break if I put anything more than a bog roll in it) and a Smiler wristband. The teddies in there are something ridiculous like £15 = daylight robbery! Due to delays and the massive queue line (I have always said I would never queue longer than an hour for any ride but a lot of people sat down in the queue line - myself included) so we didn't leave the park until gone 7ish. The monorail was closed so we had to walk about 200 miles to the car park. I was exhausted, sweaty but so happy that I had FINALLY gone to Alton Towers As I said before, my ride count was low but this didn't put a dampener on the day at all - it would have been nice to try out Air, The Flume and Rapids (we didn't even go to Katanga area ), Rita and Duel but on a busy hot day it was impossible. Being so far from home (Ok not massively far, but just short of 200 miles) I dealt with pretty well and even getting there was a huge achievement for me. It was lovely seeing Stretchy, ThrillseekerAlex, Ricky, Mr Fish, Matt Creek and Marc again fantastic to meet the lovely Liam aka LIMA and Chris. We went to Harvester afterwards where I suspect we all stunk as they put us on a table away from everyone else and underneath air conditioning - I was SO cold. Ricky made me laugh when he asked for a side order of no air con . All in all a brilliant day with lovely people - I am hoping to be able to go back to Towers when it is much quieter so I can go on all the rides (if that is even possible in a day) - I had NO idea how big AT is but I love the fact that one minute you are at a ride, then you are walking through what appears to be a forest, then you see how lovely the gardens are. THEY HAVE TREES!!! Thorpe Park could definitely do with a bit of greenery! Having visited Towers it really does make TP look like a concrete jungle - BUT in Thorpes defence, they have a better selection of flat rides IMO. I thought the staff at Alton Towers were really friendly which definitely makes the day that little bit better when they seem happy and chatty. Though I feel sorry for the guys working on the Smiler - I still have the song stuck in my head - it is like "It's a small world" all over again but the tune is rather catchy even if it does make me feel like I am going insane® Really glad that I got the opportunity to ride The Smiler - it is a good ride but not something which I would count as world class (but then the only other theme park I have been to outside the UK was DLP over 10 years ago) - it certainly attracts the crowds but for me Nemesis was far superior although I did enjoy the Smiler (first time more so). So I shall leave my wafflage here and sign off by saying.....SMILE.....ALWAYS!
  16. Yesterday (16/06/13) was my annual trip to the wonderful place that is Alton Towers. The past few weeks I had been quite worried in hearing that Smiler had kept breaking down, stalling and so on. Luckily, we not only got one chance to smile, but we got two! The park yesterday was fairly quiet with queues ranging from 10-40 minutes for the main coasters with Smiler being between 80 and 120 minutes all day. Everything was working except Oblivion and Enterprise. We had lovely weather all day, not too hot, not too cold, it was just right. It was a great day and I did quite a few new things for me (Nemesis front row, Sub Terra, and The Smiler). Ride Count: Nemesis: 3 (1 front 2 back) The Smiler: 2 Air, Duel, Rita, 13, Sonic, The Flume, Rapids, RMT, Sub Terra, Battle Galleons, Ice Age, Submission, Skyride: 1 Now time for some Smiler pictures and a few others. Our day started off by seeing this lovely 3D Smiler advert in our hotel (I did want to take it home ) Sunny day at Towers, and the Monorail. Diving Corkscrewing Equalling Colossus' record. Now beating Colossus' record. Diving, again. No advocates... Advocates! Random Battle Galleons pic Oblivion closed, but don't want it to feel left out. Lots of tangled track. So much track! Laughing gas, I mean mist. Half way corrected! And I leave you with this sad picture of Harry the duck. All he wants is to become a yellow rubber duck but the staff at Towers can't fund his transformation. To help Harry, all you need to do is ride The Smiler instead of The Flume, then hopefully the staff will realise how important this transformation is for Harry. Thank you for your support. Thanks for reading
  17. Disclaimer: New ride spoilers and large amounts of hype-generation ahead. On Wednesday myself, Tommy and Turtle ventured to Alton Towers attempting to experience Marmalisation for ourselves. After sadly missing the Moo-norail, we got the Splash monorail to the entrance where there was no major knowledge as to whether The Smiler would be open. For context, on the previous day it had stalled during testing and been closed all day along with the rest of X-Sector due to crane needs... SMILE ALWAYS. There were a few small signs suggesting it would closed, probably brought on by the words "THE SMILER WILL BE UNAVAILABLE", but we still had some optimism. Once in, we remembered our keeno-persona's and ran towards THE SINISTER INTAMIN WOODLAND AREA!!1!, before realising that Alton Towers is pretty big and no one has such energy at 9am. So Rita wasn't doing anything, and Th13teen was 'broken', oh you pesky Intamins you. So our gardens visit occurred a lot earlier than expected as we hiked for three whole days to Nemesis. I think Mark9 nailed it when he called this 'rollercoaster crack' sometime ago. One ride simply