Context - went to AT for the first time in ~4 years today. Have always enjoyed theme parks and have done all the major UK ones several times and have been to Florida 4 times. My favourite thrill rides prior to today are Nemesis and the Incredible Hulk (oooo have they changed, find out soon!) I hadn't really been paying attention to The Smiler until a few weeks ago, although I knew of its existence, in preparation for today's trip. I then read thread this thread to give me an idea of what to expect. The impression I got was that it was an enjoyable ride, but fans felt a bit cheated as it wasn't up to their standards. With this in mind I expected it not to top Nemesis.
My first thoughts on seeing the thing - phwoar!
It looks incredible, especially with multiple cars darting about at the same time. The giant spider structure in the middle looked great and the yellow / black theme made it stand out and look particularly 'hazardous'. It was just a tangle mess of ride and, unlike other coasters which can be traced with a glance, it's hard to know the track without actually sitting down and carefully following the cars around. So straight off the bat, it's visually the best looking ride at AT.
The theme of the ride was similar to Nemesis and Oblivion: ominous and sinister. The music blasted out during the 40 minute queue over and over in the 'cattle pen' and I couldn't help but notice that the music didn't contain the insane screams of disturbing laughter I heard watching promo's etc on the internet. I guess over time it would get on everyone's nerves. I can appreciate why others find the theme music annoying over a prolonged period of time. It is quite oppressive and repetitive!
After quite a short wait inside we were shovelled into the carriage. Dear lord, the vommy smell of the head restraints! I wasn't sure if someone had been sick on them but they really did pong. Then we were off!
I can't exactly talk through the ride step by step as it was such a tangled mess - I was simply thrown upside down again and again. It was very impressive indeed and very thrilling. Everyone was screaming and shreiking with joy. My favourite parts were actually the 'hop' motions that gave me airtime.
I had heard that the ride was pretty rough so braced myself accordingly. It certainly wasn't as smooth as Nemesis but it certainly wasn't 'Corkscrew' bad! I did however notice a jerk at one section, which I recall others mentioning on here. Had this not been mentioned to me before, I still would have noticed it. Even the other passengers commented, albeit as the tiniest of side comments. Otherwise, I thought the 'roughness' of the rise was completely inline with the fact that it's a coaster. I'll come back to this later with a bit more venom...
By the end of it, everyone was laughing and stating how awesome it was, including me. Damn, this really is a serious thrill ride addition to AT. It was so good that I was actually a bit worried that Nemesis wouldn't live up to my rose tinted expectations!
On my second ride (at the front, for which I queued 0 mins), the man next to me, a stranger, commented that 'nothing else in the park can compete with it'. By the end of the day, the other four members of my group agreed that it's was better the Nemesis, mainly because it was longer and had much more bang for the buck. They did say though that if Nemesis was longer, it would just pip the Smiler. However, I was the only rider who went on Nemesis at the front whilst not in heavy rain (during the rain it was pretty unpleasant).
My verdict is simple: the Smiler is an absolute stonking ride. I'm very tempted to agree with my friends and say that it takes the crown, mainly due to its impressive duration. However, taking duration out of the equation, you can't beat the old 1994 classic. Regardless, I'm happy to accept its a ride of equal calibre. Well done AT, well done indeed!
Now, the aforementioned venom. Some of you lot have completely ruined this ride for yourselves. Somehow, during the months of waiting, you have got so caught up in every single tiny detail you have lost sight that the Smiler is something to enjoy. The ride exceeded my expectations, which had been based on the broad consensus opinion on here. Two points specifically worth raising:
- The queue was fine. It's a queue. At all times you were up close to the ride and got a great view. A very long wait in there would have been annoying, but that's because a very long wait is a very long wait. The indoor section was nothing worthy of detailed note, but nothing worthy of criticism either. It's just a small room with a few shapes on the walls. It's absolutely fine.
- It's a coaster and the theme does not trump the fact it's a coaster. Strip the theme, you still have the ride. There has been some seriously unworthy criticism over the theme. Why spend so much time analysing it? The ride looks jarring, the theme is somewhat ominous. It's fine. Enjoy the ride.
There are however two worthy criticisms:
- The roughness of the ride is completely acceptable, but that 'jerk' in the track is a let-down. For the record, I believe Saw to be acceptable, but that ride approaches the boundaries.
- The soundtrack might be oppressive after prolonged exposure.
The Smiler constantly keeps up the pace and gives a good thrilling experience. It practically makes half the other thrill rides in the park look insignificant - Oblivion, once one of the most impressive rides in the park, has almost been reduced to a non-event in its wake! The ride is a complete smash hit, everyone there loved it. As a result, some of the comments in here remind me of the internet joke of disliking girls because their elbows are 'too pointy'. On the bright side, by lowering my expectations, you made me enjoy the ride more than I expected. So thank you!