Monday, October 31, 2016

Park: Phantasialand

Our second park of the weekend was Phantasialand, one of the best "theme" parks in the world, and by "theme" I mean the park has spent a lot of money on the detail of the ride rather than on a license and a minimal attempt at associating the ride to that...Pay attention Six Flags.

So the park announced a new coaster Taron, and the theming looked incredible. The ride had received mixed reviews from those that had already gotten to it since it opened a few months ago so it would be interesting to see what we thought.

It was clear that a lot of the people in this park were here to ride this too, and the queue which was kept moving by the excellent operations still took around 2 hours to get through in the morning and was just over an hour at the end of the day.

The new area in the park is called Kugelheim, a Game of Thrones type Nordic town surrounded by impressive looking basalt arrangements.

The track is pretty long at over a kilometer in length and each ride taking around a minute and 40 seconds to get around. With two launches removing the need for a lift hill, almost all of that time is spent twisting and diving on a track that runs close to buildings, tunnel walls and other parts of the track. An incredible design which shows how poor a design like Smiler really is.

As stated earlier the queue was long but kept moving and queue jumping was hardly occurring here.

We decided to have our first run on the front row, we'd queued for a long time and another 20 minutes or so didn't matter. It was the right move, as the ride in the front is incredible with near misses, air time and the launching leaving me giggling insanely...and a ride that renders me to fits of laughter is now my measure of a good ride. 

This ride was great.

The theming is incredible too and the park have done so much here just for the look. Some of the windows on the building on the left have become nests to birds. I don't know if that was intentional.

We left Klugelheim to see what else the park had for us. Chiapas was a new boat ride they installed in 2014/5. It was horrendously wet with what felt like half of the water supply residing in the bottom of our boat. Sitting in the back meant all that water came over my legs whenever we went uphill.
Deluge aside the ride is superb with my favourite bit being the raving section in the middle where the 3 people we were riding with started clapping with their hands in the air before we entered it. They had been on this before and had come back for more.

It's probably the best water ride in the world. The final drop is one of the steepest of these things.

Tal hadn't ridden Black Mamba, an inverted coaster that rides slightly better than Nemesis in my opinion. On the downside with most of it tucked away it's not an easy ride to photograph.

Talocan is the best themed Top Spin in the world.

In amongst Taron the designers managed to find some room to house a second coaster called Raik. The location is great as for the little kids who can ride this they will feel they were doing the bigger ride that surrounds it. It was down in the morning which is why we came back in the afternoon for it.

Maus au Chocolat is the park's shooting dark ride themed around mice running loose in a cake shop. It's similar to Toy Story at Disney and the more you shoot the more tired you get. In this you're shooting cream guns at the mice. A fun game, and I'm sure there are hidden secrets I've not yet figured out. The theming is so good they have a real cake shop in this building :)

Near the dark ride is a well-themed fun house which I never knew was here, so a first for us both. A sign of a good theme park is when you miss stuff...

Wurz Town is the indoor section of the park and home to the two Winja's coasters: Fear and Force. With very long queues we only chose one side and got the one with the tilt track reminding us there are closer tilt coasters in the world than the one in China and Taiwan.

Incredible theming.

We finished our day on Taron this time trying the single rider queue which we think took just as long as the hour long main queue. Something to bear in mind. This time I was near the back and whilst still an amazing ride the front-row experience topped it.

We also spent some time here taking photos of the ride to make up for not having the time to keep queueing for it. Another factor on what I think makes a good coaster is what it offers to the photographer and they've taken that on board here. Those that have read my Silver Dollar City review from the Summer will know that as great as that park is they've made it nigh on impossible to get good photos of their rides. Phantasialand made the same mistake with Black Mamba so it's great that it's not been repeated with this ride.

Some "enthusiasts" had reported disappointment with the ride. I can only say that from my experiences it's an incredible coaster and probably in my top 5. As I get older and more jaded I find I like the sensation of speed and near misses more than forces. It's not a forceful coaster, it doesn't invert but it does make me giggle - that's good enough for me. If I could make one improvement it would be to fill the second launch trench with water to make it look like a river and have some hanging signs from the building to add to the near miss during that section of the track.

and well done to one of the best themed sections in any park, and that includes Disney and Universal. Well done Phantasialand. 

We finished our day with crepes filled with too much nutella; they'd had such a successful day they'd run out of other fillings.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Park: Walibi Belgium

A mate was going to go over to the continent for a couple of parks and he very kindly opened up an invitation for me to tag along. He'd do all the driving, I'd just have to keep him awake for the long drives as the plan would go through Belgium to Cologne in Germany.

Our first park was Walibi Belgium which was having an extended run for Halloween.
This year it opened Pulsar, a new water coaster but it also had opened up a number of scare mazes, which would be pretty cool.

It was going to be a busy day, and we had to rework a plan to ride the new stuff, then do what we can before the mazes opened up in the evening.

A nice Autumnal day and it wasn't too cold and we had no skies in the cloud. 

First up, Pulsar, a new shuttle water coaster.

To help capacity the station comes with a turntable allowing the rather efficient operators to load a second car whilst the first was running the back and forth track.

The ride features a bi-directional launch system that accelerates the boat between spikes.

Rather cleverly the final drop is the only one that creates a splash.

This video shows how they've cleverly engineered this.

The drop tower still stands over the other rides and was running really well all day.

