Coaster Kingdom


Incorporating attention-grabbing starts, well-paced middles and Oscar-winning finales, even in their most basic form, rides share more than just a passing similarity to blockbuster films.

Their very aim is to evoke emotion and feeling, whether of raw terror or of heartening warmth.

In many circumstances, rides go further and add storylines that further add to the sensation of being a part of a true adventure. Like films, the theme of choice when it comes to adult rides is that of disaster. Although essentially glamorising tragedy, Earthquake (Universal Studios) is just one example of how catastrophes are used to make an exciting and wholesome attraction.

Theming a ride falls into many categories. Many rides are built around a theme (Phantom Manor, Disneyland Paris), many themes are built around a ride (Nemesis, Alton Towers) and many simply go hand in hand perfectly complimenting respective aspects.

It isn’t theming alone that makes Tidal Wave special, or the ride that is an O.D.Hopkins Shoot-the-Chute at its most simplistic. Together, the two fuse to subtly sustain the experience and at no point makes either the theming or the ride self-sufficient. The ride forms just part of the ensemble of visual effects in Amity Cove and in its entirety offers a compelling finale.

Amity Cove, Marlin County USA is a New England suburb devastated a tidal wave. The tide-marked town features storm-lashed buildings slanting precariously sideways, submerged or completely destroyed by the out-of-control tsunamis.  

In between classics like Chantilly Lace and Oh Carol!, WWTP Radio warns the seemingly amphibious residents of Amity Cove that further tidal waves are to be expected, and to ensure their safety are to head to the Cannery where escape by boat can be offered.

Amongst debris in various forms, the entrance to Tidal Wave is lit in flickering neon with the ride’s drop and a house semi-destroyed by a rowing boat through the roof forming a fitting backdrop.

The queue continues under the drop and turn around. Trees are littered with clutter like chairs and other trivial furniture whilst mere ruminants of homes remain such as overflowing toilets and shower cubicles.

Those who rely on the sanctuary of a poncho vending machine closer to the station will despair at the fact it rarely works. If I were to go to a swimming pool and jump in fully clothed, I’d be called mad. But, despite the end result being pretty much the same, by the lack of changing rooms it is obvious Tidal Wave should be ridden fully clothed. Whilst wearing a poncho at your local leisure centre may not do a world of good, wearing one on Tidal Wave is to be highly recommended.

The station loads one boat at a time.

Imagine the scene in Matrix where Thomas ‘Neo’ Anderson has to decide between the blue or red pill.

The red pill allows you to succumb to the full power of Tidal Wave. Without any form of breathing apparatus, you shall feel as if you have been pushed to the bottom of the ocean.

The blue pill throws you a gauntlet. You SHALL remain dry, and you SHALL enjoy doing so. I prefer to take the latter, but the choice is yours.

Those who took the red pill will carelessly step into the boat allowing their designer footwear of choice to soak up an inch of water. Those who took the blue pill should note this and walk across the above the un-named ocean in the bottom of the boat before sitting down, resting their feet on the bar under the seat in front.

Make sure your poncho is under your bum, blue pill-takers, as the heavy teardrop shaped lap bar is pulled down on your row.

As the water rushes to the back of the boat, you start the climb on the lift that is slow enough to feel like being stretched on the rack.

At the top, the boat levels out and without due hesitation turns a quick 180-degree turn before going down the straight drop.  

The drop doesn’t offer an experience similar to walking on the moon in anti-gravity boots airtime-wise, but the sensation of speed is there nevertheless, and the sensation of dropping down at great speed towards devastated Amity is thrilling enough.

At the bottom, it is as if a nuclear bomb has exploded under the boat sending an unfeasibly large geyser of water skywards completely enveloping the boat. Water erupts up in front and to the sides as you are forced forwards into the padded restraint as the boat slows to walking pace in a matter of feet.

Having had time to note how soaked you already are, the walls of water that have blinded you for what seems to be minutes collapse onto the boat systematically and uniformly soaking riders in their entirety.

Those who chose the blue pill will have a palaver on their hands trying to keep their poncho under control. I had to learn the hard way, so you can too. Suffice to say, keeping the hood up, the ‘skirt’ down and your arms inside the poncho at all times is a challenge.

If you keep your feet under the seat, legs out of the way and essentially shrinkwrap yourself in the poncho, you should come away laughing. If not, at least you tried.  

Water drips down from Pier 13 as you head into a turn which takes you back into the station. A short wait later, you re-enter the station and showing no sign of emotion are motioned off to the left by the ride operator.

It seems to be an inbuilt reaction to run from someone (or something) that is trying to drown you. Tidal Wave is the same, and in your haste to run away from this frankly wicked contraption, you – like many, may run straight out of the door in what can only conservatively described as a monsoon as the other boat sends most of the water in Amity Cove pouring onto the exit ramp.  

The raised pathway continues through the photo booth and then across Pier 13 which bridges the splashdown area. Windows protect the furthermost ends of this pier, with crossing the middle section offering yet another opportunity to get soaked. Many by this point are soaked to the point they frankly don’t give a damn and conclude by playing chicken with several thousand gallons of water.

Whilst the ride on it’s own is fun, the whole experience of Tidal Wave goes way beyond a high-slide with a water splash. Watching the ride play with the other effects in Amity is compelling.

Theming is far from over the top and never intrusive, but features smaller original touches never normally associated with Tussauds’ normally formulaic approach to theming. Despite being based around disaster, the theming is always upbeat and never dreary.

There’s the obvious problem that Tidal Wave is the wettest rides in the world and the UK is far from being a Balearic island. Tidal Wave isn’t any Storm Force 10 where it looks no wetter than a log flume, but in the wrong seat you will end up drenched to the skin.

Tidal Wave is clearly wet. The tsunami scathing through the centre of Amity every minute is a clear indication of how wet you’re likely to get. Tidal Wave hides nothing. To those who say you get too wet: take the blue pill and buy a poncho then have fun trying to keep dry – or don’t ride.

Tidal Wave goes against all odds. Thorpe Park needed anything but another water ride, but due to recent investment, water rides only form a healthy proportion of the park. Furthermore, a short one-trick ride only forms a few pages in this blockbuster script. Elsewhere, great effects and the spectacle of watching the ride itself perform make Tidal Wave far more than a drop into a wave.

Tidal Wave could have been a complete washout. Or ‘total devastation’ as the park likes to call it. Overlooking the obvious irony of Thorpe, Tidal Wave is anything but, and is as good as the wave is tall.

Marcus Sheen

Tidal Wave

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Thorpe Park Reviewed
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Your Thoughts
Joli Islendingur

I loved it! I don't think this ride is too short, and if you want a more "relaxed" ride, I'd suggest the Loggers Leap. There is plenty of floating around there. The Tidal Wave is based on the short track, the big drop and the even bigger splash and I quite like it that way