Coaster Kingdom


The following review will go into explicit detail regarding the attraction and the surprises it may conceal. If you choose to read on, be warned that it may detract from your first ride on the attraction.


X:\ No Way Out, Thorpe Park

It seems inherent that the older the ride, the more unsatisfying it becomes. I’m sure you don’t need me to list the reasons, but regardless, it can be put down to many aspects such as the novelty wearing off, the ride aging to the point that it is less pleasant to ride and the fact that newer, more spectacular thrills have overtaken it.  

Personally, most modern coasters have no longevity to them at all. Stand-up coasters, despite being popular only recently, are now invariably just an uncomfortable gimmick that Europe has fortunately never really succumbed to. I question whether Air will really be incredibly popular in five years time, too. Nemesis still thrills, where-as Air never has (not to say it’s a bad ride, mind you).

There are lots of reasons for rides to go against this grain and become contemporary classics – or at least improve with age. Certain rides have a raw staying power, some are just classics through their age.

I’d be patronising you if I told you the obvious examples like Blackpool’s Roller Coaster or Margate’s Scenic Railway, but there are slightly less obvious examples like X:\ No Way Out.

A little background should give you adequate reason to want to have me locked up by even suggesting the notion that this ride has done anything like improve over age. Let’s face it, X:\ No Way Out is anything but a full-bodied vintage wine.

RMC by 1996 proved that they couldn’t run a theme park. Up until this point, investment had been patchy at best, and the last major ride installed by them was X:\ No Way Out, the world’s first (and fortunately last) ‘Blackwards’ coaster. Preceding fashions since set by Air, the ride was clearly subdued by budget cuts, despite X:\ No Way Out’s track and ride system costing only in the region of hundreds-of-thousands as opposed to tens-of-millions.

The interactive and hands-on queue we were looking forward to ended up making hospital corridors look like a good night out, and the multi-sensory ride itself ended up overlooking one major sense – visuals.

The concept is about as exciting as sitting in a darkened room, but one that had unfulfilled potential.

X:\ is all on it’s lonesome on a slither of land between Octopus’ Garden and Colossus. With absolutely nothing accompanying it, No Way Out is orphaned from the rest of the park in the truest sense. The burgundy and blue pyramid has no theme, and with the lack of buildings and attractions nearby, there’s nothing to enforce the already confusing style of this ride.

The majority of the queue is held outside and let into the pyramid in groups of 50 every ten minutes. Do a quick head count before joining. It’s only worth a 20-minute wait, if that. With the only queue-line entertainment offered by watching people trying to find the entrance to the maze of zig-zagging chains, your wait can be tiresome at best.

The simplicity of the key-hole shaped door in a small pyramid-shaped ‘porch’ is somewhat belittled by the melee of signs littered on it with various irrelevant information about the ride and the revelation that you have to be 1.4m tall to ride – the same height restriction as on the ten-looping Colossus.

Once the chain drops, the queue is like a half-marathon both in respect of length, and also down to the amount of over-excited people filtering down unfeasibly small bottlenecks.

The queue is a long, winding black corridor. It doesn’t take long before the spring in your step erodes away as you listen to robot voices granting you access to level 5 with slowly pulsating lights piercing the darkness.

Nearly five minutes later, you join the small queue outside the station. The buzzing/humming sound effect offers comic relief in that the loop is only about fifteen seconds long with a long moment of silence before it continues. Rubbish!

Thank goodness the queue is held outside. Once inside, the air is stuffy, the atmosphere muggy and the waiting uncomfortable.

You pass a serving hatch in the wall where you hand over any loose belongings you have in exchange for a hand-written keyring.

Once in the station, the empty train rolls into the station backwards, completely killing the element of surprise. The trains are a cutesy affair, holding just ten riders each in five two-seat cars. For most people over the 1.4m height restriction, the lap-bar is just a token gesture as it hardly covers your knees, let alone your lap.

A recorded warning reminds you to stay seated as the train rolls out of the darkness of the station into the... darkness.

The train briskly turns a sharp curve onto the rides only lift-hill. The sensation of going up a lift hill looking down is an odd one – more so than on a Vekoma Boomerang due to the fact you’re held in by – well – not much.

