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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
It's not often that I tend to have the persuasion and determination to visit theme parks outside of Britain, primarily due to the costs, travel and venturing into the unknown when visiting another country. But Liseberg is different. Liseberg drew my attention more than any other European theme park for 2017 because further research into what the place offered and the ease of travelling there entirely on public transport and not hiring a car got me seriously interested. Of course, Helix was the draw factor for me more than anything because I have found it almost impossible to find a single negative review about the ride since it's debut back in 2014. For too long Nemesis and Shambhala have both always been my top coasters and nothing since has ever managed to come close to them... until now! This review will consist of my experience of the park over 2 days earlier last week, flying out on Friday 12th May until Monday 15th May and I will be detailing every little detail I noted, so please understand this is going to be a very long and precise review of travelling there, the park itself and it's attractions it has to offer. If you like to read quick and to-the-point reviews, this is not for you! The aim of this review is to familiarise readers who are considering visiting the park for the first time everything they should know and expect, especially considering a new dive coaster will be opening here in 2018 which is guaranteed to draw quite a few Brits to visit. So let's start at the beginning and that's transport and travel to the park, including costs: 1) TRANSPORT TO & FROM THE PARK From what I understand, there are three airports in or around London which fly directly to Gothenburg Landvetter airport which are Ryanair from Stanstead, British Airways from Heathrow and Norwegian Air from Gatwick. I flew with Norwegian Air since Gatwick was the closest airport from my address (Pompey) and even though I admit the flights are cheaper with Ryanair from Stanstead, I was not willing to travel half way across the south to get on a plane, so Norwegian Air was my choice. My outgoing flight from Gatwick was at 19:35 which cost me about £30 single each way (8 weeks in advance booking, no reserved seat). Once arriving at Gothenburg, follow the signs to the airport bus service called Flygbussarna which runs every 20 minutes right outside the entrance to the terminal and takes you directly to the city itself which is about a 25 minute drive. Price-wise, at the time of writing this review, tickets are 185 SEK, which equals to about £14 return approximately. There are 4 stops along the way, each getting closer and closer to the centre where the terminus train station is located. Since I was staying in a hotel just 10 minutes away from the park, I only needed to get the second stop, the first one being directly outside the park's entrance and the Gothic Towers. So as you can see, it is perfectly manageable to get into the city through the use of public transport without the need to hire a car. A recommendation I make is try and get a flight to the airport which is not scheduled to land after 23:00, because the last bus service is at 00:50am and if there is any delay in your flight, you could risk missing the last one and having to spend about £34 at least with a taxi to get to the city instead, so bear that in mind. Now that's out the way, now onto the park itself: 2) PARK ATMOSPHERE AND THEMING If you were to ask me to compare the park to any other I know, I would find it very difficult because it's unlike any other theme park I have been to. The first and most obvious difference is that it's located right in the centre of a city with motorways, skyscraper buildings, housing and museums surrounding it everywhere. In some ways, similar to Alton Towers, it has a unique feel to it all because seeing a theme park in the middle of a large city/open countryside is the last thing you would expect! Once inside, if you go through the main (north) entrance, you are greeted immediately by a long walkway surrounded by small buildings with gift shops, restaurants, ticket booths and in my case, market stalls (it was their green weekend where the whole of the plaza area and theatre was dominated by fresh plants and flowers). To the right you can see the dominating tower of AtmosFear and the Ferris wheel overshadowing you as walk along the pathway getting ever closer to the centre of the park. Through these alleyways, music played which mostly consisted of chart music, both modern and retro, giving the place a good and clam atmosphere for guests. Presentation wise, this is something I will keep mentioning in the review further down, but the park have done a great job at keeping all the buildings, pathways, lighting and signage looking clean and well-maintained at all times which has really put a lot of our parks here in the UK to shame. Instead of having rotting roofs, mouldy walls and broken lights, it was great to see all the smaller details looked after such as all the lightbulbs for the street lighting working with none that have blown or the roofs and walls of the buildings looking like they have just been cleaned overnight and don't have mould or overgrown weeds everywhere and there was no trace of litter anywhere. Being used to the state of our parks today, this was a pleasant surprise for me, regardless of how small it might be. So overall, it might not be the Swedish version of Main Street or Towers Street, but initial impressions of the atmosphere and theming are good so far with everything being maintained and cleaned on a regular basis (from my perspective anyway). 