I had tried to distance myself from the hype surrounding this ride somewhat, for the year or so leading up to it opening. In trying not to let it sink in that my favourite ride type was coming to the UK, it eased the expectations and even by the time I was sitting down in the thing, the realisation hadn’t quite hit me.
When that moment finally arrived I found myself in a sexy Mack bucket seat, sitting on a launch track, in Blackpool. What?
First impressions were good. Nothing was overwhelming, but it felt like a solid layout that had somewhat more to give… and give it did.
I kept going back to it throughout the course of the day and it only ever got better. I soon came to the selfish realisation that regardless of how well Icon was received by the public, how well it did for the park, whatever, this ride is exactly what I wanted for the UK.
This isn’t purely down the ride itself, but also the park it’s located in. Blackpool Pleasure Beach is great for its easy-going atmosphere, but the park also separates itself from most others in the country by being just well run and packed full of enough attractions for you to really get the most out of your day there. Queues don’t get huge, operations are great.
When I first rode Icon it was a gorgeous weekend, we didn’t even arrive for the park opening time, but had done all the rides bar a couple of breakdowns by lunchtime. The brand new attraction never got above 15 minutes, but it can’t physically hold a queue of more than about 20 minutes.
Why does this matter? Because Icon is ridiculously fun and re-rideable. Something that has been missing for me in this country, personally, forever.
I’m very happy to say it’s my new favourite in the UK and I’m extremely excited that it’s been built somewhere that really lets you make the most of that.
Nemesis had that crown before, and it’s great, but it was never a ride I’d want to do 10 times in a day, even when the UK scene was all I had.
Merlin parks are forever falling out of my favour as the queues and operations get steadily worse. It’s a struggle to turn up to those places on a whim and have either an overall good time or spend some time whoring something you love. Even if they did get something as good as this I just feel it would be harder to enjoy and appreciate. When I do turn up to them, the time investment is rarely worth the return for me, and that’s a much more significant factor when you’re dealing with your ‘local’ parks – there’s no real obligation to stay when you can just sack it off and go home if you’re not feeling it.
Enough sidetracking. The back seat of Icon is where it’s at, all the key air time moments are enhanced by this position and it’s those moments punctuating the other sensations going on that make this style of ride special for me.
The first hill is crazily good with it’s sharp entrance and exit, separated by a slow drag over the crest.
A well executed sequence of twisty elements follows to keep you amused, never too repetitive and always with at least some purpose.
The gentle downhill inversion is glorious, something Mack have always managed to nail for me. Then the ride gets a little wild and kicks you down into the second launch and you’re soon being dragged through another almost indescribable feature with a mesmerising mix of sensations.
With more twists and turns, including one particular moment of the layout that stands out with some strong positive forces (another tick for variety), the ride keeps you happy all the way into the brakes, never truly letting up. I even appreciated the way it flies straight out of the brake run again and into the station, coming in hot. I like a sense of purpose in a ride.
Minor onride nitpicks:
The mist in the tunnels that it opened with was off within the first few weeks.
The wonky hill near the end doesn’t kick as strongly as some of its rivals and is a bit unbalanced in that it’s tailored towards the left half of the train. I would have liked a counter to it somewhere in the layout.
I never really felt, appreciated or even noticed the interactions and near misses with other rides that, during the whole ‘how the hell are they going to fit this ride in at Blackpool?’ conversation, seemed like they would be a dominating part of the ride experience.
Maybe I was wrong earlier and I was overwhelmed, the whole time.
The entrance and queue are decent. I like the framing of the ride over the gate and the way the pathway follows inside the supports for a while. The fact that Grand Prix is mincing along the fence next to the queue makes me laugh.
The station is decent too. It looks like a bit of modern interior design, the phrase ‘those mirrors will just open up the room’ must have been said at least once. They’ve adopted the free-for-all row allocation strategy which I know and love, the staff sometimes got annoyed by this, but I hope it sticks. The bag holders and section of wall that is built directly into the transfer track and move with the train also make me laugh.
The exit to the ride is a bit lacking. The plain black walls are too high to enjoy the views as you pass between the two launches, the floor is already collapsing and the stairwell is boring.
I fell for the soundtrack as soon as I heard it in person and found myself singing it quite often throughout the day which is always a good sign. It ignites an infectious spirit within me, standing in the station and tapping along to it while waiting for my turn to ride. The music ended up a worthy addition to trip playlists.
It’s the only rollercoaster in the UK I can say I actively want to go and experience, every year, many times. I think that says it all.