There’s a lot to be said for
going round and round. As certain as day and night, you can guarantee
that the world is spinning on its axis, the moon is circling around
the earth, and our fair planet itself is in orbit around the sun.
And of course, we all know about
the wheels on the bus. They go round and round, round and round all day
Indeed, it seems almost since the
invention of the wheel that ride manufacturers have harnessed the
qualities of going round and round in circles. The most obvious example
is the carousel, but who can forget (as much as we try) the humble
Fabbri Sky Flyer or Huss Ranger, both of which work their way up into
sending riders orbiting in circles high above the ground?
But while going round in circles
could be the be-all and end-all, spin ride manufacturers in particular
have been trying to break out of this vortex and send riders not only
around in circles, but in every other achievable direction possible.
Let’s look at Mondial’s Top
Scan, surely the benchmark against which all other rides should be
measured. Sure, there’s the simple rotary motion of the main arm, but
the good Messrs at Mondial have thrown in a couple more circles for good
measure – the star-shaped gondola also goes around in circles, and of
course, each row tumbles over, too. Seems Mondial like circles too, just
in a less obvious way to most.
And so, while manufacturers have
been tripping over themselves to get away from simple circular spin
rides like Sky Flyers and Orbitrons, S&S introduces a ride that goes
right back to the roots of what a circle is all about – the Sky Swat.
The Sky Swat first appeared at
S&S’s private playground in Utah. While many websites marvelled at
the white-washed monstrosity that was the prototype, I could take it or
leave it. It was tall, it was high capacity and it used fancy restraints
– but it also just went around in circles. Colour me disinterested.
So Thorpe announce Slammer, the
first ride of its kind outside America (the first being Swat, at Six
Flags Houston). While many people punched the same sky Slammer would be
‘swatting’ with delight, I remained on the fence.
But while I did, I appreciated
the need to look at the bigger picture. For their second season of
installing spin rides, they needed to make sure it dangled the
metaphorical carrot in front of the figurative donkey. It needed to be
marketable, and it needed to look great on a poster.
Whatever Slammer rides like, you
have to admit, it looks amazing. It is over a hundred feet tall, and is
only the second of its type in the world. This raises a few eyebrows,
something Submission never managed.
But of course, while I look at
the big picture, it is important to look at the even bigger picture.
If it looks great, but is in fact rides like a 105ft piece of rubbish,
then Thorpe will be left with a white elephant – something Submission
has always managed.
So, as I said, the Sky Swat looks
great. Well... kinda. You see, while it looks great in terms of majesty,
it is a very, very ugly ride. It consists of a central tower, four
supporting legs fanning out, and a double-ended spatula-style arm
supported with a complex mess of cables and struts.
However, while the Swat is a
veritable eyesore, Slammer actually looks the part. While it makes no
secret of the fact it is a massive machine, the predominately brown
colour scheme makes it look a lot more natural and less industrial than
its American counterpart.
The gold supports fanning out are
a nice touch, and the two gondolas are a deep red trimmed in yellow.
While S&S deserve no credit for designing a pretty ride, Thorpe have
at least dressed this ugly step sister up so she can go to the ball.
Slammer opens up a new area
between Lost City and Canada Creek. While most rides at Thorpe are
styled as opposed to out-and-out themed, Slammer neatly forms a
crossover between the two themes with the rustic colours of Canada Creek
and the superlative style of Lost City.
The wooden entrance is cast under
the shadows of the ride, and veers off into a wooden queue pen akin to
that found on Vortex. Considering the limited space available, Thorpe
have done a good job, and nevertheless, the queue is made better by the
fact it affords great side views of Slammer.
As you approach the ride, the
queue splits with a member of staff directing you either to the left or
the right where you wait behind airgates while the ride cycles above
you. Your confidence starts to erode as the rhythmic whoosh of the ride
cutting through the air seems to get faster and faster, eventually
slowing before the entire ride slowly lowers itself back to the ground.
Having had time to re-arrange
their hair – and indeed have a haircut too – the ride levels out
with the platform, the harnesses release and everyone exits to the
opposite side. For a spin ride, it is good to see the coaster-style
‘on one side, off the other’ system which greatly refines the
free-for-all found on most other theme park spin rides.
Even before the ride starts, you
get a feeling for S&S’s ingenuity. The plastic-moulded seats are
extremely deep and comfortable with an extraordinarily large protrusion
between your legs. No laughing back there. Far be it from me to tell you
size is everything, though, so you’ll have to take my word.
