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In your opinion, what's wrong with Derren Brown's Ghost Train, and why did it fail?

MouseAT

Hyper Poster
Until this year, I hadn't been to Thorpe since it opened, so I'd never had the opportunity to ride it, and hadn't really had any desire to go to Thorpe in order to ride it. I did write some thoughts during my trip report from earlier this year, which I think still sums it up quite nicely.

MouseAT said:
I was persuaded to check out DBGT, as I’d never done it, and it’s probably the most stereotypically "Merlin" train wreck of an attraction I can think of:
  • Initial pre-show waffle that goes on far too long? Check!
  • Introduction of pointless evil corporation that has no actual relevance to the storyline, could easily be omitted to streamline everything, but probably exists so that the park can sell branded merch? Check!
  • Random character-driven scene that wouldn’t be out of place in one of the Dungeons? Check!
  • Opening scene on the train? Surprisingly, this part of the attraction works reasonably well. The VR is fairly well done, the setting is creepy enough, the sense of the train moving is good, and if this made up the majority of the attraction time, I’d be OK with it.
  • Pointless scene getting off and on the trains, with more character driven BS involved? Check!
  • Second on train VR sequence? Yep, and this time they had to ruin the immersion by adding a load of virtual people reacting to what’s going on. People that you know aren’t there, and are likely sat where your friends are. Seriously, the empty train from the first half of the attraction was more immersive. The pay-off at the end of the VR sequence wasn’t exactly bad, per se, just underwhelming after all of the faff that preceded it.
  • Final sequence on the way out of the ride? Nice idea in principle, underwhelming in practice.
All in all, big fat "meh" to DBGT. It’s high time that Merlin learned that they’re supposed to be in the business of building Theme Park rides, and running the ones they have reliably, not building half-assed proof of concept walkthrough attractions that belong in technology museums or midway attractions.

I also passed up Inferno whilst experiencing DBGT. I do like B&M inverts, and hadn’t ridden Inferno in a while, so that was not a worthwhile trade-off.

In short, technical issues aside, it's a long, dragged out, inconsistent attraction, with a few nice ideas in amongst a massive amount of faff. Everything good gets lost amongst all the wasted time, money, and potential.

I guess they were going for an exitable kind of "WTF?" as an intended reaction... and ended up with more of a confused, underwhelmed "WTF?" instead.
 

Benenen

Hyper Poster
Beyond the issues of poor theming, story, operations, etc the problem is the ride itself is really boring as a concept. It's more a midway Dungeon style attraction than a theme park ride but as a midway it's still underwhelming. The better Dungeons scenes such as Sweeney Todd and Ten Bells Pubs are miles better than any section of DBGT. They're suspenseful, genuinely scary and make good use of effects and actors. The fact a 20 million pound headline ride in an actual theme park isn't as good as scenes in a simple midway attraction is the biggest failing of Ghost Train for me.
 

TPC

Roller Poster
Even the finale now seems to not be in the great state.
You've still got the photograph collection in the room as theming, despite no photos being taken now. I'm not sure if it's permanent but the demon animatronic seems to be broken because when I went, it was just a random actor saying boo, but everyone just seemed more confused than anything in the room.

For anyone that has ridden this year, what is the significance of numbers being given in the preshow? It made zero sense, especially when we were asked for them later in the attraction and nothing happened.

DBGT definitely feels like it has a huge amount of potential but it's a shame it has ended up being so unreliable and staff intensive. At least, the park have learnt something for BM for not over-relying on actors.
 

emoo

Mega Poster
It's VR.

I wanted Thorpe to get a dark ride, and no park to add in VR.

No matter how good an idea you have, all the flaws easily outweigh any good. Heavy, uncomfortable, unreliable, out of sync, lucky dip to what your particular one is like.

Only been on it twice and there have been so many reported changes. Don't know if one of my 2 rides paused for technical difficulties or it was meant to be like that. The constant effort to fix a ride shows good will to a flawed everything.

The suspense gets boring quickly and keeps going.

My favourite bit is the suspended carriage. The transition illusion is done well but not a direction I'd have gone for. A swerve for the sake of it.

The pointless numbers tacked on to help really don't.

I don't care at all for the IP tie in.

I don't hate it and am not angry, just disappointed.

Come on Thorpe, make me excited and giddy again, please. Enough of the let downs.
 

Matt N

Strata Poster
I know this isn’t explicitly saying why DBGT failed, but I’m currently reading the brilliant Making Thorpe Park by Chris Atkinson, and I’m currently on the chapters covering the mid-to-late-1990s, when X/what is now TWD opened in its original form, as X:\ No Way Out.

