For 2016 Alton Towers Resort have given their iconic Flying Rollercoaster Air a bit of a makeover, it’s not your average spit and polish with a rebrand – Galactica injects Virtual Reality into an already fantastic ride experience. Last week, before its opening to the public, myself and Miss A were giving the chance to take a ride and see how Virtual Reality can alter a ride.
The ride area has had a refresh, the track has been cleaned and painted, new block paving and fencing added, and at the base of the first drop the on-ride photo cameras have been replaced with a mist spewing ‘portal’.
The station has become enclosed too, and had plenty of Galactica branding added. The ride team from Figment Productions who have worked with Alton Towers to create and install the new ride system were still on site tweaking the ride as we took our seats.
The ride attendant cleaned our headsets, which are in a little bag on the restraints, and explained how to put them on and secure them. They work perfectly well if you wear glasses, and have a focus dial on the top to make sure your view is sharp. Once they are on and the focus is adjusted you’re told to face forward and they are then calibrated so you see a large Galactica logo in front of you. Then the ride begins, the seats switch into flying position and you’re off up the lift hill.
There is so much going on in front of your eyes, and as you move your head around to see more, it’s genuinely like you’re in an ‘out of this world’ space station. Then as you’re down the first drop and through the ‘portal’ you’re instantly in space. It’s all incredibly fast and the level of detail is astounding – it’s a very surreal experience, you’re aware you’re on a rollercoaster, and everything isn’t ‘real’. The timings are so perfect and the visuals so immersive, you’re transported to space and experiencing this iconic ride in a whole new way.
A’s the ride ends and you find yourself in the brake-run you’re advised to take off the headset and replace it in the bag ready for the next riders.
Both myself and Miss A were completely bowled over by the experience – Air WAS a fantastic ride, Galactica takes this and gives it a refresh for a new generation. The best thing is, because the world you’re transported to is entirely computer generated, it can be tweaked and changed over time. Virtual Reality is here to stay and will be used even more in theme park rides, Derren Brown’s Ghost Train will use it too, and I don’t imagine this will be the last Virtual Reality Rollercoaster we have in the UK.
I think the negative about using headsets and the fact they are time consuming to clean, put on, explain and calibrate between each ride cycle will have an impact on throughput. Galactica does have two stations, so in theory one batch of passengers can be leaving while the other lot are prepped to ride, in time the speed of dispatch will improve – so hopefully by the time the summer comes, the dispatching will be as swift as it can be.
I cannot express how much fun Galactica is – Air was a favourite of mine, but Galactica literally takes it out of this world! Thank you so much to Alton Towers for letting us have a ride before opening day! I’m looking forward to heading back in May to try the ‘Rollercoaster Restaurant‘ which we had a look in too and it looks mind blowingly good!