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The Smiler, Your reviews of the new ride
Jayne
post Jun 2 2013, 12:48 PM
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Anyone fancy writing up their reviews of The Smiler?

Remember that some readers of this forum may not have been on the new ride yet, so be mindful that your review could contain spoilers. If this is the case, please use the Insert Spoiler feature in the "Insert Special Item" drop box when you write your review.

Here's mine - mostly all spoilers - and some photos are on the ATA Facebook page now.

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Yesterday I lost count of how many times I said "wow", either out loud or in my head. In the last 24 hours I've tried to put it all into context and compare it to other themed rides I've been on. The closest I can get to making sense of it is that it actually felt like I was in Europa-Park.... Roland is going to be jealous!

As soon as you enter X-Sector, the entertainment begins with this ride. It is visually stunning, with so much to take in and process. My eyes and head were battling in a struggle between "just how does that train get from there to there?" and "arrrrgh too much to see!"

(Unfortunately this is where the essay of spoilers begins....Highlight the text if you want to read it.)

Queue-line, bag drop, station:
The main queue line (lets forget that we had to queue up towards the Towers/back of the Fried Chicken Co. shop with temporary barriers) fabulously makes use of the dead space beneath the rollercoaster itself. I found myself ducking and jumping out of my skin many times when a train went over my head. Getting so close to so much of a coaster is just an unreal experience. You can hear the screams and cheers of the guests (it did feel like a bit of a carnival in the sun with so many people pleased to be finally getting on the ride) which in turn made it even more exciting to get onto the ride. Also you quickly notice how the two trains on the track appear to duel (whilst another two are in the station), racing alongside each other and crossing at many points. Simply amazing to watch!

However that isn't all there is to this queue line. Videos on screens in several place, separate to the main Marmaliser scrolling screen, immerse visitors with more Ministry of Joy/Get Corrected style propaganda. Even for the long period for which I queued I rarely saw the same bit of video twice.

Scan points for The Smiler game were on some supports and walls. The ones on the supports were not as successfully scanned though.

And optical trickery meant that otherwise pointless paint work on supports and concrete instead spelt "Smile. Always" and "Join Us" at certain spots in the queue. Genius.

Staff were also on top form, with one half way through making guests jump, staring at them eerily, and photo bombing like pros.

A boring side note - there is a queueline shop. Not so boring though, as the cups are all branded with The Smiler on it, and it looks the part, not just a metal shipping container dumped there.

I'm all ready to head into the building for the bag drop. But outside I'm greeted with an airport scanner and a TV saying that guests are "about to be subject to Optical Procedures", listing a bizarre list of conditions I may develop which include, but not limited to, "yellow headaches", "permanent hiccups" (anyone who's had the pleasure of drinking alcohol in my company know that I suffer from this anyway... in your face Ministry of Joy), "brain spasms", and "wobbly fingers". I am suitably confused as I walk through the rubber curtains into a pitch black room.

No bag drop.

Just an amazing array of projected animated optical illusions, all in The Smiler palette of yellow white and black. Stunning. Let me reiterate, these aren't just your run of the mill optical illusions. Abstract plaster sculptures are stuck on the wall, and the projections use these to make the effects even more trippy. Yes, my brain is definitely in spasm over this. You're in here for a good 5 to 10 minutes before being batched through to the traditional bag drop (Thirteen style shed).

Now the first time I went round I was just ushered up the down-lit stairs, but on my second "correction" staff were again being used to trick the soon-to-be advocates and make them feel delightfully freaked out before riding.

And so... you enter the station. A sanitary white dentists surgery is the closest comparison I have to it. You're batched (disappointingly we were told you can't queue for the front row) and soon enough the trains come around and you're invited on to get corrected. Over the shoulder restraints were comfy enough, but the lack of belt clip felt a bit odd. The operator sits above you, staring down at the next guests to be subject to The Smiler.


The ride itself:
The dentist lights flash, the gates open, and steam pours out from the dark entry.

Your train rolls forward before swooping downwards on a large over-banked turn and into the first roll. Laughs great you as come to a halt at the bottom of the lift hill. Out of the building and up you go, there's no going back and you're soon through the first set of inversions!

Its such a blur... I can't remember them each blow-by-blow (apologies, it was just too good!). You get a breather at the bottom of the vertical lift hill, with more propaganda telling you that correction hasn't completed yet. You're transported up the vertical lift hill, and round two kicks off. I'd say that towards the end of the ride, the last couple of inversions are not as comfortable as the rest but its still far better to other Gerstlauer coasters in terms of comfort and lack of "head rattle".

