Like so many parks in the UK, Drayton Manor's new ride selection seems to be based on the park's location. The difference here being that while height and planning permission is still a consideration, the park is situated ominously close to Alton Towers, a park that is rightly or wrongly regarded as the holy grail of British theme parks. Our version of Disneyland, if you will.
How does a comparatively small sized park deal with that in terms of keeping their target audience visiting them?
Drayton Manor's answers over the seasons have been firmly routed in 'gimmick' territory. To rival Alton's super-new-fangled B&M inverted coaster Nemesis, 1994 saw an Intamin stand up coaster, Shockwave. Sadly, age has not been as kind to Shockwave as it has been to the Staffordshire monster and along with most stand up rides has been relegated to the uncomfortable 'if it's quiet' spot. Other gimmicks have included Maelstrom and the hat trick of Apocalypse to varying degrees of success.
G Force is the latest in the line of gimmicks designed to wow the public with a design that many will have imagined only possible in their dreams. Replacing the waspish Klondike Gold Mine from Pinfari, Maurer Sohne were drafted in to create a ride that looked like it had come straight from the A4 drawing pad of a primary school child during art lesson. Maurer's latest invention, the so called X car was also called upon to career around the inverted mess of a lift hill and the suitably twisted layout.
Opened in a blaze of publicity in 2005, by the boy band G4 (whose career is surely now limited), G Force sported one of the much talked about trains, with the promise of a second train to follow.
The ride is not themed as such, more styled to give it a modern minimalist and open plan design. The track weaves over several paths with silver fences at just the right height to allow marvellous Kodak opportunities without inviting the local village idiot to enter the neatly lawned ride area.
The ride nestles between Maelstrom and the Black Revolver, which now has its entrance at the front of it's building. The queue and loading platform sit alongside the cable car station inside a ginormous grey cube that looks like it should be whizzing around space attacking the USS Enterprise.
Whilst criminally plain and boring on the outside, apart from two large holes, more care has been taken on the inside... well, marginally. The ground floor features a labyrinth of scaffolding poles with a couple of chains missing, causing prospective riders to get thoroughly lost and start climbing or ducking fences as they attempt to traverse their way towards the corner staircase to reach the station on the upper level.
Following the bang up-to-date style of the attraction, the cavernous queuing maze features cool trance music combined with two very large screens, onto which projections of a psychedelic pattern are displayed. The patterns are created, supposedly, from the sound of the music you hear (Windows Media Player style) and together give the hall a weirdly calming touch and takes the edge off the overly industrial cube and metal fences to turn what could be hell on earth into a fairly pleasant queuing environment.
Those who look to the roof of the hall may fail to be impressed by two large metal knobs that on first glimpse seem to serve no purpose other then to add yet more silver to the metal building.
Periodically though, their reason for being becomes more then apparent, as with a sustained eardrum-burstingly loud cracking noise, a comparatively small purple electric spark reverberates between them annoying many and impressing few.
Upstairs, the double-glazed loading deck takes us straight to the platform without more queuing. The deck is enclosed, but with two large holes in the walls to allow the train to soon roll in less then a minute after it left. There are no air gates, however your passage to the train, and the track, is blocked by a steep step which you wait behind until ready to go.
Loading is easy thanks to the complete lack of train interior. It is effectively a rolling platform with some seats bolted on. Pulling the heavy bars across your torso though is no easy feat so may be best left to the staff who are fully trained in closing your personal straight jacket.
With little warning, you are off and speed down a small drop that will quickly associate you with your restraint before engaging on the lift and/or first inversion.
There is a small jolt as the train starts to power through the loop, and the sensation is a peculiar mix of the familiar coaster vertical loop and the unfamiliar slow steady speed at which it is encountered. The train is well past the top before it speeds up, freeing itself of the chain and proceeding to a large, narrow bunny hop that would give pretty good airtime if only the restraints allowed it.
The train heads straight into the second more traditional loop now, which in turn sends the train careering into an over banked turn before a few more helices deliver it into the break run where all remaining speed is quickly sapped out of the train and it comes to a complete halt.
Despite there not being any train in front there is a brief pause before you are motored into the station to exit down round the outside of the cube towards the on ride photography unit.
So does this gimmick resemble the reliable Dyson of the coaster world, or does it reek of the mobile ring tone company of destiny?
To answer that, lets look at its two points of interest, the two elements that it sells itself with.
Firstly, the bizarre contraption that is the lift. Boy does it look the part, and you can scarcely walk past a train encountering the lift without watching and taking in the yelps of unexpected riders who were simply not prepared for what feelings it would produce.
And with good reason too, the lift provides a unique sensory experience that no other coaster in the country comes close too. By sitting in the open plan train too, the sensation of having your shoulders and legs un-hindered adds to the surreal nature of the element. The train doesn't speed up until well past the point most riders will be expecting causing most cries towards the end of the ordeal where people subconsciously reckon they've had enough.
The second claim to fame is the trains themselves.
2005 saw several rides in the UK boast about their restraints, or lack of them. However, Maurer's claim of a single lap bar is misleading. Calling the huge circular hinge a lap bar is like referring to a lion as a tabby.
The restraint is more comparable to the bottom half of a stable door and not only covers your lap but a large size of your chest and stomach too. In fact, the sensation around the ride is that it is holding you in by grabbing hold of your torso, and that is a fairly unpleasant experience.
They are incredibly restrictive, and unlike the S&S lap bars that hide away and let you forget you are restrained at all, they make themselves known throughout the ride by either killing potential airtime or committing the worst atrocity of all; closing through the ride.
You see, again unlike the S&S designs found on Rush and Slammer amongst others, there is no system on G Force to lock the bar in place once the train leaves the station. This means they are free to ratchet down during the ride and in the bursts of g-force encountered they quickly find those extra notches that you never knew existed and become even tighter.
The net result of this is a frequent lot of passengers on the brake run begging for mercy from the now ultra-tight restraints.
So whilst one gimmick fills its remit the other not only fails but can actively harm the rest of the ride experience. As for the rest of the track after the lift, the ride is so small and cramped that there doesn't seem to be any chance for the train to quickly accelerate or do anything exciting between the elements, which give a strangely muted result.
This is a shame as new ideas and contraptions while not perhaps being the safest bet around do give parks a character and atmosphere of their own - something to be applauded most strongly. So, like sifting through the terms and conditions of a supposedly wonderful free prize draw, you may find that the restraints and lack-lustre design on G Force after the headline opening a bit too much of a hassle then you were willing to put up with for this particular gimmick.
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.
- Clean, fresh styled presentation offers a pleasant pre-ride experience
- Open plan trains make loading quick and easy
- Poor restraints can be unpleasant or even painful during the ride
- The ride after the loop feels cramped and lacks energy
Labels: Coaster, DraytonManor, Maurer