After my first visit to Alton Towers last week here's my own reflection of the positives and negatives at the theme park this year.
+ Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
I must say compared to 2011 Charlie is looking better than ever this year. Effects such as the waterfall have been fixed. The scents were working in the station area. The lifts are in great working order. The ride as a whole has improved greatly and I welcome the fixtures that have taken place. I was under the assumption last year that the theme park management has no intentions of maintaining the ride. The condition of the ride this year shows to me that management are still aware it still exists.
My two negatives, where's the themed uniform? I was highly disappointed to see staff wearing the generic Alton Towers uniform, the themed coats were great, I'm not quite sure why they have been dropped? My other negative is that the right hand lift creaked incredibly while 'starting up', it sounded awful, I hope this gets fixed (surly it's a matter of a good spray of WD40?) soon, it does somewhat detract from the experience.
Duel is looking great this year, further improvements have made this a more interesting ride. I've also noticed original sound effects from the Haunted House have been added to Duel now, such as the 'are you scared of spiders' audio, which brings a nice new sound to the ride while also giving us enthusiasts some good old nostalgia. The removal of the strobe light after the spinning tunnel is very welcome too! You can no longer see the black walls or fire exit lit up in front of you, great work! The new gun clickers are interesting too, although I found them harder to use, that could just be more of an opinion though rather than anything that could be deemed as negative.
It's great to see new merchandise added to Alton Towers. I need not have much to say here apart from that I'm pleased to see new things added. Such as the build your own Oblivion pack and Duel gun blasters. The improved Th13teen mugs look great too!
+ The Towers
The Towers as always are looking great. My mum said that a staff member that told her that the front of the Towers has been cleaned (sand blasted?). I noticed it looked cleaner myself although it took a while to notice this. The further improvements around the Towers such as new windows and such are highly welcomed and it's nice to see Alton are continuing to restore parts of the Towers. I hope one day in future Alton thing of putting the Towers to some good use, starting with advertising the place more.
What can I say about Hex this year? It's looking worse for wear. The main video is the obvious problem. I know Alton are aware of this so I need not to go into much detail here. I found the video hard to watch at parts, and while other guests did not notice so much I thought it made the narrative hard to follow clearly. Other than that the Octagon room seems to be missing some effects, such as the water, I know some effects have been broken for a good while however it would be great to get these things back up and working - it would add a lot to the experience. The main vault seems to be slow at parking too, although again I know Alton are aware of this issue.
- Dark Forest
Dark Forest, more like light open out Forest. The place is looking awful this year. The vines that Alton fixed around the entrance arch and also on the Th13teen building have now been removed, leaving bare areas and screws visible all over the place. It was particularly noticeable on the Th13teen station, screws everywhere did not look good at all and detracted from the theme greatly. However the rest of the area as it stands isn't too bad. My views still stand as they have been since 2010, the area needs a supporting flat ride and needs more theming features to enhance the theme.
This was probably just a matter of something on the day, however the smoke between the transfer track and returning to the station was not working? I was slightly disappointed about this. There seems to be theming missing from the queue line area too, such as the Th13teen girl, my brother noticed a object in the tress behind where Th13teen girl is meant to be situated, we're not sure if it's just a matter of this piece of theming being blown away due to high winds? If so, it would be nice to see it put back in its place. One welcome positive though is that I LOVE the smoke effect in the crypt, it's hard to notice but it does look great.
- Towers Street
I'm not quite sure what to make of this area these days. The upselling obviously detracts from any type of escapism. However the music is extremely quiet in this area too. On my two day visit on both days I could not hear the music at all, it was on, just very faint. The Towers Street music should be booming through the area, it's the first impression that counts! Sort it out Alton, get that music louder! Other than that as the area has looked for many years it's looking very old and worn out, and if I'm honest could be done with a complete revamp.
- The Monorail
I'm not quite sure what has happened with the Monorail this year? The trains just seem to be lacking of any care or attention. I found that some of the vinyl was ripped off the exteriors of some of the trains. The removal of themed audio has also ruined the trains too. Going on to the pirate train you have a mixture of the pirate sound effects then you have this generic marketing audio playing after it, very disappointing. The new videos are not that exciting either, and the theme park Monorail station could do with some new TVs, the current ones look awful. The stations themselves are looking worse for wear too. They are in desperate need of a modern overhaul. Again the first impressions aren't set out that well anymore.
- Theme Park Audio
What's happened with the audio across the park? Everything has seemed to have been turned down incredibly. All the music in each area is so quiet, apart from Cloud Cuckoo Land, Nemesis inside the dark rides music is very quiet across the park. Areas such as Gloomy Wood you cannot hear the area audio at all. It's very disappointing.
+- Sharkbait Reef
On my Monday visit last week to Sharkbait Reef was fantastic. It was empty in there and is the first time I've really been able to admire the theming Alton Towers and Merlin are capable of within a tight budget. It's so beautifully themed in there. Although I have one little niggle, the Th13teen tank, which has now had it's theming removed, why? It wasn't doing much harm before so I'm quite confused as to why it has been removed.
I'm quite impressed with the entertainments team this year, there have been plenty of themed characters around the park and the pirate show from short viewing looks as good as ever this year. The addition of the pirate in the little boat going around Towers Street and Mutiny Bay is great too! (I read somewhere he's called Pirate Pete? Not sure if that's true or not) Reminded me very much of Musical Ruth. A great addition!
My negative as always, the resort lacks entertainment so much, the park is in real need of a year round big production show that suits all ages. I'm pulling out my Ice Show card here, something like that NEEDS to be at the resort. A show that everyone can watch and enjoy, something that last 20+ minutes and can be a good sit down show. The entertainments team is in desperate need of a bigger budget. I'm sure if they were given the budget we would be seeing great things from them. I'm impressed with what they do now given with not much of a budget although really in the long run more investment needs to be pumped in.
I love the new queue system in Towers Trading. It really is fantastic and makes queuing far easier. Before it was a free for all, now you actually queue and get served in an order. The themed sound effects in the queue is great too and with each counter having a different sound effect I admire little details such as that.
Now we move on to the negatives, playing pop music... it just doesn't do it for me. They preferably need to play the Towers Street music in here, or some other themed music, not Beyonce! The pop music takes me back to the real world, at Alton Towers there should be no hints of the real world, just the escapism that the marketing thrives to put across to guests. I am also very disappointed to see the removal of the Runaway Mine Train theming that ran across the shop. I do not understand why it's been removed at all, get it back in there please! It was again a great little detail that added a lot to the shop.