Nickelodeon Universe (NJ)
This is a report I never thought I’d write.
I bet coasterbill thinks the same thing with most reports.
(sorry that was too easy, but we are waiting for that next installment…)
Except this is because I never thought the American Dream mall would ever open. It was the joke of all my friends from New Jersey. After two decades of delays and multiple companies, it finally opened.
Granted the mall opened with absolutely no stores (a comedy in itself), but it did have a full-fledged amusement park in Nickelodeon Universe. I knew the park didn’t have everything open yet, but I found myself just 15 minutes away.
The mall itself felt very upscale. The design was ornate and it’s clear the focal point of this mall will be the entertainment. I can only imagine how electric this place will feel once they have everything open. As of my visit, only Nickelodeon Universe, Big Snow, the ice skating rink, and a candy store were open.
My first impression of the park is that it doesn’t look quite as nice as the Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America. Whereas the one in Minnesota doesn’t feel like an indoor park, this one feels like an indoor park. It’s sort of dark and has a warehouse feel to it.
I also find it a bit odd this park doesn’t offer a pay-per-ride option. Maybe that’s something they’ll offer once the entire mall opens, but I feel like there’ll be a lot of people who don’t want to spend a full day here.
In terms of rides, I missed out on several of them. I knew Sandy’s wasn’t open yet, but the park had five rides closed. That included Shredder, the drop tower, the flipping bumper cars, the wave swinger, and the unicoaster. I was disappointed, but the park was transparent at the ticket booth so I wasn’t mad.
I visited on a Saturday and the park was an absolute ghost town for the first hour. In just a half hour, I already had ridden the three operating coasters multiple times.
This was clutch since the park was flooded with families by mid-afternoon and the operations at this park are pitiful. Beyond the multitude of closed rides, the dispatches were glacial and the policies were inconsistent.
For example, on my first ride on Shellraiser, I was told I could wear my glasses since I had a strap and keep all items in a zippered pocket. Later in the day, I was told glasses weren’t allowed under any circumstances and you couldn’t have anything in your pockets. I’d love to see consistency going forward.
Having ridden Takabisha, I was interested how Shellraiser would compare. In general, I preferred Shellraiser. While Shellraiser’s pre-launch sequence is out in the open unlike Takabisha, the windowless walls and roof around Shellraiser made the inversions extremely disorienting.
After a barrel roll that might as well be a jojo roll, Shellraiser hits riders with a surprisingly powerful launch. That’s followed by my favorite inversion on the ride- a supersized corkscrew. It feels like you’re going to rollback and you get some nice hangtime. That’s followed by a funky banana roll and a fast corkscrew.
You then hit the brakes before climbing the vertical lift. And this is my biggest criticism- the pacing. I wish the first and second halves of Shellraiser were flipped so there’s no chance to catch your breath.
Shellraiser’s second half starts with an incredible beyond vertical drop. The ejector airtime is both powerful and sustained. It’s one of the best drops out there. The remaining three inversions are floaty and blend together, which isn’t a bad thing if you like that type of inversion.
I also want to mention this ride had a shuffle to it. There’s no headbanging, but you may get a headache. But ultimately, Shellraiser is a great star attraction for this park that does a little of everything. 8 out of 10
Nickelodeon Slime Streak is this park’s version of the Pepsi Orange Streak. Both are high-speed, aerial tours of their respective parks. However, there are a few differences.
Whereas Orange Streak is manufactured by Zierer, Slime Streak is manufactured by Chance. I think Slime Streak tracks a little smoother, but the restraints are atrocious. I only had 1-2 clicks of room and I’m 5’10, 160 pounds. I think I saw at least 1-2 adults get the dreaded walk of shame per cycle.
Slime Streak is also a far shorter ride. It’s half the length of Orange Streak. The main reason is because Slime Streak has only one lift.
However, Slime Streak does feel faster than Orange Streak. There isn’t any airtime or major G-forces, but that’s what I expected. This coaster is all about the visuals. 6 out of 10
The final operating coaster was Timmy’s Half-Pipe Havoc. This coaster behaved exactly as you’d expect from an Intamin. It was down a large chunk of the day, but I was able to ride it once.
If you’ve never been on one of these half pipes, they’re pleasant rides. The launches have a nice kick to them, especially with the spinning, and you get some nice floater air on the spikes. 7 out of 10
Since most of the flat rides were closed, the only one I experienced was Kraang Prime Pandemonium. And I was absolutely blown away by this looping frisbee.
Something I didn’t realize until after my ride is that this one doesn’t have a set program. The operator manually controls the rocking and flipping with a toggle in the operator booth.
And because it had no line, the operator gave us a very long cycle. The swings had sustained floater airtime, the inversions had major hangtime, and every downswing pulled some serious Gs. I actually prefer this to Great Adventure’s Wonder Woman. 9 out of 10
The sleeper hit from this park was the ropes course, the Legends of the Hidden Temple Challenge. Ropes courses are nothing new at this point, but this one was quite notable. It was massive.
I’d estimate this complex was at least 10 stories tall. The most shocking thing about it is the fact that it’s the third tallest structure in the park. You are actually looking down on Sandy’s Blasting Bronco. If your legs aren’t shaking as you navigate some of these obstacles, you’re lying.
Beyond the height, this one had some unique elements. My favorites were a series of swinging vines and a rotating log. I hadn’t seen either obstacle before.
Sandy’s Blasting Bronco was having some work done on the structure in the morning (they appeared to be grinding), but it tested consistently by mid-afternoon. The acceleration is very impressive for such a small ride. I couldn’t take my eyes of it.
And that leads me to my next point- this park’s security. I felt very awkward there as a single adult. And this is coming from someone who has no qualms going to Sesame Place or Story Land by themselves. Anytime I took a picture of a ride, security interrogated me. Anytime I was alone on the midway, security asked me why I was there. Heck, I was sitting on a bench at one point and a guard asked to see my ID.
I know of at least one other enthusiast (also alone) who has had a similar issue here. It made me feel like a criminal. If the park takes security this seriously, I sort of wish they add a bag check as you enter the park rather than having guards in bullet proof vests and K9 units interrogating guests. And this could easily be done since it’s at the corner of the mall and only has one entrance.
Nickelodeon Universe is still a work in progress. But once everything is open, few indoor parks will be able to match what this park will offer.