The reason I mention X:\ No Way Out is because from reading the book, it would seem that X:\NWO in its original form and Derren Brown’s Ghost Train actually had some rather surprising parallels with one another, in spite of being rather different attractions on the face of it.

I know that a cutting-edge, VR-based dark ride experience and what is effectively a Vekoma Junior Coaster in the dark might seem like an odd comparison, but the two do (or at least did, if we’re looking at the original X as it opened in 1996) share many similarities, including:
  • Both were bespoke, world’s first attractions quite unlike anything else in the world (in spite of sharing many similarities with a Vekoma Junior Coaster, X was the world’s first Vekoma Enigma, and did introduce all kinds of interesting gimmicks).
  • Both focused on psychological thrills as opposed to physical thrills.
  • Both were major investments for the park in their respective time periods; in spite of X costing far less than DBGT’s alleged £20m+ budget, it still cost £6m, which was no insignificant sum of money for RMC-owned Thorpe back in 1996, especially when inflation is taken into account.
The two also had many of the same flaws, and many of the same criticisms were levelled towards them, including:
  • Both have been said to be very incoherent in their storytelling, and not make much sense.
  • Both were said to have quite a dull/uninteresting base concept (one reviewer once said that the concept for X:\NWO was “about as exciting as sitting in a darkened room”, and that it “[had] the attraction of trampolining on a bed of nails”).
  • Both attractions had somewhat stingy reception among guests at the time of opening.
  • Both attractions failed to have the desired impact on guest figures; X:\NWO’s failure was supposedly the straw that broke the camel’s back in forcing RMC to sell Thorpe Park in 1998.
However, this does lead me onto a bit of a hopeful future prediction for DBGT. Coaster Kingdom’s review of X:\NWO (http://www.s104638357.websitehome.co.uk/html/nowayout_main.htm) raises an incredibly interesting point; as Thorpe Park began to build new thrill rides in the 2000s, X’s flaws became easier to forgive. As the reviewer puts it:
Coaster Kingdom said:
No Way Out’s downfalls (of which there are many) have become easier to forgive thanks to the heavy investment at Thorpe Park. When the ride opened in 1996, we were supposed to believe for a moment that X:\ was actually the best of a bad bunch of rides. Since then, Thorpe Park have essentially demoted No Way Out to being a support ride to Colossus and Nemesis Inferno. Thanks to this, and the new and somewhat slapdash effects, No Way Out has changed from a dreary, trying experience to something farcical.

My point here is; could much of the disdain towards DBGT stem from the fact that it is still Thorpe’s latest & greatest major attraction? Whenever Thorpe gets its next major investment, will people grow kinder towards DBGT in the same way that they did towards X:\NWO once the likes of Colossus & Nemesis Inferno opened? Will DBGT become a support attraction that people laugh off as opposed to a headliner that people criticise once it’s eclipsed by a newer headliner?
 

Hixee

Flojector
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My point here is; could much of the disdain towards DBGT stem from the fact that it is still Thorpe’s latest & greatest major attraction? Whenever Thorpe gets its next major investment, will people grow kinder towards DBGT in the same way that they did towards X:\NWO once the likes of Colossus & Nemesis Inferno opened? Will DBGT become a support attraction that people laugh off as opposed to a headliner that people criticise once it’s eclipsed by a newer headliner
For twenty million quid? Not a bad for a filler attraction, I guess...
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
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Whenever Thorpe gets its next major investment, will people grow kinder towards DBGT in the same way that they did towards X:\NWO once the likes of Colossus & Nemesis Inferno opened?
It sounds like "grow kinder to" is stretching it a little. It seems that people still thought X:\NWO was a bit poo, but the park got more things that overshadowed it, so it could effectively be ignored as a filler attraction.

For that to happen with DBGT, the park would have to add several rides more prominent than it, somewhat consistently over several years. We'd be talking several big coasters. Now, does Thorpe anno 2021 seem like the park to put down that amount of cash any time soon?

One annoying thing with DBGT is, even for all its flaws, it is (by some margin) the ride in the park that has spent the least of its technical lifespan. Practically every other ride in the park is a decade older than it and then some. It will not be the first in line to be replaced. When the rides built in 1998-2006 become too old to operate, DBGT will be one of like three attractions the park currently has to fall back on. If memory serves correctly, Thorpe has only installed three permanent rides manufactured after 2007: Saw, Swarm, and DBGT.

