The Haunted House Strikes Back!, Alton Towers
investment has been heavy of late, overlooking the Corkscrew, Tussauds
are clearly careful not to let older rides be swept under the carpet of
obscurity. Rides that have become stale are normally either removed
(especially if it’s a hand-me-down from John Broome) or revamped and
advertised as new.
have shown they’re more than competent running theme parks, and even
in the case of Port Aventura building them from scratch. They can also
knock up a pretty good ride when forced to.
alarm bells ring when it comes to refurbishing rides. Spectacular
failures include the Vampire, Toadie’s Crazy Cars and worst of all,
Rumba Rapids. It seems quite remarkable that following even the most
minimal of investment, the finished ride is actually worse than what it
struck gold with Tomb Blaster, replacing the amateurish Terror Tomb in
the loosest sense. The budget was clearly enough for even a primary
schoolchild to fund with enough money left over to buy a Curly Whirly,
consisting of several thousand LEDs and the trains retrofitted with
arcade-style laser guns.
would have thought that such a haphazard bodge would become the
dictionary definition of re-ridable? Not me. Such has been Tomb
Blaster’s success, Alton Towers’ Haunted House received the same
treatment for the 2003 season and advertised as new.
Tomb Blaster, the changes are subtle. Cars have been retrofitted with
guns and score displays (forfeiting a single seat per car), the ride
interior with several thousand multi-colour LED lights, with the final
portion of the ride taking on a completely different style.
can be found in Gloomy Wood, down a wooded path from Forbidden Valley
(home of Nemesis) and Katanga Canyon (home of Congo River Rapids). The
simple architecture of the decaying mansion consists of a timber-framed
gable-end with ivy crawling up the cracked plaster. A conical slate roof
sits atop a red brick tower to the side.
contrasting styles as an art-form, the crisp and colourful bluey-green,
yellow and red Duel logo sits upon a grey, weathered obelisk aside a
the cracked lid of the tomb, a decaying zombie holds a flashing laser
gun. His ugly head, a pale shade of white with just a few random tufts
of hair shudders from left to right with the finesse of a windscreen
wiper. A truly
music draws you in to the ride with its solemn melody overlaid with a
true Doctor Who style lasergun sound effect whilst at the entrance to a
house, a colourful sign briefly explains the concept of the ride and the
idea of the game.
inside, you pass through a dark hallway with portraits of Adam’s
Family style residents hung around a dust-covered table beneath the
flickering chandelier above.
next hall sends your senses a-kilter as it has sunken dramatically into
a sideways slant. As you weave from side-to-side through this crooked
room a pre-ride video introduces Duel to you.
O’Conner of ATNC reports on the disappearance of a leading surgeon
experimenting with the re-animation of the dead. O’Connor adheres to
every roving reporter stereotype in the book down to the receding
hairline and beige raincoat.
The film then cuts
to a reasonably attention-grabbing video with more than just a passing
similarity to Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, with un-dead zombies
clawing their way from the ground in a desolated graveyard.
the cosy station, burgundy wallpaper peeling from the walls, busts along
the back wall caked with dust. The five-seater cars slowly parade the
length of the station seating three riders in the front, two in the back
which is slightly tiered above the front.
the length of the station, announcements warn you not to ‘touch your
blaster’ until the bar has lowered ‘auta-mat-i-cal-lee’ (typed as
announced) which briefly interrupts the grim atmosphere with a true
Carry On moment, albeit accidentally.
four-wheeled motorised coffin is immediately plunged into darkness and
tightly dodges an approaching wall. Alive with the twinkle of hundreds
of green targets, there are no shortages of targets to shoot at.
amount of targets is more apparent on Duel, perhaps, due to the fact
that the several thousand targets are shared among only four, maybe five
riders, whereas on Tomb Blaster you are fighting against nearly thirty
you slalom across the marbled floor a large ghoul lurches from behind a
pillar littered with targets. A turn away from the main part of the hall
surprises you with another monster, this time bizarrely holding a teacup
before like before, your fibreglass sarcophagus heads towards a small
doorway that opens up out of the way at the last moment, before a turn
takes you towards a gaping skeletal mouth, mirror ball eyes lighting the
vault with a rolling red glow.
