VGP Universal Kingdom has a cheap headline admission price, but it only includes use of a handful of the smaller rides and attractions. Bespoke tickets are needed for most of the majors, and need to be purchased individually from a number of booths located around the park. There is also a charge for camera use, though the INR 10 fee is unlikely to break the bank for most visiting enthusiasts.
The major credit in the park is Roller Coaster (#2020), a typical carnival style ride and fairly unmemorable. The best that could be said for it is that it didn't hurt to ride. There is also a Water Chute (#2021) that douses riders with a mild spray that dries off within a few minutes. The ticket booth for the latter is not immediately obvious from the midway; those retracing our steps can find it hidden just out of sight next to the ride loading platform.
The Dashing Car dodgems ride is a fairly unusual take on the genre, insofar as the bumpers on the cars are very good at shock absorption, far more so than would be typical for this sort of ride elsewhere in the world. This allows the enthusiast to drive head on into another rider without feeling much of an impact. The cars also have very flexible steering making it entirely possible for those who wish to to drive them backwards. Formation backwards dodgems, anyone?
The Ferris Wheel has a major safety deficiency that would be unacceptable in most countries. It is driven by a guide rope that is looped around the outside of the wheel, but only comes into contact with it about a third of the way round. Were someone to put their hand into the gap it could easily be crushed, and worse yet, the continued rotation would likely lift them bodily out of the car. It was a bit surprising not to see some form of barrier to prevent this risk, especially in a park catering for young children.
Our final stop was at the Horror House walkthrough, which was disappointing. The interior was hung with black drapes that didn't quite manage to block out ambient light, and as we walked through the various effects triggered behind us. We stopped and turned round in a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to be frightened.
MGM Dizzee World
28th February 2014
MGM Dizzee World is a large park in the Chennai area operated by MG Muthu, a local business conglomerate rather than the famous film studio. Admission is by means of a wristband which provides unlimited rides on everything apart from the two largest roller coasters, both of which can be ridden once. Additional ride tickets are not available, though presumably one could purchase a second wristband if desperate!
Roller Coaster (#2022) is a standard layout Arrow Corkscrew and one of the smoothest of the genre that I've had the pleasure to ride. It appears to have been repainted recently, and from its visual appearance nobody other than a jaded enthusiast would realise that it dates from the late 1970s, or that it operated for seventeen years in Geauga Lake before being exported to India. Those attempting to cram multiple parks into a day should be aware that this ride has a limited operating window; a sign at the park entrance indicates what the daily hours are.
We'd not been expecting a powered coaster in this park, and as such it was a treat to discover Tornado, an odd looking ride with a cloverleaf layout and very narrow clearances. Each vehicle on the five car train is fitted with a roof in order to stop raised hands being caught, but fortunately for those who count non-credits, it is hinged and opens to allow boarding. Those taller than 5'8" will need to crouch in order for the locking mechanism to close, but there is plenty of space otherwise and the park has no problem at all with taller people riding, not least because doing so provides considerable free entertainment for those watching!
There is a fairly nondescript medium sized family coaster at the back of the park that is called either Tomb Raider or Mini Roller Coaster (#2023) depending on which sign you read. The layout is basic and doesn't do a whole lot, but it tracks smoothly and seems to be quite popular. There is also a small kiddie coaster of indeterminate provenance; Reindeer Coaster (#2024) felt very much like the Herschell rides of the 1950s, such as Little Dipper at Conneaut Lake.
Our final ride was on Water Coaster (#2025), a fairly gentle splashdown ride that threw up only a small amount of spray. Most of it was deflected away from the car, and the tiny amount that hit those on board had evaporated almost before the car had returned to the loading platform.
Kishkinta Theme Park
28th February 2014
Kishkinta Theme Park feels like India's version of Cypress Gardens, a large landscaped garden with a water ski show and a number of rides scattered around its edges. During the course of our visit we found ourselves chatting with the park director and general manager, who told us that just about all of the rides were designed in house. We were also told that a pile of track next to the Space Shuttle was, as we suspected, part of a new coaster. The as yet unnamed ride, a Zyclone from Hindustan Amusement Machines, will have a horror theme and is due to open in April.
At first glance the Dragon Coaster looks like a version of the ubiquitous Zamperla ride, but closer inspection reveals the unique train design with stretched front and back cars that presumably contain the motors. The figurehead has its mouth open in a V-shape, and red painted dragon spikes can be found in front of each row of seats. It rides just as well as it looks, an impressive achievement for an in-house design and a testament to the skill of the engineering team behind it.
I was feeling a little bit unsettled after a number of days of Indian food, and as such I decided to forego any other rides apart from the Trooper, and that only because friendly staff were insistent that I should try it. Instead, I spent some time wandering around. My overall impression was of a park making the most of its limited budget; I particularly liked the look of the elaborate Log Flume and River Rapids which shared the same structure for their loading stations.