Pleasure Beach Blackpool
a poorly rehearsed pantomime, Valhalla is ham fisted and clumsy.
vision for a spectacular dark ride started not long after the historic
Funhouse was destroyed by fire. Blackpool wanted this to be the most
spectacular dark ride in the world, and although I cannot deny this
their intention, it falls far short of this rather noteworthy claim.
front of the ride is like a cliff face, over 100ft of generally
featureless fake rock. A film of water cascades down this rocky
elevation down to the wooden station
the station is beautiful, magnificently crafted by Russian craftsmen to
appear as a Scandinavian church. Golden pieces of lumber are skilfully
carved into intricate shapes this station uses not one single nail.
the right of the station, a huge Viking skull with a horned hat forms
the entrance to Valhalla. Water cascades through the mouth as the Viking
longboats pass through the jaw of this character.
such high capacity, the queue moves quickly. You pass a now-disused
ticket kiosk, something that could surely be used to sell the
Valhalla-branded bin bags (ponchos) from before entering the ambient
wooden lanterns give the thatched ceiling a warm glow as eight-seater
long boats slowly pass through the centre of the station with the
operator looking down on the ride from above.
sit in pairs on benches with heavily padded grab rails in front. There
are no lap bars, something of a surprise to be honest seeing as riders
are pretty much left to their own devices once inside.
into the water outside, the ride starts on a less than spectacular
footing. You already know that the cascading waterfall you are heading
towards will drop out of your way as you have seen this from the queue
you head through the Viking skull, you are plunged into darkness as you
enter the gargantuan building.
Pleasure Beach is quick to remind us how they have gone for gutsy
alternatives to lightweight effects. For example, lightening isn’t a
simple case of strobe lights, but a case of real sparks licking around
the inside of a metal cage. Problem is, you look and think ‘spark’,
and the thought doesn’t even cross your mind that this should be
effects are also unreliable. In its third season, the unreliability of
effects cannot be attributed to teething problems, and is just a general
indication of how reliable they actually are. In fact, so much onus is
placed on these larger effects, that when they don’t work, there is a
huge gap in what little flow the ride has.
ride has no cohesion. Music was added for its third season, and is
patchy throughout and incredibly muted. I heard it twice, and on both
occasions it was epically concluding before starting again. The ride
lacks a coherent sound track, lucid sound effects and dialogue of any
lighting is as erratic as the audio. Effects are often poorly lit, with
overbearing shadows obscuring scenery or effects, and large pockets of
ride would have been a great opportunity to explain Valhalla, the
significance of it and why you are there. It doesn’t.
with a vague understanding of what Valhalla is, I have no idea how each
effect falls into play. It is never explained why we’re going through
an ice storm, or why the scenery around us burns. My equivocal knowledge
of the Viking afterlife was further clouded on riding Valhalla, and
raised questions in my head of whether the attraction is the journey to
Valhalla or Valhalla itself. A clued-up reader of Coaster Kingdom
informs me it is the former, which somehow makes sense, but it seems a
shame that in amongst the generally irrelevant marketing spiel that
accompanies this ride, this isn’t made clear. Basically, I’d far
rather know what the ride represents (moreover have the ride explain
this for me) than to be told it cost £15m to build.
ride is devoid of any characters, meaning it is a very bleak inside
relying on the scenery to entertain. With effects being so unreliable -
and each vault containing only one major effect - it is easy for you to
pass through with precious little to look at.
Valhalla tries its best to completely indulge you in rich and dramatic
effects, at the summit of the ride you head briefly outside which
considering the minutes before have been a rather confusing medley of
all things Viking, it seems a somewhat harsh interruption to be afforded
a view of Ice Blast and the Flying Machine. Water cascades out of view,
and just as you think the brittle stalagmites in front will crumble
away, you stop.
would of course be an excellent opportunity to entertain you with an
effect – you are stationary, after all. However, the ride takes on an
almost industrial feel with no theming what-so-ever, and sitting on the
side a ride operator sits in his PBB-issued boiler suit, shouting
conversation across the hall to a colleague.
gently roll backwards down a small unthemed drop back into the darkness.
Another unthemed turnaround sends us back into the patchwork of effects.
the backwards drop is quite frankly dull, the other two drops are used
to their full potential.
first is my favourite, where you plunge from the inky blackness almost
without warning down a steep drop. As you think you are going to level
out, you plunge through a rolling blue mist. Thinking you have plunged
underwater, holding your breath, water hits the front of your boat,
sloshing over the front and sides as slow to a slow gait through a
rolling tunnel of water.
get reasonably wet, but in the front at least, it isn’t the drops
where you get wettest. Many effects including the water vortex entail
dumping unfeasible amounts of water on you, and as the boat turns each
corner with little or no grace, water rolls over the side of the boat.
are complete distractions, and at the points where cold air is blown
into your face, grossly unpleasant.
ride has no sense of drama. For the majority of the ride, you’re
following a maze of corridors often separated by doors. Despite an
apparent £15 million being spent on the ride, the boat bashes into
these stiff rubber doors. Even the doors on Alice in Wonderland open
auto-magically. Back seat riders may be thumped on the shoulders as the
door quickly closes behind your longboat.
rooms are small and don’t open up into large halls. This is a shame,
and no creativity has really been used to open the ride up like on
Pirates of the Caribbean. With everything being on such a small scale,
the sense of grandeur portrayed in the parks’ avalanche of marketing
claims really never materialises.
the majority of the ride sticks to this cautious and formulaic
principle, the finale clearly stands out and brings the ride out from
the dregs of forgetability. Something seems so right about literally
dropping into a finale (as visitors to Professor Burp’s fizzy pop
factory in Chessington will testify) and Valhalla perfects this effect
to quite astonishing levels.
you drop, flames licking over the surface of the water below recede only
just in time before your boat charges into the water, Viking longboats
on fire around the perimeter of this hall.
you quickly slalom through this cavern, flames spontaneously erupt from
the burning shipwrecks as fire rolls across the surface of the water to
the whole, I find Valhalla a forgettable experience. It has no emotion
and no real drama about it. Without characters and a progressive story
line, the ride has no flow and effects do not effectively fit in with
if the ride was brimful of spellbinding effects, distractions like the
outside ledge before the backwards drop, water sloshing into the boat
and wind blowing in your face are overly intrusive and mean you can’t
succumb to any drama the ride has.
are integrated poorly into their surroundings and do not flow into the
next. Poor lighting and patchy music makes the ride even more
little or no cohesion, no emotion and no character, Valhalla falls far
short of the other charismatic dark rides that Blackpool offers.
▪ Two very good drops
with great effects
▪ Lots of good effects
▪ Good size boats
▪ Boats hit the side
frequently causing water to splash in
▪ Poorly told story line
▪ Bad acoustics
▪ Far too wet. Yes, we know
they warn you, but there it is OTT
▪ Patchy theme and