isn't enough. There must be two. Or five, as it happened to go on the day. It just seems to get constantly better with every ride, I could have kept going but there was more to be seen and done so we left it at that. Air was unfortunately not ready at 10am and as a result we wouldn't get on it at all. We waited 5 minutes for Sub-Terra to open instead, which is still such a good attraction. There was a new smell I'd never smelt on it before too, highly unpleasant! Back at Intamin forest INTAMIN'S WERE RUNNING so we went on some Intamin's. I'm actually quite fond of Rita despite it being a bit of a shaker/neck-basher. Whilst as an attraction I can acknowledge it's fundamental flaws, the whip you get going over the first hill and the following turnaround is pretty damn fun so I always like to give it a go each visit. Then, Thirteen, oh Thirteen. I'll probably be doing another blog on this ride sometime since there's always so much to talk about, but anyway, it was good on the day, aided by the rag-dolling and the confused stranger with Tommy. Blah blah, Hex was next, blah blah, then we finally went to check out X-Sector where at around 11:45am, The Smiler appeared to be waking up. We managed to walk past the queue at just the right moment, and despite the horrifying amount of people in the extension queue we, it only took 75 minutes to queue for our first ride. Turns out they were batching pretty heavily at the ride entrance. This brings us onto the part of the report where I talk about THE SMILER : ) The first thing you notice about it is well, how much you... notice it. It was great moment to see it whizzing around it's track for the first time, accompanied by cheers of relieved guests who'd be queuing for hours already! It is a fabulous spectator ride, and I was absorbed watching it for the first time when we reached the queue by the main fence. The music here plays very loudly, but it's a very decent soundtrack indeed. It sets the tone for the ride well and whilst I love the main theme, it perhaps could have more variations. It remains very samey (or just short) when it had the potential for a lot of development. I might try and remix it a bit to show what I mean, but fundamentally it's still a great theme and I didn't get sick of it at all for the many hours I heard it throughout the day. Through the main entrance and down the steps, the view of the whole ride and the Marmaliser is majestic. The outside queue starts of fine, going under the Marmaliser and many of the rides elements offering a great view, however the second half does get very tiring in the hideous cattlepen. Shoutout to the Smiler staff member 'Tim' who happily provided the 'smiles', constantly, harassingly, and quite unsettlingly to whomever he took a special interest in. The specially dressed Smiler staff in general did an excellent job all day, dealing with immense crowds and interacting with those in the queue. Had fun looking at the flying butterflies created by scanning the eye's with The Smiler app, and then we made it inside. I'd thought this would be the end of the cattlepen torture but alas... it's a shame really, the projection mapping does look very cool but it was overridden by feelings of UHCATTLEPEN COULD YOU NOT. PLEASE?! I feel that something more immersive could have been done here, but I guess it's not a major thing. Anyway, queue done, baggage done, and we're up the stairs into the station. Whilst it is fairly simple and bare, I liked the lights in here, which were very reminiscent of The Sanctuary so I was happy to see that continuation. Enough ramblings, the ride... The first drop is just excellent. I knew it was coming but I wasn't prepared for the sheer suddenness of it. Sitting in the back row first time definitely helped, and the smoke effects as you leave the station make it hard to see what the rest of the train is doing so their was definitely a lot of surprise in that drop. No smoke effects inside for us unfortunately, but the barrel roll with strobes was made no less dramatic. Already I'm loving this, and we haven't even gone up the first lift hill. The first small drop off the lift looked like pure RCT awkwardness, but it was also surprisingly satisfying. I could keep dissecting every element from here on, but I fear my ability to talk for ages about this ride will make reading it a bit of a drag, so I'll skip to the point: Alton Towers are onto a winner. It's just excellent fun. The first half is smooth and quite disorientating, and everyone seemed relieved to have a break in the middle! The double dive loops were definitely a highlight of this half. The first airtime hill was unfortunately too trimmed to have any, however the second one was much better, aided by the hilarity of the Inoculator sending everyone into frenzy. Before that, the sea-serpent is another excellent manoeuvre, falling out of one inversion and soaring straight into another. The cobra roll part of the Staffordshire knot definitely has a major 'janky' moment, however I didn't find this to be anything as *painful* as Saw's and I thought it actually benefitted the forcefulness of that section. However, not all in my party agreed so I guess it's an individual thing. The first of the final two inversions is very forceful whereas the second is more 'graceful'. The ride's final sections are as satisfying as it's early ones, and the bits in the middle weren't exactly bad either... Late season opening, unclear opening