Some ghostly and echoy voice mutters on about going into the unknown as your farcical journey begins.

At the top, you turn sharply into the first helix, gathering what feels to be a lot of speed before climbing up into the first set of brakes. Some random sound effects accompany the misters hissing above slowly dampening you before the train rolls backwards without warning.

Next, the ride’s highlight: Not the end, but an exceedingly fun turn lurching into a downward spiral, climbing back up into the second set of brakes. After a moment of sitting idle in the pitch dark with some random sound effects, the train slowly rolls off into a couple more less-interesting turns before again the train stops.

This stop is a bit more comical. The train actually rolls forward a bit, then back – a nice trick, but somewhat wasted as in the dark you don’t realise until the train jerks to a stop and your head hits the headrest.

Then, what can only be described as an overly-loud ‘turbo booster’ noise alarms the newer riders into grabbing for the restraints as they anticipate a launch into the cosmos behind. Of course, X:\ No Way Out slowly whimpers off into the inky blackness through a small turn, dip and then onto the final brakes. This non-sensical and utterly over-the top noise is completely comical and just highlights what a complete circus X:\ No Way Out actually is.

As the train abruptly stops, you can revel at the fact that X:\ No Way Out is one of only a few rides in the world where a recording actually has to TELL you that the ride has finished.

X:\ No Way Out’s randomness continues long after you get off the ride. Walking past a 5ft-long Eveready battery labelled as being the ‘Thorpe Park Power Supply’ just seems as out of place as everything else on the ride.

X:\ No Way Out is like waking from a terrible, terrible dream. Just like a nightmare, No Way Out is a chaotic patchwork of complete and utter nonsense. Walking back into the daylight is like waking up, rubbing your eyes and trying to make sense of all the random clutter that you’ve slowly been drip-fed for the last ten minutes.

The saga that No Way Out actually is never really explains itself. It is a complete mottled mess of random debris bodged together forming an almost catastrophic result. With parts dull enough to comatose the weaker rider contrasting with a palette of haphazard miscellany that looks to be the result of about a hundred unfinished rides, X:\ No Way Out is nothing short of a spectacle, just in the completely wrong sense of the word.

But, as you’re walking the miles of blackened corridors; as you pass 5ft-long battery; as you listen to deafening turbo-booster noises as you slowly trundle around backwards upon a glorified rollerboot through the darkness, you can only chuckle to yourself. Riding X:\ No Way Out feels like you’re continually slipping in and out of consciousness.

Strangely enough, despite No Way Out having the attraction of trampolining on a bed of nails, it has an involuntary sense of humour about it. Having spent nearly ten minutes being subjected to what seems to be the off-cuts of something very, very dreadful, you can only look at your fellow survivors (for want of a better word) and snigger with relief.

No Way Out’s downfalls (of which there are many) have become easier to forgive thanks to the heavy investment at Thorpe Park. When the ride opened in 1996, we were supposed to believe for a moment that X:\ was actually the best of a bad bunch of rides. Since then, Thorpe Park have essentially demoted No Way Out to merely being a support ride to Colossus and Nemesis Inferno. Thanks to this, and the new and somewhat slapdash effects, No Way Out has changed from a dreary, trying experience to something farcical.

As a result, it’s far easier to laugh off something that is insanely chaotic and desperate than something that is dull and mind-numbing. As an accompaniment to the larger coasters, too, it benefits immeasurably.

Lots of things ensure No Way Out is anything but a good ride, but nothing really makes it a bad ride. The things it slips up on just go to make the ride that bit more of a random experience leaving you wondering whether the ride will actually live up to it’s namesake.

Whilst No Way Out shouldn’t be anywhere near the top of your to-do list, it is certainly worthy of ten minutes of your time, and offers an interesting experience, if nothing else.

MS Undated

Good points:

▪ Um... original?
▪ Rises to the challenge of being a support coaster 

Bad points:

▪ Low capacity
▪ Boring and uncomfortable queue line
▪ Has tendency to make people fell ill



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X:\ No Way Out

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