Coming back into the station, it didn't feel like you'd just been inverted 14 times - it was a very surreal feeling. But the desperation to re-ride was there - I just wanted to go around again!


Exit of ride, the shop and other bits:
However, don't be tricked, this is not the end of the experience. Up the exit stairs, you are then taken down a tunnel decorated in a disorientating chevron pattern. Oh yes, the optical illusions continue! At bag collection, you wonder for a split second where to exit the room, as its very cleverly obscured until you get to the far wall. A dark corridor filled with unusual gobo lighting including The Smiler logo completes your ride and returns you to the shop.

But yet again, no stopping Alton Towers here, even the shop is amazing! A large bank of Picsolve screens is your first view (and blank screens, which I believe are for on-ride DVDs that aren't available yet) but in the rest of the shop there is a fake shopping channel showing you all the merchandise available (which states that there are on ride DVDs) and fantastic screens which show you what it would be like to wear a few of the items, including the hat, the glasses, and the bear's head (one not to be missed!). And the "reveal" mugs are available in here now too. Oh, and we even bumped into Dr Kelman himself in the shop!

The Challenge the Smiler game is just off the ride exit - we didn't hear any pressure selling of the game, which was a nice bit of relief, and it didn't appear to spoil the area.


As for queue times, our first morning ride was 1.5 hours (which included the 9am to 10am ERT slot), and second ride 2.75 hours (staff were telling people 3 to 3.5 hours) which included a small period of downtime (about 20 to 30 mins in total). SRQ is available - staff were telling people it halved the wait time but I didn't use it so unsure.

So yes.... amazing. Its definitely going to be an Alton Towers icon. Looking forward to seeing how it rides later in the year after it has bedded in, and night time rides will be so amazing. I agree that some of the paintwork on the supports already needs attention, as does The Marmaliser's screen. But when there's so much to look at and keep your attention, I really didn't care!

Well done to all staff at Alton Towers/Merlin for the attention to detail and entertainment that this ride provides. It may have been a challenge to get it ready and open, but the wait was definitely worth it!

I am certainly a smiling advocate.
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Nexus
post Jun 2 2013, 2:34 PM
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Great Review Jayne!

I had the pleasure of joining Jayne and the rest of the ATA Team on the park yesterday and can fully agree with everything in that review, It's a great ride and a fantastic addition to the Resort. The extra effort put into the theme, the effects and the immersive queue line really make it very special.

An end of-the-day ride was in order for me, with a 1hr 40 minute wait after joining the queue at just after 5pm and this was the shortest the queue had been all day. As our ATA quick tips say, it's the queue that closes not the ride at the end of the day. If you can stay that little bit longer, get in the smiler queue just before park close smile.gif

On my end of the day ride the pre bag drop batching staff were even going out of the way to freak guests out in the Optical Effects room by dropping a Smiler themed bin into the floor to make a loud bang that gave everyone a fright!

I was a little disappointed that the Smiler Game AR Scannable images weren't working right, because they were wrapped around a support my phone just couldn't understand them. The ones printed flat, worked like a charm!

I was also lucky enough to get the front row on each of my correctional visits and you get a great view from there, one second you are looking at track whizzing by, then ground, then sky, then a face full of water from the inoculator... brilliant wub.gif

The restraints were comfy, but not designed for arms-in-the-air-riding, my shoulders and forearms were quite battered on my first ride. On my second time around I held the restraint handles and had a much better ride. The coaster geek in my now really wants to try the back row out - another day, another day.

The technical geek in me loved spotting some of the great bits of engineering from Gerstlauer. The dynamic trim braking, only applying trim to the train when it needed it to keep the speed going. The use of magnetic brakes, even on the lift hills, to reduce the ride noise (A rollback on the vertical lift hill is going to be a scary thing if it happens, think a Rita/Stealth rollback, but from a vertical position!)

I'm looking forward to seeing how the ride 'Ages' and if Alton can keep everything working well. Based on the park's history of being a bit lax with maintenance of ride 'Extras' it could be a tough job, only time will tell.

The ride has great potential to be a very special experience for Scarefest. With no permanent lighting fitted in the queue or ride area as part of the build I hope Alton re-create the impressive light display used to promote the finished construction stage earlier in the year, It could look stunning in the dark!

I now belong to The Smiler!


--------------------
Tom Bannister
ATA Site Photographer



I reject your reality and substitute my own!
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