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Simple, but effective dark rides

Matt N

Strata Poster
Hi guys. Often when talking about dark rides, the most popular ones in the world wow riders with hugely complex ride systems, large-scale theming and breathtaking special effects. But have you ever ridden an attraction that doesn’t employ any of these things on such a grand scale, but is still just as effective, in your view?

For me, one ride that comes to mind instantly when thinking of simple, but effective dark rides is Hex at Alton Towers. Technologically speaking, Hex is quite a simplistic attraction; none of the effects are particularly complex, and even the Madhouse ride system itself is relatively simple. However, the sense of drama and immersion the ride utilises during the ride portion and pre-shows, as well as a very effective use of the pre-existing Towers Ruins, make it a really enveloping, ambient and entertaining attraction, in my view; it’s my personal favourite indoor attraction in the UK.

The other one I was thinking of is slightly more left-field, and one that might be controversial given that most seem to slate it, but I’d also nominate The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios Florida for this category as well, although I’d say that it creates a very different sort of vibe to Hex. I know that calling a Universal dark ride simplistic seems proposterous, but compared to some of Universal Orlando’s more recent, technologically advanced dark rides, like Spider-Man, Transformers and Forbidden Journey amongst others, the ride uses pretty simple ride hardware and technology. However, there’s one key thing that makes The Simpsons Ride shine for me, and that is its scripting. Every part of the ride is full to the brim with Simpsons gags and witty one-liners, from the Simpsons theme park highlights in the queue to the Itchy & Stratchy safety video to the various gags on the ride itself. It’s one of the only rides where something as simple as a pre-ride safety spiel has ever made me laugh, and I absolutely love how Universal Creative and the Simpsons writers managed to cram gags into every corner of the attraction; in stark contrast to Hex above, I think the ride is effective because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Overall, I’d say that The Simpsons Ride is still one of my firm favourites at Universal Orlando for this very reason, in spite of the fact that the technology is quite simplistic.

But what dark rides have you ridden that you’d call simple, but effective?
 

Climb

Roller Poster
The Flying Dutchman, Efteling.
Bit of fog, total darkness, just a solitary lantern at the front of your boat lights the way as you drift slowly and silently towards... who knows what?
Oh so simple, but super creepy.
100% - the entire first portion is so eerie and very well executed. It's a shame the actual second half portion of the ride is just a bit... well. ****?
 

Hyde

I Lied About My Age!
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
Peter Pan's Flight hands down. The "break through" of the time was using an inverted ride system, but the actual ride design is quite simple; the use of tracking and "scaling down" the scenes gives the illusion of taking off out of the children's bedroom and flying over London; and much of the ride's story progression is simple animatronics with clever staging (e.g. the Pirate ship showing Peter fighting the pirates, and in the blink of an eye Peter has won the ship - it's just using the ship's sail as a divider). There's no specific tech breakthrough on the ride - but tell me the ride opening over London or descending upon Neverland doesn't still knock your socks off.

I'd also throw Mr. Toad's Wild Ride out there - it's really a supped up haunted mansion dark ride that goes at a quicker clip - lots of cute and fun near-misses, and a (weird) detour through hell. The ride cars only have two wheels on the floor, but the vehicles are made to look like a "regular" automobile with 4 wheels and a steering wheel for one of the riders - a simple illusion of safety and control really throws riders for a spin when they realize they're in for a... wild ride.
 

JoshC.

Giga Poster
The Ghost Train at Linnanmaki for me. It's a (compared to many others) newer ghost train, and doesn't really do anything different. Just does everything very well, and it caught me off guard once or twice. A real joy of a dark ride!
 

cocoa

Mega Poster
I'm not sure if they qualify as simple, but I always have a soft spot for the oldschool fantasyland attractions. Snow white scary's, peter pan, pooh, etc. Really distinct memories from when I was little that probably still sit in the backseat of my subconscious, driving my theme park enthusiasm
 

SeanC

Roller Poster
It really depends on your definition of "simple." Technology-wise, Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland and Haunted Mansion at WDW (their counterparts are close but not quite as good) are more advanced than most parks but still dated. At the same time, they're both 2 of my top 10 dark rides.

I'd add the Hershey Chocolate World ride outside of Hershey Park as the sleeper in this discussion. Simple and effective... at making me hungry.
 

