There is a world of difference between an amusement park and a theme park, with the latter term being misused almost as often as the word coaster is repurposed by faceless marketing drones whose chief purpose in life seems to be to exploit the inherent lack of knowledge among the general public. A theme park requires a consistency of landscaping, architecture, and design that cannot be found in a selection of off-the-shelf rides on blacktop. More to the point, a theme park requires an annual budget for upkeep in proportion to the initial investment, and the lack of one becomes very obvious very quickly.
MagicLand is a theme park that opened its gates four years ago to generally positive reviews, despite the fact that several major attractions were only commissioned over the course of the first season. The general level of presentation set new standards for the Italian market, and the coasters and dark rides were considered to be some of the very best in Europe. However, in the intervening years things have been neglected; attractions haven't been repainted, cracks have developed in the stonework, weeds have sprung up underneath the rides, and even the standard of cleaning has slipped. The result is a place thoroughly devoid of magic that I've begun to think of as Rainbow TragicLand.
Our day began with a fifteen minute exclusive session on Shock, a launched coaster built by Maurer AG. The layout was designed to operate with five cars seating six passengers apiece, and thus features three distinct block sections of about fifteen seconds apiece in order to achieve reasonable throughput. The first is a mostly flat section of track with a turnaround and several tyre drives that serves as a warm-up while doing nothing of consequence. The second features a launch to fifty-nine miles per hour followed by an airtime hill and a wonderfully intense banked turn leading to a block brake placed about seventy feet in the air. The third features a descending helix, an inline twist, and the final brake run.
Four years ago the tracking on this ride was flawless, with no jarring whatsoever. While that is no longer the case, the slight rattle that has developed constitutes a very minor annoyance that takes almost nothing from the overall experience, which is still excellent. The only real negative today, aside from badly faded paint, was a sharp bump when the car hit the mid course block brake, and I'm not sure I'd have even recorded that without my bruised rib. I managed four laps in the available time and would probably have gotten more if the operators hadn't insisted that we walk down the exit ramp and back in the (empty) entrance queue after each ride. That said, they were at least allowing bags to be left in the station, which was a definite improvement over my last visit.
It's worth pausing briefly to note that this single Exclusive Ride Session was the only one organised by the European Coaster Club in a two week tour visiting almost twenty parks, many of which had signature rides that it'd have been wonderful to marathon on. The lack of exclusive time on this trip was quite disappointing, especially when compared against a seven day trip the club ran in 2005 that had special arrangements made at four of the eight parks. It pains me a bit to criticise a group run by volunteers, but additional work on this trip would certainly have made things better; it would be nice if the existing team was willing to accept outside offers of help.
Our next stop was at Pianeta Winx, a rather good dark ride for children formerly known as Believix. The theming is based upon the Italian animated series Winx Club, an "action and fantasy show combined with comedic elements set in the mystical dimension of Magix, where special schools educate modern fairies, ambitious witches, and wizards from all over the magical universe". Those not familiar with the show (which I suspect includes almost everyone reading this) can think of the ride as a cut-down version of Droomvlucht with similar inverted vehicles.
The exit from the dark ride leads into a gift shop, as is seen at parks around the world. However, it was hard not be annoyed at having to negotiate multiple narrow switchbacks within the shop that had to be traversed to reach the exit, especially when several choke points were blocked by people contemplating purchases. Herding guests around in this fashion really shouldn't be necessary and is honestly somewhat insulting given that patrons will already have paid over a not insignificant amount of money in order to enter the park in the first place. If a shop has products worth buying then visitors should be allowed to discover them for themselves.
We were able to walk on to Bombo, a standard version of the large model roller skater, albeit a somewhat rough version especially in the back seat. The lap bar in the back row had less than an inch of clearance over my kneecaps, suggesting rather strongly that it has been tweaked from the version originally supplied by Vekoma as I've never had that issue elsewhere.
From there we went to the Wacky Worm with an identity crisis, known as Bruco on the sign but Amerigo on the park map. Whatever you want to name it (I'm thinking Crappo myself) the ride remains a yellow and light green eyesore decorated only with specks of rust and weeds. No attempt has ever been made to illustrate the huge nameplate on the base of the station, and four years of weather have taken their toll on the primer, giving it a somewhat uneven appearance. On the plus side, the layout has some novelty as a dramatically stretched version of the usual stacked figure eight, and the track was negotiated without issue, but the experience was far too dull for us to consider more than one lap.
