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Oh Merlin, when will you learn?. Merlin Public Relations pulls out it's latest stunt for Sub Terra. Alton Towers has the British Board of Film Certifcation rate Sub Terra.

 

www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/nemesis-subterra-are-you-feeling-scared-yet-7579352.html

 

Nemesis Sub-Terra: Are you feeling scared yet?

On Saturday, Alton Towers will unveil its new attraction for thrill-seekers, Nemesis Sub-Terra. Simon Calder gets a sneak preview of what's billed as a nightmare underground and finds that he's not as tough as he thought

 

The Independent

Simon Calder Wednesday 21 March 2012

 

Nemesis Sub-Terra is designed to instil terror in the thousands of riders who, from Saturday, are expected to surge through the turnstiles of Alton Towers. But how scary is the new ride? At least two of us are keen to find out: me, and my new friend Dr Paul Tennent, whom I have known for only five minutes but already has my shirt off and is attaching electrodes to my chest.

 

Dr Tennent's day job is as a computer-science lecturer in Nottingham. But he is also part of the Thrill Laboratory. This is a collective of scientists, psychologists, sociologists and architects "dedicated to the practical pursuit of creating, producing and examining new forms of thrilling experience", which is just what Merlin and I need.

 

Merlin is the UK's biggest theme-park company. It runs attractions from the London Eye to the Blackpool Tower, but its main focus is on what it might like to call the triumvirate of terror: Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures, both south-west of London, and Alton Towers in northern Staffordshire. These theme parks seek to provide big thrills on an industrial scale, creating an addiction to adrenaline that keeps the crowds coming. The best way to feed that habit is to reinvent themselves even more frequently than Madonna and install a big new ride for the start of a season.

 

Nemesis Sub-Terra is Alton Towers' bid for 2012. Building for what was code-named the Catacomb Project began in September. The new ride is described as "your worst nightmare underground". But just how thrilling is it? That is what Dr Tennent and I are hoping to find out; it explains why he is now connecting devices to my fingertips to detect stress in the form of micro-beads of sweat – the same principle used in lie-detector technology, honest.

 

"We want to collect a caucus of data about the physiological changes induced by thrills and the different ways that people respond," he says. The organisation identified an ideal gene pool of expendable guinea pigs and six journalists duly turned up on Monday for testing.

 

The attraction is located among pine trees on a hilly corner of Alton Towers. It is related, at least in the minds of those who like to create a "back story" for these things, to Nemesis. This is the rollercoaster that transformed Alton Towers into a premier-league attraction when it opened in 1994. While the gaunt, serpentine structure of Nemesis makes clear you can expect a ride where your body, soul and stomach simultaneously depart in different directions, its Sub-Terra sibling gives no clues.

 

The venue is a big steel shed, painted military green and looking remarkably like some of the more utilitarian airport terminals that Ryanair uses at former air-force bases in Germany. And the shadowy paramilitary force guarding the place is fiercer than Ryanair cabin crew. They wear black uniforms and shout a lot. Indeed, you might conclude that they are rejects from the academy that used to train East German border guards and now coaches US immigration officials. They are called The Phalanx.

 

Dr Tennent is now doing something complicated with wires and sensors to measure my breathing patterns. He is not like other computer-science lecturers: he spent his honeymoon in Disneyland Paris. And his fellow researcher, Dr Joe Marshall, who is helping to rig the infra-red camera on a frame on my chest, once held the record for 24-hour all-terrain unicycling – a superlative of which I was previously unaware.

 

I imagine that riding a unicycle down a mountain in the dark scores fairly high on the thrill scales that the good doctors are seeking to measure. The more scientists understand about fear, the better they can define who is a suitable candidate for rides like Nemesis Sub-Terra. The 1.4m height restriction helps to sort out the men from the boys and the women from the girls. But for the first time ever, the British Board of Film Classification has been brought in to rate a theme-park attraction.

 

After several tests, Murray Perkins, senior examiner at the BBFC, classified it as a 12A. In other words, under-12s are not allowed in unaccompanied, although "an adult may take a younger child if, in their judgement, the film is suitable for that particular child".

 

Over 11? Check. Over 1.4m? Check. All plugged in? Time to play.

 

As with queuing for a Ryanair flight, some passengers are more equal than others. After standing in line with the masses, cutting through in the fast-track lane or joining the loners in the Solo Riders Only queue (that's me), you enter the structure and are told to stand on pre-assigned black dots. Doors open and you are ushered – no, ordered – into a lift. The noises, lights and vibrations are designed to signal that you are descending deep into the ground.

