Thanks to some insanely cheap airfares I scored earlier in the year, last weekend I was able to make a quick visit to check out Universal Studios Singapore, as well as their Haunted Horror Nights event for 2014. It was absolutely worth the long flight there and back, as not only is USS an excellent park, but the haunt event was a lot of fun (if not particularly scary).
The first thing that struck me about the park is how extensively themed everything is; most of the park is completely immersive, "built" environments. This is in stark contrast to somewhere like Universal Hollywood where the show buildings are clearly visible. Even though a lot of the rides can be found at other parks, I feel like USS sets them up better - for example, The Mummy is basically the same ride, but it's way cooler entering through what looks like a real Egyptian temple, rather than a beige box. This extends to other rides too - Shrek 4-D is in a huge castle and the Madagascar boat ride is inside a massive container ship! There are also a number of rides unique to Universal Singapore, which I'll describe more with the photos below.
The Haunt event was very well done. I've never done a haunt at any of the USA parks, so I wasn't really sure if I was going to like it at all. But I was definitely willing to give it a try, and had a fantastic time! The production value was everything you'd expect from a Universal park, and everything was based on an original IP. I wouldn't say any of it was particularly "scary", but then I'm not really someone who gets scared by this kind of thing. There were certainly a few surprises and gross-out moments, and purchasing the Express pass was definitely worthwhile.
There were four main mazes: - The L.A.B. or Laboratory of Alien Breeding is your standard "alien experiments gone wrong" maze. This one probably had the best production value of the lot, with some very impressive masks and makeup on the actors. A room where you had to push through a bunch of bagged corpses hanging from the ceiling was probably my biggest gross-out of the night. - Jack's 3-Dementia was a very brightly decorated, clown-based maze where everyone was given 3-D glasses to make the neon colours blur and pop. The effect was very trippy and disconcerting, and made for some fun surprises. - Jing's Revenge was a bit of a weird one. From what I could tell the story is about a schoolgirl who went crazy and started killing people in her school. Or maybe she died and is haunting the place. At any rate this one didn't do much for me, the actors mostly stared at and shushed you, which wasn't all that exciting. - Mati Camp is probably my pick of the bunch. Basically zombies in a military camp, with a really fun maze and some great scares. The ending where you are "disinfected" was particularly cool.
Apart from the mazes there were some excellent scare zones, and a couple of really solid shows, which I'll describe more in the pictures below. Overall this was a very fun event, and I'm already making plans to return next year!
Hello Singapore! Sadly I was not staying in the Marina Bay Sands, but my hotel was still decent enough.
They call it an "Arts" hotel, and this is why. This is the BACK of the building, by the way. Great mural!
The rooms were small but fairly efficient. Each one has a different motif, painted by local art students - I scored "bamboo forest".
Free breakfast including tea service. Nice. Although I did shy away from the cucumber and pineapple "salad".
In Singapore, The Doctor has a side business selling bottled water.
Sadly, there was no time to stop for Heavenly Wang this time around.
The city at night. Singapore is incredibly easy to navigate and get around. Not pictured: the 90% humidity.
First night I went to check out Sentosa's Crane Dance. This is an outdoor show, as per the picture seats are a little easier to come by here than Fantasmic.
Two huge cranes with fountains and LED screens do stuff. Then they fall in love and the Resorts World Sentosa logo appears.
The story might be a little shallow but the show is really cool. The cranes are massive, and move very organically.
Next morning, it's Universal Studios day! Pictured: two coasters we won't be riding, and an awesome castle.
The casino isn't open yet. Theme park it is!
Obligatory entrance photo.
Minions are big here too.
Little preview of horror nights in the shop window.
This is the "New York" street, with a few of the haunt props hanging around. On the right is Sesame Street: Spaghetti Space Chase. This might be the closest thing I've seen to a Muppet dark ride. I kind of liked this one, even if the ride ops thought it was hilarious that a big Aussie bloke had decided to ride. The inclusion of the Yip Yips definitely makes it a winner in my book!
Lights Camera Action! was a fairly standard "movie effects" show, probably made more effective by the fact that the sound stage it's in isn't terribly big, so the audience is much closer to the action. I liked this one right up until I got very wet from a "falling crane" effect.