Back to the original question of the thread, I think that's a huge part of DBGT's bad reputation among fans: barring minor secondhand rides, and temporary, low-budget walkthroughs, it is the only attraction in the park installed in the past nine years. For half a decade it has been the newest attraction. It was never received very well, but it has remained the "latest headline" for so long and people have been wanting to see it dethroned since the very beginning.

I hope we can look back on DBGT in ten years and remember it as the low point of the dark days of the 2010s, but I'm increasingly getting gloomy visions of its legacy being the last attraction the park installed before letting all its hardware expire and selling the land for real estate development. Now that's a scarier tale than anything Derren Brown served us.
 

Matt N

Strata Poster
For twenty million quid? Not a bad for a filler attraction, I guess...
In fairness, X:\NWO’s £6m price tag was equally significant at the time of its construction; it was the park’s largest investment ever, and it would equal a larger price today if adjusted for inflation. Thorpe itself was also smaller and not owned by a huge corporate conglomerate back then, so it would have been more significant.
It sounds like "grow kinder to" is stretching it a little. It seems that people still thought X:\NWO was a bit poo, but the park got more things that overshadowed it, so it could effectively be ignored as a filler attraction.

For that to happen with DBGT, the park would have to add several rides more prominent than it, somewhat consistently over several years. We'd be talking several big coasters. Now, does Thorpe anno 2021 seem like the park to put down that amount of cash any time soon?

One annoying thing with DBGT is, even for all its flaws, it is (by some margin) the ride in the park that has spent the least of its technical lifespan. Practically every other ride in the park is a decade older than it and then some. It will not be the first in line to be replaced. When the rides built in 1998-2006 become too old to operate, DBGT will be one of like three attractions the park currently has to fall back on. If memory serves correctly, Thorpe has only installed three permanent rides manufactured after 2007: Saw, Swarm, and DBGT.

Back to the original question of the thread, I think that's a huge part of DBGT's bad reputation among fans: barring minor secondhand rides, and temporary, low-budget walkthroughs, it is the only attraction in the park installed in the past nine years. For half a decade it has been the newest attraction. It was never received very well, but it has remained the "latest headline" for so long and people have been wanting to see it dethroned since the very beginning.

I hope we can look back on DBGT in ten years and remember it as the low point of the dark days of the 2010s, but I'm increasingly getting gloomy visions of its legacy being the last attraction the park installed before letting all its hardware expire and selling the land for real estate development. Now that's a scarier tale than anything Derren Brown served us.
I remember it being said in some thread about future UK coasters that MMM were apparently designing a coaster project for Thorpe. Let me see if I can find it…

In that case, DBGT might be dethroned sooner than many expect…
EDIT: Here’s the quote I was looking for, posted by @Jared in the future UK coasters thread:
There’s been multiple rides drawn up recently, including said B&M Hyper as well as a Mack Hyper and a few other proposals. Merlin Magic Making are working on a new coaster project for Thorpe. It’s not a case of if anymore. It’s a case of when it gets the green light.

With Merlin under new ownership, they’re keen to invest again, they no longer need to pander to share holders and can spend more money getting people to visit again. If Chessington is 2023 I’d say Thorpe will be 2024 / 2025 at the latest.

There will also be SW9. I can see that potentially being 2023 as it’s far enough away from Chessington to not impact their new investment. Similar to Zufari and Smiler back in 2013.
Thread in question: https://coasterforce.com/forums/threads/future-uk-coasters.44817/
 
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MouseAT

Hyper Poster
My point here is; could much of the disdain towards DBGT stem from the fact that it is still Thorpe’s latest & greatest major attraction? Whenever Thorpe gets its next major investment, will people grow kinder towards DBGT in the same way that they did towards X:\NWO once the likes of Colossus & Nemesis Inferno opened? Will DBGT become a support attraction that people laugh off as opposed to a headliner that people criticise once it’s eclipsed by a newer headliner?
I suppose that's possible. I probably think of it along those lines already. Many of us dismiss is as a major investment, because it brought no value to us as visitors to Thorpe. I don't look at Thorpe as a park that's developing; I look at the park as the place that is closing attractions (Slammer), letting the park slowly deteriorate (all over the place), and that hasn't added anything of significance since 2012. DBGT is just an irrelevance, just another random building occupying space in the middle of the park. When they eventually add something new, if it's worthwhile, we'll enjoy the new attraction, yet it'll still be tempered by the fact that the park basically did nothing for a decade.

