Coaster Kingdom

Submission (Alton Towers)

Alton Towers deserve credit and kudos for many things. The medley of rides at the park seems to be spot on with a nice variety of family water rides, large white-knuckle roller coasters and the de rigueur spin rides.

It is the spin ride that perhaps the park is most keen on installing. With each simple glorified fairground attraction that opens, it is delivered in a blitz of marketing that may even over-shadow even Valhalla. This means that the public are quite happy to queue for half-an-hour for an insipid version of what can be found at a half-decent fair.

That is quite a harsh outlook, perhaps, and what spin rides are good at in theme parks is to offer a stark contrast to the sprawling undulations of a roller coaster, filling in a plot that may otherwise be another souvenir shop and at least being a small investment for the park, as opposed to large rides with no investment between.

Although the theming in the X Sector is about as descriptive and explicit as the name, it is one of the most impressive areas in that once you’re in the centre of it, a simple 360-degree revolution will impress – not only do you follow the course of Oblivion, but there is always something going on – a shuttle from Oblivion plunging deep under the ground, the Enterprise skimming the final turn-around of Oblivion, or the newest addition, Submission.

When moving, the ride appears to be far more discouraging and menacing than when it does parked, when it appears to be no more than a puffed up Sky Flyer.

Like everything else in the X Sector, the flat-black colour scheme remains, this time with electric-blue highlights. Built around  the black vertical structure of the ride is a latticework star formation reaching the height of the ride.

On the supporting arms of the ride mirrors catch the sunlight, and on the counterweights high above long spikes protrude from the side making Submission look like some large-scale space age weaponry.

When the ride moves, each arm moves in the opposite direction and the gondola turns in the opposite direction to the arm. With the peaks of the star structure and the spiked blades on the end of the arms, the ride is most certainly a crowd puller and demands your attention.

With the black and silver structure gleaming with vivid radiance in the sunlight, the blue accents and spot-lamps underneath finish the ride off with a fantastic pseudo-space-age theme, yet retaining the sense of anomaly that the whole of the X Sector seems to portray.

The queue for the ride takes place in the former queue for the Energiser splitting towards the end for each gondola. The queue weaves under the final brake-run of Oblivion, which is strange as Oblivions’ conclusion is almost as high as Submission itself.

There are six rows of four on each of the gondola arranged in the opposite way to a Pirate Ship, whereby there are three rows on each side of the gondola facing the outside edges. There are two gondolas, so mathematicians among us will grasp that the ride seats a respectable 48 people.

Once everyone is sat comfortably, the black over-head restraints will lower. Once they’re down, what can only be described as a robust spatula will come down from the front in the manner of a lap-bar and press tightly down on the over-head restraint.

Once the flap guarding the gap between the gondola and platform has raised, the ride starts. As the arm lifts the gondola, the gondola severely dips towards the ground leaving half the riders staring at the close-hand ground and the other side staring skywards.

It only takes a few swings before you see the spike on the end of the opposing arm fly past at close quarters, the track of Oblivion and then the neighbouring gondola as you and them are now fully inverted.

Without even pausing, you gyrate back towards the ground and just as you think you’re going to hit, you’re pulled back skywards in a frenzy of rotations. Without stopping, relentlessly you head back towards terra firma, and on the journey back to the sky, you slow before pausing for what seems an eternity.

As you feel the blood rush to your head and the contents of your pockets slither to a near predictable demise 35-foot below, the ride edges itself back into a downward fling, over again before slowing to a crawl and up-righting itself once again.

The ride so far seems to have had a rather subdued response both in feedback via websites and also from when people get off the ride. Watch Samurai, and people will come off grinning like Cheshire Cats, even after queuing for three-quarters of an hour. People already seem to be rather nonchalant with the thrills Submission claims to offer.

Despite you having anything up to two rows of seats in front, nobody at Chance Rides has even made an effort to tier the seats towards the centre. This means, if you’re not in the front seat, you’ll be able to see nothing but the seat back in front.

Worst of all, the ride is a bore – not repetitive – a bore. You could happily play a game of stone/paper/scissors on it or have a conversation – it isn’t as if people are screaming loudly.

The ride is hardly fast, which isn’t always a bad thing, just look at Flying Circus. However, it fails to exert high amounts of G-force on you, you don’t feel weightless at any point, and it is never at any point disorientating.

Fine, this could be the fault of the park running the ride on a low-fat setting. I don’t see how it could ever provoke excitement, though, due to an audacious lack of visuals and anything that could be mistaken as an out of the ordinary ‘force’ of any type.

The front seat is better. Under the ride is a trench, so you get very, very close to the ground at some speed (relatively speaking). So, the front seat is passable – that leaves the ride as a 16-seater – not the high capacity 48 riders per ride I harked about earlier.

It may be a good stepping-stone for those willing to do Samurai one day. Unless these people know that the ride is all show and no guts, then they’re never going to ride it, and the marketing spiel that goes with the ride will make sure of that.

1/5 Marcus Sheen