During the day the Pantages theatre is playing a Sesame Street show. I ventured in while trying to dry off from the aforementioned special effects show. Definitely one for the kids, would have benefited from the addition of Oscar the Grouch. Frankly I've always found Elmo to be super annoying, I wonder if Grover feels the same way?
Sesame Street meet & greet on the steps of the New York Public Library. If this had been a Ghostbusters greet I would have been in there for sure!
Statue of Liberty looking a bit worse for wear. Some of the big setpieces were quite impressive.
Transformers! Almost exactly the same as the one in Hollywood, although I think the projectors are higher resolution in that one. But still an excellent ride.
And this is why I bought the Express Pass. Definitely worth it!
I think this is supposed to be EVAC? I'm not really a Transformers aficionado.
Still a modern art sculpture for a little longer at least. Apparently it's getting closer to opening but no luck on this trip.
A little obscured by the haunt theming, but The Mummy's entrance is truly impressive.
The ride itself is a little different from the Hollywood version, with a longer dark ride section.
These things are huge!
Indoors was air-conditioned too (like a real tomb?), which was a definite plus in the heat.
Treasure Hunters promises very little and delivers even less. It's definitely more for kids but even then there's not a lot to hold their attention. I ended up sitting in the front and "chauffeuring" a couple around this mostly disappointing ride.
Cue the theme music... Jurassic Park River Adventure has a very similar setup to the other Jurassic Park flume rides, except riders are in a raft rather than a boat. It was pretty wet, but seemed more "complete" than its Hollywood counterpart. And the T-Rex actually works at this one!
Canopy Flyer might have been a little short, but overall was a fun coaster, and a bit faster than I'd expected. Definitely a good "first" inverted coaster.
Some great theming all over the park, like dino mouth speakers!
Little daytime preview of Rapunzel's tower for tonight's haunt.
Waterworld is probably the best daytime theme park show anywhere.
The entry plaza is pretty big for this ride, I assume it's a future expansion pod.
One of the best parts of the show - dumping water on clueless guests.
Splash! Bang! Smoke!
And the money shot! Not really any different to the Hollywood one, although the actors don't list their film credits at the end of the show here.
I was a little taken aback by how extensively themed the Shrek area was. This is almost as good as Cars Land, although with less rock work.
Okay so the Shrek films got a little forgettable after the first one. I think the frog used to be the king?
The castle, of course, is bigger than Disneyland's. It houses Shrek 4-D, which I've now seen on three continents. And it's exactly the same each time!
Puss in Boots doing his ting.
Angled photos are more pleasing to the eye, or so I'm told.
Enchanted Airways is your standard roller skater. Thanks to the express pass I rode front seat. Score!
Shrek's house is pretty much just like the movie. You can even walk up to the outhouse if you want. Nobody is inside.
Donkey Live! a.k.a. Donkey Talk With Donkey
These shows live or die depending on the audience, and this bunch just weren't into it. The cast did a good job making up for it though.
New coaster - hooray! This looks a lot like a Zamperla Volare, which is somewhat concerning. Inside the half-built tower is an eggbeater lift.
More construction. Whatever it is, the footprint is pretty significant.
The final "land" is Madagascar, Dreamworks' third-best IP!
Madagascar: A Crate Adventure is a very long, Pirates of the Caribbean-style boat ride. Overall this was fun, but kind of felt like it was too long for the amount of content in there. Maybe if they'd made it a third shorter with the same budget, there might have been some more interesting animatronics or effects.
An absolutely HUGE container ship hides the show building.
Once again this part of the park has some excellent themeing.
Night fell, and it was time for Horror Nights! I met up with my mate Colin, who was in town for the tennis and decided to join me for this event. We got in the gates fairly quickly and a huge crowd waited behind us.
The opening show started with a protest against Jonah Goodwill, a military dictator.
So he turned up...
...set a dude on fire...
...and turned out to be a demon. The whole show was really well done. I'm a sucker for pyrotechnics, of which there was no shortage!
Jonah was good enough to stick around for photo ops though. So not all evil.
Scary Tales was the first of the haunt zones we checked out. Basically weird versions of fairy tales.
The concept was pretty decent, but the whole area was too packed with people to be effective.
Still, the setpieces were really good, especially Rapunzel's tower.
Blurry random beastie. Shooting in low light without a tripod ain't easy!
