Coaster Kingdom

Nemesis Inferno, Thorpe Park
Saturday, February 24, 2007

In the entertainment world, there is one rule that is constant. Whether the medium, sequels are barely ever as good as the original. In fact, statisticians out there might be interested to know that sequels are on average 50% worse than their previous instalment. Furthermore, you may also like to know that 96.8% of statistics given on websites are untrue.

Don't underestimate the power of Nemesis. Along with The Big One at Pleasure Beach, Nemesis holds a position in the psyche of the UK public that is unlikely ever to be toppled. This is largely because, back in 1994, Joe Public wasn't used to seeing elaborate custom-designed roller coasters on his doorstep. These days, he's a bit more picky, meaning that trying to replicate the kind of awe that the 1994 rides managed would be nigh-on impossible in this day and age.

As a result of people becoming a bit more ride-savvy it made perfect sense to re-use the Nemesis name for Thorpe Park's 2003 B&M inverted coaster, at least from a marketing perspective. Artistically, the connection between the two rides is rather weak, as there is no real thematic link between Nemesis, the alien monster in a permanent strop, and Nemesis Inferno, the volcano threatening to turn the entire Staines area into desolate wasteland.

I wouldn't normally have compared the ride to its illustrious Staffordshire counterpart, but the use of the Nemesis name does directly invite it. We might as well establish now that Nemesis is far superior to Inferno (as we'll call it from now on to save confusion). However, given that Nemesis is widely acknowledged as one of the very finest coasters ever built, that would be like dismissing Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper by saying "it's crap compared to his Mona Lisa".

The biggest difference between the two rides, as far as the first timer is concerned, is that Inferno is far less intimidating. Most notably, the music is relatively calm compared to the thunderous Wagner-like score of Nemesis. Visually, the area is slightly more cartoon-like than the bleak industrial wilderness of Alton's Forbidden Valley. If nothing else, the comparison gives a good idea of how the Tussaud's style changed in the nine years between the two rides.

Fortunately one aspect of that style that has remained is Tussaud's love of building public pathways that venture all over the ride site. What this means is that both spectators and those in the queue are afforded numerous close-up views of the action. Should you be wretched enough to be forced to walk the entire queue line, you have quite a jaunt ahead of you. After a tour of the undergrowth around the ride's twisted finale, the queue eventually heads back to the base of the volcano, and up the narrow staircases that lead to the loading platform. Lack of space means that the queue incorporates several mind numbing cattle-grid sections to soak up the crowds, however, there is a further cattle-grid at the base of the volcano that frustratingly can't be skipped, even on the quietest of days.

Scaling the volcano, a nice view emerges of the man section of the ride, offering a nice taster of what lies in wait. As with all major Tussaud's coasters, a front seat queue forks off from the main line as it enters the station, although astonishingly, this fact is not advertised or explained in any way, leaving newbies to wonder what difference it makes which way they go.

The station itself is closely modelled on that of the original Nemesis, although with slightly nicer decor (to be fair, nice decor is the last thing you'd expect to find in an alien's stomach). Riders are generally left to choose their own seats, which soon come gliding into view from stage left.

The floor drops, with the neat added touch of a special flourish of music and a bit of red lighting, and the train trundles out of the station. One original feature of Inferno is that, because the station is high above the ground, there is a nice little run of track before we arrive at the lift hill. This takes us on a quick tour of the volcano's innards, complete with red lighting and mist effects. This is a tremendous way to get the ride off to a flying start, although the only downside is that the mist effect tends to leave you absolutely freezing, which is hardly a feeling I'd associate with the inside of a volcano.

The main section of the ride leads with a fairly bog-standard B&M opening gambit. The lift hill affords views across the park, and of the unappetising rubbish dump behind KFC, before the age-old story of a twisted drop, vertical loop, and inline twist. In all honesty, only with the inline do things liven up, offering a nice punch of action, before diving into the undergrowth, turning around, and jumping into the first of two barrel rolls.

For the purists out there, yes Inferno is indeed the first time B&M built their signature interlocked corkscrews into an inverted coaster. However, in inverted form, this fact is barely noticeable, although the tight turnaround between the two offers a nice sharp whip effect.

From the second corkscrew, the ride enters what for me is its definite highlight, a swooping figure-of-8 above what is authentically themed as a rancid bog. Unfortunately, this is cut short as the height of the station requires that the ride ends while the train still has the energy to make it back up to its starting height. However, unlike other high-stationed coasters, such as Drayton Manor's G-Force and Shockwave, Inferno does at least end with a suitably enjoyable climax.

As we trudge down the rather bleak exit ramp (an area of the park that pays tribute to its history as a cement mine), and past an advert suggesting we now go and ride the original Nemesis (a complement Alton Towers fails to return), we get ample time to consider what has just happened and form our opinions of the ride.

Nemesis Inferno is not a world-class coaster. Far from it. Unlike the original, there is a distinct feeling that much of the ride is just B&M on autopilot. As with Phantasialand's Black Mamba, my main frustration with the ride is that the highlights tend not to be the inversions, but the sweeping turns and helices. Given that the park had just 12 months earlier opened Colossus, a coaster with an inversion count in double figures, I get the feeling that Inferno was a perfect opportunity to do something a little different with the inverted coaster format.

Probably my favourite innovation about Inferno is the beginning. As with Pleasure Beach's Big Dipper, the preamble before the lift hill works wonders to make the ride feel more complete and fulfilling. This is one thing I would love to see incorporated into more and more coasters in the future, as it gives a huge amount of value for such a short (and therefore inexpensive) piece of track.

To me, Alton Towers' Nemesis is a grade A coaster, whereas Inferno is definitely a grade B. However, one thing saves Inferno's bacon. Colossus. The difference between the two Nemesis coasters is that Alton needed a headline ride to grab the headlines, which is a role that Nemesis played (and more remarkably, still plays) to perfection. Inferno doesn't need to play this role for Thorpe Park because Colossus was already playing it by the time Inferno opened. Colossus and Inferno complement each other beautifully - while Colossus is aggressive, intense, and challenging; Inferno is graceful, re-rideable, and for want of a better word, nice. Riding Inferno is not an event in the way that riding Nemesis or Colossus is, but Inferno has its own niche and is a success in its own terms.

If you ride Inferno expecting Nemesis II, then you might well conclude that the "rubbish sequel" theory applies as much to coasters as it does to anything else. If, however, you look at it more as being "Diet Nemesis", and focus more on how it fits into Thorpe Park, rather than the pantheon of coasters world-wide, then you'll see that actually, it does it's job pretty well. If Inferno were the park's sole headlining ride, then I'd probably be sitting here writing a much more scathing review, but as it is, Inferno may be a bit of a wasted opportunity, but as a ride it is OK by me.

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:

  • Compliments Thorpe Park's other coasters very well
  • Pathways interact with the ride excellently, as has become a Tussauds trait
  • The pre-lift run offers a unique start to the ride
  • Excellent ending, shying away from the temptation of another inversion

Bad points:

  • Comparisons to Nemesis are inevitable, and unfortunately it can't hold a candle to the original
  • The theming is half hearted in places - the exit ramp is extremely ugly
  • Theming such as geysers, mist, lighting and the like are unreliable

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