Singapore 02/23 – Universal Studios Singapore + Summary
I’m not big on revisits, even to my most favouritest places, unless there’s something new on the cards. It had been a whole 5 years since I last visited USS however, and I was just ‘here’, so it felt like a good time to get reacquainted.
It’s the simplest of journies, one which I could do in my sleep at this point. A train to Harbourfront station, up some escalators in the VivoCity mall (more well signposted here) and onto the Sentosa Express, a little monorail that takes you onto the island resort. First stop, by the big Universal globe.
Day X – Universal Studios Singapore
Today’s opening ceremony was a little less glamourous than it had been at Genting, with a staff member simply splitting the queueing masses into two halves and shouting “who’s ready?!”, judging their preparedness on their ensuing loudness.
I was sad to learn from this vantage point that my favourite restaurant outside the park was no more. The food industry is especially cutthroat in Singapore, though I suspect there were other factors at play in this particular location. In fact, the park itself is in a bit of a ‘stripped back’ state at the moment, seemingly feeling a little sorry for itself. That’s not to detract from the place, I still had a fantastic day and it’s always worth a visit as a newcomer, but they’re obviously down Madagascar right now, a fairly hefty contributor to the lineup.
Also temporarily unavailable were the Shrek/Dragon rollercoaster and the Waterworld show, along with the Shrek castle itself being under wraps. Additionally, several dedicated ride shops have been entirely cleared out, I assume as what originally started with some covid measures and the era of the digital photo pass. This had me worried initially for my dearest Mummy, was it next on the chopping block?, but it was also the case at the Battlestars too. Merch has since transitioned to solely the main street shopping area.
Revenge of the Mummy was of course initially where I headed, skirting past the attractions I knew would receive the initial influx of visitors. God Damn, this ride. Some things never change, but it’s grown into a spectator sport more than ever for me now. There’s perpetually a crowded mass of visitors directly underneath the entrance, arguing with the staff about locker rules (and the specifics of what a ‘high speed rollercoaster, with sudden drops and turns, and backwards motion’ entails).
The highlight on this visit was a man complaining to entrance staff that he’d dropped ‘$700 on fastrack for his family of 12, and there was no queue’. As such they have to keep the three queuelines roped off at all times for crowd control and you get what feels like a little VIP moment when you rock up, move past the fuss, indicate that you actually know what you’re doing with a nod of the head, and get let in.
The simple act of being let in is where this attraction instantly becomes world class. The change in atmosphere from the second you step into the first chamber is enchanting. The denial of faff, the drop in temperature, the lighting, the soundproofing (take note, Apes), the spooky soundtrack and ambient ‘tomb sounds’ hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m home.
It’s a long queueline, and there are few ways of shortening it, so it always takes a little while to navigate the corridors, like an exploration in itself. Which feels merited, you shouldn’t ‘just stumble onto’ an experience of this magnitude. As you approach the final section and ascend the stairs to the station, the scale of a statue, seemingly suspended by ropes in the midst of an excavation is rather awe-inspiring.
Themed staff costumes are always a plus and they seem to have a knack for efficiency here (thanks to that locker policy), with an almost ruthless attitude to batching. As few words as possible are used during the boarding routine, maintaining the mystery and the car pops out of the station with an excited shunt, only to abruptly pause again at the track merging point of the dual-loading station. Is there another excavation vehicle coming? No, good. Proceed. To those with a heightened sense of fear at this point, simple procedures like this can provide the first of many scares.
I’ve just this minute decided that I don’t like pre-shows. The sinister whispers echoing around the walls as you take the first turn on this ride “the booook… find the boooook…” are all you should ever need to set the scene on a ride. The subsequent first scene affirms it, with the explorer telling you why you need to find this book, to kill Imhotep, the terrifying animatronic you’re also currently facing. I found myself subconsciously mouthing along to the dialogue in the attraction on most laps, like you might well do for your favourite songs. Perhaps, if noticed, this helped to scare other guests even more, in a different way. ‘Your souls will be mine for all eternity… eternity… eternity’, bounces around the room in an increasingly demonic voice as you continue on your merry way. Well, we’ve done it now.
The treasure room brings many things to the sequence. A sense of scale, it’s so much bigger than any other visible location in the ride so that you can really feel the wow, all those riches. A jump scare, a demonstration of what can happen if we carry on defying – mummy figures will come at us with weapons, slobber on us (water effect) and burn us for good measure. Of course, it brings the first tastes of fire, the jets that pop up for intimidation factor, and a wicked flicker up front and centre. The pace quickens for the first time, it’s really time we got out of here now, as we duck under a steadily closing door.
It’s weird to say it, but best block brake in the world. In our haste to escape, we’ve hit a wall. It delivers a literal gut punch of a stopping force with the restraint, I usually find myself bracing against it on multiple laps, but it unfailingly terrifies everyone else and is entirely narrative – it’s perfect. Oh noes, creepy crawlies are coming out at us from the walls, as if it couldnt get any worse. A blast of air, more screams, a backwards launch and then drop, everything happens so quickly as we just keep on ramping up the intensity and possibilities here.
