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YAY Merlin!


From CoasterForce
Staff member
Social Media Team
The WTF Merlin topic has had a considerable amount of replies. That's cool and I accept that enthusiasts tend to be picky rather then complimentary. It's easy to say what we don't like and how we would have done things differently. We have to remember that the vast majority of Merlin visitors don't scrutinise everything as intensely as we do. What we like, general visitors might not and vice versa.

To keep things balanced, I thought I'd start a YAY Merlin! topic where we can celebrate the stuff they've done well. Remember, this is from your perspective, not what the "general public" think.

The one thing that sticks out the most for me is the theming in the European parks, namely Gardaland and Heide Park. Raptor was fab! A nice tightly designed ride with near-misses at strategic moments. It was the first, and probably one of the best Wing Coasters out there. And, although I've not ridden it, Krake at Heide looks incredible.

In the UK, the most recent Merlin investments that I enjoyed where Journey to Atlantis at Lego Windsor and The Swarm at Thorpe. Both are well themed and are enjoyable ride experiences. Cbeebies Land at Alton smartened up a tired area of the park.

There are other nice touches around, too. Such as the Corkscrew tribute at Alton's entrance plaza, the themed monorail trains and the retheme of X:\WTF.

The new Azteca hotel at Chessington is marvellous. Nicely themed with a sexy restaurant - possibly my favourite place to eat at any of the Merlin parks.

I'd even say that the Merlin annual pass is good value for money. For £200 (ish) there is access to 31 attractions (ok, I admit that I'm only really interested in the parks), but take into account the discounts, the odd perk and reduced tickets for friends, it's ok. I'm interested to see what the cost of the new VIP pass will be.

So go on then, rack your brains. What Merlin attractions have you been impressed with?


Hyper Poster
Just this morning I've discovered that the volunteer rewards scheme I'm, which gives a "time credit" for every hour I volunteer at my theatre (or anywhere else included in the scheme) can be used in Blackpool from Easter for: a trip up Blackpool Tower, watching the Tower Circus, visiting Tower Ballroom. By the end of the year, they hope the credits will buy entry to Sea-Life, Madame Tussauds and Alton Towers. So, yay Merlin!


Giga Poster
I know The Smiler isn't highly regarded in terms of ride experience. And tbh I'm not a fan as it gives me bad nausea.

HOWEVER, the concept is so nicely original compared to other parks worldwide, and the juxtaposition caused by the overly happy and incredibly sinister makes it quite possibly one of the most intimidating and darkly themed coasters out there. The logo, branding and music theme is very distict and on-point in my opinion, along with the ride staff characters and costumes (in it's first year...)

I also loved the build up they created with advertising for "advocates" and even creating an entire scaremaze to generate a solid backstory for the organisation behind the theme.

I don't think any of the other SWs went into so much detail to "set the scene" as The Smiler did. I mean, yes, I don't believe the execution of the final ride was perfect by any means but anyone who followed the rides conception and backstory were given an experience in it's own right.

It's this side of Merlin I enjoy, the creative minds that try things disney wouldn't dare. It's a shame they're so restricted with budgets and Merlin's "quantity over quality" to really go to town with it.


Miss CoasterForce 2016
Staff member
Social Media Team
My favorite change that Merlin have recently made has got to be their re-imagining of Fright Night at Thorpe Park. Teaming up with Lionsgate to build mazes based on popular horror films; then creating the whole back story of 'The Director' to go with it. It has made the event feel so much more cohesive. It's way better than the 'white tent on a beach' days of Thorpe's original mazes :roll:

Sure, the movie concept is..err ..heavily inspired by HHN at Universal Studios; but the beauty of Merlin's Fright Nights version actually lies in it's comparative lack of budget. Thorpe can't afford to rebuild entire sets from Cabin in the Woods like Universal can, and so they have ended up using lots of other imaginative techniques to bring the films to life. Thorpe Park at Fright Night in the last 2 years has been Thorpe Park at its best, in my opinion.

Not to sound too biased towards actor-led scare attractions; but I also think the addition of Nemesis: Sub-Terra was fantastic for many reasons. The ride had a rocky opening period and received terrible reviews; but Alton actually listened and responded to the criticism. They quickly extended the ride experience and managed to improve a small drop tower into a well-rounded attraction that always gets the public screaming.

There may have been a significant new addition to X-Sector in 2013, but it was actually the re-painting of Oblivion that made me smile. The coaster was looking so grey and tired, now it's back to it's big bad imposing self <3

Another small thing, but using IMAscore to create the soundtrack for The Mystery of Hocus Pocus Hall was a good decision. That music is magical, and works so well within Chessington at Halloween.


Hyper Poster
Two free tickets every year thanks to lovely Merlin,
oh, and the Super Soaraway Sun I suppose.
Last time I actually paid for my annual trip (or two)...
so long ago I can't remember!

...and free return visits due to power cuts and Smiler failures.


Strata Poster
The Mystery Of Hocus Pocus Hall is fab!
I like that they've not given up on Slammer, when it seemed doomed.
I also like The Swarm.


