Coaster Kingdom

Tomb Blaster (Chessington World of Adventures)

The following review will go into explicit detail regarding the attraction and the surprises it may conceal. If you choose to read on, be warned that it may detract from your first ride on the attraction.

Since the curtain fell on the Fifth Dimension in late 1993, Forbidden Tomb has been a replacement with unfulfilled potential, wreaking of originality but stinking of budget cuts. Ride it you do, hate it you don’t and love it you don’t – you come off feeling very unswayed by it and it has never been re-ridable due to the B-Movie style clichés that abound your poorly animated trek through some admittedly impressive scenes.

When Tomb Blaster was announced late in 2001, I expected it to be a revamp lacking the investment it should, sans originality.

It is. But, in addition it is now a thoroughly entertaining adventure, filling the gap left by its predecessor and hitting the mark that the former missed by immeasurable distances.

Where as Forbidden Tomb was no more or less than an average ride, Tomb Blaster is fantastic, emotive, fun and pretty much all you could ask for in a ride of its genre.

Forbidden Kingdom: rich and eclectic theming prospers, with a winding Egyptian bazaar with shops and games, continuing past Rameses Revenge before your attention is grabbed by the commanding and epic adventure music at the entrance to Tomb Blaster.

The entrance, two sandstone turrets guarded by feline guards, crouched in wait, take visitors up a steep flight of stairs to the left before crossing the entrance and making its way over to the right across a wooden rope bridge.

The pathway winds around a courtyard below onto which the Casbah Café backs onto under a canvas canopy along the length of the tomb wall. Bright frescos crumble away revealing the wall behind before the queue turns back and heads down some stairs into the tomb itself.

In a dark, murky room, you walk around a long table, cluttered with storage crates. Monitors sporadically ‘establish connection’ so that you can be effectively briefed as to what your mission will involve.

It is highly clichéd, but holds your attention well, getting across the safety advisory (no eating, drinking, smoking…), a small sales pitch (‘photographic data is available…’), and how to ‘play’ Tomb Blaster.

Shielding your head from crumbling masonry, scaffold support grubby planks of wood as the queue passes over a bottomless pit, a clever trick - of course - using mirrors and glass giving you the impression the pit goes down into the centre of the earth.

The station is dull, dingy but hints at the former glory of the tomb before it fell into the hands of the wicked curses you are there to expel. The cars each seat five people – two in front, three in the back.

Decorated in various forms of artillery, a so-called Bug Blaster is tucked away in its holster between each rider and a red display in front that will show your score as you fire away at the star-field of targets.

Lap-bars lower before the train slowly moves into the tomb. As it does, the muttering idiot Adab is gone and incandescent beetles infest a pile of crates as you round a corner and climb a hill.

Flashing like a christmas tree, hundreds of red lights beg to be fired at. Red lines scathe through the inky blackness from tens of guns as people ferociously fire at these beetles clocking up 100 points for each bull’s-eye.

You climb a hill with crumbling archways surrounding the train. The deep thunder of a boulder rolling over the dilapidated masonry fails to draw your attention away from the red lights turning green as the rounded ball of rock bounces from gap to gap above your fragile head.

A vapour filled hollow is alive with squirming and slithering snakes. The train of cars turn to the right essentially forming a small, tiered theatre of riders to perfect their aim.

Pouring from the back, the snakes’ ominous company present further targets for you to fiercely fire at. You are too indulged as cobras jump from behind a crumbing wall, distracting you and losing you valuable points as you try and recover your aim.

The hazy catacomb continues past an ivy-covered wall, riddled with cracks and holes from which concealed constrictors jump, wriggling, writhing as you frantically become overwhelmed by yet more lights to fire at.

A large web of beetles just begs you to shoot at them, clocking up a hundred liquid-crystal display points per each successful hit.

As you enter the next vault, a semi-circle of rope-strung spikes are slowly pulled back in anticipation of our arrival. As you do, trigger happy riders are surprised as a section of wall swiftly turns to reveal a rotting figure of a mummy clutching a laser gun before firing relentlessly at us with a deep green laser.

To the left, your attention is vaguely drawn to a crypt opening up revealing lost treasure, and of course yet more targets.

Unperturbed, the train continues. The floor drops away to a lava filled pit below, steaming with searing heat as the 40ft statue of Anibus scans the train with ruby-red eyes. Half giant, half feline, the head slowly turns as the train scurries around the surrounding precipice of this bubbling crater as the ground crumbles away into the molten lava below.

A brief respite follows. The train passes through a revolving tunnel, devoid of targets whilst your startled expression is captured on camera. Like the northern lights, more targets twinkle with an alluring presence as the train explodes into another frenzy of laser beams as red dots are drawn on the walls like hundreds of fireflies as people aim to fire.

You stop in the shadow of a huge statue of a cobra. As you fire away at it and the scenery surrounding this black-lit creature, lasers from it’s piercing eyes scan up and down the length of the train accompanied by the gorgeous Tomb Blaster theme, before after a while, the train moves off past a line of decaying mummies. As you’re indulging in the last offering of crucial targets, the mummies jump towards you, startling you as the adventure ends, the train stops and the bars rise.

The change from Forbidden Tomb to Tomb Blaster is moderate, with the only notable changes being hundreds-of-thousands of targets, a re-hashed finale, and the disgruntled un-dead character firing at riders.

Where Terror Tomb had a plot more predictable than Danger Mouse, Tomb Blaster has absolutely no plot what so ever and is basically a gratuitous excuse for riders to fire with a passion at anything lit in red or green. The lack of story line benefits Tomb Blaster – riders have no need to be distracted by following a coherent storyline when the idea of the ride is to be an indulgent shooting gallery.

Where the ride is not far off being perfect for what it sets out to achieve, a few things fall short of the experience offered elsewhere on the ride.

Music in the attraction is patchy and without a story line, should be relied upon for the sake of consistency. Music is not as intrusive as a rich storyline, but is often more emotive than any glitzy effect.

It is nice to see the back of the mummified Alice Cooper tribute at the end of the ride. Whilst a good finale in the scale of things, in essence it was infuriatingly irritating after the first go and annoyed me like someone scratching a blackboard.

Whilst the new context of Tomb Blaster doesn’t need a finale to lift the roof from its rafters, the current one is dull compared to the rest of the ride, and a cobra peering up and down the length of the train several times really isn’t enough to carry the scene through once your finger begins to ache.

This could be improved by not stopping the train for quite so long – the ride is long enough for people not to worry that they have queued for an hour for a short ride, and such a subdued finish seems to leave the ride on a somewhat sour note, and as such you forget what went before it.

And a problem, if you let it become a problem, is that the thorough sets and theming may be missed as you intently focus on the targets each time to better your score. It is sometimes nice to hold back and enjoy the ride. Watch everyone else do the work so you don’t have to – rider reactions are like they have never been before on the ride, and it is almost as much fun watching this than partaking in the fun yourself.

Tomb Blaster lifts the benchmark of enjoyment on European dark rides. The grins of riders is living testament to this, and it is great to see that such changes can essentially transform the ailing Terror Tomb into a fresh, attention grabbing adventure that can be enjoyed by all the family for years to come giving it a re-ride value no other makeover could have done.

5/5 Marcus Sheen