I can never usually differentiate the screams in the soundtrack from the ones in the room on the turntable, which in itself is especially cool. The guests have truly become one with the experience. As you slowly rotate to the soothing and softly spoken words of your inevitable killer, the anticipation has peaked. What more can there be? Isn’t this a high speed rollercoaster? Such a joyous upwards propulsion into the mouth of a skull, backed up by a solid twisted pop of air at the top, particularly if you aim for a rear corner seat.
It’s never been a gamechanger on the pure coaster front, there’s some reasonably forceful turns in the dark, punctuated by one more floaty hill, but all this is really about is the unknown, the not knowing what comes next. The final room comes next, at speed, with a braking force almost as potent as before, so there’s no time for anticipation and you really feel like you’ve just been thrown into the next scenario. We’ve found the book, but he’s right there with it. How will this play out? With fire of course. The ever-effective roof on fire. It cleanses the soul.
The final drop out of here was kicking out more than I recall, it was like a Eurofighter drop – bam with that steepness one more time before you waddle up to the end brakes, covered in a thick layer of fog and watching that hanging wooden casket closely. Death is only the beginning. Classic horror movie ending, it’s not really over, we can go again. A story with rerideability.
It’s no exaggeration when I say that during my first two laps on this visit, the ride actively made guests cry, which I see only as testament to how good the whole thing is. In a beautiful moment of contrast, my third lap saw an Australian man lean over at the end and cheerily ask if it was over? He thought it was ‘the outdoor one’. It probably didn’t need another play by play like that, but in case you couldn’t tell I just love talking about this attraction. It’s why I do what I do, why I’m on here in the first place.
They have other rides too, you know? Jumped on Jurassic Park River Adventure next, along with a couple of Dutch guests who exclaimed that it was just like the Pirana at the Efteling. Well then you’re in for a treat. For 90% of the runtime you could believe the sentiment, the very slow build up to things going wrong before heading through the darkness with scary noises and yet still not being in that much peril. Then the elevator happens and ol’ T-rex is the perfect distraction as everyone gazes up at his wobbling neck fat, not noticing that the doors have swung open and you’re about to drop like 60ft near vertical. More genius.
They brought out this animatronic raptor on a truck for a ‘meet and greet’. It’s an incredible bit of kit, and even more fun when they can make it react to guests in various ways.
Shrek 4D was still open, though his local castle was a state. Feels like this attraction should be past its prime now, but it still had something to give for the guests today. The host was particularly good at warming up the crowd in the preshow and then the actual seat movements in the 4D cinema felt more boisterous than ever. Second only to Ben 10 at IMG in terms of backbreaking.
I have no more words for Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase at this time, but I have a photo. It’s good.
The effects show Lights, Camera, Action! here is stil my favourite, it may not have fire on the scale of Backdraft or that VinWonders show, but it’s so well paced at dealing out the thrills and building on each ‘wow’ moment. Just when you think it’s done, something else more astonishing happens.
I’m always flip-flopping on how good Transformers really is. It’s invariably very good, but some days I can’t fault it and others I get some niggles. This visit reminded me of how the action is very plonky. As new recruits in your high-tech, all-terrain vehicle (who is also a transformer), you go from street to street – encounter a bad guy, some other guy kicks his ass, you move on. Rinse and repeat. It takes too long to learn the lesson (no more running), but the ride time would be severely hampered without that. It’s basically an extended sequence of cool effects with a kick ass motion base.
On what I correctly anticipated to be a dead day, these two intertwined contraptions were holding pretty substantial queues. This wasn’t for lack of capacity, they were running at max, there just seemed to be an overabundance of fast track users that didn’t really need it, at times taking up an entire cycle just on principle. Thus, I was only able to get to know them a little better.
Had a cracking front row ride on Battlestar Galactica: Cylon, which only served to remind me of the surprisingly intensity and lack of clunkiness compared to its forefathers. This truly was the beginning of a new generation, and a messy one at that.
Had a soaking back row ride on Battlestar Galactica: Human, which only served to remind me that it meanders far too much. Once the initial rush of launch and drop was over, in the midst of a thunderstorm that had just begun as we’ve left the station, thinking this is gonna be intense, I was simply getting stung, unpleasantly wet and waiting for it to end for most of the runtime.
And so, the day pretty much came to an end. With an hour left of operation, torrential rain and lightning shut half the park down and caused a mass exodus. I took the opportunity to basically have the Mummy to myself amongst this chaos, with mostly just my shoes suffering from the severe pathway flooding on runarounds.
We’ll finish there on soggy shoes.
New coasters – 33
New dark rides – 18
New parks – 13
Total cable cars – 9
Total flights – 8
Best new coaster – Wrath of Zeus
Best new dark ride – Tata World
Best new park – Genting SkyWorlds
Best cable car – Sun World Hon Thom