3) FOOD & DRINK & PRICES Now being a tourist attraction in the middle of Sweden's biggest city, I was expecting much like every other theme park on the planet for the prices of food and drink to be high and it absolutely was. Being used to getting the 20% discount on all food and drink at Merlin's parks for many years, I had forgotten how expensive theme park food can be and some of the prices did seem too high for me. For instance, if you get their Max burger meal deal at one of the many stalls in the park, that will set you back about 89 SEK which is about £8 roughly. A cup of coffee (cappuccino) was about 45 SEK (£4) and a bottle of water about 19 SEK (£1.75), so in comparison to the food prices here in the UK, you are looking at about an average price increase of about 10-15%. Despite however the prices for their food and drink being quite high, I will say that you definitely get a filling meal for what you pay for. On the second day for lunch, I went to the sandwich shop and had just a full salami and brie baguette which was about 65 SEK (£6.10) and it was pretty large and filled properly and was enough to keep me full until late that evening. So bear in mind even though you might be paying more for an average meal at Liseberg, you are getting bigger average portions as a result in comparison to other theme parks, so that might make up the extra cost for you. Another great thing about the food and drink at Liseberg is the variety they provide. Here in the UK it's your typical burger stalls, pizza, pasta, donuts and hot dogs. Whilst Liseberg did offer all this, they also offer as mentioned above some alternative choices, such as the baguette shop, seafood, stir fry, Italian, Mediterranean and Austrian food just to name a few. So regardless of your preference, they are sure to have something to suite your taste and the variety offered was great. 4) OPERATIONS & RELIABILITY The first thing that jumped out to me was how efficient the park was at running all of their rides. The staff were loading and dispatching guests as fast as they can on all coasters, one simple check of the restraint was all that done and the guests I noticed don't tend to carry a lot of bags with them when riding, so essentially, this massively sped up the process and reduced the amount of faff some guests can create to a minimum. Lisebergbanan for instance is a great example because not only were they running all trains on the track despite a 10 minute queue all day (take note, Thorpe Park), but the dispatch procedure was quick and simple - gates opening whilst guests were leaving the train, baggage taken onto the trains down by your legs so it doesn't fall out, one quick check of the handle bars with two staff on each side of the train, a simple thumbs up and they're good to go. All of this can take as little as 20 seconds and the queues as a result were moving especially fast, giving you the opportunity to manage more later in the day. If only our parks could run all their rides this efficiently, there wouldn't be the need for Fastrack most days anymore! As for reliability, I don't know if I was extremely lucky, but I did not encounter a single break down or stoppage across the entire park on both days I visited. Not one. Every single ride was open, at full capacity and ready for guests, regardless of whether there was a queue or not. Perhaps our rides keep breaking down a lot because of the paranoia surrounding what happened with The Smiler where any little thing out of place involves calling an engineer over the rectify it now, but Liseberg could be a lot more relaxed over it or simply because their rides are purely more reliable machines. Part of me reckons it could be to do with the great amount of maintenance and work done to the rides every year which might have something to do with it, which will be mentioned in a moment. 5) PRESENTATION This was perhaps one of the most surprising things for me about all of the rides at Liseberg - everything looked as though it was brand new. Things such as mould and rust on the coaster tracks was gone, or the queue lines being clean with almost no wear marks, or the trains on Helix looking spotlessly shiny and polished with no marks anywhere, or all of the lights working fine on Mechanica at night. Simply put, everything had a great presentation and didn't look like it was neglected and left to rot. This is what the standard should be at all theme parks - to keep your rides looking spotless and new as long as possible. You know something is wrong when Lisebergbanan, a 30-year old coaster looks better than The Smiler at just 4 years old...... pretty embarrassing if you ask me! Other smaller details visible across the park and its rides such as the queue line fencing everywhere being freshly painted, to all the queue TV screens working, to all the signage looking untouched & clean and the vegetation trimmed back so it's not overgrown on the rides are what I appreciate a lot with theme parks and it's great to see details as small and noticeable as this being looked after on a frequent basis. We need an attitude like this across all our UK parks where presentation is key because from a customer's perspective, it is. 6) THE RIDES And now onto the best part - my opinion of their 7 signature rides, including Loke being their new one (spoilers - it's awesome!). Here I'll rank them in the order I found to be best in ascending order and I'll being with AeroSpin: • AeroSpin (6.5 / 10) I wouldn't say this is a bad ride or anything as it definitely wasn't, but I just found it to be a little short and uncomfortable for what it offered. The seats are exactly the same ones you have on Saw and Smiler with the addition of a seatbelt (believe me, it was comforting to have that there for me!), so it wasn't the most comfortable seat for me since I find the restraint to crush my shoulders too much when inverting, and boy, it certainly did it to me on this. When you spin in the air, the two mini wings you control are moderately easy to control and are smooth to tilt with your arms, although you might need to put a bit of effort into them as it can strain your arms a bit if you flip too much or too fast during your flight. Depending on the speed of the wind which you are flying in, getting yourself to spin upside down and tilt can really be hit or miss. My first ride I managed 46 flips and then the second only 16. If the wind speed is minimal, you are really going to have to put some effort into getting your plane to spin upside down and the best way to do this is to flip the wings quickly and in perfect sync with the tilt of your seat. If you can manage nice and smooth tilts, this will be easy enough for you to manage. But if you take quick and small tilts with the wings, you barely make it over the top unfortunately. When flipping upside down, the first time actually scared me because once I got my wings into position to enable me to flip 46 times, it really goes fast and can make you feel quite dizzy very quickly. Plus, considering you are about 100ft above the ground or 200ft if you include the mountain it's on, flipping that fast feeling as though you are not in control did scare me, especially when the spins got faster and faster and you are sitting in isolation next to nobody else. The problem I had most with it was the restraints used and as a result, I had bruise marks on my shoulders after riding it the second time (my own fault) since all the pressure can rest directly onto them if you are held upside down for too long. Also, the ride seemed very short too at only around 1 minute in the air and that's it. Wished it lasted a bit longer, especially considering it would cost the rider 3 tokens if they didn't have the wristband. So whilst it's great fun for the views, the soundtrack by IMAscore and multiple flips you can manage, I just found it too uncomfortable and short for my liking unfortunately. • AtmosFear (7 / 10) If there is any type of ride at a theme park I am still scared of to this day, it's a drop tower, and AtmosFear really was a struggle for me to get on the first time. Being the tallest in Europe, I almost chickened out on this as a result. But the way I saw it before riding is it cannot be any worse than Detonator which has the most horrible free-fall experience I know on any ride out there and considering I managed Hurakan Condor back in 2013 (yeah, the first ride didn't end well), this surely cannot be any worse. Thankfully, I was right. The restraints are almost identical to the seats used on Stealth and Rita with the exception of the shoulder bars being a firm nylon material instead of the padded metal bars used on the coasters. As a result, I could close the restraint using the adjustable fastener to a perfect fit against my chest making sure I was securely strapped into me seat with no give anywhere. When you begin to rise, there's a mist at the top of the building you pass through before you are outside slowly rising to the top. It takes a while to get up there which was a great opportunity to get some amazing views up there. The best viewing point is northwards in the direction of the Liseberg wheel when the river down the the harbour goes. Once at the top, there is no countdown or hint at when you are going to drop, so the first time you ride this, it could come as a shock to you. When released, the initial release does have the proper free-fall feeling for a split second, but unfortunately, despite picking up more and more speed as you fall down, it doesn't get worse and instead, it feels as though the drop has been tamed to quickly due to the brakes reaching up the first 50% of the tower. I would say the first third of the tower you fall down is forceful, but after that, it doesn't feel as bad in all honesty, so the worst bit is the initial release but once you fall, it doesn't feel too bad. I still rate this higher than AeroSpin for the fact it offers better views at the top, travels much faster and doesn't have uncomfortable seats. It might be the most forceless drop tower I've been on yet, but it's still great fun to go on, especially any sunset. In addition, due to the height, this is the first drop tower that has made my ears pop once you've fallen from the top to the bottom in just 3 seconds. That should give you an idea how fast and tall this really is! • Mechanica (7.5 / 10) Initial impressions of this ride from looking at videos of it online were Samurai meets Slammer, and after riding it, that opinion is pretty accurate! The overall theme and look to this ride I loved. The queue line with all the carpentry tools and equipment and molten metal in the barrels, to the great soundtrack (also by IMAscore) and the overall look of the ride's support and pods really looked visually attractive. I'd go as far to say at night, this is one of the best looking themed flat rides I know with all the orange lights and flames lighting up the structure and seats in the dark. Now as for the ride experience itself, the seats and restraints are far more comfortable compared to