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
During my annual stay in Singapore for 2016, we began to use the geographical advantage to visit some extra parks. Most of the western hemisphere has a limited operating season – they all shut shop for the winter and it’s rare to be able to get a visit in for several months during the off-season. Out in Asia, most places operate full time, which is great for keeping the consistency up.
Before that though, it was time for my third consecutive visit to Singapore’s only theme park, particularly as there had been some exciting news!
Universal Studios Singapore
The Battlestar Galactica rides have had a troubled past. Marking a significant shift in Vekoma’s use of ride technology, these duelling launch lift coasters were plagued with issues, mostly to do with the trains. Originally opening in 2010, the attraction actually operated for less than half of its first five years, finally reopening in 2015 with a total train replacement. The new trains halved the capacity of the rides by reducing the number of people per row from 4 to 2, but this has now supposedly fixed any underlying structural issues.
I had seen them standing but not operating for 2 years first hand, teasing me, but now they were finally ready to receive.
I began with the red, Human side which has a sit down train. I had selected this to be my 100th rollercoaster, expecting it to be the better of the two with a focus on airtime or, more importantly, being less like a Vekoma SLC. The experience was a little underwhelming however.
The heavily themed queueline contains many pep talks from what I assume are the ‘good guy’ characters of the franchise, implying that the guests are going to be fighter pilots in a major battle against the Cylon. You board the new sleek looking train with comfy seats and, unfortunately, vest restraints then, after a quick check for synchronicity, a train from each layout pulls forward out of the station and they launch side by side.
It makes for an exhilarating lift, but the momentum is somewhat stunted before the crest of the hill meaning the first drop, though still surprisingly steep, doesn’t quite deliver as well as it could have. The remainder of the layout feels relatively insignificant for the size. There’s a lot of meandering about, particularly to suit the duelling aspect of the two rides and create some good head on moments with the other train, but this side definitely suffers as a result of this endeavour.
Luckily this isn’t true for the blue, Cylon side which has suspended trains. A contrasting queueline full of Cylon vibe and a strong sense of impending doom leads you to the station. The statement ‘this has all happened before, this will all happen again’ is declared as the ride despatches, which amuses me, then the launch hits.
Again there’s a sense of holding back at the top, but it’s likely justified on this side. There’s still a very unusual moment of airtime for a suspended coaster as it takes the first drop and from there it flies through a disorientating sequence of inversions and intense turns, much more akin to a B&M invert than their own SLCs and therefore a significant step up for Vekoma. I noticed the interactions less here, but that’s because there’s so much more going on with the actual ride and moments like the dive into a mist filled pit and loop make up for any potential losses in what the opposite side suffers from.
As well as the re-opening of their headline coasters, this year saw the debut of the park’s latest attraction, something I had watch them build with curiosity. That’s doubled their count since my last visit!
This heavily customised Zamperla Volare uses it’s signature spiral lift hill system but much more family friendly seated trains. The layout has been tailored towards a dark ride experience with lots of stop-start moments alongside well decorated scenes depicting a story around the goose and the golden eggs. The result is fun and quirky, if a little disjointed.
It was now time to reacquaint myself with all the other familiar favourites of the park.
This remains to me the best example in the world of combining the two best types of attractions – thrilling coasters and dark rides. It is the ride that’s solely responsible for getting me back into this hobby and other than buying the t-shirt, several souvenirs, a rare on-ride photo of myself on it utterly alone and experiencing it no less than 9 times on this visit, I simply can’t praise it enough.
Treasure Hunters is probably the most underwhelming ‘major’ attraction on park. A short tracked outdoor jaunt through some ancient Egyptian scenery that looks a bit low budget, particularly when considering what ride sits opposite, still manages to draw disproportionate crowds.
Back to another game changer, this time in the world of water rides, Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure. The Singapore version is the only one throughout the Universal parks to use river rapids style boats and these calmly take you through some majestic scenery before getting downright dangerous with fast flowing currents, intense spinning and much soaking. The indoor portion of the layout is terrifyingly atmospheric and well executed and contains some very special features, culminating in riding an elevator lift with a T-rex and viciously tipping down a drop that should be far too big and steep for this type of vehicle. Absolutely love it
In the same area is the only operating Setpoint rollercoaster in the world. The suspended cars have back to back seating and traverse a very simple figure of eight layout, high above the Jurassic Park land, offering a more observational experience as opposed to any thrill.
It’s often nice to have a sit down and enjoy the Waterworld show that runs a couple of times a day. It contains a lot of action, explosions and special effects and is overall a high quality production.
Back in Shrek land is the last coaster in the park, a common Vekoma Junior with a nice queue and station and little else.
The Shrek 4D Adventure is also located inside this huge castle. After a preshow with the man in the mirror, you take your seats in a large cinema and watch a new adventure written specifically for the attraction. The seats themselves perform some quite vigorous movements including that of a galloping horse and, source material aside, it’s a decent attraction.
