Coaster Kingdom

2Xtreme, British Fairs
Friday, February 23, 2007

Apparently I've got eight pints of blood in my body. Fine by me. For most of my life, it has spread itself fairly evenly. A pint or so in each limb, couple in my torso, and the rest in my head. That was alright.

Lately, though, I think all eight pints has taken up permanent residence in my bonce, sloshing around my brain, making me top-heavy and clumsy. I'm writing this review sitting on the floor because I keep falling off my chair. It all start when I rode 2Xtreme, the first Mondial Capriolo to take up permanent residence in the UK. Allow me 2Xplain.

Let's not beat around the bush: 2Xtreme is probably the greatest thrill ride to hit the UK since Top Buzz debuted way back in 1998. It's one of the few rides in the world genuinely capable of making people see stars - as will you, dear reader, just as soon as you scroll down 2Xamine the end of this review.

I sometimes wonder whether Mondial is just the Dutch word for "Masochist". This is a company that seems to specialise in taking nice fun rides, and giving them the kind of tweak that turns them into true scream-machines. Huss gave us the blissful Break Dance; Mondial decided to shock us with Shake - the same ride, but with the lunacy of looping cars.

An insane idea, and yet a stroke of genius.

Likewise, when Fabbri flooded Europe with it's relatively sedate Booster rides, Mondial's sadistic designers were soon sharpening their pencils and sketching out the Booster's evil cousin, the Capriolo. While the Booster performed gentle flips and inversions, the Capriolo would menace riders with the kind of G-force that made them fear a sudden separation from their eyeballs.

Since its debut, the Capriolo has fostered quite a fearsome reputation on the continent, and with 2Xtreme, Mondial has finally been able 2Xport this fine machine to the UK.

Around Europe, unsuspecting fair-goers have ridden Capriolos with innocent-sounding names like "Eclipse", or "CyberSpace". With "2Xtreme", at least nobody can say they weren't warned. Having bought their token, and made their way up the steps to the platform. The platform itself is well painted, with a collection of superheroes. Very nice, but nothing 2Xtravagant.

Having watched the previous riders stagger down the exit steps, it's time to take your seat. Like the Booster, 2Xtreme features back-to-back seating, but here all 8 riders board the same car, making loading a much more straightforward affair. Above the car is a large fan, which is makes the kind of noise that makes you think it's about 2Xpire.

As the fan roars, the arm rapidly gathers momentum, swinging back and forth while the car stays locked firmly in place. At this stage, 2Xtreme is effectively just a giant Sky Flyer, and all very jolly. Eventually the ride reaches full height and holds it's prey aloft with bravado, blood quickly rushing to their heads. After a while, the car brake is released, and the riders enjoy a very brief bird's eye view of the surrounding area.

As the car rocks, it is noticeable that the car's axis is not above the riders' heads, but roughly level with their hearts, creating a very strange and enjoyable motion to the car. Unwitting Booster fans may be a little uncomfortable at how the ride has gone so far, but believe me, nothing has prepared you for the manoeuvre the ride is about 2Xecute.

As the car is swung back down to Earth, it gathers a huge amount of momentum, meaning that by the time it reaches the bottom, it is pulling plenty of G-force.

This is fine and dandy if you are the right way up, but the chances are you won't be. As the car lazily rolls around, you may well find yourself facing straight down as the car whooshes past the loading platform.

If this is the case, you can only sit there and hope your neck is strong enough to keep your head and torso connected. A brief respite as the car slows at the top allows riders time 2Xhale before the process begins again.

If the face down experience was a little too much, things only get worse when you sample the delights of swinging past the loading platform completely upside down. This is the point at which riders' heads feel close to explosion, only for the car to tip itself into another lazy roll as it again reaches for the heavens.

Repeat the formula again, and again, and again, then a few times in the other direction, and the result is an amazingly demanding and domineering ride, likely to cause your last meal 2Xtricate itself from your stomach.

If you are one of those people who like to sit passively and let a ride take them for a nice aerobatic excursion, I say this: 2Xtreme ain't for you, chum. This is a ride looking for a fight. The pacing of the ride is much like that of a boxing match, with the moments of sanity at the top forming the breaks between the uncompromising exertions of the dives.

It combines the bravado of Mohammed Ali, and the psychopathic rage of Mike Tyson. It single-handedly delivers a knockout blow to the army of Fabbri Boosters that have seemed 2Xplode onto the scene in recent years.

One area where 2Xtreme scores very highly is in creating spectacle. It is the kind of ride that really grabs the attention of passers-by, leaving them staring into the sky as the car begins yet another dive.

The sound of the fan, complete with Doppler effect on each swing, likewise helps to create a sense of menace that commands attention. A good lighting package all the way along the arm ensures that the ride catches punters' eyes, making sure that it is the one ride that they desperately want 2Xperience.

As with any other Mondial ride, 2Xtreme could have been a disaster if it weren't for the Dutch firm's superb attention to detail. Their restraints are second to none, holding riders by the lap, not the shoulder, and thus enabling riders to hang upside down without any discomfort or pain. It is this that keeps Mondial rides comfortable, despite being among the most outrageously intense and physical rides in the world.

A big thumbs-up is on order here, provided the G-force subsides long enough to give one. The only criticism I can level at the restraints is that the side padding, so welcome on the Top Scan, largely blocks your ability to see your co-riders and compare reactions, and seems a little 2Xcessive.

The down side of 2Xtreme? Well, you may say it isn't re-ridable, but I can't accept this as a negative, as it is only because of the ride's sheer ferocity, not because of any discomfort. A more significant drawback is its capacity. It may get through people more quickly than the Booster (thanks to loading all 8 riders simultaneously), but capacity is still low compared to most rides. As a result, long queues and/or high prices are things you will need 2Xpect.

So, the 64,000 Dollar Question: Has Mondial topped the Top Scan?

Well, I'm sorry, but it's impossible to judge. While the Top Scan renowned for offering punishing bouts of intensity that go on for several minutes without a break, the Capriolo offers a more "Wham-bam" approach, with momentary bouts of mega-G-force with a brief respite in between.

In other words, the two rides are too different, and would be pointless for me 2Xpress a preference.

Allow me to 2Xtol the virtues of this ride some more. So many times in the past I have been to UK fairs with at least one Fabbri Booster and wished that a showman would buy a Capriolo, and it's almost 2Xciting to think that there is now a very fine example permanently touring the nation. If you're looking 4Xhileration, then 2Xtreme is 1Xtraordinary ride, and I wouldn't want 2Xchange it for the world.

Please, do not use our ratings to compare rides head-to-head. They rate only how well this ride meets its own objectives using criteria that may not necessarily be relevant with similar reviews.

Good points:

  • A definite step forward from the Fabbri Booster
  • One of the most intense rides you will ever find
  • Spectacular for onlookers

Bad points:

  • Expensive to ride - although no more so than the Booster
  • Will undoubtedly be too intense for some riders

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