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Wicker Moan

Serena

Miss CoasterForce 2016
Staff member
Social Media Team
Like many others, I had foolishly booked travel for the opening day of Wicker Man. Half way up the M5 on the Megabus, I see that there's pretty much snow chance of the ride opening on 17th March. I'm already half way there. And because I am a burden who can't drive, it's not like I can turn back. Oh well.

As frustrating as it was, I'd say we still made the most of a helpless situation. It was really nice to see everyone, and we had a laugh in Sharkbait Reef / on Hex. It felt so so strange to be leaving the park at midday, having not even wandered into Forbidden Valley or X Sector (couldn't, they had all been blocked off.) I tried not to go into Full On Moan Mode, but of course I was gutted. Alton is difficult to get to from Bristol when you don't drive. It's a bigger effort than Parc Asterix. It's one of the reasons why I had deliberately held off from visiting Alton Towers for 4 years. Another reason was that, on my last visits, the park just felt like it was completely losing the magic. I thought, maybe if I leave it a while, the magic will build up again / there will be enough new stuff to make it worthwhile?

Ha.

Attempt Two.

Sometimes all you need is a little discourage, right? Having wasted time and money the weekend before, I found myself DESPERATE to get back to the Towers. Isn't that weird? I'd managed to put it off for so many years, and yet now I couldn't seem to put it off for a week. I guess there's no accounting for how tantalising being there, but not being able to ride anything, is.

Jordan kindly invited me along with her on the following Sunday. We set our alarm clocks for 6am and braced ourselves for the crowds. Having seen people riding it all week, I was expecting a 2-3 hour wait for Wicker Man. It's opening weekend, I get that. It's all about the new ride. But surely it's not going to take pretty much an entire day to get on this ride, right?

On entering the Towers, it was disheartening to see the frogs alternate between projectile vomiting water out of their gaping mouths, or just sitting there gormless with no water effect. These frogs are one of the first things you see as you enter the park. Do Alton not want to make a good first impression? Is that not important? #TowersLovingCare my arse. Now I know, these broken frogs were merely a warning, a sign of things to come...

Anyway. You've probably all seen the screenshots floating around. You know, the ones where it shows Alton Towers queue times and basically the only rides open are Oblivion and Enterprise. It's wince-inducing just to look at on screen, but when you are there - boy does it leave a sour taste. WHY OPEN AT 10AM IF YOU AREN'T GOING TO OPEN A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF RIDES?? WHAT IS THE POINT?! If you want to save money, just open at 11am? But with EVERYTHING open?

Imagine if Tesco opened, but with only Granola Bars (something no one wants AKA Enterprise) and Freddos (good, but finished too quickly, AKA Oblivion) on sale. It's just such a baffling decision, as it puts guests who have travelled to arrive in time for opening in a bad mood straight away, as essentially, they needn't have bothered. Why are Alton Towers so hellbent on making everything feel like a wasted effort?

Dashed to the Wicker Man area. I'll give you this. It looks a damn sight better than the Log Flume. The natural burnt reds/oranges and browns of Wicker Man look great next to the pirate area, the themes flow very well from one to the other. As a centre piece, the Wicker Man / Goat is a fantastic structure.

Wicker Man was unavailable. We joined the huge queue for the queueline spanning outside the ride. It tested for quite some time. Finally, it opened. Everyone spilled into the real queue, with an excited cheer. Ooh hearing the music for the first time! Seeing the track layout! Looking at the bits of pagan themeing! This is what it's all about isn't it...that excitement for a new ride experience.

Hopefully just another couple of hours?

No. As the ride repeatedly broke down, I found myself reminiscing about the time 4 hours ago. Remember for hours ago...when we were excited to hear this IMAscore that sounds like Ralph Wiggum with a flute up his nose? Remember 2 hours ago...when it started testing again and we felt actual hope? Remember when we were excited to see the track, not staring at it nervously, wishing a train would run?

Those were the days. The good old, naive enthusiast days.