Serena

Miss CoasterForce 2016
Staff member
Social Media Team
Sorry @Howie but Flying Dutchman isn't simple! First, there's the extremely detailed queue where you walk through many rooms and the music motive is played on different instruments with slightly different variations for each scene to signify the changes of the story. Then there's the elaborate station which looks like an outdoor dock at night. The light at the front of the boat flickers and goes out at certain points, plus the first "dark smoke filled room" has a massive pirate ship in it! With animatronics moving up ropes! Then you have the massive peppers ghost effect in the waterfall plus the projection mapping where the face changes and tells you a story and onboard audio on the lifthill.
If this is simple I hate to think what is complex haha!

In terms of simple but very effective, I would like to throw the Ghost Train at Brean into the mix. A very simple old ghost train ride system that is absolutely terrifying. Oh, and the Snow White dark ride at DLP. It's so morbid ?
 

Howie

Giga Poster
Sorry @Howie but Flying Dutchman isn't simple! First, there's the extremely detailed queue where you walk through many rooms and the music motive is played on different instruments with slightly different variations for each scene to signify the changes of the story. Then there's the elaborate station which looks like an outdoor dock at night. The light at the front of the boat flickers and goes out at certain points, plus the first "dark smoke filled room" has a massive pirate ship in it! With animatronics moving up ropes! Then you have the massive peppers ghost effect in the waterfall plus the projection mapping where the face changes and tells you a story and onboard audio on the lifthill.
If this is simple I hate to think what is complex haha!

Ok point taken, The Flying Dutchman as a complete experience is definitely not simple... but I was kinda focussing on that one little bit. You know, after the pirate ship and the animatronics but before the lifthill and waterfall - the quiet bit in the misty tunnel, the dark bit where all you can see is the flickering lantern. It was so creepy and claustrophobic! Not gonna lie, it freaked me out a lil bit, far more than the flashy Peppers ghost thing that followed.
Darkness, silence, mist and a flickering lantern - the simplest segment of the ride but, for me at least, the most effective.
 

Serena

Miss CoasterForce 2016
Staff member
Social Media Team
Ok point taken, The Flying Dutchman as a complete experience is definitely not simple... but I was kinda focussing on that one little bit. You know, after the pirate ship and the animatronics but before the lifthill and waterfall - the quiet bit in the misty tunnel, the dark bit where all you can see is the flickering lantern. It was so creepy and claustrophobic! Not gonna lie, it freaked me out a lil bit, far more than the flashy Peppers ghost thing that followed.
Darkness, silence, mist and a flickering lantern - the simplest segment of the ride but, for me at least, the most effective.
Ahh okay, I get what you're saying now! Oh boy you are gonna love the Pirates in Batavia rebuild at Europa if you like creepy darkness, fog and nothing but a flickering lantern. It's amazing!
 

zazobo

Hyper Poster
Ahh okay, I get what you're saying now! Oh boy you are gonna love the Pirates in Batavia rebuild at Europa if you like creepy darkness, fog and nothing but a flickering lantern. It's amazing!
This is exciting... I flipping love The Flying Dutchman and have yet to ride the new PiB at Europe.
 

solarfall

Roller Poster
I used to be super into dark rides when I was younger. I have fond memories of Gold Rusher at Kennywood (RIP).

River Caves at BPPB blew me away, I thought some of the theming was really well-done for a small park.

Also the mine train thing at Knott's. Nice little fun relaxing dark ride.
 

bigmac1789

Roller Poster
When I was a kid I really liked riding Monsters of Rock at Freestyle (Didn't know that it replaced one of the best dark rides in the country)

IDK if its simple but im gonna go Justice League BFM. Its kinda simple with the screens but its a lot of fun, the Joker Animatronic is really cool. The first half is way better than the second half but I just love it. Excited to ride more dark rides (Planning on heading to Legoland NY to get the credits and ride the dark rides)
 

chainedbanana

Mega Poster
My vote goes to Mr Toads Wild ride at Disneyland, charming and effective - still goes to prove that a ride which still consists largely of 2D Plywood cut-outs (artfully painted by WDI of course) can still delight, the 'train coming towards you in tunnel' effect is an old but goody - and of course the heated Hell scene!
 
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