Strata Poster
They've made a few hundred metres of the shopfront along Blackpool promenade actually look presentable.


Giga Poster
This topic seems a bit "lets pat Merlin on the back for doing a good job", but I'll give it a go. I find it hard to find things that I think they have truly done 'well'. All of the things I can think of seem to have a "but" attached.

I really like the idea of the Smiler. If anyone had said Alton were going to build a 14 looping coaster with two lift hills a few years ago they would have been laughed out. Sure, it's rough towards inversion 12 and 13, but brace yourself and it's a'ight. Sure it had a few teething problems and there was the story about it falling apart, but that didn't stop it getting 4 hour queues every day.

It's just a shame that whoever came up with the idea to put the ride onto a giant slab of concrete didn't think that drainage could be an issue..

Raptor looks to be very well themed, and really did the wing coaster design justice and did it well. It has loads of near misses, and impressive theming. I like Swarm too. I like that it has backwards seats, it's different, and I like the concept and story they went with. Sure it COULD be plenty better, it could be longer (looking at X-Flight) with more near misses (Raptor), and they could have spent a bit of time landscaping the area so it looks less 'soil dumped and left to grow over with weeds', but it brought a B&M wing coaster to the UK, which is good.

I would say that I'm glad that they painted Oblivion.. but then that shouldn't be a pat on the back for them, that should just be 'routine maintenance', so they don't get that one.

I like the Wild Asia area. It was creative, and used actual theming. Sure it was all grey, but it was theming with depth to it. And heck, the park was SCREAMING for a second Asia themed land.


CF Legend
The new Madagascar penguin costumes are outstanding - moving eyes and mouths. The show overall is way better. And penguin bay looks fantastic too - full of colour and vibrancy, great viewing windows, themed seating.

It makes me wonder if the Shrek thing has weight.

Martyn B

CF Legend
Alton in general is very well kept. Whilst Thorpe are running rides on low capacity to be "eco friendly", Alton continue to run on maximum capacity even on quiet days. The Smiler has been a good investment, I love it and I find it's one of the best coasters to just stand in awe over.

And I don't even mind their food. The Pizza Pasta buffets are acceptable, and even the Burger Kitchen was good enough for me. I'm not after a Michelin star restaurant when I go to a theme park, I want to eat quick with some crappy fast food and get back out on some coasters.

The variation of rides per land and the usual Merlin corporate guff is the only way they let down Alton IMO.

Mutiny Bay has probably been their best attempt at a themed land in the UK.


CF Legend
Alton Towers is still one of the best theme parks in the world, so they've got that going for them.

I agree that they put on a fairly good effort for Halloween, so that's cool.

In actual fact, ignoring the smaller investments, I would argue that all of Merlins medium-large investments are of very high quality.


Giga Poster
I like the stability they bring to the UK parks. By this I mean as long as a park is owned by Merlin there is no chance of any becoming the next American Adventure or Camelot.
It would however be interesting to see how the parks would have performed individually and by their own means. That's another subject though.

I still think The Swarm and Swarm island are the best thing Merlin have bought to the UK since taking over from Tussaud's. Smiler is also great but being a Gerst lets it down.


CF Legend
Longer opening hours for Chessington! Until 7 in the summer! This is kind of ground breaking?

Not sure if this belongs here or in WTF Merlin tho, because.... Alton's remaining at 6pm.


Yes, lets keep our smallest park open an extra hour but close the largest theme park in the world about 3-4 hours ahead of when it should close if we were reasonable.


Giga Poster
Opening times in Merlin parks are ridiculous. They don't have to follow PortAventura which closes at 2:00 am at some days, but come on. 18:00 on a summer saturday... For **** sake.


Strata Poster
Only possible explanation I can think of is location, Chessington and Thorpe could easily stay open till 9-10 in the summer and still be busy until close, Alton's location and minimal amount of public transport probably stops a lot of that.


Giga Poster
^ But if they want to keep expanding the resort they NEED to keep the park open later for the guests.

Even if they only kept just a few rides open just for hotel guests or something, as there is very little to do in the evening when staying on site. Made even worst when they decided to close Cariba Creek the same time as the park closes. When that stayed open until 9 it was great.

Still Chessington staying open later is a step in the right direction, wonder if this is to encourage guests to stay at their hotel? Is Legoland staying open late as well?

Nemesis Inferno

Strata Poster
spicy said:
^ But if they want to keep expanding the resort they NEED to keep the park open later for the guests.

Even if they only kept just a few rides open just for hotel guests or something, as there is very little to do in the evening when staying on site. Made even worst when they decided to close Cariba Creek the same time as the park closes. When that stayed open until 9 it was great.

Still Chessington staying open later is a step in the right direction, wonder if this is to encourage guests to stay at their hotel? Is Legoland staying open late as well?

That might be being looked at as an option...

The waterpark is currently closing at 8pm everyday, this NEEDS to continue if they want people to actually use it (in amongst making it an actual perk of staying at the hotels)...