the ones used on Samurai (different manufacturers I know, but it reminded me too much of Samurai) and didn't crush your thighs or chest once closed. Plus, there's a good amount of gap between each of the 5 seats on the pods, making moving your arms a lot easier this time. The restraints when closed do not mould against your body unlike Samurai, they instead fix into place on the closest notch they can lock onto. So in my case, there was a bit of give between my stomach and the restraint, which made it easier for me to breathe and adjust thankfully. Now onto the ride experience itself, the shocking thing for me was how differently the pods tilt in comparison to Samurai. These pods on Mechanica tilt a lot easier and in effect, you are tilting and flipping much faster and more violently as a result. Some may see this as a disadvantage as it makes the ride quite violent, but I didn't mind and thought it made the experience better. The gondola spins quite slowly when it rotates both directions, but this was enough to not make you feel dizzy or to pin you against the side of the restraint either. Instead, it was slow enough to offer you some really good airtime when the arm flips you all the way over, especially if you get the right pod at the right time where you can be plummeting straight to the ground looking straight down whilst feeling weightless. Really good moments and a long ride too! The only downside I can say about this is even though the pods flip you a lot more than Samurai's, the structure in my experience seemed to shake a little too much from side to side, probably due to the counterweight at the top being too light and as a result, my head lightly bashed from side to side a bit a couple of times. It's not like Colossus which violently tries to shake your brain out of your skull level, but instead, it's more Dragon Khan levels of head bashing instead. So if you are trying this, I recommend you rest your head against the right side of the restraint or to get a seat closer to the inside to reduce the amount of force on your head. Apart from that, great flat ride and looks very pretty! • Lisebergbanan (8 / 10) This was the first ride I went on in the park on my first day as I wanted to leave Helix until later and experience it properly for the first time with a queue instead of walking straight on. I must say, despite it being 30 years old, it kicked one hell of a punch for a family coaster, to the point where I begin to wonder how on earth can they get away with a height restriction this low for it?! The train seats and restraints are very similar to Olympia Looping and Thunder Looper with just a lap bar in place and no divider in between the two seats, leaving you're entire upper body vulnerable to moving from side to side. It was comfortable enough and the seats were quite low down, so there wasn't any thought of losing your bags placed in-between you legs on the floor. Once dispatched and getting to the top of the lift hill, the first helix down the hill and over the garden area is a lot, lot faster than any video online YouTube will show you. I had the very back of the train the first time on this and immediately after going down the first drop, I was shocked by how fast this thing goes when the train is full! It really is quite intense for a family coaster and you even get some great airtime at the back too! Once the first bit is over and you go down and under Uppswinget three times, this is where it really gets fun as you are going what feels like almost 60mph under the tunnels several times over and over again and due to the design of the trains, you're upper body can shake side to side a fair bit when going down the drops and again, this is a family coaster? It seems very fast and intense to be one for me! After that, there's one last small helix around the tree and an airtime hill added before you enter the brakes and I must warn any new riders, if you ever rode the Black Hole when it was at Alton Towers, if you remember the brakes at the end of that, you'll know exactly what these ones are like! They are really very violent and sudden brakes which can lurch you forward in the break run and when you re-enter the station, so my suggestion is when you see the yellow sign saying "Broms" on it, hold the handle bar in front of you and brace you arms ready for impact to stop yourself lurching forwards. Overall, for a family coaster, this was incredibly surprising for me as it goes a lot faster than it looks, it's long, the restraints are minimal and it has a classic feel to it which reminds me of Nemesis, so it get's a big thumbs up from me. • Balder (8.5 / 10) Their wooden coaster Balder was another great coaster which reminded me a lot of Megafobia at Oakwood. The trains were comfortable with both a seatbelt and a lap bar restraint holding you in and thankfully unlike Gwazi and Stampida, this was lovely and smooth and didn't feel horribly jerky or rough anywhere on the train. The lift hill is surprisingly steep for a wooden coaster and for seats like these ones with no back rests, it felt almost as if I was going to fall out backwards if it wasn't for the restraint. When you consider the small space this is located in, it makes sense to have it this steep. Now onto the ride itself, the back of the train is by far the best place to sit. The number of times you are whipped over all the dozens of airtime hills on this thing is huge and from beginning to end, there is not a single moment to relax or take a breather since the hills get sharper and tighter making up for the loss in height and speed towards the