It's been interesting to see some of the discussion in this thread, and talk of ride theme and storytelling, when combined with a poor ride experience. Good ride hardware can stand by itself, and be a great experience. Mediocre ride hardware can often be turned into an amazing experience through top tier themeing and, where appropriate, storytelling. DBGT and X both fell foul of being poor "ride" hardware, without the supporting theme or consistent story to back them up.

It's actually interesting to see X being mentioned, as oddly enough, I think the middle "nightclub" years were probably the ride's strongest. In its original, backwards incarnation, it was a mess. As Walking Dead, it doesn't go far enough to save itself through good themeing or storytelling. The in-between years where the park basically went "sod it, here's something random and fun" actually made the ride fun enough that it overcame some of its shortcomings, and became a halfway worthwhile filler ride.
 

Heth

Mega Poster
Agree with much of what you've just said MouseAT. The truth is that the hardware just isnt good either. There's a lot of technical parts for what is essentially just VR, which at it's core is just not that fun or exciting.

Also could not agree more...disco X was the best X.
 

Crazycoaster

Giga Poster
I think what Merlin fail to do with their attractions is make them anything more than a “one and done”. A good ride will either be thrilling/fun enough to ride over and over again or have an engaging storyline that can be explored multiple times (spotting new things with rerides etc). A great ride will combine these two. Merlin are good at completely obliviously ignoring these two factors and electing instead to build "Unique" attractions. Quirky things that sound good on paper and are easy to market, but once you've been on it, you're left with little desire to run back round into the queue and ride it again.

DBGT has no actual “ride” elements to it, other than sitting on a train carriage as it moves you 100 feet. Without the VR you have something far less thrilling than a ride on the underground. VR was somewhat successful in the amusement park industry by spicing up an older attraction with something new. It worked in that sense because the rides the VR was being added to were already successful attractions, usually older ones that had become a bit forgotten, but still enjoyable on their own without VR. Without VR DBGT is nothing.

And the huge mistake of putting all your eggs into the VR basket is that the technology just simply isn't good enough to produce a realistic enough experience. You can instantly tell you're viewpoint isn't real because of the blocky graphics and low resolution. Obviously you'll never forget you're sat in an amusement park on a 'ride' but it's just another hurdle taking you away from an enjoyable experience.
 

Tonkso

Mega Poster
I think it's a failure, because they built it at Thorpe Park. It's not Thorpe in particular that's the problem here though, it's the location within a theme park in general.

The ride experience is actually pretty good the first time you do it (providing everything works), and I have long believed it would have been incredibly successful as a standalone attraction somewhere in one of our major cities (or even touring). However, in a theme park setting it's slow. With 10-15 minutes between each batch of riders it just doesn't have good queue flow, whilst in a standalone setting you'd have a booked slot so it wouldn't matter, and at almost 15 minutes long would be perfectly suited to a short one-off experience.

Merlin were right to build the ride, but it should have been a touring experience in major shopping centres.
 

Matt N

Strata Poster
I think it's a failure, because they built it at Thorpe Park. It's not Thorpe in particular that's the problem here though, it's the location within a theme park in general.

The ride experience is actually pretty good the first time you do it (providing everything works), and I have long believed it would have been incredibly successful as a standalone attraction somewhere in one of our major cities (or even touring). However, in a theme park setting it's slow. With 10-15 minutes between each batch of riders it just doesn't have good queue flow, whilst in a standalone setting you'd have a booked slot so it wouldn't matter, and at almost 15 minutes long would be perfectly suited to a short one-off experience.

Merlin were right to build the ride, but it should have been a touring experience in major shopping centres.
Interesting viewpoint! Do you feel that this issue has been partially rectified now that the ride utilises free timed tickets instead of letting people queue up for it?

I do agree that it may have been a good standalone experience, however; it has many of the hallmarks of Merlin’s midway attractions (for instance, forced participation). If they’d made it standalone, they could also maybe have extended it to become a longer experience, which might help flesh out the storytelling?
 

thepoweroften

Roller Poster
The biggest flaw for me personally is that I’ve been to Thorpe about three times since it opened and I’ve still never been on the bloody thing (and not for lack of trying, when it first opened I thought it sounded sick). It’s always either closed/not working, has an 8000 hour queue or both. The one time we did manage to get in a decently short queue for it we were sent away after twenty minutes because it had to close due to technical difficulties again. I wish I could have an opinion on whether it was a good ride or not but it quite simply does not want to be ridden badly enough
 
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