ViaSea

20th September 2018

ViaSea is a relatively new shopping and entertainment complex located on the Tuzla waterfront in south-eastern Istanbul. It features an aquarium, a bowling alley, a cinema, a marina, restaurants, retail, and a small theme park with nineteen rides and attractions. Construction work on the site began in mid-2013 with the reclamation of some sixty acres of land from the Sea of Marmara, and continued over a two year period leading to a grand opening in July 2015. The place was developed and continues to be operated by Via Properties, a local conglomerate with interests in landmark buildings across Turkey as well as a shopping mall in upstate New York.

Red Fire

The park occupies seven acres, though it feels somewhat smaller than the headline number would suggest, as well over half the land bank has been devoted to two roller coasters, both of which have been supplied by Intamin. The larger of the two is Red Fire (#2521), a LSM-launched design European enthusiasts will recognise as a clone of iSpeed. This installation has two upgrades over the original. The first is the removal of the mid-course block brake, a minor tweak that sacrifices a little potential throughput in favour of improved pacing. The second is a redesigned restraint system with a lap bar instead of overhead harnesses, and this alteration improves the experience quite a bit.

I managed to claim one of the back seats for the first ride of the morning, and though the launch felt powerful enough we came to a virtual standstill on the fifty-five metre peak. One puff of wind would have been enough to send us back the way we'd came, but it wasn't to be; the ride proceeded as normal. The next two trains out of the station did roll back, much to the delight of all on board. The staff decided to close off the back row for a while to reduce the overall weight, and that did the trick; a number of trains made it round the course. It was then reopened, resulting in a third stall and its closure for the balance of the session. (One lucky club member was on board for all three misfires, making him the target of more than a little jealousy.)

The ride is excellent, and arguably one of the best launched coasters Intamin has built. Unfortunately there are two things that keep me from giving it a perfect score. The first is operational: under normal circumstances secured glasses cannot be worn on board, and though we managed to get this restriction lifted for our group after the first few minutes of ERS it nevertheless constitutes a significant negative for those of with less than perfect eyesight. The second is a slow barrel roll that comes towards the end of the layout: the train moves through this at walking pace, and as a result riders' full weight lands on the lap bar restraint in exactly the same way each time. This isn't a particularly big deal on the first lap or even the second, but after a while repeated landings on the same bruise start to become actively uncomfortable. Megan wasn't all that bothered by this, clocking up an incredible twenty-four laps over the course of the day; I decided to retire after twelve.)

It was shortly after the session finished that the automatic lens cover on my camera lens began to stick, marking the third time in as many years that I'd encountered a hardware fault on my PowerShot G7 X Mark II, and the second time where my pictures were compromised part way through an extended trip. On this occasion two of the four corners on the image were being partially obscured, and though the result might have impressed the Instagram generation it was not something calculated to please an avid photographer. After some experimentation I figured out two methods to work around the problem, one using a fingernail and the other an aggressive shake, but both were suboptimal, and simple forgetfulness cost me a number of shots over the remaining days of our trip.

Our group moved en masse to Spinning Coaster (#2522), a figure eight decorated in multiple shades of blue. While writing this report I decided to trawl through the sixty-four versions of the ride with photographs on RCDB, and though my results are far from scientific I can report that green is currently the most popular colour with fifty percent of the market. Blue takes a strong second place with twelve global installations, followed by a tie between red, orange, and brown for third place. (In recent months Spanish showman Vicente Bañuls has apparently acquired two versions of the design whose only distinguishing feature is their colour; red and yellow. Those will present an entertaining conundrum for coaster counters.)

Spinning Coaster

Our third stop was at Family Coaster (#2523), a near-clone of Mine Train Ulven with a redesigned (and radically tamed) first drop. The ride was fine, though out experience was marred by a completely ridiculous operational quirk; after three laps in quick succession the staff told us that we would be required to take a fifteen minute break before we could ride again, an arbitrary and utterly insane regulation that made a total mockery of having a pay-one-price admission deal. My mood was already shot because of my camera, and this additional embuggerance didn't help in the slightest. After making our frustration clearly felt we took seats in the empty front row and proceeded to simmer quietly while the operators chatted and played games on their mobile phones. When they eventually decided to do their jobs we were treated to an experience that was good, though not good enough to justify an entirely artificial wait.

The club had allocated five hours at the park, which was more than ample given that there were virtually no other guests around. Some of our group members decided to take a taxi to other nearby family parks, something that I'd have considered myself had we not already arranged a full day sweep of the area for the weekend. I spent a bit of time walking the length of the shopping mall to get a feel for what might be on offer, and I also passed a very pleasant half hour in the air conditioned comfort of the aquarium, apparently the first in the world to be divided into zones themed to different climatic zones. (I didn't notice this particular design feature until I read about it in the guidebook, and I rather suspect that I wasn't alone in that.)

My last hit was the Marina Eye, a twenty-one car Ferris wheel that stands just outside the park gate. This is not included in the regular gate price, but we were given a single ticket apiece as part of our club admission deal. The cycle time was pretty short, consisting of just two laps, though it was just about long enough to snap the overheads that I wanted.

 

Via/Crazy Park

20th September 2018

Via/Crazy Park is a small family park owned and operated by Turkish manufacturer DAL Amusement Rides. Its name comes the adjacent Viaport Asia Outlet Shopping mall. RCDB indicated that we would find a Spinning Brucomela, a rare but rather enjoyable variant of the standard Big Apple with spinning cars. The ride in question was present on the park signage, but the staff at the ticket office told us that it was "kaput", which turned out to mean "gone"; a review of satellite imagery revealed that it had been replaced almost twelve months before by a small jungle themed boat ride for children.

