This article contains spoilers. If you read on, please be aware that surprises or secrets may be revealed in great depth
We humans are a curious lot. Despite around a quarter of the planet remaining uncharted, we have broadened our horizons of discovery to the furthest fringes of our solar system and beyond. Our inquisitiveness has yielded the discovery of extinct breeds of animal, as well as the unearthing of long-lost civilizations.
Yet, it wasn't until 2002 that the ancient underground empire of Wuze Town was discovered at Phantasialand in Bruhl, Germany. Wuze Town is a mythical middle-earth civilization dating back to 850AD where women rule on the banks of Moon Lake.
Despite it being notable only by its absence over the last ten centuries, the entrance to Wuze Town is hardly recluse; a huge facade of tan-coloured crazy paving is brought to life with a whimsical and almost Gaudi-like entrance area set behind an exotic fantasy garden.
The entrance is decorated with a pair of whimsical turrets, decorated like giant cobbled feet with a water feature bubbling over a wooden wheel-like structure behind.
Wuze Town is essentially a large bazaar, although ingeniously incorporates a complex labyrinth of pathways and balconies that climb up into the upper pinnacles of the building. This of course offers a heightened sense of exploration and discovery, whilst also affording unique views of Winja's Fear and Force orbiting their way around hairpin turns before dropping into large sweeping spirals around the highly themed observation ride, Tittle Tattle Tree which itself climbs towards the enormous glass atrium above.
In the deepest recesses of the building, beyond a bustling marketplace, you'll find Winjas. The entrance takes you into a dark vault, towards a sculpture of a middle-earth type creature, with a hawk-like beak, light flaring from golden eyes with a claw cradling a pink egg.
A staircase wraps around this statue and takes you up into the main queue hall. The walls are decorated with a battalion of dark, mysterious characters, hawk-eyed in the darkness looking down on you.
The queue can look bewildering, but it splits early to establish which of the courses you're going to engage battle with; Fear or Force. Frankly, at the queue-line stage, the distinction between the two is vague at best. Unlike other duelling rides like Duelling Dragons where the distinction is made crystal clear not only by the split in the queue, but also by things like the colour of the track, I don't think it would take a complete moron to miss not only the fact that there are two rides intertwining, but also the fact there are two coasters signposted as Fear and Force, especially on a quiet day when the split doesn't occur opposite a large mural decorated with Fear and Force respectively pointing in opposite directions.
That said, such pensiveness might actually work to your benefit. One of the benefits of having two coasters is that it effectively doubles the capacity of the attraction and how many people it accommodates on an hour-by-hour basis. If both rides are marketed unequivocally as being separate - and indeed unique, then much of the benefit of two rides is made redundant as people would ride both Fear and Force.
Perhaps in-keeping with some of the hostile environments the great explorers such as Indiana Jones and Frodo Baggins, the queue is stuffy and uncomfortable. The dark and subdued lighting adds to the atmosphere, but the mass of people in a small room means on a hot day it will feel more like a sauna over an ancient civilisation.
The two queues run parallel as they descend down a staircase down into the deepest depths of Wuze Town and onto the station platform. Despite the two sides always being referred to in unison and in order as 'Fear & Force' (much like Bangers & Mash or Romeo & Juliet), confusingly, Force queuers are on the left hand side, whilst on the control room opposite, the ride's name, "Winja's Fear & Force" further blurs the line of distinction between the two sides.
The platform is tiny, accommodating the unload position of the cars where they advance to the load position where riders are held behind airgates. The set up of the station is cramped, but against all odds seems to work. Even at this late stage in the queue where the practicalities of a station should take precedence over a consistent theme, absolutely nothing is missed. Operators are in costume, the station is decorated with elaborate trimmings such as heavy curtains, and the cars are probably the most ornate I've ever seen.
Almost appearing to have been carved out of stone, the feminine face of Fear/Force decorates the side of the cars, with ornate finishings such as delicate obelisks and detail on the very top of the car.