The restraints come in two halves
– a lap bar hinges down from the side over your waist, while what
looks like an overhead restraint with the bottom sawn off pulls down to
touch your shoulders. Yes, Schwarzkopf fans, I can hear you groaning –
it is almost identical to their famous – or more to the point - infamous
accordion restraints. Don’t let this worry you, though. None of the
forces on Slammer will be doing anything to push the restraints down.
Anything but, infact.
While preparing yourself for
battle, you may note there is precious little to hold on to. Frankly,
the single handle on the lap bar and handles at shoulder height do
little to reassure you in the same way something in front at waist
height or even where there would normally be a restraint. This all
batters the subconscious into thinking that there’s nothing you can do
to take the edge off everything Slammer has to offer.
With the restraints checked, the
dramatic chords of the orchestral soundtrack explode as an intimidating
spiel welcomes you to Europe’s first spinning freefall sensation as
the 100ft long ride slowly rises to the top of the tower. Using
S&S’s fandangled prowess with air, the climb is like floating on
the back of a cloud. It is sublimely smooth, but the hiss of the air
towards the top is thunderously loud.
50ft above the ground below, the
ride slowly begins its first of six rotations. While one side will
momentarily be staring at the ground 105ft above the air, the other side
will be swooping smoothly down towards the ground.
In but one revolution, we’re at
top speed soaring through the air before plunging towards the ground. As
you climb towards the stratosphere, there is a liberating feeling flying
before the ride unleashes its other extremity of long and sustained
G-forces as you skim past the ground.
As you become accustomed to the
ride, it quickly slows, levelling out in the position you started at
before switching directions. With this brief respite over, once again
you enjoy the contrasts of soaring through heaven before plunging into
the fiery depths of hell below.
The ride slows and levels out
remarkably quickly. The sound of air crescendos as your fray with
Slammer slowly, but surely comes to an end. You are soon unhurriedly
lowered back down to the safety of terra firma, before the restraints
release and your confrontation with the true warlord of Thorpe’s spin
ride arsenal comes to an end.
So it is a good ride? Let’s
first look the criteria that was set for Slammer. This needed to be a
flagship spin ride, it needed to come at a good price, but it needed to
be a draw, not only in terms of marketing, but it had to look like it
– like the park – means business.
Chalk that up as a success. This
is the first ride of its type in Europe, and it looks absolutely
remarkable. My point earlier, though, was that if didn’t deliver, then
it would ultimately fail by virtue of the fact people would eventually
lose interest which would have been a very short term investment for
But, for its sins, Slammer is a
pretty decent ride. Considering that it is a machine programmed to go
around in circles, it does a very good job of keeping the rider
What struck me was how different
every revolution felt. There is no building up – even though the first
spin is slower than the rest, it is still incredibly intense and isn’t
a waste of a turn as I honestly feared. My first ride sent me towards
the ground first, and I simply wasn’t prepared for the sensation of
being pinned to the back of my seat before being pulled away and being
pushed skywards by my shoulders.
You have a full speed revolution
after this, before the ride slows and goes into reverse. The change here
is subtle, but again, it’s there. Instead of heading head first
towards the ground, your upturned cranium is being torn away and thrust
into the sky – or vice versa.
there are a few problems.
first is a matter of taste, but the ride finishes by leaving riders in
the air before slowly lowering them down. While Colossus saves the best
for last, and the same for Detonator, there is a long wait between the
end of the ride and the moment you leave the ride, which means much of
the spring in your step is left up in the sky.
problem is that even by Thorpe’s standards, the ride is so chronically
unreliable. As a marketing tool, Slammer has the potential to do wonders
for the park, yet due to chronic unreliability, it has rendered itself
unmarketable as the park are too scared to advertise for fear of
the final problem is that it just doesn’t seem to be popular. Despite
my expectations, Slammer appears to be struggling to fill seats. On the
rare occasion that Slammer works reliably, for a ride with such
prominence in the park, it is suspiciously devoid of interest.
isn’t to say nobody is riding it, moreover people aren’t enjoying
it, but for a new ride that was always anticipated to be a big draw for
the park with Rush being the supporting act, it seems that it has infact
been Rush tickling guests’ fancies.
is Slammer everything we could possibly want from a spin ride?
Definitely not. It is better than you’d expect from a looping machine,
and a meaty addition to Thorpe’s line up, but we will have to see
whether or not it maintains popularity.
29 August 2005
29 March 2005
▪ Very spectacular attraction
with a lot of pulling power
▪ Smooth and comfortable
▪ Very forceful in lots of interesting ways
▪ Unique restraints leave you feeling very free
be too forceful for people who do not like the feeling of a headrush
real theming to speak of, although ride is very nicely presented
too long to finish the ride sequence - poor ending