Last Saturday I landed in London. My plan was to get off the plane, pass through immigration, and get to Thorpe Park by opening using the city buses. Unfortunately I hit a snag on item 2, as the immigration line took almost 1.5 hours.
I was faced with a dilemma, wait for the next bus and get there after opening or Uber. I went with the latter but it was a challenge. Not because of car availability. Rather it was because Heathrow is a black hole for cell service. Once I left the airport, I immediately had better service.
I had considered renting a car prior to the trip. I decided against it because of the lack of availability of automatic cars, but my decision was reaffirmed when I saw cars driving on the opposite side of the road. I knew the UK drove on the left side of thr road, but it still looked wrong to me. I know I would have gone counterclokcwise through a rotary, made a right on red, or done one of the many other driving actions that are muscle memory for me at this point. In about 20 minutes I was at Thorpe.
I hadn't heard a lot of good things about Merlin leading up to my visit, primarily because of the situation with Heide Park’s Colossos. I figured I would be in for a Six Flags day. With those expectations, I was blown away. Thorpe Park was really nice!
I felt bad for the security guard who checked my bag. Since I had just come from the airport for a 2 week trip, I had everything on me. On one hand, I packed extremely light all things considered as I stuffed everything in a single backpack (being a nerd payed off as I learned how to pack all my books). On the other hand, an overstuffed backpack is way more than any sane human being would bring to a park. My backpack looked like an ACER's belt after an all you can eat buffet, ready to burst.
It was 60 degrees with a 50% chance of rain. I figured the park wouldn't be too crowded. I was wrong. The Brits didn't seem to find the weather one bit. Before the park opened, I debated getting a Fast Track but decided against it. I figured hitting the park clockwise at opening could get me on everything before lines formed. I was wrong there as well.
After crossing the bridge, I entered the Hub. For those unfamiliar with Thorpe, I’ll try to describe it as best as I can. It's basically a giant dome you're funneled through with gift shops, games, food, fluffy, fluffy bunnies filled with medicine and goo, and restrooms. It honestly feels more like a mall than a park in there. After renting a very cheap fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo (2 pounds!), getting everything in was a puzzle. I had to unload half my clothing to get the darn thing in but I eventually did it. Just ignore the weird American shoveling boxers and socks into the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo.
I had a plan to hit Colossus first since I heard that one gets a long line early and keeps it all day. I got to the queue 10 minutes after opening and was greeted with a 55 minute wait. Surely that couldn't be right? It wasn’t, but it was still a much longer than expected wait at 40 minutes thanks to one train ops. That didn't bode well for the rest of the day. On the bright side, the queue provided some awesome shots of Colossus.
I was planning on trying the front, but I scrapped those plans with the one train ops. That line looked to be 7 trains long. Instead I picked second from the back. Why not the very back? Colossus had early generation Intamin trains and the pitch on the back rows of each car is insanely tight. Most people had to ride spread eagle with the seat back in front of them. No thanks, I would wait until Blackpool to go spread eagle.
Along with the long lines, I also heard Colossus was pretty rough. While the first bit was spot on, I didn't find the ride rough at all. Sure there were 1-2 moments of light headbanging, but it was no worse than a rougher B&M corkscrew at those points.
Oddly enough the worst part of the ride was the first drop. That's a rarity for me, but it just isn't steep at all. Thankfully the rest of the ride is an unrelenting barrage of inversions. The vertical loop was forcefup, the two corkscrews were snappy, and the cobra roll was just ok. So that's 5 inversions. Where are the other 5? The ride ends with 5 barrel rolls.
Many may call this repetitive, which I agree with. However if it isn't broke, don't fix it. It’s like a hypercoaster having 4-5 airtime hills at the end. Is it repetitive? You bet. But do you really want anything else there? That's how I feel on the barrel rolls. They gave solid hangtime and were pretty disorienting due to the sheer number of them.
I would have loved a second ride, but the line simply didn't allow it. I could have gotten a Fast Track but decided against it due to the cost and how far back the merge points are on most of the rides. Still from my one ride I can say Colossus is one of the better loopers I’ve been on after B&M inverts. 8 out of 10
I had seen in the app that Saw was down, but saw that it was testing as I queued for Colossus. Once I got off Colossus, I went over to Saw since I wanted to knock that one off early due to the 8 passenger cars. And luckily it was open...with an 11 minute wait. Yes 11 minutes. That is definitely the most random queue time I had ever seen, but it was really only a 1-2 train wait.
The ride reminded me a ton of Mystery Mine, only smoother and with a longer outdoor portion. The indoor section was very well done. There's some decent torture/Saw related theming and the whole feeling of dread is captured well. The indoor drop is very steep with powerful air and the barrel roll is smooth with a good chunk of hang-time.