Some attempt was made at the Halloween theming.

Tal had more to ride at this park than I, which meant I could duck out of rides like this kiddy coaster.

In a previous visit I had ridden Turbine, the park's Schwarzkopf coaster. Following complaints of noise the park decided to fully enclose it, which must have been some financial undertaking but a great way to keep the coaster in the park. Being enclosed made the loop much more interesting as there was no horizon to focus on resulting on the loop feeling like it was going around more than it actually was.

Tal also needed Loop Garou, the wooden coaster. This was running well although when we were queueing to get our scare maze tickets we saw it stall on the lift hill then rather worryingly roll back through the catch mechanism for a little bit before stopping properly. The staff, to their credit were quick to respond and had the ride running soon after.

There were a number of scare mazes and by the time we'd gotten to the ticket office, and shouted off a kid who thought he could jump the queue (jerk) some of them had already filled up. We got the ones we could and headed back into the park. The mazes all had pre-allocated times which meant we also had some time to enjoy the park still. 

The asylum is the biggest attraction and had some cool scares like having to walk through a dining hall where some of the actors are mixed amongst robed dummies, and another section where the ceiling drops in. The exit had people running out being chased by a chainsaw wielding clown, which was cool.

We also did a mine one which was pretty cool and the miners shovels they were scraping the ground with must be pretty sharp as they were throwing sparks.

I'm pleased with how this photo came out. This is the Sally Dark Ride which is still very good. The better you do at the shooting the more of the ride you get to see. Unfortunately our car didn't score high enough to go into the extended journey (our weak links were two randoms in front of us)

The best scare maze by far was the first one we did and one that wasn't advertised with the others. We'd picked up a ticket at the start of the day without realising what it was, and when we realised we'd picked up a scare maze ticket we were pretty excited.

As for the maze, the story is that you've to help a DJ find his mixing partner. The pre-show is great as you watch a large joker face become more and more lit up as a trance track plays then as a countdown hits zero the room is filled with a smoke cannon and a number of chainsaw wielding clowns burst into the room from nowhere and somehow you're on the edge of a hayfield with lasers going over your heads and strobe lights all over the place. You have 2 minutes to escape the maze, which is more than enough time to have an absolutely incredible scary time. This was so much fun.

We didn't actually get over to the other side of the park where the boomerang is. The scare mazes over there were the ones we couldn't get a ticket for.

"Enjoy the Day, Fear the Night". We liked this, and the park have done an incredible job with their Halloween event. We know for next time just how busy this event gets and we did say we should come back.

A cool steam punk chap on the way out.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Film: Azumi

Recommended by a colleague at work, Azumi is an old school martial arts film from 2003 that wasn't too bad.

The story is bonkers, a sensei guy trains 10 kids to be excellent assassins and as part of their final test they have to kill each other with the final five being given the prize of being sent on a mission to kill an evil emperor type bloke and his androgynous sidekick. 

As the only female in the team, Azumi gets to wear a rather sexy, almost schoolgirl like outfit for most of the film and you know where the story is going.

If you like arteries spraying blood when cut and can watch a film with a heavy rock soundtrack then you will probably like this. I now need to find the sequel.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Film: Dr Strange

The latest in the Marvel universe has Benedict Cumbybunch playing the part of Dr Steven Strange, a talented, if jumped-up, surgeon who injures his hands in a car crash and unable to get them fixed hears about a temple in Tibet where a cure may be found. When he gets there he finds Tilda (Basmati Rice) Swinton, a sensei type character who opens Dr Strange's eyes to a dimension beyond the world he's used to.

The story is mostly back-plot to the character but is as well written as you'd expect from a Marvel film. The performances are fine with strong performances from most of the cast including Rachel McAdams who has come a long way since Mean Girls.

But what they saved in money in producing the script they more than made up with the budget spent on the special effects which are the real star of the show. With fight sequences taking place in cities that have been warped like Inception then cut up like a Cyriak video, you will be blown away by the effects, even more so if watching the film in 3D.

So an OK romp, and do sit through the trailers for the 2 stingers that set up a sequel and join this character to the wider Marvel universe.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Film: Jack Reacher - Never Look Back

Lil Tommy Cruise runs for two hours and Cobie Smulders is able to keep up in a new pair of heeled boots he buys her early on. There's a random daddy daughter sub-plot and he celebrates winning by buying a new white t-shirt.

Forgettable tosh despite the star power.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Comedy: Stewart Lee, Content Provider Preview

I'd originally planned to see an animated film at the Prince Charles but it had sold out (not a surprise) so at a loose end I thought I'd check to see if there were any tickets for the last preview night of Stewart Lee's new show "Content Provider". I was quite fortunate that someone was returning a ticket so I was able to take that and see the show.

and I'm not going to spoil it here. Needless to say Stewart continues to be a master of his craft with a clever ability to not just make a joke funny, but deconstruct it and make that process funny too. A little meta perhaps but it makes it more interesting than the usual observational stuff that peppers the comedy world. 

It's touring now so go and see it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Graffiti: Camden

Retreading some old ground around Camden


Lost Souls


Dan Kitchener, who has subsequently gone over this with a new one so I need to go back

Amara Por Dios

Film #63: Piranha

You know you're getting old when films celebrate their 40th anniversary. This 70s horror flick comes on the back of the success of ...