date, further weeks of delays... so was it all worth the wait? Unquestionably, convincingly, categorically; yes. It's an excellent addition to an already excellent line-up of rollercoasters. The reaction we saw of other people returning from their rides was always just as joyous. The exit corridor is fabulous too, but I'll let you all discover that for yourselves. Once it opened, there were no breakdowns during the day however this hasn't always been the case. Hopefully it beds itself in quicker than Saw did, and downtime remains minimal. Of course, this is early days. Saw wasn't great when it opened anyway but it has aged even less gracefully. I pray that this ride does not follow the same path as at the moment I simply yearn to ride it again and again. I'm not claiming it's perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but if you take away the 'OMG 14 INVERSIONS OMG REVOLUTIONARY WORLD FIRSTS' mindset, it's an enormous amount of fun. I won't ramble about the next part of our day since I've covered the main headline, but we then ate at FCC by the window with an excellent view of The Smiler, whilst discussing it for a fair while. Then came Oblivion (still bloody excellent), The Flume (which was my first ever ride interestingly enough. I now understand why no one was really that keen to get me on it on my previous visits...), Runaway Mine Train and Duel. We checked Air's queue which was beyond an hour, so we had the choice of that or jumping in the 150 minute queue for The Smiler again. The Smiler it was... it's testament to the attraction's quality that I was happy to queue such an amount of time after my first go when other options were available. I'd probably do it on my next visit too. Watching the really cute trains whizzing around the circuit, interacting with one another, is merriment for any enthusiast. Dan9 - Smiling advocate, for the moment. 8.5/10
  18. Thorpe Park's fiery B&M inverted Coaster débuted at the park in 2003, setting alight Thorpe Park's reputation as a haven for thrill-seekers around the country, alerting anyone who'd listen that Alton Towers had a new rival in the world of boundary-bulging thrill ride technologies. First came the record-breaking Colossus, but the year after saw a far darker, more ominous figure emerge out of the tropical undergrowth of Calypso Quay... Of course, with the ten year mark creeping it's way into view of the horizon, Nemesis Inferno has, if nothing else, rightfully earned it's place amongst Thorpe's line-up of rides, as well as a little reflective blog here on ManiaHub, where I'll talk about why I think it's one of Thorpe's top attractions. Nemesis Inferno gets a lot of stick simply for being Nemesis Inferno. Quick to slam it as another fine example of mediocrity from a long line of poorly-augmented sequels, it's often over-looked for the coaster it is by many of the enthusiast community. Whether that's A) the blinded ignorance of newly-ordained enthusiasts conforming with the general consensus or B] a result of some enthusiasts venturing out to season their palates with the bigger, badder, and better-themed inverted coasters that've been built in the nine intervening years since Inferno's début is all up for debate. But it's here I call to question the validity of comments that suggest Inferno is a poor man's imitation of arguably the greatest inverted rollercoaster in the world; a coaster that supposedly sponged off the brand name to become advertising dynamite by utilising the success of Alton Towers' original creation nine years earlier. Yes, Inferno (as we'll call it henceforth to spare confusion) does draw many comparisons with it's old sister. They're both inverted; they're both built by Swiss ride manufacturer Bolliger & Mabillard; they both have four inversions; they even have the same four inversions, but there's a plethora of ways to separate them, and separate them we shall, as it's hard to shine if your standing in the shadow of a mighty oak tree and you've had your voice - your trademark thunderous growl - muted by those that built you. By considering what raw tools Thorpe had when planning Inferno, you begin to see that to compare Inferno to it's original is a complete fallacy; there's no way this hot-tempered fiend is going to sit idly by and get filed under "imitation". Alton Towers had an enormous, chasmic pit to eat up the ride height and provide riders with many close encounters with the rocky terrain, but Thorpe couldn't do this - the closest object to your feet during Inferno's course is a fake alligator. Thorpe categorically cannot build down, as the entire park is situated upon reclaimed land and as a result the water table sits mere metres below the surface. Inferno was never going to be a terrain coaster, not even to the extent of Colossus was, which had had years of planning and numerous rejected landscaping applications before the blue monolith we know today wove itself in and out of the Lost City walkways. Thorpe had one choice for Inferno and that was to build upwards. Of course, they couldn't go too far that way either, and so Inferno sits at a modest 95ft: the third shortest B&M coaster ever built, and the shortest inverting coaster at Thorpe Park. Looking beyond cold statistics and to the rest of the layout, you might be dismayed to see a conventional inverted coaster post-drop sequence featuring a standard vertical loop and a Zero-G roll. But chief designer John Wardley re-invigorated