First maze up was The L.A.B. Here weird alien creatures have escaped their cages and now growl aggressively at the passing public. Unfortunately, photos weren't allowed in the mazes.
Lines for the mazes were incredibly long. We were very happy to have bought the express passes.
Shrek's castle looks pretty awesome at night too!
Next up is Canyon of the Cursed. This scare zone had an Old West bent, and placing it in the Egypt section of the park resulted in a fairly effective Western/Mummy hybrid theme.
Canyon was probably the most effective scare zone, with plenty of room for people and actors to move around, and a lot of theatrical fog to hide the actors.
Undead mummy horses lined the walkway.
Kids, this is why you don't stay out in the sun too long.
Just a corpse escaping from her coffin. No biggie.
Express passes kept paying off all night.
Asian dressed as undead Indian. This may or may not be offensive, I'm not sure.
Let me tell you a ghost story... woooo...
Mati Camp was the best maze of the night. It had some really good scares and actors and was probably the most "frightening" of the bunch.
New York street at night. Another superb scare zone, with monsters all over the place.
Overall the set design and execution was top notch.
As the Transformers wait climbed into triple digits, our express passes became even more treasured.
As I mentioned earlier, Jing's Revenge was the weakest of the mazes. The production value was still there, but it just wasn't particularly scary, and the background story didn't make sense either.
Jack's 3-Dementia - trippy and very fun, and very disorienting.
It might just be me, but I don't think those are his real abs...
Bogeyman was halfway between a maze and a scare zone, in that you had to line up for it and they were only letting through a handful of people at a time. This made for some very effective scares.
This one was genuinely creepy, with lots of places for the monsters to hide and jump out.
Some girls just don't do well after midnight.
Just in case you'd decided to bring the kids, Spooky Elmo was for sale.
At nighttime the Pantages Theatre hosted a different show - Jack's Nightmare Circus. I can't stress enough how different this was from the Sesame Street production I'd seen earlier in the day...
This show was this highlight of the night for me. Jack (on the right) is auditioning new acts for this circus.
Three acts performed, including a contortionist, a pair of figure skaters...
...and a sideshow freak.
Naturally they all end up dead by the end of the show.
This one had some great gags and very fun production numbers, and was an excellent way to end the night.
Overall HHN4 was well above what I'd expect from a regional theme park, and definitely something I'd check out again. Congratulations to all involved in the event - you guys put on a great show!
Wow, awesome trip report! I cant believe how big and detailed those props are for the New York scarezone. I love how their event retains originality and has an actual icon (a rather well-developed one too so it seems). Looks great!
I also have to chuckle whenever I see Battlestar Galactica just sitting there. Universal fanboys always get on Disney for letting the Yeti just sit in Everest even though its a mere effect in an otherwise great ride, yet one of the signature attractions in one of their parks is dormant for similar reasons and nobody says anything...
Since USH is seeing the negative effect of not having a show this year, and Bill & Ted might be off the table due to last years stupid "controversy", what might the chances be of something like Jack's Circus coming to Hollywood?
”The only way you can check Gretzky is to hit him when he is standing still singing the national anthem.” - Harry Sinden
rosscoe wrote:Great Trip report Aaron, pity the main coster is still down for the count!
Thanks Ross. I hear rumours it'll be open again soon, good excuse to head back!
OrlandoGuy wrote:I also have to chuckle whenever I see Battlestar Galactica just sitting there. Universal fanboys always get on Disney for letting the Yeti just sit in Everest even though its a mere effect in an otherwise great ride, yet one of the signature attractions in one of their parks is dormant for similar reasons and nobody says anything...
To be fair it was quite easy to make a full day of the park, even with Battlestar out of action (although I did spend the last hour marathoning Transformers via the express queue). I can't imagine the park is too excited about their biggest pair of coasters sitting SBNO for an extended period of time either. Once this is back open, and Puss in Boots coaster comes on line, USS will have a really solid lineup of rides.
cfc wrote:I agree that it's good to see an "icon" at HHN again. It's too bad that the Universal parks in U.S. aren't doing this anymore (makes them seem more "generic").
It did seem like the use of original IPs rather than licensed themes allowed the team to be more creative in their approach. Centering HHN around a character definitely adds to the "immersive" nature of the event.
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