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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.
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!
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.