the once-hackneyed concept with a ground-hugging turn which snaps you out of the second inversion with perhaps just an ounce of the same winking authenticity of Alton Towers' 1994 creation. Following what can only be described as a very graceful corkscrew and a careful-not-to-harm-you hammerhead turn, the ride completes a second corkscrew and a minor breathe-spot is provided by a wonderfully lazy upwards helix, before the pyroclastic vigour catches first-time riders off guard as a last helix provides an intensely dizzying and suitably forceful finale to the fiery coaster. However, it all sounds great when you say it like that, but the comparatively simplistic layout has long been criticised for being predictable, conventional, repetitive and forceless. Whilst it's hard to argue, Inferno's assets like far beyond it's ride hardware (unless you're lucky enough to get the back-right seat). The theme is often overlooked, the detail dissolved down to a petty argument about an unfinished volcano. Sure, a shed is the last thing you'll expect to see while escaping a volcano in the tropics of Calypso Quay, but stop to admire the smaller details for a moment: The queueline and surrounding areas: built at the peak of Tussauds's reign over Thorpe - the queue cleverly weaves its way through the tropical shrubbery, offering close encounters with the ride in action. Areas such as the pathway underneath the Zero-G offers priceless views of rider expressions as they exit the loop, soon to be followed by an enormous thrust of air as they shoot over your head. Or how about when you stand in front of the queue entrance for a brief moment, only to see the train erupt out of nowhere and soar over head with twenty-eight screaming riders? Surely there was some careful planning in the positioning of the entrance so the first corkscrew could make a statement like that, right? The shrubbery, which, nine years on, has now grown to an impressive plumage, helping further to recreate some of Alton's terrain enhancement. Sometimes you may even catch one of the leaves while soaring through the coarse. And whilst in it's earlier years the ride ran tamely and no real speed was felt, the closer contact to the surroundings only ever enhances this sensation. The pre-lift section, a small and often overlooked part of the ride whose effects are unreliable at best, but it nicely introduces the ride; it makes a small but promising statement and provides a unique feeling of speed without the added intensity - what inverted coaster introduction requires more? The soundtrack, arguably one of the best and most accurately-encapsulating in the park despite it's absence in recent seasons. No more need be said. Or even, if you really look out for it, the small part of the queue during the volcano climb where you stand directly above the train as it rumbles through the heart of the volcano beneath you, shaking your footing in the wake of the subterranean seisma. Makes me giddy every single time... and really gears me up for every one of my rides. The logistical prowess of Inferno is also what makes it so special for me. In a park currently obsessed with try-hard World's First, snatching every possible world record their rides can obtain - "World's first ten-looping", "Steepest freefall drop", "Scariest", "Fastest and tallest in Europe", "World's first head first inverting drop" - Inferno, quite plaintively and contently, sits at the back of the park making no haughtily big-headed comments about it's own greatness. It technically does hold a world record and a world's first/only, though thankfully Thorpe saw sense and decided not to publicise these due to the GP potentially not fully understanding the terms. And rightly so, as it rids the ride of the silly pretensions that shroud rides like Saw. Right from the first time it's advert was shown on TV to the current day, Inferno's not really shouted about anything, expect that's it's a mighty hot ride. It is what it is and it makes no apologies for anyone who has problems with it as it smoulders at the far reaches of the park, dwarfed by it's top thrill neighbours. It's not all in the detail - some benefits of Inferno are glaring right at the nay-sayers - but a lot of it's individuality and simplicity does lie beneath it's imperfect exterior. Perhaps it's part doe-eyed optimism of the enthusiast I am, part simplistic naivete that I appreciate these details while others don't and the reason that I still consider Inferno to be one of the UK's greatest thrill rides. But to me it's those things - the type of things that you just have to smile to - that are the real identity of Nemesis Inferno. And it's a crying shame that they're so often overlooked in light of the far more dramatic, far more noticeable, and far more easily targeted failures of the ride. Where it's expected to be good it's mediocre, yes, but given the time to find it's strengths - and what better time to find them than ten years on, when it's running more intensely than ever? - it's clear it no longer needs the Nemesis brand. Even in it's own right it can still provide you with feelings that only a UK theme park and - more specifically - only Inferno, can give. In spite of all it's faults, be it maintenance issues, ride issues, etc. it's still, by far, one of the most reliable rides at the Thorpe Park, in so many more ways than simply it's swift evasion of downtime.
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