Nemesis: Sub Terra
Your worst fears, underground!
Well, that is if you fear that the Towers design team have lost all creativity, imagination and innovation. There have been rumours of what this ride will involve for several months, whilst officially guarded under secrecy, except for the early release of the Nemesis branding and connection to the back story. However, it became common knowledge from an early stage that this would involve an ABC drop tower: as for the level to which the "experience" relied upon this ride system alone was up for debate, and I eventually settled on ignoring the actual ride, to see how well it was integrated into the back story of the ride to forget that it's essentially Extremis underneath.
My expectations were low, but I was optimistic. And I'm very sorry to say that even with this above knowledge, the whole experience, if it can rightfully claim to be so, was dire, disappointing, and actually an embarrassment.
The build in the queue line is good, with the various TV stations giving a mild - if somewhat quiet - back story to the research base in Forbidden Valley, and Phallanx as an organisation. The TV's were rather quiet as I said, and so I may be forgiven if I have got my understanding of Phallanx wrong, however they appeared to Be a relatively peaceful research organisation investigating areas of seemingly non-terrestrial activity, and making it safe. Indeed, the site seemed to be a visitor complex of a research facility, designed to allow civilians access to their findings.
So, could someone please explain to me why when entering the facility you are treated to a boot camp style discipline control that is more suited to Victorian schooling than a visitor complex? This was the embarrassment for me, to see Ride Hosts - who are importantly not theatrically trained - apparently under instruction by Ents to shout as load as possible and find reason to insult guests who are crammed into the batching area for over 2 minutes with no information as a continuation the theme. It's horrendously unprofessional, inappropriate, and certainly did not enhance the experience for me. They follow no script, and lack any inspiration other then to shout "face forwards", "stand straight", " stop talking". When did Towers lose all sense of theatre to produce such an obvious, cheap and uninspired introduction to the ride, for the only purpose to be intimidating to guests? I would much rather a pleasant "welcome to Phallanx Control. Please be reminded that this is a High Security facility, and to obey our instructions at times. Every step has been taken to ensure your safety whilst onside this facility, we hope you enjoy your visit"
So, on to the "pre-show", where a pre recorded video resumes some sense of normality, where they lady advises of how to enter the facility - ie loading instructions. However, the lift fails to create a sense of going underground, other then some flashing lights, and has no continuation of the back story. So much for actually bring a pre "show".
Upon exiting, we are greeted with a lovely themed rock tunnel. It's convincing enough. I have no issue, it feels underground.
Suddenly we are shouted at again, to sit in the seats to observe an egg on a plinth in the centre. We are ordered to sit down. We are ordered to be quiet, and to hold our arms out. Once staff leave, we return to the pleasant lady - I'm starting to think she is the only normal person in Phallanx - who tells us an egg was discovered several years ago, believed to be dormant, and is now showing signs of life. It reminded me of the tour in Jurassic Park when they witness the eggs being incubated. However, this is far too short, does not develop any story, and is not complimented by any effects. A video gives some visuals of an egg, but we can see an egg in front of us doing very little. And we drop.
The drop is accompanied by cheap tricks common in a 4d cinema - water spray, lights going out, and air cannons. I would love to know how this links to the egg, but we never get informed. Instead, some lights kick in inside this collapsed undiscovered cavern - I know, the Nemesis monster must have been tapping into the National Grid ALL THIS TIME - and we see more inanimate eggs. Clearly Nemmis didn't pay the electricity bill however and we rise magically rise from our collapsed benches to come level to the egg, but... OH MY GOSH, the plinth holding the original inanimate egg has flipped to reveal an empty inanimate shell!
Now the ride hosts get to shine, where their talented shouting is actually part of the experience, as we are told to get out before it's too late. Too late for what, we don't know, as we were too busy watching the inanimate eggs down below (oooo, I GET it now... Down below ground, sub terra... Silly me!). However, I assume we are subject to a spare velociraptor from Jurassic Park running smock from this dog sized egg. We must be careful not to get our ankles nipped, so we are rushed out to a second lift, where somehow this new-born beastie has climbed the lift shaft and is fire air cannons again. For such a flimsy lift with the loose panels, it's amazing how we get out alive, I must say. But we do, and are greates to the open air with a touch more shouting, just in case we didn't get it, and allowed to calmly collect out bags from the locker. Once collecting our bags, I assume we are expected to continue to run around forbidden valley screaming?
In summary, this is worse than my expectations which were set low. The experience is dire, as there is no experience. I'm not entirely sure what they were trying to achieve. A cross between a scare maze and a dark ride perhaps? The ambiguity derives from a complete lack of story, an extremely short ride experience, cheap effects that could be mistaken for surplus after Ice Age was installed, and an overall lack of ANYTHING happening! The real disappointment however lies with my expectations that Alton Towers should be capable of so much more than this. I don't doubt that the budget wasn't scrimped on with the ride. However, as the flagship theme park of the second largest Amusements operator in the world, second to only Disney in fact, you would expect a) higher levels of investment than £5 million on a "medium" installation, and b) something with a bit more imagination than could have been written on the back of a sheet of toilet paper in Magic HQ staff toilets. It has been 12 years since the last dark ride was installed, and since then we have seen a ratio of near 2:1 of rides being removed to this installed. As said above, this by reason should have been something special, something to encourage the punters to return. I think the jury has already returned on this to say it most certainly isn't. Why should we be happy that we have a ride, as it's "only" a medium-scale investment?
There is a desire to be unique, but there appears very little drive to find this imagination and innovation. Everything is half-hearted. The creative team is relying on the marketing solely to sell an attraction, and there have been too many poorly and wrongly marketed attractions in recent years. To create a ride that involves a theatrical element, then perhaps a theatrical expert ought to be brought in, and not briefing staff on minimum wage to shout themselves hoarse. To create illusion, then perhaps something more than "two-a-penny" leg ticklers and air cannons should be exchanged for genuine special effects and animatronics.
I won't be in a hurry to ride this again. Whether or not all the effects were working on the first day - and there is really no excuse for them to not be working - the experience is not tainted by a lack of leg tickling, but a lack of story and imagination. Sub-terra shall be live under the legacy of Sub-Terrible
Last edited by Satch on Sun Mar 25, 2012 9:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.