The decision to start today at Zatorland was based purely on the fact that it opened an hour before the nearby Energylandia, thus giving us a bonus credit without costing us a lot of time. We knew from a fellow enthusiast that the coaster would begin operation an hour after park opening, and this gave us ample time to admire a collection of over seventy different animatronic dinosaurs set along on a wooded path spanning well over a kilometre.
Dinocoaster (#2224) was built by Fun Rides Tech, a little-known Czech manufacturer with around a dozen coasters in operation, the vast majority on the fairground circuit in eastern Europe. The ride layout can be thought of as a massively stretched single-helix Zamperla Dragon, albeit with tyre drive units for propulsion rather than an onboard motor. The train dispatched backwards for half a circuit, then proceeded forwards for more laps than I bothered to count. The ride quality was fine, but very much in the family category, making it only worth the effort for those who count their coasters.
13th May 2016
Energylandia opened its gates in July 2014 as the first proper theme park in Poland. Its first few months were decidedly low key, with minimal advertising and a ride selection aimed predominantly at children. However, the park has expanded rapidly since, and as of this writing features six coasters with a seventh due to open later this year and an eighth on the drawing board. The investment hasn't just gone into ride hardware; an enormous amount has been spent on beautiful landscaping and elaborate theming that is well up there with the finest parks in Europe.
We began our visit with Viking Roller Coaster (#2225), a ride that turned out to be the worst credit in the park by some margin. The fourth version of the knock-off spinning mouse design by SBF Visa did at least look nice, giving it a few bonus points over the hideous original, but that's about the only positive thing to be said for it. I'm not sure what is harder to understand: why a manufacturer would deploy heavy over-the-shoulder restraints on a track layout specifically designed to feature strong lateral forces, or why investors would buy a ride like that. To add insult to injury, the track quality was actively sloppy, with a number of points where it felt like we were driving at speed over potholes. The best thing about the experience came with the arrival at the brake run, which brought with it the realisation that I now had the credit and would not need to subject myself to another ride.
The newest coaster in the park at the moment is a standard model SLC, the twenty-sixth worldwide and the sixth in Europe. Roller Coaster Mayan (#2226) features soft vest restraints, and one cannot overstate how much of a difference these make over the original harnesses. Our first lap was in the front seat, and in that location the ride was quite simply great. The track was negotiated with only the vaguest hint of jarring, and the lack of a requirement to brace made it possible to thoroughly appreciate what is, despite its ubiquity, a rather good layout. We subsequently went back for a second lap (yes, really) towards the back of the train, and while the experience there was more typical of the genre (thanks to a back slapping moment in the second inversion) it was still respectable enough, suggesting rather strongly that all parks with standard SLCs should look at retrofitting as a matter of urgency.
Our next stop was at Dragon Roller Coaster (#2227), an installation of the latest generation Vekoma Suspended Family Coaster that premiered at Fårup Sommerland in 2013. Neither of us had ridden this particular design before, and given that we decided to throw caution to the wind by starting with a back seat. On our first lap we were distracted by the construction site for the Formula 1 Coaster as the train crested the lift hill, and the resultant drop into a dragon's mouth took us completely by surprise, both for its intensity and its smoothness. The layout from that point onwards was pure fun, delivering strong forces with none of the shaking usually associated with a ride of this type. We rode three times at various points in the day, and given more time I'd have happily done more. The only negative I've got was the gratuitous branding of the ride on behalf of RMF, which was quite simply everywhere: at the top of the lift hill, on the park map, on the signposts, and even embossed onto the dragon eggs in the queue. Advertising in parks is a fact of life, but in this case it was definitely overdone.
We'd been led to believe that Mars Roller Coaster (#2228) was a double-helix SBF family coaster, but on closer inspection it turned out to be a custom design based on the same track and train system. The ride featured three helices spread over a themed surface made up of raised red platforms, almost like a painted version of the Giant's Causeway, and it certainly looked nice enough. The on-board experience was not good from the back row, as the cars clattered around quite badly, though Megan told me that the front seat was absolutely fine if still not a coaster that anyone over the age of eight would bother riding more than once. It's worth noting that the ride was the only ride in the park to have no queue every time we passed, suggesting that regular guests have realised that there are better ways to spend time.