Another example of greatly enhancing source material is Madagascar: A Crate Adventure. This boat based dark ride is an incredible example of the attention to detail that can and should go into attractions of this nature. Every single moment has a reference, a sign, something to catch your eye beyond the overarching storyline of the ride and it always impresses me. It’s also a striking visual on the skyline of the park, blending well with the location of the resort.
The special effects show Lights, Camera, Action! Begins with a foreword by Steven Spielberg inviting you to his sound stage and a brief montage of the effects in many of his major films. Once standing in the sound stage, which is based around a hurricane in New York and is hugely atmospheric, a sequence of events unfolds, getting more and more ridiculous and spectacular each time. Fire, explosions, flying boats. Couldn’t ask for more.
For such a small park in terms of space, the solid attractions keep coming. Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase is an endearing little dark ride with suspended vehicles that, as the name suggests, takes you on a journey with the characters through space to save the spaghetti.
The final and most significant dark ride is Transformers. The queue area is huge and split into many different sections that managed to keep you engaged in the storyline even before the ride begins with many different videos, themed safety announcements that interact with the characters and lots of physical details. With the aid of 4D glasses, the ride vehicles manoeuvre around different screens and set pieces, pointing, tilting and spinning as they go. Often the car will stop in front of a screen for a period, with a consistent use of rushing imagery giving the illusion of further movement. While the fighting, flying and crashing into things happens there are violent jolts and judders to the riders and it can be rather intense at times. The story ends with victory (of course) and the cars pass directly under a huge defeated likeness of Megatron, lying in smashed tarmac and broken cables before returning to the station. A very polished attraction and highly enjoyable.
And that completes our lap of the park. It remains one of my favourites both for the standout rides and the sheer number of other easily re-rideable and entertaining attractions on offer. Even though there isn’t much space, I’ve never found it too busy or crowded and the operations are overall very efficient. Due to the climate, sudden rainstorms will stop the rides for often no more than 30 minutes before everything returns to normal, events that would sometimes completely shut down another park for the day. The size also helps to give the place a certain magical vibe, you’re always well immersed in your surroundings among each of the different areas and on top of this it manages to feel very relaxed.
That’s it from Singapore for now, let’s head further afield.
To see his girlfriend (now wife) Heartline had made a tradition of visiting Singapore every New Year. They’d both asked me a few times was I interested in visiting but warned me not a lot really happens over there. With that in mind I didn’t really want to put myself through a 25 hour round trip but that was about to change.
“Would you be interested in Singapore, Australia, China & Hong Kong?”. “…yes!”
We flew to Singapore with budget airline Norwegian and it ended up being one of my better long distance flights, though that isn’t to say being trapped in the air for 12 hours unable to sleep or even get comfortable is my idea of a good time.
I had been warned by more than a few people that I was going to hate the climate of Singapore because I don’t do well with heat and they were right. Even though it was Singapore’s winter and infact it was being considered by locals as a very cold winter, temperatures were still low 30s with extremely high levels of humidity. Shorts and 2 showers a day were an absolute must for me. It’s fine when you’re inside or on public transport because everywhere has aircon but when you’re spending large amounts of time outdoors you really suffer.
We spent the first day exploring malls, changing currency and meeting the inlaws. It’s fair to say even that was a struggle when you’ve been awake for 30 hours and your body hasn’t even started to get used to this new heat.
Heartline was slumming it with the inlaws while I got to stay in a really nice Hilton hotel in the Indian quarter of Singapore. We picked this hotel because of it’s close proximity to an MRT station and the convenience of which line it linked to. The locals here were an entertaining bunch with my favourite moment being a man in tears blessing his car in the middle of the street.
It wouldn’t be the most intense sleep of this trip but I was KO’ed the second I laid down after this insanely long day.
Today we visited the World famous Singapore Zoo and needless to say if you enjoy zoos then you can’t do any better than this.
I rode the MRT on my own for the first time today and it can’t not be mentioned how good Singapore’s subway system is. Reliable, extremely clean and so cheap when compared to the rest of the World.
A quick journey on a bus after and we were at Singapore Zoo.
The zoo is split into 3 sections, the main zoo, the river safari and the night safari. Today we were going to explore the main zoo and the river safari.
The main zoo is what you’d expect but a lot better and featuring lots of animals I’d never seen before.
The river safari starts off the same as a normal zoo but then ends with a large water ride that takes you up close and personal with animals as well as featuring the standard water ride drop sections.
Day 3 was more tourist stuff ending with an amazing light and water show in Marina Bay that I can’t recommend enough.
Universal Studios Singapore
Heartline had decided from the very early stages of trip planning that we were going to visit Universal Studios on New Years Eve, this would end up being a brilliant idea but at first things looked risky.
Universal Studios is located on the resort island of Sentosa which you can access from the mainland via many different forms of transport.
If you’ve read my report on Universal Studios Japan you’ll remember that the park experience itself left me feeling a little underwhelmed. I was curious if the Singapore version would leave me equally dry or would it be able to live up to what I’ve told myself I expect from a Universal Studios park, let’s find out.
Heartline’s mother in law had decided to join us today and I was officially in charge of looking after her on the rides, this ended up adding an extra layer on top of today’s experience and we are now ride buddies for life.
Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase – A suspended dark ride themed to Sesame Street, the ride system was cool, the theming was cute but I’m in no position to give a more indepth review than that.
Battlestar Galactica – I’d been excited to ride these intertwined Vekoma monsters since Heartline first told me about them many years ago. Visually they are incredible, a complete mess of twisted steel with the occasional train tearing through.
Cylon – First up was the much more exciting of the 2, the inverted coaster, Cylon and it’s brilliant. Better than many B&M Inverts I’ve ridden, featuring crushing positives, intense inversions, several near misses and great pacing, it really was a lot better than I expecting it to be and I was expecting it to be very good to start with. What a fantastic first coaster to start the trip with.
Human – The sit down coaster of the 2 has clearly been built to cater for the family audience but even then it’s incredibly tame, if you’re anything like me you’ll ride this once and then spend the rest of the day team Cylon.
Treasure Hunters – Next we rode Treasure Hunters, a slow moving car ride that travels past egyptian theming and it was fine for what it is.
The major problem was the weather related shutdown that occured when we were 5 minutes from boarding. In Singapore at this time of year the weather can change from hot as hell, to insane thunderstorm and then back again in about 5 minutes. With almost all the other rides this is no issue but on Treasure Hunters they needed to sweep all the water off the surface the wheels run on and this took about 45 minutes…
Revenge of the Mummy – Singapore’s Revenge of the Mummy is absolutely incredible and epic in every sense possible.
The massive and beautiful entrance structure is breathtaking, the highly detailed queue is terrifying, the special effects are mindblowing, the onride theming is like nothing else, the soundtrack is wonderful and the animatronics are insane.
I think I’ve forgotten something…
Oh yeah, the coaster itself kicks ass too with an intense launch and a seriously good surprise airtime moment.
As a whole package, it’s almost impossible to beat.
It was about now I was doubting Heartline’s plan to come on New Years Eve because the park looked pretty busy and he told me he’s never queued 60 minutes for Revenge of the Mummy before.
Madagascar: A Crate Adventure – This Madagascar themed dark ride was so good that I felt quite tempted to watch the movie again, I still haven’t but I might.
We ate lunch at a restaurant in the plaza outside the park and decided to have the kimchi pizza, it was one of the most violent meals of my life.
Transformers – You’ll hopefully know I loved Spiderman at Universal Studios Japan but Transformers is even better still. This thing takes the fantastic ride system from Spiderman and then turns it up to 11 with more impressive theming, relentless special effects and much more intense movements, seriously you get thrown around like crazy on this awesome ride.
Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure – Singapore’s Jurassic Park is also so much better than the one found in Japan.
This time instead of using a flume style water ride they use a rapids ride and not just any rapids ride, no this thing is built by Hafema and that means only 1 thing, carnage.
Combine the beloved Jurassic Park experience from the other parks with probably the most intense rapids ride in the World and then for good measure add one of the most terrifying drops you’ll ever experience and you get this monster. It’s seriously fantastic.
Canopy Flyer – Right next to Jurassic Park is the suspended coaster Canopy Flyer. This cute little coaster takes you on an aerial tour of the beautifully themed Lost World area of the park, a great way to calm yourself down after Jurassic Park.
Next we went to watch the Waterworld show which I really did find myself enjoying.
Puss in Boots – I haven’t really got much to say about the park’s heavily themed suspended coaster other than it made me laugh.
Around about now Heartline’s idea of visiting on New Years Eve began to make sense as people were now leaving the park to go home or elsewhere to bring in the New Year.
Enchanted Airways – Which meant Enchanted Airways, a Vekoma Junior clone, was walk on. Normally I’d have just zoned this one out but thanks to my OAP ride buddy losing her mind I ended up having a great time.
Lights, Camera, Action! – After churros we experienced the park’s special effects showcase attraction Lights, Camera, Action! and it was amazing, much better than the already very impressive Backdraft from Japan.
It was now 8pm, we had ridden everything we wanted, the park was now deserted and we still had 4 hours left till close. More than enough time for many rerides on Revenge of the Mummy and Battlestar then!
At just past midnight the park had a small fireworks show to bring in the New Year, while I had an out of body experience while thinking to myself that the trip had only just begun.
Universal Studios Singapore is a fantastic park and definitely has the atmosphere I so desperately wanted to experience in Japan. That atmosphere when coupled with the park’s fantastic attractions makes for an amazing and very memorable day out. By the end of the day I was wrecked but extremely satisfied.
We had a nice late start to this day which was much needed after getting back from Universal Studios at 1am.
Today was more general exploring of Singapore and ended with a night visit to the Merlion.
Today was our last day (for now) in Singapore and featured yet more wandering around. Heartline and wife went on a date to the cinema leaving me exploring on my own at one point. It was during this solo exploration that it struck me just how crazy it was that I’m here, on the other side of the World, just walking about like that’s normal.
Thanks for reading this super long post, please click here to read what happened on our first day in Australia during our visit to Sea World.