car slows to a crawl as the motion of the tunnel tries to trick you into
thinking that it is the track that is turning, not the tunnel. But, of
course in this age of interactivity, this trick goes unnoticed as your
mind is otherwise engaged shooting at a flurry of multi-coloured lights.
few turns are taken in complete darkness, only interrupted by the
flicker of targets on the walls and the fracas of bats above. Soon, the
pace slows to a crawl, and you enter a spiders’ lair. Covered in
yellow targets, a spider of titanic proportions straddles the track as
you pass beneath the substantial body of this enraged arachnid.
speed up erratically slaloming through the darkness, before a bull-like
character lurches from the gloom and you enter a dark and macabre
garden. Ghosts escape from the coffin on the back of a horse-drawn
hearse as you weave slowly through a decaying cemetery.
characters jump from darkened corners, pillars transform into monsters
and creatures scurry around in the darkness with the scenery alight with
a rather coarse change from the sombre moonlit garden to the grubby
industrial feel of the surgeons’ house basement, a menagerie of
freakish zombies fire back at you, jumping from ooze-stained oil drums
and appearing through hatches in the wall.
animation of these zombies makes the cow with the swishing tail on
Noah’s Ark looking like an animatronic masterpiece befitting of even
the best Disney attraction. Frankly, I expect better animation from a
zombies aren’t even animatronic at all and stand in a static and
stilted stance leaning over a gantry above clutching a flashing lasergun.
The most animated our decomposing un-dead opponents get is when they
vertically rise from barrels as if they’re from a game of
so this final scene peters out past a swirling green light as you
re-enter the unload station. Fortunately, the bottleneck caused by the
ride-photo counter has been moved to a more sensible place, although has
been re-decorated to be somewhat sterile and crisp when compared to the
softly lit corridors, rotting dado rails and peeling wallpaper
look back at the failings of the Haunted House and see how Duel
compares. The Haunted House was superficially good, but relied far too
heavily on cheap scares. The element of surprise quickly fades
and yields a rather lacklustre ride with little other than characters
jumping out of the dark recesses of the house.
riders with laserguns, and the entire focus of the ride shifts from an
idle gallery of oversized synthetic monsters to a three-dimensional
interactive arcade. And like Tomb Blaster it works... just not as well.
reflect on the positives, the game is easier to play than Tomb Blaster.
Riders are expected to shoot green targets for 100 points or amber ones
for a favourable bonus with the targets blinking and then turning red
Tomb Blaster, though, targets litter every available corner and recess
with surprisingly little regard shown to using them in context on
characters around the house. It’s funny to think that during the
garden scene in particular when one character jumps out there are no
targets on it what so ever.
game would be better if targets were used sparingly to highlight
‘vulnerable’ parts of the creatures and zombies around the house –
their eyes for example. With the monsters often caked in lights and
walls almost wallpapered in blinking multicoloured bulbs, playing Duel
doesn’t require a masters in firearms.
Blaster has never used darkness as a real effect, nor relied heavily
upon characters jumping out at you. The elaborate sets add depth to the
ride whist being careful not to intrude on the game of the ride. With so
little regard shown for the placement of targets, and without the
eye-candy of Terror Tomb, Duel is a far more vanilla affair than Tomb
Blaster which at times could be likened to driving down Blackpool
promenade stealing light bulbs.
encompasses a good soundtrack throughout whilst most of the ghouls do
still have associated groans, screams or cackles as before. Like any
good computer game, your trigger-happy frenzy is accompanied by a
fitting soundtrack, sounding not to far off the Futurama theme. It’s
always upbeat, and whilst not as memorable as the Tomb Blaster theme,
really sets the attraction off nicely.
suffers from the same downfalls as the original Haunted House.
Off-setting this nicely though, and most importantly, it celebrates the
same positives as Tomb Blaster. It’s good, but it could be better.
▪ A lot of incentive now
▪ A nice, long ride
▪ Some very good effects
▪ Good soundtrack
▪ A lot of the ride goes
un-noticed as you are so busy shooting
▪ Some animatronics and
effects are terrible
▪ The ride has two
halves, neither of which tie in together