Fantasiana? Never heard of it. Well I hadn’t until I was doing some research for a trip to Munich back in 2016. What caught my eye about this tiny Austrian park, other than their Pax rollercoaster was the bold claim on their website about having some of Europe’s best dark rides. Being a huge fan of such things, and skeptical at the same time, obviously I needed to see this for myself. And then it came true.
KnightsRide is an ABC rides drop tower that uses dark ride scenes to greatly enhance it’s experience and this is a highly sought after combination that I am particularly fond of. In terms of flat ride hardware, I find drop towers pack the most punch and are usually the non-coaster attraction you’ll most likely find me heading toward. Give one a theme, a story, an enclosure and something to look at and you’re already on another level.
The experience begins with a very short queueline around an impressive beast of an animatronic dragon, which leaves would-be riders gazing in awe, listening to the occasional narration and anxiously waiting in front of a locked door in the corner. Due to their inherently stomach churning nature I always find that drop rides are great attractions at building a bit of nervous anticipation of the unknown, no matter the size – you don’t know how good it’s going to get you.
If you’re not a fan of spiders, then looking up at the ceiling definitely won’t help matters. Without warning, the cycle ahead of us is complete, the door opens and guests are greeted with a single row of seats to clamber into.
The ride slowly and suspensefully rises through several scenes, pausing within each one as it heads up towards the maximum height.
Unlike other, more well known examples of this technology, each of these viewing points is perpetually opened out in front of riders’ feet and are made up of primarily physical sets, complimented by projections across the far wall. The dragon makes a welcome return, but the final greeting is from the knight himself, accompanied by a vicious bird. The evil invention of this final moment delivers on many levels – confusion, an unauthorised poke in the back from the seat itself and the surprisingly potent drop all come together to create a satisfying payoff.
Overall I was greatly impressed by how much atmosphere Fantasiana were able to create out of such a tiny attraction footprint. Amongst the narrowest walkways that make up the park layout, the tower itself manages to have great presence and as soon as you enter the queueline cave the mood shifts – I have a lot of respect for any attraction able to create that type of effect, particularly on a lower budget. They also have a great ear for ride soundtracks and this one is no exception.
This dark ride may be off the beaten path for your average theme park trip in the region, which in itself is off the beaten path for your average theme park trip full stop, but it’s a real highlight that also happens to be in some very good company.