Coaster Kingdom


Rush, Thorpe Park

As a mature and discerning reader, I’m sure you find it easy to look back at your childhood with great fondness, yet appreciate the importance of adulthood however monotonous.

Maybe we miss the carefree days of going to the playground more than others, hence our unbridled obsession with theme parks. And while there are people like us willing to queue for rides, manufacturers are keen to capitalise on exercising the child within.

Nowadays, the feeling of a swing where you soar high above the ground with wind through your hair and butterflies in your stomach isn’t confined to the local playground. Just like the swing is the staple of the playground, swing-style rides have become the cornerstone of the theme park.

As we have reflected upon many times before on Coaster Kingdom, the idea of a ride based around the concept of a pendulum is hardly new, with reinventions of an idea that has been around for decades.

Certainly, our earliest memory dates back to Huss’ Pirate, a fair maiden of a ship that sails the high seas by gradually rocking its fibreglass keel up to a height of 50ft casually restraining fifty thrill seeking pirates with a simple five-seat-wide lapbar.

As has become traditional with spin rides, the idea has since been reinvented over and over again. Variants of the Pirate Ship now spin, loop and tip riders higher into the stratosphere than ever before, and in 2005 S&S joined the party with their unimaginatively-named Screamin’ Swing.

Initially designed as a low capacity upcharge attraction, the Screamin’ Swing now comes in variants of up to 40 seats, with Thorpe Park’s being the largest at the time of launch with 32 seats

So, what makes Rush different from all the other Pirate Ship variants globally? To be honest, not much. It is bigger than most swing rides; faster too. But there’s bigger. And faster.

Thorpe Park have been trumpeting the ride as the best thing since playtime, calling it the “world’s biggest speed swing”, a claim made all the more spectacular by the sheer ambiguity of it. Compared to other Screamin’ Swings, it is merely a higher capacity ride, not larger in terms of scale.

And while it is bigger and faster than most Frisbees and Pirate Ships, Huss’ Giant Frisbee and KMG’s Afterburner XL rule the roost, both in terms of speed and height, and on top of this both have a revolving gondola too. Surely not a leg to stand on for our humble Screamin’ Swing?

While we struggle to find any reason to get excited about Rush, it’s worth remembering that compared to the Frisbee and Afterburner, you’re not held in over the shoulders, just by a simple lap bar. With overhead restraints renowned for killing any sensation of airtime, if Rush has the airtime to offer, it could well triumph by default owing to the overall sensation, as opposed to the sheer audacity of it.

You won’t find many S&S rides at a beauty pageant, but Rush is a complete monstrosity that would make winning first prize at a freakshow a mere formality.

The supporting legs of what looks like a gigantic swing are completely disproportionate in terms of size, with the arms supporting the eight-wide gondolas comically undersized. In terms of contrasting sizes, it is like Pavarotti duetting with Kylie Minogue.

With the usual palette of Lost City colours (aqua, red, gold) and the whole structure crowned with a monstrous grey cross support, Rush really misses the boat in terms of identity, with heads only being turned by the motion of two arms mirroring each others hypnotic swings and the screams of 32 riders being vaulted high above the pathways below.

The speed of Rush’s queue may well be comfortable, but the experience certainly isn’t thanks to the painfully loud sound of the compressed air that powers the ride, which makes an already monotonous task of queuing grossly uncomfortable.

That said, Rush’s queue moves away from a simple cattlepen and guides awaiting riders right under the path of the swing with the pendulous arms scooping 32 riders skywards with quite intimidating haste.

The queue heads around towards the back of the ride, where the views become limited and the sound of compressed air almost unbearable before you wrap back around the front of the ride where the queue splits into four rows, two each side of one of the supports with one row per side per swing.

Like most theme park spin rides, loading is needlessly complicated relying on visitors to remember the colour and number they’re staying on to find their seat. Such organisation is obviously wasted, and as soon as the gates open 32 people are elbowing each other out of the way to sit closest to their beloved and won’t be moving for love nor money.

Like Slammer, the ride is upholstered with deep, deep seats and a lap bar that hinges down from your side and is then vertically adjustable.

Unlike Slammer, though, there are no shoulder restraints, and with only a handle big enough for a single hand to hold on to, nervous riders will be struggling to find anything of worth to hold onto to make Rush anything less that terrifying.

With the dull roar air being your only warning, the two arms smoothly begin their pendulous ascent into the sky above.

Compared to most other swing rides, the first swing is impressively large and smooth, and as it climbs towards the queue or path below, smoothly reverses and swings to about twice the height with equal power.

By the third swing, the ride begins to show its true colours.

The feeling of thrust is far more powerful and artificial than Vortex, and without being able to see the rest of the gondola, you have no sense of placing exactly what angle you’re swinging at in relation to the ground.

And as you warm to the sensation of swinging through massive 85ft tall crescents, Rush leaves you in the cold as it quickly slows down in just a few swings, airtanks still growling aggressively as you smoothly slow to a stop and 32 excited riders make a beeline for a small exit gate.

Individually, Rush is a great ride, and there is no doubt whatsoever that the public have grown to adore the ride.

But there is the inescapable fact that swing rides have existed for decades. The unassuming Pirate Ship, for example, offers superb and sustained sensations of weightlessness with a flimsy restraint, and while Rush is a noble step forward as opposed to a complete bastardisation of the concept, you can’t get away from the fact that in the days of Pirate Ships, Frisbees, Afterburners and the like, that Rush is just another swing ride.

To address the angry rabble gathering outside CK Towers, Rush is by no means a write-off. Rush seems remarkably well received with the layout of seating offering a rogues gallery of expressions ranging from the absolutely aghast to extremely exhilarated.

Like Slammer, the seating design is one of the rides greatest virtues with a feeling of vulnerability that eclipses even Air’s supposed claims of feeling ‘free’. Wherever you sit, too, you are genuinely guaranteed a great view.

Yet, while this is one of the ride’s fortes, it is also its achilles heel. While Pirate Ships, Afterburners and to a lesser extent Frisbees all are fun rides with a wonderful feeling of being part of a party, on Rush you feel very insular and alone. While this adds to the psychology of, say, a freefall, on Rush it is a shame that the happy sensations of fun and excitement are to be enjoyed all on your lonesome.

Another of Rush’s strong points is the speed at which it climbs to the uppermost swings. You’d expect this merit to afford the rider more high swings, yet ironically what could have proven to be Rush’s biggest asset is wasted with just four high swings before the ride quickly slows down.

Comparisons between Rush and other similar rides are going to be inevitable, and that’s the problem – that there are so many rides that it can be compared with. There are few people that haven’t enjoyed a Pirate Ship; this alone has spawned the Frisbee, which in turn has forged the creation of the Afterburner.

Even having pigeonholed these rides, each variant thereof offers a unique sensation. The Afterburner is the finest such example, with the sensations of the Afterburner 24 and 32 being oceans apart.

So yes, Rush is a decent swing ride. But it has failed to make the idea its own. The idea of a 21st century Pirate Ship is a hotly contested genre – while Huss and KMG run the marathon, S&S have merely taken a step in the right direction.

Rush may well tick all the right boxes, but they’re the same old boxes that have been ticked over and over again.

MS 29 August 2005

Good points:

▪ Good feeling of speed, and fast acceleration
▪ Excellent sensation of feeling very vulnerable
▪ Guests seem to like the ride 

Bad points:

▪ Very short in terms of duration
▪ A very ugly ride
▪ Too similar to Pirate Ships, Frisbees, Afterburners etc 



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