Coaster Kingdom

Vogel Rok (Efteling)

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.

It is fair to say that Efteling is one of the highest regarded parks in the whole of Europe. Kudos so deserved, in fact, that the park is one of only a few in Europe to have won the almost cult-like following of hardcore coaster enthusiasts.

Dream Flight and Villa Volta are alone the attractions that bring the park soaring high above the others with regards to quality of theming and plot apparently prompting even the late Walt Disney to visit Europe’s land of the fairies.

The unswerving followers were rather keyed up by the announcement of Vogel Rok (Bird Rock), a ride that completely exuded of promise and potential. This enclosed family coaster would take shape towards the back of the park, not a million miles from the other above-mentioned gems.

Aficionados were fairly thwarted by the finished attraction, something that apparently lacked the magic of Efteling, a ride lacking the individuality that had become Efteling’s trademark. This seemed to be something the park later picked up on, making improvements to both the queue-line, and the uninspiring ride itself.

The entrance to the ride is like nothing done before – a huge bird stands guard, and big enough is this bird that you can walk beneath it’s legs under it’s continually oscillating and craned head, behind the strange baron-land behind this oversized-fowl before entering the building itself.

Hidden way back away from view, a conical thatched roof covers the ride. In a baffling ‘flaw’, this spectacular alternative to a corrugated tin roof has been put so far back, it can only be seen from the service road behind the park.

Inside, the first view may be pretty apathetic, but it does get better, much better. A hall with a long zig-zagging queue line will take a good three-quarters of an hour. On the walls, paladin lighting hidden behind a wave like décor mutedly lights the room, something which although is nicely done, is hardly worthy of entertaining you for nearly an hour.

Soon, the lights dim, and music crescendos to righteously loud volumes as the tale of Bird Rock is told. Using a fantastically emotional track, a superb display of choreographed lighting, projections and lasers is used in one of the most original queue-line shows I have ever seen before.

The queue continues down to one of the improvements made by mass-grumblings by visitors. A short darkened window looks onto the ride. The ride though is so dark that it is impossible to make out the train in the darkness, unless it comes right past, something it seldom does.

The final part of this oversized queue takes place in the station in the form of more zig-zagging. The Arabian theming consists of drapes hanging from the ceiling and amber glowing lights hanging from arches above.

Two trains settle in the station at a time, one loading and unloading, and one waiting for riders to leave. The trains are frequent here, and although the queue may well be fast, it is not worth the effort to hold back for a front or back seat ride as positions in the train vary little. When the train arrives, riders leave away from you and you are able to board.

Seats are comfortable, and for a so-called family ride, roomy. Riders have separate lap bars too, so that you can be snugly secured with even the largest of riders company.

The train leaves before turning around a sharp right hand bend before the on-board music begins, swelling as the train starts the silent, tyre-driven lift-hill. The inky blackness is interjected by a laser fanning the top of the train from behind prompting many riders to lift their arms up into the air breaking the delicate beams of light with their outstretched digits.

As you approach the top of the lift, to your left large four birds are seen swooping in flight below you, before you coil over the top of the lift and swoop off to the left in a smooth sweeping turn down towards the ground in complete darkness.

At the bottom you enter a long helix, at which point a strobe light from the on-ride camera briefly breaks the darkness.

It takes no time before you are going at full speed and are beginning a returning curve past a bird which eerily lights up in the darkness, the same effect which can be seen (occasionally) from the queue-line and into another turn that sends you careering into the mid-course brake-run where it is shrouded in a revolving barrel of lasers that barely envelops the train.

This is an incredible effect, and leaves you wondering how it was done. Before you can even ruminate, you realise what little effect the brakes have had before you lunge out from the brake run sharply to the right.

You plunge into another spectacular helix, before you pass through a flurry of lasers and strobes, passing just a stone's throw away from the diamonds before bouncing up onto the brake run.

When leaving you try and understand the frustration of Efteling devotees. I find it hard though, as whilst perhaps by it’s very nature it is slightly inferior to Villa Volta and Dream Flight, it still carries on the legacy of Efteling to fervent extremes.

Looking at the coaster on its own, you see a display of what Vekoma is proficient enough to create – each curve and turn is well engineered to provide a smooth, potent ride with enough kick to annihilate any chance of a dead spot.

The effects on the ride are what have been causing many to come off expecting more. As far as I am concerned, leaving the ride you feel that you have ridden a dark ride (emphasis on ‘dark’) with some extraordinary and creative effects, well designed not to intrude too much on your enjoyment of the ride. Each effect sets the plot, yet if too many effects were to be used, many would be missed so that the plot would become unclear.

The queue line show sends shivers down your back with it’s perfectly measured effects, the ride is a nice smooth family coaster, no thrills and not too busy. Far more worthy of kudos than it has been receiving.  

3/5 Marcus Sheen