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
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
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.
26 December 2004
▪ A very long and varied ride
▪ Excellent drops and helices throughout
▪ Good theming
▪ Difficult to find the entrance
to the ride
▪ Largely hidden from spectators