end of the ride. The addition of the tunnels also made the experience great as one of them was small enough to create a head chopper effect! It's easy to see why many people regard this as the best wooden coaster they know and it certainly is. The face it's so smooth with airtime after airtime after airtime made this incredibly fun to ride, coupled with the length of the ride makes this a great wooden coaster. For me, it's not quite as good as Megafobia, but it comes close! • Loke (New for 2017) - (9 / 10) I've always found flat rides which swing like Vortex and Rush to be fun to a certain point until they become repetitive and boring, so I wasn't building any huge expectations for this ride despite the advertising and delayed opening it received. But when seeing it in-person, oh my word, this thing is bloody massive! Never ever ridden Maelstrom at Drayton Manor before so this was my first Intamin Gyroswing and what made this ride very special for me besides from the size, speed and theming was the design of the restraints and seats. They are very comfy to sit in and they are very similar to the ones you get on The Swarm. Just imagine Swarm's restraints but without the foam vest holding your chest. That's Loke's seats in a nutshell. The thin metal bars which are there to lower the restraint across your waist were widely spaced and positioned quite far back, so when you fasten the restraint using a seatbelt similar to Stealth/Rita, there is nothing in the field of view from where you are sitting. This in effect made you feel extremely vulnerable and reminded me a lot like Rush with just a lap bar holding you in, only this time, the seats are much comfier and aren't deep this time. Heck, they're similar seats to Nemesis to give you an idea, so imagine Nemesis' seats with just a lap bar. That's the best way I can describe them. Once the floor lowers and the thumping bass from the soundtrack filling the ride starts up, it begins to swing higher and higher very quickly and the speed of the spinning gondola is not too fast to make you feel dizzy, it's just about right and it also gives you the chance to get multiple angles whilst in the air at maximum height too. Once it picks up speed and reaches it's full height, it doesn't matter which direction or angle you are at, this ride is epic! The sheer speed you are travelling when it swings downwards is faster than Rush and the weightlessness feeling you get when falling back down again is forceful and offers some brilliant views when you're looking straight down. Plus, the close proximity between you and Balder makes this even better. When looking down, you are either staring directly over Balder's structure and the people below, or the nearby river directly over the water. In total, you get about 8-9 full swings before it begins to slow down and lower again. It's quite a claim to make, but I consider this to be the best flat ride ever built that I have ridden. The size and speed of this monster is what sells it and the comfort and lack thereof of restraints holding you in makes you feel incredibly vulnerable and doesn't distract you when swinging. In addition, the paint work and theming of this ride looks very nice during the day and night and the soundtrack played with the thumping bass from the speakers really build up a huge anticipation when waiting. Thorpe Park or Alton Towers seriously need one of these rides at their parks with the same restraints, capacity, height and speed, because this beats the living hell out of Vortex and Rush combined in my opinion. It truly is a superb flat ride and is my favourite one out there right now as a result! • Helix (9.5 / 10) And yes, as expected, Helix is my number one ride at the park and indeed as mentioned at the beginning of the review, my new personal favourite coaster. Never before have I been left speechless by a coaster after trying it the first time and Helix was the first to deliver. What a magnificent coaster Liseberg have here. 26 rides later in 2 days and it's still brilliant every time. From the beginning of the experience to entering the queue line, you are instantly transported from the dull innards of the dome to a futuristic, modern and cool looking maze of stairs, platforms and metal walls and mechanics lying around everywhere in the queue line, all lit up in bright neon green lights on the walls, flooring, rock work and ceiling. This coupled with the soundtrack which was blasting though about 30 Bose speakers in all of the queue line in perfect synchronisation gave me goosebumps the first time entering this area. It sounds and looks visually impressive in the queue and the maze of stairs and platforms getting you ever closer to the station builds up some huge anticipation and excitement. Whilst queueing, you can see various windows looking through the walls of the station and underneath, you are able to see a sneak of the brakes, wheels and trains passing over the track entering the station ready for the next batch of people to board the train. In addition, once directly underneath the platform, you can see how the platform gates work with the mechanics underneath the flooring where every minute or so, the bars move in perfect synchronisation which in effect opens and closes the gates. Nice thing to see whilst waiting (not that there was much of a queue!) as I've always wondered how they work. When the queue got bigger during the day, I eventually stopped to watch the TV screens and noticed you can download an app on your smartphone which is a game for the ride where you in synchronisation with other guests can