The second half is where the ride really shined. It began pretty typically for a Eurofighter with a beyond vertical drop. However this one was taller than most and didn't seem to slow down cresting the top. This resulted in air more powerful than usual, and the regular Eurofighters already have some powerful ejector air. The following Immelmann was surprisingly smooth and enjoyable. I hadn't heard much about Saw so I had a bad feeling it would be somewhat rough and jerky, but outside of a bump at the bottom of the big drop, it was nice and smooth.
I figured the ride was pretty much over at that point (Mystery Mine would), but nope, there was a MCBR. Much to my amazement, the brakes were barely on, so the plunge off the brakes provided air on par with the beyond vertical drop. The final inversions are disorienting and smooth like the first ones. There wws also a nice little airtime hill hidden in there that launched everyone from their seats.
I compare Saw to Mystery Mine since more people are familiar with the latter. Saw had just slightly worse theming, but a much better and longer ride. By the time I exited, the line was spilling onto the midway with a 36 minute (seriously is there a Saw reference I am missing or something). I wanted to make sure I got on everything once before reriding anything. 8 out of 10
With possible rain in the afternoon's forecast, I went to Stealth next. It also seemed like a good idea in case it snapped a cable or had some other breakdown Inramins seem prone to. It was only a 10 minute wait, so I decided to wait for the front, which appeared to be a 5 train wait (so 15ish extra minutes).
I ended up waiting almost an hour. There were 4-5 groups from disabled access that chose the front seat and then Stealth remembered it was an Intamin and closed for 15-20 minutes. I didn't want to bail out since I was a train away from riding and the queue was posted at 60 minutes at this point.
Xcelerator was the prototype and launched from the station. The latter accelerators I’ve been on like Top Thrill Dragster, Kingda Ka, and Storm Runner all launch outside the station presumably for capacity. However, Stealth launched directly from the station. There was a separate load-unload platform to help speed up dispatches thankfully.
How was Stealth? Basically a mini Kingda Ka right down to the unnecessary OSTRs and the hump after the top hat. The launch was strong, not quite Xcelerator or the stratas but more on par with Storm Runner. The top hat gave some wonderful air and I was shocked the hump afterwards launched me from my seat as well. That hill does absolutely nothing on Kingda Ka so that was a pleasant surprise. It's a very short ride but it was my favorite at Thorpe. 9 out of 10
After being shot up, I decided to be dropped down on their drop tower. Themed to Angry Birds, Detonator is a rare Fabbri model I believe. The tower looks pretty small and I’d guess it's only around 120-130 feet. But as the Larson towers taught us, size doesn't necessarily matter. I was shocked the ride only seated 12 riders since most of the towers with circular carriages seat more than that. It wasn't a major problem though as it was my shortest wait of the day at 15 minutes.
I rode on the side of Nemesis Inferno, so I got a nice little preview of my next ride. The drop itself was excellent, probably just a notch below the Larsons in terms intensity. The airtime was very good and this is yet another model that poops over the S&S models. My one gripe with the ride was the drop countdown. I have had countdowns for launches, but never for the drop, so the plunge, while very good, was less climactic than on other towers. 8 out of 10
Up next was Nemesis Inferno, aka the invert everyone would like so much more if they had no knowledge of Alton’s Nemesis. The ride had a posted 70 minute wait, so I decided to wait it out. The queue line, like Colossus’s, provided some excellent photo opportunities for the coaster. I love how most of the park's major coasters interact with the queues.
I ended up waiting closer to 50 minutes, and that was with an extra 10 minutes going towards a ride in front. The pre-lift segment through the misty tunnel is pretty weird. It's fun, don't get me wrong, but it feels out-of-place on an invert. The rest of the ride is well landscaped, but barren with regards to theming.
The first drop was a pretty gradual incline which screamed Silver Bullet, a comparison no invert wants. Thankfully the rest of the ride was superior. It doesn't have the intensity of the older inverts, but I still found the loop pretty forceful. The zero-G roll was fantastic as always. This invert also borrows B&M’s interlocking corkscrews from their floorless coasters, which is a nice off-ride visual. Ride-wise they were decently snappy. The final helix is relatively light on Gs but it serves its purpose to get you back to the station.
It’s definitely not in my top 2 tiers of inverts, but it's in the middle class with Great Bear and Afterburn. The ride’s intensity is a notch below those 2, but Nemesis Inferno makes up for it with the nice landscaping. 8.5 out of 10
I had 3 hours until closing (another reason I didn't want Fast Track, the short operating day) and still 3 coasters to hit. Next I decided to ride X. No I didn't magically fly to Magic Mountain. This is X, aka the techno laser dance party in a box.
I waited about 25 minutes for this one, with the last 5 minutes spent waiting for a partner. The park enforces a no single rider policy on X which confuses me. The lapbar has a bar down the middle so you can't slide around in your seat. Does anyone know why this ride has a single rider policy?
