London, March 2012: Dark clouds begin to form over the city. All news stations report about mysterious deaths of people all over the city who seemed to be thrown randomly around the air. The situation and mood of the citizens is tense. Suddenly there is a buzzing noise in the distance, getting closer and closer. Sirens are screaming, machine gun shots can be heard anywhere and from one moment to the other several cars, choppers and innocent pedestrians are twirling through the air, covered by a swarm of black creatures which fly like shadows through the city. Everyone is on his own now and running for his life, accompanied by the screams, sirens, explosions and the ever ongoing buzzing of the creatures from behind. A plane is caught by the shadow-like cloud and crashes right on an old church directly beside Thorpe Park (Staines, London) – welcome to the apocalyptical world of The Swarm!
Merlin Entertainments really knows how to wrap new attractions of their parks in an oftentimes dark theme and to push that to the limit – and beyond – with various marketing approaches. For the new roller coaster “The Swarm” at Thorpe Park there was a whole array of clever advertisements including viral videos of attacks in London, several ads and teasers as well as fake press releases. One of those marketing press releases about test-dummies losing their legs and arms because of track clearance issues even made it to several German media.
The whole setting is very fitting for the attraction itself: The Swarm, new ride for 2012 and previously known under its project name LC12, is the second installment of the Wing Coaster from Swiss company Bolliger & Mabillard after the prototype “Raptor” at Gardaland (Italy), which belongs to the same group. Passengers are seated in the train for 28 riders not above or underneath the track but in rows for two both left and right beside the track. Through that the view down, up and to one side is unobstructed of any track or ride vehicle. The restraint system – like with Raptor - is a modified version of the Flying Coaster-design using a flexible west that keeps the upper body in position. While this system allows for more comfort especially in slowly taken inversions it can generate uncomfortable pressure if a rider has a prominent clavicle. The ride itself is about 50 seconds long and includes five inversions although one of them – the inclined loop – can also be seen as an overbanked turn. But what exactly is this swarm all about? We defy the dangers and dare to head directly into the war zone.
Weird people with signs like “the end is coming” are standing on our path – did they know the truth after all? We follow marching soldiers and soon stand rooted to the ground: In front of us we see a scene of horror and devastation. Directly beside the half destroyed church lies the still smouldering wreckage of the crashed airplane. And every now and then a swarm of shadows flies over and through the wreckage accompanied by screams of people captured and trapped in the shadow cloud. With screaming sirens and constant weapons fire of the military we make our way to the remains of the old church. There we have the choice between the normal queue line from which the front row line separates later on, and the upcharge Fastrack express-line. At the entrance to the church itself all queue lines come together again. Here we can store our luggage and loose items free of charge and get directed to one of the station sides. As we wait in line for the front row we also get a pass that enables us to get to the very front when we are assigned a seat row later on. It is only now in the station where we can see how massive the destruction really is: The church’s roof is completely gone, ripped off from the walls. A trailer of the “Major Incident Unit” of the police lies upside down about 2 meters up in the air. Soon we are directly facing the Swarm with its menacing glowing red eyes and despite all dangers we come even closer and take a seat.
Slowly we begin to move and climb the lift hill surrounded by buzzing and cracking noises. As we are high up in the air The Swarm takes its time and slowly twists us upside down. Only then it unfolds its true power and plunges down vertically to the ground, passing directly under the plane wreck wing with full speed. Just as we can see something after the heavy smoke from the wreckage we are flying towards the sky again and suddenly roll around our own axle in near weightlessness. Plunging down and missing the ground by centimetres again we twirl looping-like through the air and directly over a small lake. We zip around a crashed helicopter just above the lake surface and whirl up a lot of water as the swarm prepares to take another roll right above the entrance area in front of the church. Just missing a crashed fire engine we fly towards the remains of the church walls. A small gap is all that’s needed for the Swarm to take is into the church and twirl us upside down one more time directly above the heads of those waiting victims whose ride is still ahead of them. After this last manoeuvre we finally slow down and the Swarm gently takes us back to the church – alive and unharmed.
|Manufacturer:||Bolliger & Mabillard|
|Trains:||Wing Coaster Trains|
7 rows à 4 rider
The Swarm is now yet another attraction at Thorpe Park with a very dark theme – one that is executed very consistently and throughout. The whole area creates a very uncomfortable apocalyptical end-of-the-world atmosphere. While the park may have reached its goal this dark and a bit questionable theme also provides very few reasons to stay und relax and it’s no coincidence that there are no benches and no food venues within the area of The Swarm. The roller coaster itself provides a very balanced and smooth ride – this is by no means an intense attraction and all of the inversions are being taken quite slowly as well. However exactly this characteristic can be seen as a major plus point for the ride as every upside down element can be experienced throughout and very consciously. There is also a very good feeling of flying especially in the front seats though there are too few near misses with the ground or other theming elements. The Swarm may therefore not necessarily be one of the best roller coasters of Europe but nonetheless offers an interesting and unusual ride experience within a spectacular and unique setting. War has begun!