 

You emerge into a chamber that feels like the lair for a low-rent James Bond villain. The tableau at the centre is surrounded by 1960s sci-fi zappers, pointing at a giant egg that you are led to believe will hatch at any moment, with unpleasant consequences for all humanity, particularly yourself. More shouting directs you to a seat, where the "sequesters" – the usual theme-park restraining harnesses – are lowered. Then the sudden darkness indicates the experience is about to begin.

 

A sharp spray of air hits you in the face. You drop who knows how far into the void. You jolt to a halt and as you try to make sense of your surroundings a tentacle or two jabs you from behind.

 

Then the guards come into their own. Like extras from a hostage-simulation exercise, they yell at you to escape. Seconds later you find yourself back in leafy Staffordshire. And, in my case, being untangled by Dr Tennent.

 

"The data maps what the ride is doing," he says after the numbers have been crunched. The breathing record shows an involuntary gasp when the lights went out. After the blast of air, I started shallow breathing – though Dr Tennent was kind enough to describe it as "manly panting". The best correlation, though, was with the heart monitor. "You're generally a flat-liner, but when the ride dropped your heart rate jumped from about 60 to 172 – and then again when you were poked in the back of the legs," he says. "The ride is going for that sudden intensity – as though you went from normal to running full-tilt down the street in an instant." The highest rate was saved for the end when the shouting reached a peak. It shot up again to 186 – three times the rate at rest. Evidence, perhaps, of a latent fear of authority or simply too many encounters with East German and US frontier officials. It is also an indication that the best thing about the new ride is its theatricality.

 

The BBFC's guidelines for a 12A allow "moderate physical and psychological threat, provided that the disturbing sequences are not frequent or sustained". I suspect that most of the people who pass the 12 years/1.4m hurdles and try out Nemesis will latch on to that word "moderate".

 

We do not go to theme parks for "moderate" experiences. We go to be scared witless. I plan to be first in the queue for The Swarm, the new ride at Thorpe Park. It promises "a death-defying flight through apocalyptic devastation", which doesn't sound too moderate, with "near misses and gut-wrenching inversions as it rips through the sky on its mission of complete annihilation". You don't get that sort of thing on Ryanair.

 

As the pale sun sinks over Staffordshire, the scientists are studying my heart-rate graph, which shows peaks that even Dr Marshall might hesitate to unicycle down and tell a different story to my conscious response to Nemesis Sub-Terra. "It shows that it doesn't matter how calm you are – the ride will scare the crap out of you," Dr Tennent says. Is the purpose of the exercise, I wonder, to snigger at what scaredy-cats journalists are? No, says Dr Tennent, it is much more important than that. "If you understand how people respond to thrills, you can design better rides."

Edited by larrygator
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Right I was on park yesterday for the opening of Nemesis Sub Terra.

 

The below explains the majority of my view. The main part of the ride is a complete let down, the drop really lacks force. But Alton have done the best they could with the equipment that have choosen. The theming is incredible and the ride has a great storyline. It is not at all re-rideable. 6.5/10 for me.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9c8OMOREe8

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Now, they're saying how scary Nemesis: Sub Terra is and how it's not for little kids and a very "intense ride". Doesn't this seem like Th13teen all over again?

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Now, they're saying how scary Nemesis: Sub Terra is and how it's not for little kids and a very "intense ride". Doesn't this seem like Th13teen all over again?

 

Doesn't this seem like you repeating what was already said on this page?

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Nitro is the scariest Coaster EVER. I went there and it was broke/closed. That's about as scary as you can get.

 

Welll...if that is true, than Alton Towers needs a broken Nitro ASAP

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Sub Terra - Sub Standard !!! (thanks Neil)

 

Myself and two other TPR club members were in line just after nine on Saturday morning, opening day, we expected to be on the ride for half past and we were, half past ten!! The wait was made more palatable by the valiant efforts of the N-ST team members, this along with the incredible hype on how intense this ride was going to be seemed to make it ok, O how disappointed we were to be.

The "elevator" down to the ride was poor to say the least and when we entered the actual ride it all seemed very familiar, does anyone remember "Alien Encounter" at Disney, a pretty scary encounter to say the least, well this was a clone with a twist, it wasn't scary! It had the potential to be better, it had a "drop", unfortunately the drop was a damp squib, the effects less than scary and overall you were left in disbelief and the "what just happened there then " feeling.

