Coaster Kingdom

our reviewYour Reviews

Colorado Adventure, Phantasia Land

OK, let's get the jokes out of the way. Yes, the full name for this coaster is "Colorado Adventure - The Michael Jackson Thrill Ride". You may, therefore, be wondering whether it features animatronic figures dangling children out of windows and burning effigies of Martin Bashir, or whether it undergoes radical reprofiling, only to make absurd denials that it's had any work done at all. Honestly, my dear reader, I can't believe you would be so cruel. Hang your head in shame.

Cheap gags aside, I will try to keep my opinion of the (ahem) King of Pop out of this review, and stick to telling you whether Colorado Adventure is a Thriller or just plain Bad. As it happens, I'd have to say that it's probably the only thing bearing Jacko's name that has ever turned out to be any good. Oops, I can hear the hate mail flooding in already.

Just as Jackson has gradually become ever more detached from reality, so the coaster has become ever more sidelined as the geography of Phantasia Land has evolved. Very little of the ride is visible from the main area of the park, while accessing the entrance involves following a series of bizarre direction signs that constantly send you looping around other areas of the park until you come to the quiet pathway that leads to the station. Strangely, this means that joining the queue is almost an achievement - you've discovered Phantasia Land's hidden coaster, and may proceed to claim your reward - a seat on one of the finest mine train rides ever built.

Arriving on the loading platform, it's clear that the park believes in the "self-service" approach to queuing, and you are free to join the individual queues for each seat. You can choose to hop straight into a middle seat, or wait a little longer for the front or back. The system works a treat, and makes you wonder why so few parks trust their customers to sort themselves in this way.

As you will come to expect of Phantasia Land, theming and ride operation are both excellent. Attendants dressed as old mineworkers efficiently go about their business, while the old-west train service certainly puts British Rail to shame in terms of frequency and reliability. Loading is quick, and the Michael Jackson Thrill Ride gets itself underway with all the speed of a bodyguard pouncing on Jarvis Cocker.

Phantasia Land clearly managed to get some sort of "Three Lift Hills For The Price Of One" voucher, as it is one of two Vekoma-built rides at the park to have such a feature (Temple of the Night Hawk being the other). The first lift hill takes place above a walkway, but soon disappears into a mock-canyon only otherwise occupied by the park's twin Log Flume rides. Whereas most mine trains consist of low-speed sweeps (designed to either "Appeal to a family audience" or  "Keep down costs", depending on your degree of cynicism), Colorado Adventure bucks the trend by engaging on a series of fast twisting drops, and endless thrilling helices. The fact that the only other people you'll see are those riding the Log Flumes creates an oddly authentic feel to the theming, with a strangely insular sense of the old west desert.

From the second lift hill, the train is swallowed up by the mountain and begins darting about in the darkness with all the kind of manic energy that almost manages to exhaust riders with its constant twisting and turning. Although not particularly visible while riding, the astonishing tangle of track is all-too-apparent to those riding the Log Flumes below, and makes you wonder how so much track could be packed into such a space. Again, the sheer length of this section is remarkable, and could almost be a decent little coaster on its own. However, as the pace slows, lift hill number three comes into view, ready for the grand finale.

Part three of this longer-lasting adventure returns to the great outdoors, with another fiercely twisted drop, followed by a dash through the rocks. Here, we discover a camp belonging to a tribe of Native Americans, and decide to put the frighteners on them by encircling the place, impertinently darting through the middle of one poor Brave's tepee as we go. After one last lap of honour around the surroundings, it's back to the station, where the epic adventure finally comes to an end.

Colorado Adventure's great strength is to introduce a new twist on a concept that is as old the hills. Sometimes, you have to wonder whether there is a park left in the entire world that doesn't have some sort of Runaway Mine Train ride, but where Colorado Adventure scores highly is that it genuinely does create a sense of a wild, out-of-control sense of frenzied delirium. Not only that, the sheer length of the ride means that it will take a serious number of re-rides before you become au-fait with every little surprise it throws at you.

Although a very long ride, the varied scenery of the canyon, the darkness, and the encampment, means that although the track does repeat the same types of swooping drops, sweeping turns and helices, there is more than enough variation to prevent the ride becoming repetitive.

As for criticisms, Tussaud's fans might be disappointed that the majority of the ride is hidden from spectators, but other than that, there really isn't much to say. You might say that is more intense than you would expect from a mine train ride, but in reality never goes past the boundary of what is acceptable from a family ride. The usual criticism of Vekoma coasters, roughness, certainly does not apply here, as the train glides through every twist and turn with the flexibility of Michael Jackson's lawyers (a group from whom I'm expecting a visit quite soon).

Maybe Michael Jackson should have stuck with a career in coaster-designing. He certainly managed to entertain me more with this one ride than he ever has with his music. As for the rating, well despite my non-too-hidden dislike for anything bearing Wacko's name, I have to admit that this is one ride that deserves to be awarded a full Jackson Five.  

JP 26 December 2004

Good points:

▪ A very long and varied ride
▪ Excellent drops and helices throughout
▪ Good theming

Bad points:

▪ Difficult to find the entrance to the ride
▪ Largely hidden from spectators



Top Top | Add page to favourites Add page to favourites | Print this page Print this page | Graphic-free review

Graphic-free review