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.