After exiting the ride we were met by a canvasser who wanted our views of the ride, we told him!

Next to him was an older gent who informed us that he was a contractor who was working on the rides special effects (also a TPR member, so hi if your reading this), he asked if a number of effects had worked, they didn't, he was disappointed but not as much as us.

Overall the ride had potential, maybe need to look at it again when the ride effects are working but cant see it being better than just ok.

If i were to score it out of 10 today then it would have to be a generous 4.

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Leave it to Merlin marketing to blow their rides out of proportion.

 

It looks like a fun little addition to the park though. Maybe if they spent more of their advertising budget on the ride itself, it would be less disappointing

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Some information regarding Sub Terra:

 

The ride feedback at the weekend was very poor. It appears that AT are very dissatisfied with the ride experience as it stands.

 

Expect some major changes in the coming weeks.

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As Chris stated on the previous page. On opening day it was an extremely disappointing experience. From all the hype and marketing surrounding the lead up to it's arrival it sounded fantastic. The Twitter account, teaser photos all made the lead up rather exciting. The look of the ride, theming, staff interactions are all superb but the ride itself and the duration of it was just too short and dull to really be worth anything.

 

I understand more effects are on the way, ie: a poke in the back and a breath of hot air from behind but I really can't see those making a huge difference.

 

What would improve it is multiple drops and a slightly extended and maybe less rushed ride time. A better understanding of the story would be very useful too as everyone was left rather confused as too what the whole thing was about and it was all very quick and rushed overall.

 

From entering the pre lift to exciting the post lift was only shy of 2 minutes. If the ride was extended slightly they could get a much better experience along the lines of Hex maybe as that's a superb attraction.

 

Anyway, I'll give it another ride ina few months and see if it has improved. It has the potential, loads to be honest but it just is not there at present.

 

Neil

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Went on the ride a couple of times today. Personal opinion of course, but having read a few spoilers etc I found it to be a great little ride, nothing majorly exciting but well executed given capacity issues. A decent drop actually, very similar to the drop on thirteen, perhaps they have modified the ride since initial opening? Looking forward to the full experience once they get all effects working. I think the ride left a positive impression on me because it's pretty unique, perhaps a little random, but not my worst nightmare

 

Just a note of interest for some, there were many big guys from Merlin HQ (a guess) at the ride for most of the day so there's obviously a lot going on behind the scenes regarding the negative feedback. I think they need to make the point of the ride more obvious, you just don't get enough to time to understand what's going on once you're inside because you never get to see whats attacking you. They really should have spent money on an animatronic alien in the cave screaming at you (which is what I expected) as no one really has an idea what's attacking us. At least with Alien Encounter you had this which made the dark section all the more scary.

Edited by andybarnes84
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Was there any negative press about how much they overhyped 13? If there was, they obviously didn't learn their lesson. Though the hype probably caused lots of people to visit which leads to increased revenue so if there is no repercussions to this trend from Merlin, I fear it will continue.

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Thirteen is popular two years on and received moderately favourable feedback from the general public.

 

The comments regarding this are overwhelmingly negative. The word Nemesis means rollercoaster to the average person and this is simply adding to people's disappointment when they come off.

 

They've scrimped on a very basic ride system and the experience is just poor because of tight fistedness with theming and poor acting direction etc.

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Thirteen is popular two years on and received moderately favourable feedback from the general public.

 

The comments regarding this are overwhelmingly negative. The word Nemesis means rollercoaster to the average person and this is simply adding to people's disappointment when they come off.

 

They've scrimped on a very basic ride system and the experience is just poor because of tight fistedness with theming and poor acting direction etc.

 

I'm very sorry to hear about all the negative feedback. It seems like this ride system could be much better utilized with other themes...at other Merlin parks...

 

Th13teen => to Polar Xplorer

 

Sub Terra => to ???

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I'm not sure it can be compared to anything, certainly not in the UK. It could have worked with more time, effort and money thrown at it. The idea is brilliant I think, but the execution has been rushed and poorly thought out.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm sorry, anyone who bought into the hype, even a little bit, should be ashamed of themselves. When Thirteen came out, or was in the works, I never bought into the crap coming out. i think it looks like a fun coaster, family ride of course, and that's all there is. I understand parks want to hype up their new rides, but to what limit? The viral marketing for SubTerra looked fantastic, and like Neil said, it looks like it has gobs of potential. I reckon Merlin might have learnt their lesson...

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