Boat

It took a few moments for the hilarity of the situation to fully sink in; two coach loads of enthusiasts had inadvertently spent half an hour driving to a park whose sole contribution to the world of coasters was a triangular powered ride with a commutator. Nevertheless we took the situation in our stride, dutifully forming a line at the entrance to Dragon where three of us at a time were sent on a truly thrilling journey with a top speed of around five miles per hour and terrifying drops stretching an incredible three feet. I was on the first train, which was the only one to get the full ten lap programme; by the time we disembarked our ever helpful local guide had translated the communal request for enthusiast-friendly single lap dispatches.

 

MOI Park

20th September 2018

MOI Park is Europe's largest indoor amusement park, occupying twelve thousand square metres inside the Mall of Istanbul, with over thirty separate rides and attractions spanning several floors. The place was apparently designed by the Rockheads from Planet Kepler 22B, some one hundred thousand light years away, who arrived on earth on the back of a meteor fragment and decided that their calling in life was the construction of an "amusement colony" to win everyone's heart. They have succeeded in style – Father Vinox, Mother Kozmono, children Zonar and Krazel, and "cute" baby Zozo have developed an absolutely top notch park that should appeal to intelligent life (and coaster enthusiasts) throughout the multiverse.

Our visit began at the larger of the two coasters. Pir Döndü (#2524) is a Zamperla spinning coaster, albeit one with a custom layout that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the standard portable designs. The four-seat cars have the familiar shape and restraints, though they have been visually upgraded with a pair of LED light strips that illuminate on dispatch. The spinning mechanism is unlocked automatically at the apex of the lift, where a mostly flat S-turn sets things going. From that point onwards the track features a series of wide swooping banked curves that route their way above and around various flat rides and artificial rockwork, and though the spinning isn't as aggressive as it might be the experience is nevertheless excellent. The ride concludes in the station when a motor gives the car one final revolution before bringing it to a gentle stop. I managed four laps in total and would gladly have done more.

The park also has a SBF family coaster located on an upper floor. Çuf Çuf (#2525) has the single helix layout from the F1 Vortex Coaster and an airplane-themed train. The seats have lap bars, though they are definitely not designed for larger riders; while all of our group members managed to fit on board at least one full figured individual did so at significant personal cost. Despite its simplicity the ride was surprisingly good fun; the train moved at quite a speed, resulting in strong lateral forces at the base of the helix and the entrance to the station, and the whole experience was backed by a ridiculous song played from wall mounted speakers. Club members started clapping along, earning more than a few curious looks from passers-by.

Haunted Hotel

One of the highlights of the park is the Haunted Hotel, an elaborately themed crossover attraction that apparently cost three million euro to develop. The experience begins in a room with a numer of lit paintings, each of which in turn launches into a brief soliloquy in Turkish. While everyone's attention is focused on these a live actor triggers a loud bang in the background, causing everyone to jump. A secondary pre-show room features an animatronic that gives its own views on life, the world, and the universe. When it is done a door opens and everyone moves at speed through a hotel lobby with an alien infestation, and into a mock elevator. There is a vibrating floor effect here that stops after a few seconds as the walls turn transparent, revealing talking corpses on either side. These give a final piece of informed commentary in the local patois, before disappearing into the darkness as the elevator bell rings and the door opens. The walkthrough continues for a few more scenes before terminating at a boarding platform where several dark ride vehicles await.

Part two of the experience begins with a slow and exceptionally noisy chain lift up to the second floor. The cars then pass a mixture of physical sets and projections that are well presented, though I would describe them as generic haunted theming rather than something specific to a hotel. Today one of the projectors had a warning displayed in English indicating that a bulb needed to be replaced, but otherwise the visuals were atmospheric and interesting. In a break from the norm the cars stopped in front of each set for a few seconds to give passengers the chance to fully appreciate what they were looking at. The descent back to the lower floor was a controlled one terminating at the ride exit.

My next stop was at Ta┼čkafalar Ma─čarasi, a short but immersive trackless target shooting dark ride that featured the park's mascots hard at work in a mine. The targets were LED rings, and though they were somewhat smaller than the Senyo versions found all over Japan I found them easy to hit thanks to a gunsight that appeared whenever I stopped firing. Red, blue, and green targets were available with different point values, as well as the occasional high scoring purple. The scores were displayed both at individual seats and on a television screen at the ride exit.

The last attraction on my list was the Fun House walkthrough, which was set within the Rockheads' spaceship. The effects within were nothing special, along the lines of what one would expect to find in a transportable equivalent at a funfair, but each was installed alongside detailed theming that upgraded the experience considerably. I found that I had to backtrack to appreciate the scenes in full, as the movements were activated by motion sensors that timed out a little too quickly, but that was easily done. Better yet, this revealed additional imagery that was easily missed by those only looking forward, a nod perhaps to the concept of the Hidden Mickey. My favourite section of the layout was a vortex tunnel decorated in orange and yellow; one can only hope that future interplanetary vehicles will include similar.

I'd like to thank park management for their hospitality today and for treating our entire group to a superb meal in Kadirgali. The food was fantastic and several notches above what one normally gets on theme park trips.