play these mini games to gain points and whichever player every 15 minutes get the highest score, they get a free Fastpass for Helix presumably. I tried multiple times to win but only managed to get as high as number 4 on the leaderboard, mostly due to the fact the app was all in Swedish with no English option making me guess how you play each game by improvising. Once you go up the stairs into the station, you are free to choose any row of seats you want and you are not allocated them by a member of staff. I was so glad this was the case as I wanted front row on my first ride, which I did. The trains themselves look stunning, especially when it gets dark. The fact all the seats underneath are lit up in green and the front of all three trains and along both sides have these very bright white lights made it looks visually stunning at night as it whizzed round the track. Plus, they looked nice and fresh with a shiny gloss finish added, making them look as though they are still brand new. The seats themselves are extremely comfortable to sit in. The lap bar that lowers down is nice and tight and moulds perfectly to your body. There are also grooves on either side if the bar allowing you to rest you arms on when grabbing the handles and the design of the back rest made it comfortable to rest my shoulders into. Plus, despite it being a floored train, the seats are high enough for your legs to dangle allowing you to move them freely as you wish. The difference these restraints make to this ride in comparison to a traditional shoulder restraint are huge and make everything so much more fun. Now onto the ride experience itself, the experience offered is unparalleled to anything else I know. The experience is so smooth from beginning to end, the two launches are lovely and smooth too with no extreme forces exerted on you body and each and every element assembles beautifully together. This is a ride where it gets more and more extreme as you go round as each inversion become tighter, the speed of the trains get faster, the drops become larger and the twists and turns become more and more forceful. The airtime on this thing can be shocking if you get the two very back seats and it's obvious to me now why there's a minimum height restriction of 1.5m for these seats. The airtime over the hill straight after the second launch and top hat at the back of the train is so strong and forceful that it pins your thighs to the restraint almost painfully for a brief second. It's that good! The interaction the track has with it's surroundings is mastered perfectly and you can tell the designers of this ride have really thought this through and been clever at making the most of the surroundings they have. The fact it snugs so closely to the ground at various points makes the experience really quite intense, especially the helix just before the second launch which throws you straight into your seat thanks to the extreme forces. One of the concerns I had been hearing from a few people was this ride was not fast enough and didn't have forces that were extreme enough. In my experience, the speed of this ride is perfectly fine and is fast enough for me to enjoy going on again and again and surprisingly, despite this having 7 inversions, I didn't feel sick or dizzy at all when riding it several times in a row unlike Colossus, Smiler and even Nemesis. Helix even reminded me a lot of Nemesis as it constantly has speed and force from beginning to end and never seems to slow down, and this certainly matched Nemesis in terms of the pacing. If I were to find any criticism of Helix, that would be the lack of on-board speakers used in the trains because the grills have been installed but no audio is played through them. If they can add music similar to Blue Fire from what I've seen, this could make the experience even more exciting for guests. And another criticism I have is when you leave the station into the first inversion, I find the train vibrates a bit too much where you can feel and even hear it. That is literally all I can think of! I would usually supply lots of images of it in action, but I thought making a video would be better, so here it is: So to finalise my review of Liseberg and, if you are visiting for the first time and considering it, do it. The park has great opening times during summer between 11am -10/11pm at the weekends, all the other rides like Kallerado (better river rapids ride than Alton's one), FlumeRide, Hanghai are lots of fun and the atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed. For me, Helix alone is worth the journey and it will be a firm favourite if you ever get the chance to ride it, so make sure when you visit, you ride it. I myself have have an awesome time visiting both Gothenburg city & Liseberg, and this park is certainly one to keep your eyes on for the future since every year they are currently relentlessly installing more and more exciting and great rides, which reminds me a lot of Thorpe's days in the mid-2000's. In particular, Valkyria looks to be an excellent dive coaster when planned to be opened in April 2018, which is a great reason to visit again. It's very likely I will be visiting this park on a frequent/yearly basis now as they have some truly kick-ass rides for a park that is not on the scale of other European theme parks, so my next visit will likely be April/May 2018. Here's a full record of all the 230+ photos and videos I took whilst I was there if you're interested in having a look: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B3MFeYFbViDuREFNOV9rRDdUNVE Liseberg - (8 / 10)