I immediately thought of Skull Mountain when the ride began and the rides are similar if you remove the two things that make that ride great, the OMFG drop and the heavy metal music. X’s drops are pretty mediocre and MCBRs slow the train down after it builds any sort of speed. The turns are decent and the ride is smooth, so it's not a bad family coaster. 5 out of 10
Before getting to the last major coaster, I had a date with the Flying Fish. A Mack powered coaster, the ride felt weird. I have been on powered coasters before, but they were either kiddie ones (ex. Canobie’s Dragon) or enclosed (Thunder Run). On this one, the train maintained a constant speed the whole way through. My brain was confused when the train didn't accelerate going downhill. Its a tame ride but not a bad junior coster. 3 out of 10
Swarm was next. I read a tip to save Swarm until the late afternoon as its placement near the gate causes it to build a significant wait early but then it dies down. I saw the peak wait time at 80 minutes, so when I arrived and saw a 45 minute wait that was much more palatable. Even better was the fact that was a gross overestimate and I only waited 15 minutes, and that was queuing for the front too!
Swarm had looser vest restraints than some of the older wing coasters in the US which is a major plus. For those of you that have been on Wild Eagle, you know just how hard those restraints can dig into your collarbone. It feels like you're getting a crappy acupuncture job. No such problem on Swarm.
The ride began with an amazing wingover drop. This is an element every wing coaster needs as this and a “keyhole” are the genre’s two signature elements in my opinion. The following zero-G roll had plenty of floater air and it was followed by a great pass through a billboard. Think Backlot Stunt Coaster except actually traveling faster than 20 mph.
The inclined loop was just ok in my opinion but the corkscrew was very good. It wasn't forceful but it was graceful and drawn out. The final inversion redefines the station flyby for me. GCI’s straight sections are child’s play now. Swarm flies over the station via an inline twist with even more hang-time than the zero-G roll.
If you want a forceful coaster, you will be sorely disappointed. If you enjoy the wing coasters for what they are (graceful, hangtime filled rides), you’ll really like Swarm. I’d say it's in the middle of the wing coasters. It's nowhere near as good as GateKeeper or Thunderbird, a smidge better than Wild Eagle, and quite a bit better than X-Flight. 9 out of 10
Originally I was planning on skipping Derren Brown's Ghost Train for a few reasons. 1) I’m generally not a big fan of VR on rides. 2) The queue. The line approached 90 minutes for most of the day and the only way to Fast Track it was the unlimited option at ~$130.
However, I had an hour before closing and 1.5 hours before my bus (the time I really cared about). By this point, I had come to realize many of the park's wait times were inflated. Also my disdain for VR is because I have only experienced it on coasters not originally designed for VR. In the case of DBGT, the VR was designed around the ride so I was optimistic it would be better. The wait was posted at 55 minutes and I probably waited just south of that, but it was fairly accurate.
A big thing about this ride is to not spoil anything. That is reiterated many times during the attraction. Going in, all I knew was that the ride took place on a train, had VR, and was prone to more downtime than Lightning Rod last year (thankfully that appears corrected).
What I can say about the ride is this- do not spoil it for yourself. I had no clue what was going to happen throughout and that was probably the scariest thing about it. The VR wasn't what I expected, but what they do choose to show is pretty darn convincing and how they show it adds a ton of suspense into the ride. One other thing I want to add is that the VR headsets have audio with them, which adds another element to the attraction compared to the audio-free VR offered by Six Flags.
DBGT is an easy 10 for me. I thought it was worth the wait solely because of how unique and ambitious the ride is. I haven't been on anything close to being like it. Was it scary? Honestly I didn't find it overly scary, but it was more along the lines of unnerving and I enjoyed the whole WTF is happening element of it. In the age of POVs and forums, it's easy to have things like this spoiled so I’ll just say to go ride it yourself or PM me if you want to discuss the ride. 10 out of 10
I didn't ride them since I had a 2.5 hour train ride after the park closed, but the park appeared to have all their water rides open. Tidal Wave, the colossal shoot the chutes, has an entire area themed to it, something that I thought I'd only ever see at Canobie. Depth Charge looked like an interesting slide but not worth a 30 minute wait. I also skipped Storm Surge and its 45 minute wait since I rode the version at SFNE several times until it was removed, a removal I had no qualms about.
I had also heard Thorpe felt similar to a US park. Sure there was the ever familiar KFC and corporate sponsorships, but there were also some never in America things such as DodgeArm. You would pay (though really I think the spectators should have to pay
) to try and dodge 2 sweeping arms. Let's just say I saw a few kids get clobbered. Am I going to hell for laughing?
Overall I had a wonderful time at Thorpe Park. Sure lines were longer than expected but outside of the one train ops on Colossus, I thought operations were very good. None of the coasters are world class in my opinion, but they have 5 very good ones. If they ever rounded their park out with a hyper or a RMC, I think their collection would be perfect. Along with the coaster collection, I was really impressed with the park’s theming. No the theming wasn't Disney, but it was about on par with a Dollywood. The combination of theming and rides made Thorpe a great park in my opinion.
Up next is Blackpool! Though that may be a while due to the cell/wifi service being awful for upload speeds.