Riders sit in pairs, back to back. The lapbar is very snug, and effectively cocoons you into the deep seat. With a quick check, the car advances towards two massive doors that swing out of the way before you stop in front of two more doors.
A huge lantern flickers above with a statue depicting Fear/Force cradling a flame in her cupped hands before two more doors open, you advance forward and stop.
After the hustle and bustle of Wuze Town, as the door closes behind you and the car is plunged into darkness, you suddenly feel very insular. A brief moment of anticipation recedes as the car suddenly and quickly is lifted from the ground vertically though the darkness to a height of 60 feet. As you approach the top, the track smoothly tilts downwards almost as if to taunt forwards facing riders with a view of the steep drop and adding to the sense of overwhelming curiosity for backwards facing riders.
In just a few moments, with a satisfying clunk, the car suddenly launches itself down a steep drop with fleeting glimpses of Force to the left of the direction of travel. Following the sweeping first drop, the car climbs up towards the ceiling arching through an exquisite camelback hill before climbing up and through the first block brake.
From this point on, your car is free to spin, and does so first though a series of elevated wild mouse turns. In a feature absent from both Dragon's Fury and Spinball Whizzer, these turns really serve little more than a scenic break from the onslaught of the rest of the ride, being neither particularly forceful, nor encouraging towards getting the cars spinning.
Having passed through this slalom, the car pitches to the side and swoops around the main atrium of Wuze Town through a sweeping helix. Force swoops overhead as you suddenly become the object of onlooker's exclamation as you pass close enough to eavesdrop on their conversations.
After this prolonged flyby, and a brief kiss from some mid-course brakes, you drop into the darkest halls of Wuze Town, climbing suddenly and almost vertically up through a tight immelman turn, swooping out into the light again almost as a token formality before diving down a steep drop back into the darkness, abruptly climbing up a sharp rise on which you suddenly stop, perched precariously on the end of some dead end track.
As if this predicament wasn't dramatic enough, a stirring orchestral melody explodes as the entire stretch of track tilts downwards as if guided by some malevolent force and the car drops into a tight right hand turn, weaving around to the left and stopping on the final brakes.
Even the final slalom through pitch darkness from the brakes to the station throws some pepper on the goulash as the track drops briefly from under you before bouncing back up and returning you into the station - a subtle effect, and somewhat wasted, but certainly makes a dull gait something more interesting.
The beautiful thing about Fear and Force being twins is that if you like one, you'll like the other, yet each offer their own individual character. Like Fear, Force gets off to a familiar start; you queue in the same hall, descend down the same staircase onto the same platform.
This time you load to the left, and like Fear, your four-seater car is tyre driven straight out of the station, into a vault and then beyond into a dark, enclosed elevator.
No time to waste as your car is sensationally lifted 60ft in a matter of seconds, smoothly tipping you into a sweeping first drop, curling elegantly towards the upper echelons of the glass atrium, rolling around to the right and sweeping along the length of the hall through a series of subtle undulations before hitting the first straight into a run of hairpin turns.
Akin to Fear, your car is now free to spin, and passes through the fairly rudimentary elevated hairpin turns, treating riders to a particularly sharp turn out of a set of brakes at the end of this element before spiralling into the same 65ft diameter carousel helix as Fear, briefly passing over Fear and then pulling into a straight back towards the entrance of Wuze Town.
In the shadows of the earlier hairpin bends, your car buries itself into the far corner of the building, scurrying into a tight corridor of pillars and walls, down a subtle drop and then plummeting into a sublime drop past a cascading waterfall down to the water below and past one of the best vantage points in the whole of Wuze Town before going off piste and into the darker recesses of Wuze Town.
As soon as the light fades, your car stops suddenly, and as your eyes become accustomed to the darkness, you realise you're perched on a straight of track that goes absolutely nowhere. Before you can even comprehend an escape route, the entire stretch of track - train and all - tips sharply to the side, joining up with another curve of track before you are launched into a sweeping S-turn, finishing just how Fear finished, with a final section of trick track leading you into the station.
