Oblivion (Alton Towers)
Nemesis, Alton Towers had a long, long way to go to even equal what was one of
the most well received coasters the world had ever seen. The problem was,
Nemesis was a surprise, and nobody was expecting it. Following that though, the
park had almost a cult following of enthusiasts, and they were watching every
move the park were making.
first digger arrived, and began to dig what started off as a shallow trench
behind the Black Hole. As the season advanced though, the trench got deeper, and
deeper, and upon reaching 90ft below the ground level, people really started
twist of irony, the park seemed to prove everybody wrong. Whilst carefully
cropped pictures of the cars were appearing, strange and unrevealing pictures of
the track were published, people were speculating about spinning cars, linear
induction motors and launches.
the ride was finally disclosed in early March though, it surprised everyone: Not
by the awe-inspiring grandeur of it, but more by the mere simplicity of it.
Whilst what the ride does had never been attempted before, many people were
shocked that their theories of corkscrewing drops and underground loops were
nothing but wishful thinking, and that the finished product was basically a face
seems that to a certain extent, the cagey marketing behind Oblivion backfired.
It did well to build excitement and anticipation, but perhaps to the extent that
people were expecting far too much. If people look at the ride though, and not
the hype that went with it, theyíll see a novel concept that Alton Towers had
the guts to take on.
Towers got a lot of things wrong with the marketing of the ride. By keeping mum
until the last minute, they did surprise many, but probably shot themselves in
the foot, as many more were left disappointed. Itís the first step in vertical
drop coasters, itís a prototype, a ride that they said they would never get,
so it obviously represents a pretty risky move.
reflection though, the ride was marketed for the average visitor to the park,
not the coaster enthusiast, and with that in mind, it probably worked a treat to
have the area cordoned off with rather non-descript signs and hints near-by.
that the ride has opened, and settled in, now that the technical difficulties
have been ironed out, it seems Alton Towers have a winner on their hands. It is
still one of the parks largest rides, and will remain so for several more years
yet, and it's still pulling in the crowds.
comes as part of a new look for the parks ageing Fantasy World. As a result, the
name was changed to the rather lame X Sector. Rides were hastily drafted in from
Festival Park (now the equally poorly named Ug Land), given a new paint job, and
the outside of the tatty tent that houses the Black Hole was painted a dark
shade of blue.
enter, try to ignore the Black Hole, it kills the effect, and instead, home in
on Oblivion's first drop. Thereíll probably be a car perched on the edge of
the drop, and after a few seconds, it will curl over the top, plunging down
towards the ground, disappearing in a puff of smoke, literally.
Hang a right past this steaming orifice, and youíre in the centre of the ride. In front, the station, then, turning anti- clockwise, you can follow the lift hill, into the turn around, that feeds the cars onto the vertical drop. Turning further, after a short absence, the track re-appears flipping cars onto their side, making a sweeping turn behind the Enterprise and jumping onto the brake run behind Submission.
you can see what the areaís all about. Itís nothing. Itís a small
collection of rides, painted black. It's quite atmospheric, but required no
thought at all on the part of the park, just lots of black paint. Apparently
itís themed with a sense of the unknown. It might tickle your fancy, but it
doesnít do much for me.
as you ogle at Oblivion, you can lick your lips, rub your hands, but donít
stand around waiting, either get your ticket to ride, or get straight into the
queue. The queue splits into two immediately, and spirals its way up a hill,
passing through and under the station. Brainwashing videos try to mess with your
mind, with a panicky person fretting over why its called Oblivion. He's soon
re-assured by a slightly calmer person, and so it continues. First time, its
passable, then on it gets on your nerves.
queue continues. It gets to a sputnik from where you cross a bridge into the
station. The queue is split further so that four rows wait per shuttle, with two
being let on at a time. The station is huge, the space isnít used too well
though, and it seems quite claustrophobic.
decent dance track quietly plays, and monitors above play more hype. Once your
shuttle arrives, the gates open, and you start the long walk across the length
of the car. Bear in mind, each car is little under half as wide as a Top Spin,
and once you find your seat, sit down, pull down the chunky (yet typically
comfortable) restraint, and clip in the seat belt.
youíre squashed into your seats by the seemingly efficient staff, the shuttle
departs. Although the seats are reclined, this really canít be appreciated
until you start the lift. Why it's so steep is unknown, what is known though, is
that it feels vertical, and itís a mighty strange feeling.
lift is quite unpleasant at the far sides of the car, the vibrations seem to be
amplified here, but you will reap the benefits of sitting on the edge soon. The
lift is of a normal speed, and at the top, the pace slows, as you turn around,
past the Towers.
view is great, and you have plenty of time to admire, as at this point, the car
is veritably crawling. Itís a simple trick, and it works. I must admit, it was
at this point that my heart was doing twice as much work than it needed to.
the track disappears, before in no time, you tip forward, your whole weight
falling squarely on the restraint, and as the track re-appears, you stop,
looking down at the ground, at the people below, and, at the track fading out
into a sea of mist.
then, you drop.
roar of the train, of the people screaming, the feeling as you float down in a
stomach quenching moment is surreal. It takes no time, yet you have time to
absorb many thoughts, and in a flash of white, you burst through the mist and
into the dark tunnel.
a sudden, you seem very enclosed, everything seems very quiet, and as you begin
to slump in your chair, you are heading skywards, before in a near blinding
moment, you pop out into daylight, are thrown onto your side, as you make an
elegant turn behind the two spin rides, dipping past the cameras, before you
climb up and hit the brake run.
brake run, youíll do the usual euphoric things, youíll rhapsodise over the
ride, over the drop, over one of the biggest rushes youíll have experienced on
a coaster for, aw, ever. The tunnel and the turn are only there to get you back
to the station. The drop is the only element left, so yes, itís a one trick
ride, itís a good trick though, and as it stands, probably one of the best
elements you can ask for on a coaster.
to me, is like a Skycoaster from the comfort of a coaster train. It has the
build up, this time in the form of a lift hill, an agonisingly slow turnaround,
and the moments of torture on the edge. The rush is over in a second, and then
there is the calm after the storm, in which you have time to reflect, and little
works for me, and it works for many. I have seen some people really freak out
just before we drop. In the end though, they love it, and will probably beat me
back to the queue.
itís a great trick it uses for its one trick, the novelty will soon wear off.
The drop comes as a huge surprise if you havenít ridden it before, after even
a few goes, it still fails to un-impress. After a while though, youíll know
what to expect, you will learn when youíre going to drop, and you will
probably become blasť.
There is a moral to this story. Donít expect too much, it wonít deliver it. Itís a six second ride, nothing more. Donít queue for more than fifteen minutes for it. Itís not worth it for a ride that short, however good it may promise to be. Go on with an open frame of mind and it will blow you away.
4/5 Marcus Sheen