ThemeParks-UK was invited to the exclusive grand opening event for Derren Brown's Ghost Train at Thorpe Park on 21st July 2016. Here's our review of the attraction, without giving it all away, as not knowing what happens is an important part of the experience.
The mysterious Thorpe Junction, a seemingly abandoned railway depot, sits in the heart of Thorpe Park sandwiched between Amity Beach and The Jungle. With the exception of one rather large unthemed section of the building the exterior of the attraction looks great, with a suitability derelict appearance, Victorian features and other detailing.
During the queue you are issued with a one way ticket to ride and you use this as you pass through two pre-ride sections which serve as novel photo opportunities and really add to the build up to the experience. After handing over any bags at the luggage desk a member of the crew, acting in character, prepares you for what lies ahead.
Firstly you meet a projection Derren Brown who delivers an effective first act, setting the tone and raising expectations for the experience. Then you enter the huge warehouse, are are blown away by the incredible 20 metre long Victorian railway carriage, which appears to be suspended in mid air by chains. It's a brilliant set piece and once you've taken it all in it's time to board.
We won't tell you what what happens next as that would simply spoil it, but it's a genuine world's first and unlike anything you'll experience at any other theme park. The marketing has teased everything from creepy life sized Victorian dolls to mechanical contraptions with cogs and gears along with puzzles and riddles to solve, but none of that has anything to do with it, that was just Derren Brown messing with our minds. Even more surprisingly, it doesn't actually feature any ghosts!
There were some technical problems which have an impact on the experience if they affect you. Several of the VR headsets were out of action so the capacity reduced, others suffered from either a blurry picture or non functioning speakers. There were also timing issues, so what should be a 10-15 minute experience actually lasted over 20 minutes, due to several long pauses with nothing happening. Hopefully these will be ironed out in the coming weeks.
We knew that virtual reality would be part of it, but think it's overused, and the promised 12 possible journeys and two endings didn't amount to much from what we experienced, with only very minor differences that had little effect and wouldn't encourage re-riding.
Overall, it's brilliant to see a new dark ride finally come to Thorpe Park, offering such a different experience to anything else and adding to the variety at the park. Derren Brown and over 1,000 specialists from Thorpe Park’s Merlin Magic Making Creative Department and external experts have clearly invested substantial effort in creating a really innovative experience that has never been done before and utilises the latest in technology along with some tried and tested tricks.