The park has an enclosed spinning coaster built into a five storey building of around 2500 square metres, though for some reason Cagliostro uses only a portion of the available space, with the upper floors of the building completely empty. The layout begins with a very short lift hill that drops directly into the only portion of track visible from outside, a tight turnaround. Once back inside, the cars drop into an excavated basement with about thirty seconds of drops and turns in the dark that are negotiated well enough, though they could be far more thrilling with lighting and sound effects. The experience concludes with a lift back to the boarding platform.
The park's main dark ride and my favourite non-coaster attraction was Huntik 5D, a respectable if not outstanding target shooter with a mixture of physical models and projections. The eight-seat vehicles have a motion base and all those on board are given highly fashionable 3D glasses that work fairly well. That being said, the inadequate maintenance budget was clear from the fact that quite a few of the screens were not working properly, something that a major park would catch and resolve in early morning checks.
My old trip report describes Olandese Volante as a beautifully themed mine train, and four years ago it was, with a neat gravel surface under the main body of the ride and an artificial mountain around its boundaries. In the intervening time, however, nature has reclaimed much of the area, which now looks decidedly unkempt. Worse yet, the ride hardware has decayed; today it felt very much like the train was operating with octagonal wheels, and the hard fiberglass seating transferred every single jolt directly to unsuspecting passengers. Megan described the ride quality using a four letter word that summarised things succinctly.
It would have been nice to have hit rock bottom with an awful coaster, but there was further to fall with Mystika, a truly dreadful seventy metre drop tower built by SBF Rides. Rides of this type have been a staple of amusement parks for over two decades, allowing plenty of time for the technology to develop, but the designers of this unit apparently didn't get the various memos. To start with, the overhead harnesses are enormous and prevent passengers seeing those on either side without leaning forward. That weakness might be forgivable on its own, but it's harder to justify when coupled with a magnetic braking system that covers about two thirds of the tower. The really critical issue however was how the brake was engaged; for our ride the stop was horribly violent, an awful snap that certainly didn't do my spine any favours.
We decided to pass a bit of time watching the Stunt Show, which featured four BMWs, one truck, and one motorbike. It was clear that the choreographers had drawn some inspiration from the benchmark show at Mirabilandia, but the end result wasn't in the same league. There were portions of the performance that I really enjoyed, but the tilt a car on its side trick was used about four times too many and there were dead periods where I found myself tuning out. It's also worth noting that the stadium did not have shade, a fairly significant omission given the heat of the Italian summer.
The park has a haunted swing attraction named Maison Houdini that can only be described as an accident waiting to happen due to an inordinately stupid boarding system. Passengers step into a lift that descends below ground level to a pitch black pre-show room that has no lighting whatsoever, not even something at floor level. As a result, fifty people are then expected to find their way to the entrance with their hands (or the flashlights on their phones); were someone to fall, they could easily be trampled. The actual experience once inside the main room is fine, but I'm not sure that I'd be wailing to risk injury in order to experience it again.
We were able to walk on to the Isola Volante flying island, built with an enormously optimistic 300 square metre cattle grid that, if full, would likely represent at least an hour of standing outside in baking sunshine. The cabin on the ride does not rotate, and consequentially most guests tend to congregate around the side facing the park. The lower of the two decks, a narrower route around the outside, was closed off today, and videos on YouTube suggest rather strongly that this wasn't an isolated event.
A close examination of the park map revealed that we'd missed Demonia, a walkthrough haunted house located in a large building to the left of the main entrance. Queueing was a bit of a nightmare, given the local disregard for personal space, but it proved well worth it with some very high quality scenes. The exit dumped into another gift shop with gratuitous switchbacks, filled with bright and cheerful plush dolls rather than anything related to what we'd just seen.
It would be remiss of me not to conclude this trip report with some brief commentary on the park bathrooms, which were without exception awful. One of the sets at the back of the park had a fifty/fifty split between squat toilets and western thrones, but only a subset of the stalls had toilet paper dispensers, let alone ones that were stocked for use. Another set only had locks on a subset of the doors, and not all of those were working. The set closest to the park entrance was the worst of the lot, being fully stocked with leftovers that had clearly been there for days. It seems crazy to me that park management would allow guests' last memory of a park to be of Chinese bathroom smell, but that's certainly what happened for us today.