Oh how I longed for them as we got evacuated from the queue line after over four hours of waiting.

The only thing to look forward to now was having a hot dog, mustard diluted by my tears.

...what's this? It's testing? Right. Back in the queue! I was starting to feel a bit weird out in the open, having spent so long in a prison of wooden fences and poor Scottish accents. I breathed a Stockholm Sigh of relief as the repetitive music, the empty trains, the non-moving queue all clicked back into place around me again. I guess...this is my home now?

I asked the staff member whether we should join the fast pass queue or this standby one. He told us neither and that it might not open today at all. Helpful. We waited in standby, and figured we could use our evacuation fast passes to re-ride. Watch all the Fast Passers skip past us onto the ride. Fine. It only needs to hold out for a couple more trains and then we'll have the cred.

As many have already said, the pre-show is very good. I was really surprised by how brutal they go with the story. It pulls no punches and is pretty intimidating. Is it the best fit for a family GCI with a drop that is half the height of the Log Flumes? No. But it is super cool and spooky....if anything, this poxy GCI coaster is waste of a great theme. Imagine if it were a thrill ride, how much impact that theme would have...

The station looks cool, very glowy. I couldn't relax until we had crested the lift hill. Thankfully, our train did.

What followed was a mediocre coaster, with transitions that look more exciting than they ride. There are elements where you expect airtime and don't get any. There are corners as boring as the woodie at Bakken. The interactions with the Wicker Man / Goat is probably the highlight of the ride, as they do give a good sense of speed. But overall this coaster is nothing special. It's not going to set the world on fire, ironically.

The ending could really do with a special effect or some cool lighting on the brake run, as it currently feels very anticlimactic.

I've seen all the fanboys going mental over Wicker Man, and initially I dismissed them as having maybe not ridden any other GCI's and therefore not know how much better they are capable of being. But then people on the Press Night seem to have a much higher opinion of it too. So it got me thinking... how much do technical difficulties / huge wait times influence our opinions of a ride? How much does a fab press event at night with amazing lighting influence our enjoyment of a ride? Are we rating the ride itself - or our specific circumstances in which we experienced it? Would I have loved it, had I been at the press night? Do I dislike it mostly because of how stressful my attempts to ride it have been? Can you ever be truly objective when it comes to rating roller coasters?

I digress. We couldn't use our fast passes to reride Wicker Man as even the fast pass queue was massive.

We dashed over to Dual to check out the "improvements." Tunnel wasn't working. New music isn't as memorable. The ride still feels tired and dated. It's a meh from me.

Then that was it. Time to go home. I realise that we chose to spend our day waiting for the Wicker Man, and we could have gotten more out of our day had we not made that our priority, but still. The effort was hugely disproportionate to the experience. I'd given Alton Towers years of alone time to sort itself out and in that time, it's gotten even worse. I officially give up on this park....until they build something really, really, exceptional. Which, given the last three Secret Weapons, I don't think they are capable of doing.
 

witchfinder

Member
Imagine if Tesco opened, but with only Granola Bars (something no one wants AKA Enterprise)
I quite like Granola bars, but I get your point!

BTW if you're ever tempted to revisit the Towers and struggling with he transport, if you get the train from Bristol to Stoke I can taxi you to the park and back for a small fee if I have no other commitments. :)

I live 25 mins from the park and still haven't ridden the cred, due to weather and holidays... Maybe next weekend!
 

Coaster Hipster

Active Member
Good to hear your honest, un-influenced by Press Event review. It's sad to hear about what seems to be a creative decline at Alton Towers. The park seemed very impressive to me a decade ago when I became an enthusiast because of the whole unique and imaginative rides there. From your account SW8 just sounds... very underwhelming :(
 

Will

Active Member
I LIKE trip reports that don't unnecessarily sugar-coat the ugly truth when the ugly-truth needs to be spoken, especially when they're funny at the same time.
I've said it before, but Serena should write more *postpones Towers trip at least another week*
 
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