Did you know that in the time it took you to read to... here... four acres of rainforest were destroyed? With the forests and jungles of earth in such dire straits, it's good to see that Legoland are working hard to bring a bit of the jungle to a part of the planet which isn't known for it's tropical horticulture; Windsor.
Don't believe everything you see on television, though. The jungle is far more than (and by Legoland's definition, anything but...) tropical flora and fauna. Lest we forget the other parts of the jungle that form our planet's delicate ecological balance such as shingle, bamboo walls and a talking (and fairly short tempered) waterfall.
Always the bridesmaid, Legoland was the last of the Legoland parks to get the coaster, which had opened as Project X Test Track, Technic Coaster and X-treme Racers at Legoland Deutschland, California and Billand respectively.
In all cases, Legoland's weapon of choice has been German manufacturer Mack's park version of their Wild Mouse. Falling from a lofty height of 50ft, the four seater cars go down an uncharacteristically massive first drop, through a series of hairpin turns before dropping down to a few ground level turns and drops.
Whilst the ride is unmatched within Legoland in terms of stature with the forest green track rearing up and plateauing somewhere above the tree line it does strangely lack a 'wow factor' that should be associated with the biggest ride in the park.
In this respect, Jungle Coaster is either shown up by the fact you're looking down on the ride from the upper echelons of the park (where, from such vantage points it blends in to the green of the surrounding trees) or on your direct approach to the ride you really see it from the most unflattering of angles with the first triangular turn off the lift quickly flicking the cars around out of view.
The ride boundary is marked with towering bamboo brought to life with a colourful mural of what is almost an Aztec design. Frankly, the barrier-like shield is fairly stand-offish from the outset, and the ride is orientated in such a way that the hairpin bends are hidden away around the back as if they're something to be embarrassed by. Considering Wild Mouse coasters are staged in terms of presentation with regards to the raked hairpin bends cascading down the front of the ride, Jungle Coaster really seems ashamed of what it has to offer.
Less abashed is the talking waterfall, under which the first drop dives. A tan-coloured archway supports a cascading wall of water with a stone spherical head perched on top. Ignoring the booming voice suggesting otherwise, curious kids are lured towards this waterfeature by the colourful tentacles of a tropical plant, dipping in and out of the water like some sea monster before climbing up and over the surrounding fence.
Tip-toed children can shout into the open buds of this plastic plant only for it to answer back by repeating what they said. Alternatively, the feisty flora will answer back by spraying a jet of water at you.
The entrance to the ride is less original. The pathway takes you through a parting between two 30ft walls of bamboo past a vertical banner with Jungle Coaster in a Jurassic Park-style font on what looks like dark green graph paper.
Considering Legoland is home to some of the most innovative and detailed queuing areas in the country, it seems a shame that Jungle Coaster follows the recent trend of round-about zig-zags away from the main area of the ride. This wood-panelled queue meanders around a small gravel area to the right of the ride with the occasional rock decorated with a Lego lizard. Nice touches, but pales into insignificance when compared to the beautiful Dragon Coaster queue.
You climb a set of scant metal steps into the station complete with sloping wooden roof. Presumably due to the loading times (more on that later), the cars stop in the station in pairs as opposed to slowly crawl like most other Mack mice. Two unload as two load, which means the ride has fairly efficient operation as you're directed by a member of staff to a pair of airgates.
With individual restraints, deep individual bucket seats and Mack's wealth of TUV certified expertise, you'd think that with their excellent safety record and the fact numerous versions of the ride run unchanged globally would satisfy the notoriously high standards of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), but no, despite the entire restraint system being one of the most secure on comparable rides, the HSE have mandated the installation of airline style seatbelts.
Overlooking even the fact that the ride has historically been proven to be safe, these seatbelts are awkward, cumbersome and are a complete spanner in the works when it comes to the running of what is already a low capacity ride.
Overlooking the unnecessary baggage on the cars, you're left with an excellent car with well proportioned and comfortable seats, if let down by the fact there is a padded grab rail that digs into the knees of all but the shortest riders.
Even beyond the practicalities of the car, it looks fantastic. Each car is finished in a shade of either metallic olive-green or beige and fashioned after a Lego Technic 'racer' with cogs, Lego 'nodules' and mock all-terrain tyres.
Once riders have finished adjusting the seatbelt and have worked out which end is which, you are advanced out the station, around a tight 180-degree bend before you're launched onto a swift skyward climb with the first drop elegantly presented to your right.
The tight triangular turn off the lift is amazingly effective and throws you straight into a massive straight first drop. As the drop bottoms out, with a flash of the ride camera you dive into the tight tunnel beneath the waterfall before peeling back away from the ground up to a plateau about 40ft above the ground.
After a quick kiss from some brakes, you go through the first hairpin bend, orientated to take you back into the main body of the ride before the next takes you around a 90-degree bend which throws you into the perpetual zig-zagging synonymous with wild mice.
For a mouse, these are amazingly smooth and lack the abrupt ferocity of Maurer mice, although become faster and faster as you turn each corner. The last two turns in particular are as peppy and exciting as you can expect from a steel mouse before you break out of the hairpin bends and into a sweeping unbanked turnaround that swoops downwards around the back of the course and into a fairly small but sharp drop, climbing back up, whipping through a tight hairpin turnaround before another similarly sharp drop into a further set of brakes.
Even our all-terrain 4WD Technic racer concedes defeat at this point and slows to a lowly gait as it heads around another hairpin bend, along a straight before heading around a final unbanked turn and into the final brakes which slow you smoothly before jolting violently to a stop.
In almost every aspect, Jungle Coaster is extremely average. From looks to ride experience, every positive thing about the ride can be answered back with a negative point.
In terms of looks, the ride looks very refined for a Wild Mouse. The slender support columns branching out at the top look so much better than the messy latticework structure used on travelling mice.
But, most of the ride is hidden by its orientation, layout and location, and also by the ugly wall of bamboo around the entrance area of the ride.
With regards to the actual ride experience, well again, it's mixed. The first drop is an absolutely brilliant way to start the ride, although the ride drops the baton with respect to a good follow up. The upper hairpin turns are pretty forceless, although the ride wakes up further along the top level with far more feisty turns before ending with an absolutely shameful finale where the ride just ambles around the last two turns.
And finally, the presentation and theming of the ride: The fountain is brilliantly detailed and bears Legoland's signature in terms of originality and quirky humour. But there is little else to suggest that this is a Legoland ride. The delicate touches that abound most of their major rides are absent, and the ride lacks, well, Lego. Other than a few Lego lizards in the queue, you will find a pretty bare ride with little in the way of originality.
Jungle Coaster would be better rated at many other parks, but there is the inescapable fact that this is a very normal coaster at a park that frowns upon the normal and goes that extra mile. Jungle Coaster simply does not do this.
And so, therefore, an average score for an average ride.
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.
- An excellent first drop and some good hairpin bends
- Nicely presented ride
- A low capacity ride, not helped by the annoying addition of seatbelts
- Any good moments are let down with a poor ending and intrusive brakes
- The theming is not up to Legoland's usual standard
Labels: Coaster, Legoland, Mack