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Big Ben (UK Fairs)
It doesn’t take much to create a bad free fall tower ride, but it must take a special skill to create a complete stinker.
have demonstrated that they possess this skill.
a bit of background. Intamin created the first free fall tower, and S&S
created the first launched tower. Of course, it is the purpose of each of these
respected rides to have the rider’s underside off the seat for as much time as
possible, it is just that the S&S Space Shot gets down to the nitty-gritty
straight away by launching you from a standing start, and the Intamin Giant Drop
teases you by ambling up the tower.
the successes of these rides, it has been the aim of manufacturers to offer
affordable and entertaining alternatives to the originals, even occasionally
incorporating both sensations, as Zamperla have done.
the time Zamperla decided to do this ride, it was hardly ground breaking so
there should have been no reason why the idea wasn’t developed to compete with
their rival manufacturers. Unfortunately, whilst they jumped on this bandwagon
with the explicit intention of showing up the Huss model (as James Mellor, owner
of Big Ben was quoted as saying), they failed like nobody has before failed.
Every manufacturer seems to want a part of this freefall mania, but to be honest, if the newer versions can't compete with the originals with regards to the quality of ride given, why even bother?
Zamperla have probably wasted their time on the worst single tower I have ever ridden. It is short, it provides no powerful forces, either on launch or dropping, and to be blunt, has absolutely nothing working in it's favour.
tower is a deep and golden yellow latticework structure, topped a rendition of
the famous spire in which Big Ben is housed finishes off the tower. The
clock-face unfortunately doesn’t tell the time, nor does it spin around in an
archaic manner like you would expect it to, so in that respect not only does it
look quite naff, but also seems pointless to have a clock that doesn’t tell
pay kiosk is yellow and pink and, contradicting the sparse theming has a sky
diver having far more fun than we’re about to have.
are 16 seats on Big Ben in four lots of four, square around the tower. The seats
are moulded plastic and are bright red, whilst restraints are released
individually per side, which slows loading.
have hardly gone to town with the restraints. They're thin, and have about a
foot between each click. Seatbelts are no more reassuring than an elastic band
with a cheap buckle fastening to the restraint.
the restraints are ratcheted into place, the ride is launched without warning.
course, it was the lack of warning that surprised me – I was somehow expecting
three dongs from Big Ben or something, or at least a count down.
speed of this launch honestly made me wonder whether it was actually supposed to
be a launch or not. You’d think we’d got all the time in the world at the
speed we travel up the tower.
relate it to an invalid carriage would be doing it a justice, and at mid-way up
the tower, a bump is felt through your back as you pass adjoining sections of
the tower structure.
gondola bounces rather trivially to a halt at the top of the tower before you
wait for the second half of the ride.
wait is as slow as the launch. Somewhere below, tanks are filling up with
compressed air and the only excitement offered at this time is by the tower
swaying in the wind.
people are hardly bursting blood vessels with enjoyment, the few muted words of
panic from other riders fade after about fifteen seconds with us sitting
stranded up the top of this low capacity observation tower. The wait takes in
excess of a minute, and again, without warning, you drop.
much as you try, no sensation of speed is felt, no feeling of negative-Gs –
nothing. Again, you bounce slowly to a halt, this time at the bottom where an
operator kicks the foot pedal for the restraints to raise out of the way and for
you to leave.
From the moment you sit down, it is clear this ride should have never left the drawing board. The launch lacks any form of power. It doesn't have the suspense of Intamin's slow climb, nor the forces of S&S's launch.
pause at the top bores everyone – everyone expects the remainder to be as bad
as everything that has gone before it - so quiet is everyone that you could
almost hear tumbleweed below. Of course, when the inevitable finally happens and
you’re casually lowered down the tower, the silence continues.
It is strange to see everyone leave the ride with sterile and absent expressions. Everyone leaves in complete silence with no emotion hastily making a beeline for the exit.
Big Ben is almost un-ratable. Although we don't award a no star rating, we are being wholeheartedly generous in giving this 'attraction' a single star.
1/5 Marcus Sheen