On Thursday we were invited down to the 'VIP' Launch of The Walking Dead : The Ride at Thorpe Park Resort to see how it all looked. It's been a few days since our visit and I've pondered about it. So.. What's it like?
Lets get a few facts out there before we continue. If you weren't already aware, The Walking Dead : The Ride is a retheme of 'X' (or X No Way Out). It's in the same building, it's the same rollercoaster - there's been no changes to the track. It is, to all intents and purposes the same ride as X. If we're honest, X is a pretty tame 'family' rollercoaster - it's no Nemesis.
So is The Walking Dead : The Ride a bit lame then?
No.. It's not. You see the thing is X was, a bit shit. It had changed so much since it's original iteration. It had had several cheaply done makeovers to paper over the cracks. But instead of being the multi-sensory assualt of weirdness that it was when it first opened, it ended up being a tame rollercoaster with a dance soundtrack. Also, because over the years the theming in the queueline had been stripped RIGHT back. The route to the ride was like stumbling around endless corridors with a throbbing dance soundtrack. The Walking Dead : The Ride retheme has injected new life into the ride, and indeed building.
The exterior of the ride has had overhaul - it's got a watchtower attached to the building - the 'TP Safe Zone' has nods to the 'Alexandria Safe-Zone' from The Walking Dead Comics and TV Series. Whilst no great effort has been made to disguise the MASSIVE pyramid the ride is housed in, as you enter the gates, and snake around the queue, it's easy to forget the ride's legacy. There's a batching area at the base of the watchtower as well as 'Stores' where you drop your bags. You're batched into even-numbered groups in readiness to enter the watchtower for 'Registration'.
The story is essentially that you're outsiders, seeking sanctuary inside the TP Safe Zone. Newcomers need to go through questioning before being allowed to stay in the Safe Zone. There's a pre-show explaining this as you enter the watchtower. Then, as is pretty standard in The Walking Dead, all hell breaks loose and you're ushered into the queueline. Everything inside the building has been meticulously themed, it's not just had a lick of paint. There's new lighting, multi section sound (the soundtrack and announcements change as you get deeper into the building). It FEELS like you're in a set from the show - there's scrawling and graffiti on the walls, there's been a lot of effort put into it all. You're moving through different 'Areas' trying to get to the safety of the 'Service Lift'.
Outside the entrance to the Service Lift there's an abandoned truck (registration no XNWO WD), with goods half unloaded, and it's onto the ride itself.
On the ride, the dance soundtrack has gone.. It's all unrecognisable from how it was. They've got a range of effects, sounds, projection, screens, smoke, lights and good old fashioned strobes to create a fun ride. They use the two mid course break runs well too. You're led to believe the 'lift' has broken on the second one, and the ride judders and jolts while they are trying to 'get more power'. There's a lot to take in as you're zipping through the track, and on the VIP Launch night not ALL the effects were ready. There's even MORE now!
As the ride stops you're hurried off the train and leave through the 'cafeteria' (which is the old baggage collection area), and down through some more well themed corridors. There are on-ride photos available from the Thorpe Mega Store (which the exit route now leads you through).
Final thoughts on The Walking Dead : The Ride
Yes - it's a retheme of X. However it's a bit more than that. It's given this 20+ year old ride it's soul back. There's a cohesive The Walking Dead themed story throughout. From the moment you join the queue, to the end of the ride it's full on The Walking Dead. The twisting corridors serve a purpose now, there's so much detail crammed into the whole ride. You must remember that The Walking Dead is a MASSIVE global brand, the owners, AMC want it protected. This isn't just a few coats of paint and a polish, it would have had to had their input and sign off. Also their ongoing beady eye will ensure that it isn't left to rot.
Whilst it's the same ride, physically, they've improved it immeasurably and whilst it's not as 'family friendly' as it was. It's better, there's life in the old girl yet, and it's nice to see X reborn into something different. I'm looking forward to going back and seeing all the details I missed the first time around!