Coaster Kingdom


Samurai, Thorpe Park

Like a true Japanese warrior, for eight years at Chessington Samurai always commanded the utmost respect, and when it’s work was done, was sacrificed so that the park could pursue another way of the warrior; freedom of fear, with the park choosing to focus more on becoming a more family-orientated day out. Bushido would be proud.

Conveniently, Thorpe Park was in need of – for want of a better term – a cheap hand-me-down, and what better than a sword-wielding warrior with eight years experience?

Samurai’s pilgrimage to Thorpe took him on a long and winding road, via the kingdom of Terband-Heerenveen in the Netherlands, home of Dutch manufacturer Mondial who pampered him by giving him a facelift and new colour-scheme; black was so last year.

Replacing the decrepid Calgary Stampede (an aging Troika), Samurai would keep its name and would serve as a further extension to the sprawling Lost City. Whilst its link to Lost City is tenuous at best, the predominantly mint-green colour scheme at least justifies its inclusion in the Lost City line-up with the park now using the railway lines of the Canada Creek Railway as the boundary between Canada Creek and Lost City.

The Mondial Top Scan has in its short history become one of the most respected spin rides in the industry. Using a counter-weighted arm, a star of six rows of seats can make large oblique loops, with not only the arm turning, but the star of seats and the rows themselves being able to tumble head-over heals.

Against all odds, Samurai looks good. What the pasty green structure lacks in taste, it makes up for in impact, but strangely we’re left with a mish-mash of colours that even Timmy Mallet would think twice about wearing. ‘Complimenting’ the pale green, the black and red of the arms continues Samurai’s legacy to a certain extent, whilst yellow strips break up the blocks of black on the arm supports and the mechanics holding the ride up towards the back of the platform.

The ride now benefits from a lakeside setting underneath the first turnaround of Colossus, with a row of evergreens almost forming a backflash to the ride. The ride is actually excellently presented, with a well-painted platform trimmed with the Lost City-style brickwork consistent throughout the rest of the area.

The queue line is dull enough to kill at least a few braincells, sandwiched in between the elevated platform and lake, but moves quickly thanks to the loading of the ride which is far, far improved from Chessington’s ride.

Like at Chessington, riders are batched into groups of five for each row, but instead of having the rows numbered, it is the platform that is numbered. ‘Big deal’ I hear you nay-sayers mumble. Well, yes it is. During it’s hiatus in Holland, Samurai has learnt how to count – with the platform being numbered, you know where exactly your row will land, and like a well-trained homing pigeon, your row will always come home and land slap bang where it left. This means, instead of having to work out where your row is and how the numbering is worked out, you just need to glance at the platform whilst the ride is running to know where you’ll actually be loading.

As the ride loads, the ride is awash with a beautiful and calming piano melody interrupted by the periodic hiss of pneumatics as the restraints go down row by row. Loading is refreshingly quick for a park spin ride, and as the bars have been checked, the musak fades as the ride tilts back lifting you off the platform.

And so the Oriental disorientation begins.

Oh no, my mistake, the ride is just preparing itself for an onslaught of massively high lateral G-forces by moving the gondola to the highest point. Good thinking, Thorpe.

Now, the Oriental disorientation begi... Oh, sorry, no, just going back towards the platform before swooping back up behind into the highest position again. Getting a bit of momentum, I bet.

Finally, the Oriental dis... Grr, what now? The ride slows to platform level and stops, slowly turning the gondola. This Samurai warrior is well rehearsed in the ancient art of teasing his opponents by waving a red rag in front of them I expect.

At last, the ride turns in the opposite direction but simply plateaus at a fairly average speed and stays there meaning the cars just get caught into the same monotonous pattern over and over again before a minute or two later this so-called warlord concedes defeat and the battle ends.

Frankly, this Samurai warrior couldn’t even win a fight in a playground, let alone defeat hundreds of thousands of Mongols invading Japan.

Lets look at the facts: Thorpe Park are trying to become big-players in terms of thrills. Whether by accident or calculation, they inherit one of the most intense thrill rides ever forged out of steel. And then they run it at the speed of a rusty roundabout.

Samurai has a great lakeside setting, and offers wonderful views of Colossus, Loggers Leap and out beyond the boundary of the park – which is great if Samurai was a glorified observation tower, but let’s be honest here; it’s not. Loggers and Colossus should be a blur.

You’re more likely to get a taste of what a Top Scan can do on a quiet day, but even so you get the feeling this ride is running for the bus when it could be running a marathon. Even at its best, Samurai is only pretty good.

Whilst showmen at fairs have to turn their rides into transportable night clubs in order to rouse the interest of the passing punter-to-be, theme parks can in this respect rest on their laurels and simply make a ride presentable as opposed to magnetic.

Whilst a lot of interest wanes at the prospect of a soulless, tamed down fair ride, Thorpe Park can at least be congratulated for their dedication to adding soundtracks for their rides, Vortex, Quantum and Detonator being the most credible examples.

Samurai gets away from boring us with another Lost City remix, instead soothing us with a magical piano medley during loading crescendoing into a mix of various upbeat tracks – nothing in particular, but the frantic beat does add a sense of adrenaline to a ride that often needs it.

I simply cannot believe that I am rating a Top Scan with anything less than a 5-star rating. This seems even more absurd when the Top Scan is at home in a park pedalling white-knuckle thrills like they’re going out of fashion. This should be a match made in heaven, instead, Samurai in the state it’s in would be far better suited to the family park it has just come from.  

MS Updated: 11 July 2004
MS 16 May 2004

Good points:

Another quality filler ride for Thorpe Park
▪ Efficient loading
▪ Very smooth ride
▪ Excellent setting by the lake
Good music

Bad points:

▪ Colourscheme is an acquired taste
Patchy operation and very short rides on busy days
▪ Nowhere near the standard of any other Top Scan



Top Top | Add page to favourites Add page to favourites | Print this page Print this page | Graphic-free review

Graphic-free review

Thorpe Park
Loggers Leap
Nemesis Inferno

No Way Out
Rumba Rapids
Tidal Wave

Flat/Spin Rides
Move It (32)

Rameses Revenge