Europe 09/16 – Phantasialand
The next morning found us bombing down the autobahn towards the only German park of the trip. The border from the Netherlands to Germany can easily be missed, unless your car is clever enough to tell you that the speed limits have suddenly changed.
We were one of the first cars to arrive in the seemingly tiny car park and nabbed a space next to a hut directly opposite the park’s second entrance, which lets you straight into the rather attractive looking Chinese area.
Day 2 – Phantasialand
Often described as the best theme park on the planet, first impressions were that although some areas did look amazing, it was all very tightly packed. On a good day this could be seen as immersive, on a bad day – more clasutrophobic. This was a weekday past the end of the local school holidays and we were surprised at the crowd levels that were beginning to build and obstruct our journey around.
There were also staggered openings of certain ride areas that meant turning up early didn’t particularly help our cause. If we wanted to be among the first into the new land, it would have meant queuing an hour anyway just for it to open up.
After reaching the central plaza and getting our bearings, we opted to start the day on Maus au Chocolat, which was billed to open half an hour after the park had. The queue was a little lighter and contained strange acts from guests including producing boxes of hard boiled eggs out of nowhere and proceeding to eat them/drop them on the floor.
This shooting dark ride was amazing. You can tell from the smell, the moment you walk in and wind your way down the stairs that you’re in for a treat. The vehicles stop at several screens on their journey at which you get to play fun shooting games with chocolate and mice of course. The sections in between the screens are what steps it up a gear as an attraction, just being plain mesmerising to look at.
A strong start, what next? We headed through the archway towards Wuze Town, which was to open within the next half an hour (not that long now, having been on our first ride). The pathways suddenly became a lot quieter and more pleasant, until we headed indoors.
This indoor section is home to a pair of Maurer spinning coasters and the queue for these rides was nothing short of grim. Again, tons of people had turned up before it was open and begun packing their way into the dark, dingy, loud and sweaty maze of a queueline, where we couldn’t even tell what was what.
These spinners are both special in that they have a few magic tricks up their sleeve and each one of the two has it’s own unique feature. They both start with an elevator lift, which houses a single car and brings it swiftly up to the highest point of the ride, also unusually tilting it at an angle ready to drop upon release. If you are facing backwards in the car, this is particularly thrilling.
The layout begins sprawling out through the building, with one of the sides having a particularly notable airtime hill past a waterfall.
They then enter a traditional wild mouse style section of sharp flat turns, up high, that kill the pace a bit before heading onto the long spiralling helices around the theming centrepiece of the indoor area.
The final magic comes at the end of the rides, where both have a ‘trick track’ section, on which the car comes to a stop, and the track itself moves with you to position you in a different way. They also have a wonderful ‘bounce’ effect where the track appears to temporarily give from underneath you while you’re on the final brake section – don’t ask me how this is done.
I was disappointed to only get a single lap on each of these very intriguing creations, but it simply wasn’t worth suffering the queue again for more and we would eventually just run out of time.
In the same vicinity is another indoor coaster, Temple of the Nighthawk. This strange Vekoma navigates a pitch black warehouse through three separate lift hills, with a very sedate experience between each one. It’s a bit of an outlier for the park and is regularly billed for removal at some point, but I didn’t dislike it.
The other supposed outlier also here is Hollywood Tour, an indoor boat ride around various film scenes. I liked it. It doesn’t really fit the park at all, but it’s generally impressive or otherwise tacky in an always entertaining manner.
I don’t think we could wait for the new attraction any longer, so we headed into the wonderful Klugheim.
The other claim I didn’t mention at the beginning of the report is that Taron has the most ‘crossing points’ of it’s own track over itself , on any coaster in the world.
The ride itself is ridiculous. Due to the lack of height differential it maintains it’s speed almost endlessly from the first launch, darting this way and that, seemingly without any plan or purpose at all.
The second launch doesn’t even feel necessary as you’re already moving with such a pace, but sure enough you lurch down into the deepest depths of the area and you’re suddenly going twice as fast again – the way the whole ride shakes while this is happening, combined with the sheer elation of knowing there’s another half to this experience as you accelerate ever quicker towards it, stirs a reaction in me like almost nothing else.
You can find a more in depth review of the ride here.
Somewhere amidst all this is the family coaster that opened at the same time, Raik. Another remarkable achievement in itself, this Vekoma junior boomerang intertwines itself with big brother Taron. It lacks a little in the force department, but it’s a satisfying ride if only for the views and the interaction.
A massive drop tower and dark ride all rolled into one sounded like my kind of attraction. Mystery Castle was a let down though. A confusing start lead to angry staff members. The ride sequence itself was weak, suffering from a strong controlled sensation that eliminates the point of a good drop tower. The visual spectacle when the roof lit up with lightning and highlighted all the other vehicles around the ride, giving an impressive sense of the scale of the whole thing was by far my favourite part.
Sadly my dominating memory of Chiapas, the intensely themed log flume, was that of the restraints being awkward. Unlike traditional flumes, this uses a lap bar, supposedly to combat the fact that this ride claims the steepest drop of its type in the world. The bar goes nowhere near my lap however, directly pinning down the middle of my thigh, so my feet are forced into the floor. When that floor is inches deep in water, this isn’t pleasant. Part of the fun of a water ride for me is trying to save yourself from a soaking, in whatever way possible, but being doomed from the moment you sit down to sink your foot into a small lake, cramped in with many other guests and have it remain that way throughout the entire experience put me off a bit.
Things went from bad to worse after we got lost trying to find Colorado Adventure. A highly themed mine train with incredible interaction should have been really good fun, but we ended up in the front row where the train has a roof. The tracking of the ride was awful in this position, jerking uncomfortably all over the place to the point where I hit my head hard on one of the pillars of the train. That put me off more than a bit.
Geister Rikscha was a haunted house style omnimover dark ride, with Chinese mythology. Not much of the experience jumped out at me, but like with Hollywood Tour it had a certain charm about it that I couldn’t help but enjoy.
We’re still missing a coaster in here somehow, the park really is hard to navigate.
I think we could be forgiven for missing it. Taron may have had impressive immersion, but I think the theming of this B&M invert is a bit underappreciated these days.
It blends into its environment so well that you can barely get a picture of it.
This level of landscape interaction makes for an amazing ride, with the train hurtling around entrenched corners and into surprise inversions without you ever knowing what’s coming next.
It doesnt quite have the moments of intensity found on some inverts, but it more than makes up for it through a sense of sheer disorientation. I couldn’t even describe to you how the layout works, and I like that.
Our day was fast coming to a close at this point, with no real time for rerides on anything. It’s partly the number of quality attractions that we had to get through, but the amount of queueing did feel like a sufferance on more than one occasion, for what should be the most efficient country in the world on a supposedly quiet day.
We wanted to find a shop to buy some merchandise before we left, but at the point of ride closure announcement, staff members were driving round on golf buggies and shouting at people to get out of their park. All the shops had promptly closed as well and we suddenly felt very unwelcome. You weren’t even allowed to relax and take a stroll out of the park at your own pace, instead they had to sour the day with a poor attitude. This coupled with a few other incidents throughout the visit left me with a final impression of Phantasialand that was less than favourable.
Which is a shame. They’ve got some cracking rides.