The park has taken an interesting approach with the design of its children's area, insofar as it is directly in front of the main entrance and clearly visible from that location, but the two access routes are from the middle of the park. After a few false starts we found our way to Owocowy Ogrod (#2229), an extended version of the venerable Wacky Worm design with the most elaborate decorations I've seen outside of a German fairground. The superstructure was filled with a wide variety of fiberglass fruits, and and huge cartoon grass stalks had been placed all the way along the front facade. We were given three laps.
The final coaster of the day thus became Energuś Roller Coaster (#2230), the eighth European installation of the larger Roller Skater design coming twenty-five years on from the first. The main change over that time period has been in the restraint system; the oldermodels used a single lap bar for each car, while those built from 2006 onwards have a separate bar for each seat. The ride was memorable only for an incident in the queue, when a young child started speaking to me in rapid Polish. I apologised in English for my inability to speak the language, and she seemed mollified until about five minutes later when she started again. For some reason my response "I'm afraid I still don't speak Polish" caused The War Department to lapse into fits of giggles.
With the credits complete it was time to see what else the park might have to offer. We quickly ended up at Atlantis, which was without question the most unintentionally hilarious rapids ride I've encountered in my travels. The layout felt like it had been designed in Roller Coaster Tycoon, insofar as it was made up of very distinct segments. The boats floated out of the station through a very gentle slope with perfectly calm water, then rounded a corner into more of the same. After a little while it became apparent that there were rapids sections ahead, but they were very much like the game; the designers had apparently chosen the effect desired and clicked repeatedly to produce evenly spaced motions that for some reason were ridiculously funny. Another turn brought us back to calm water again, giving us two minutes of gentle floating to collect ourselves prior to disembarking.
We also tried Monster Attack, a target shooting dark ride installed within a substantial warehouse-like structure in the middle of the park. The interior was filled with visually impressive creatures, though unfortunately they were for the most part static; the only indication of a hit was a sound effect that was easy to miss. Scoring was available, but there were no displays within the cars; totals were shown on a TV monitor at the ride exit, giving those who'd thought to memorise their car number (and seat!) a chance to figure out their total.
Another unintentionally hilarious ride was Tsunami Drop, a rather poor attempt at a tower ride from SBF Visa. Though nominally a thrill ride, it took almost five seconds for the seats to drop from the 40 metre height to the stop point. On the plus side the view from the peak was spectacular, and there was more than enough time up there to take it all in. On the minus side, the ride was quite simply dull. It's worth noting briefly that the park's web site describes it as "the true jewel in Energylandia's crown" and states that maximum forces of up to 5.5G, suggesting a writer with a future career working for a tabloid newspaper. Based on our experience today the word turd was misspelled and the decimal point was in the wrong place.
There was a time in years past when a 4D cinema was a staple of every major amusement park. Since then the number of dimensions promoted for this style of ride has been steadily increasing, as evidenced by the various 9D rides we saw in Bangladesh and even an 11D model in India. Pyramid Cinema 7D shows a variety of different movies over the course of the day, ranging from family friendly choices to horror flicks. We'd managed to arrive in time to catch the Jungle Coaster show, a POV journey across a completely impossible pseudo-coaster with broken track segments, crazy inversions, and a top speed defying the laws of physics. Unfortunately the film was not in sync with the seat movements, and thus the experience didn't bear any relation to what it would have actually felt like if such a coaster could have been built, and worse yet, the only working special effect today was an air blast that was used over and over and over again.
We concluded our day with the Arctic Fun Slide and three different track rides, all of which were supplied by SBF Visa (are you sensing a pattern here?). Our vehicle on Jeep Safari had "Under the Sea" as its soundtrack, which seemed more than a little bizarre until we heard the same thing a few minutes later on Farma Krasnali, a ride where we sat in a tractor on a journey round a model farm. It quickly became apparent that there was one common sound chip in use on all of these rides, and it was scarcely a surprise when the Planes monorail began to belt out a tune using the same synthetic tones.