Judged individually on their own merits, both Fear and Force are the epitome of sublime. Like Dragon's Fury at Chessington, Winja's can confidently be filed under 'Fun', and raises a smile from even the most sombre of rider, whether young or old, a white knuckle fan or family fan.
Fear is, in my opinion, without a doubt the better of the two. It has a far more spectacular opening with a massive straight drop into an oversized camelback hill, and has a better and more composed middle section following the main helix making use of the extra 200-or-so feet of track length at it's disposal.
Force, however, is hardly a turkey. The comparably lacklustre start is offset by a wonderful stint along the back wall of Wuze Town with a wonderful drop past a large waterfall and into the darker regions of Wuze Town.
Neither ride escapes criticism, however petty. The Wild Mouse hairpin bends on both are fairly tame, but to their credit adds variety to an already fruity medley of elements.
The main criticism seems to be when the rides leave the main hall and enter a darkened hall in the back of Wuze Town. Whilst the hall is dark, it isn't dark enough to disguise the fact it is unthemed and by the same token, ugly. It is similar to the warehouse section on Colorado Adventure, where you unquestionably profit from the darkness, but cannot escape the fact you're just in a large, dark room.
Again, almost as if to weaken my own argument, this is a moot point on an otherwise elaborately themed ride. Both of the tracks interact well with the pathways around Wuze Town, and indeed the Vekoma Mini-Paratower, Tittle Tattle Tree.
Ignoring the 'dark room', nothing has been missed with regards to the theme. Supports are disguised as wooden pillars and are often built into the building itself supporting the balconies and roof above. Also, the pillars supporting the wild-mouse-style turns at the beginning of the ride rise out from strange little tent-come-buildings. Silly little details like this abound, and - it's a cliche - but often up to Disney standard.
Even ignoring the trick track sections, each of these rides holds it's own against other family coasters, and like most Maurer spinning coasters has a broad appeal. But, add to this unusual elements such as the see-saw, the tilting track and the drop track towards the end of the ride, as well as other unique elements such as the vertical lift, and you have a ride that uses not only attention-seeking tricks to embed themselves into your memory, but also a varied, action-packed layout to ensure that you'll enjoy it ride after ride.
I'll be honest here and say that my main concern with Winja's Fear and Force was that the trick track elements would be intrusive and break up and flow that the coasters had, but each punctuates the transition into a new 'chapter' of the ride well - from the main hall, into the coaster's final curtain and both the tilting track and see-saw are quick enough to mean that every moment is one to be savoured, and not intruded upon by logistical clutter such as the stopping of the car or the aligning of the track.
At 40ft and banked at 80-degrees, Fear's Immelman turn is hardly statistically note-worthy, but is fast, sudden and a complete surprise as it is hidden away to all but the most inquisitive - consequently, it is one of the best executed versions of this element to date.
Both coasters also profit immensely by their original setting - both enclosed, but certainly not in the traditional sense. In fact, there's very little traditional about either of these coasters, but each has enough substance to guarantee that you'll enjoy every ride and that it doesn't solely rely on wafer-thin tricks to impress.
Phantasialand and Maurer have both respectively struck gold. Winjas shows off Maurer's capabilities in the very best light, whilst Phantasialand have looked outside the box when it comes to hosting a wonderful family roller coaster with universal appeal. Phantasialand have unearthed a wonderful 'town', and a near faultless coaster.
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.
- Two fantastic coasters, and twin tracks means double the capacity
- Original tricks on each, including vertical lift, seesaw, tilting track and falling track
- Both have varied layouts, great cars, superb theming and offer a generally smooth ride
- Great interaction with pathways around the building, and a nice enclosed setting indoors
- Much of the theming is excellent, and a very original theme
- The enclosed sections are sparse and unthemed
- The hairpin bends on both are tame, and Force has an uninspiring start
- The benefits of having twin tracks may be wasted as people will inevitably ride both
Labels: Coaster, Maurer, Phantasialand, SpinningCoaster