Reviewed: Nemesis Sub-Terra
Another year, and another new ride at the UK’s leading Theme Park, Alton Towers.
This year sees the installation of their latest creation, Nemesis Sub-Terra, which ressurects the 1994 story of one of their most beloved Rollercoasters, Nemesis. Located on the site of the 1993 attraction, Dynamo, and more recently, the Lava Lump climbing wall, Nemesis Sub-Terra represents a ¬£5million investment for Alton Towers.
But does it live up to the hype given by the parks marketing team?
Note: There will be major spoilers ahead, detailing the complete ride experience. If you wish to experience Nemesis Sub-Terra, unaware of what is in store, then please discontinue reading and return after riding to share your thoughts!
Dubbed ‘your worst nightmare underground’, Alton Towers have opted to market this ride in a similar style to the suitably underwhelming, Thirteen, that opened for the 2010 season. Portrayed as a ‘horror’ attraction, Nemesis Sub-Terra builds upon the backstory created for their 2nd major Rollercoaster, Nemesis, back in 1994. The Phalanx, a shady corporation, has took ownership of the location of the Nemesis monster. This has led to the discovery of a series of underground caves and tunnels below, in which a mysterious egg has been discovered.
From the outside, there is very little to see of Nemesis Sub-Terra. The ride itself is housed in a green metal shed, with theming taking the form of numerous satellite dishes and a tank sitting at the entrance to the ride. The ride also features the code P-A1X in numerous places around the area. Guests enter Nemesis Sub-Terra through the stone pillars originally used for Dynamo’s entrance. These are adorned with scaffolding, which is used to mount the ride’s ’3D’ sign, the standard rules/timing board to the left, and a height stick to the right. The scaffolding, which is used several other times throughout the queueline, seems too reminiscent of Thirteen, which uses scaffold heavily. This is also seems to be the case with the ride’s logo, with many guests we spoke to agreeing they look far too similar.
The queueline, when compared to others, is rather bare, with the only theming elements present being large ‘vents’, supposedly from the underground caves. Numerous TV screens were present throughout the queueline, building backstory via various clips and animations, detailing The Phalanx’s operations and the discoveries underneath where guests are standing.
Adding to the theme, and something which greatly impressed us, was the staff. All operational staff were dressed in military style attire, taking the role of Phalanx Operatives. Barking orders and remarks at guests, the staff do make you feel like there is a military presence on site. On opening day they were situated both outside, in the queueline, and throughout the ride, though we’re unsure how long this will last before staff numbers are stripped to the minimum required amount.
Upon arriving at the entrance, and after passing through dummy metal detectors, guests are ordered by staff to stand in line, each person on a specified black ‘dot’. The staff then brief all guests, shouting rather than talking. We feel this adds a great deal of atmosphere and a sense of urgency to the experience, as well as entertaining guests, and is something that should definitely be maintained throughout the season. Guests are then batched into one of two lifts, and the ‘descent’ into the caves begins.
Upon entering the lift, and doors closing, a sequence of lights, vibrations and sounds begin. This is intended to simulate descending into the supposed caves below the site, though we, aswell as others, felt this to be rather a ineffective simulation, but decent nonetheless. Guests then exit the ride into an underground tunnel, with the walls and ceiling cladded to resemble rock. However, this tunnel exits straight onto the actual ride. We would have liked to have seen a small series of themed corridors,rather than a single walkway, as currently, exiting almost straight into the ride chamber doesn’t help to enforce the supposed ‘caves’ guests are meant to be inside.
Guests then enter the ride chamber. Nemesis Sub-Terra is a series of 4 individual Drop Towers, manufactured by ABC Rides, who are responsible for the popular ‘Extremis’ Rides at the Blackpool and London Dungeons, both of which are, at heart, the same as Nemesis Sub-Terra. The room features a drop tower at either side of the room, with a central pedastal housing the mysterious egg. The Drop Towers are disguised to the unacquainted guest, as rather than starting at the bottom of the tower, Nemesis Sub-Terra is housed above a large pit, into which the towers drop. This is made possible due to a small section of floor that travels with the carriage, as opposed to being floorless. The room is reasonably well themed, with a distinct, sinister Sci-Fi look about it, the pedastal upon which the egg sits featuring 4 large ‘ray guns’, as well as clamps to hold the egg in place.
As the ride sequence begins, TV screens in the centre of the room begin to tell of the discovery of this strange egg sitting before the riders. The egg, which was originally believed to be lifeless, has recently shown to be displaying signs of life. Things then take a turn for the worse, as loud sounds and flickering lights signal something being not quite right, creating a sense of mayhem within the chamber. And then, the drop. Riders are dropped around 20ft into an underground cavern. Whilst the drop seemed hardly forceful when compared to either Thirteen or Extremis, we did find the cavern to be very visually impressive.
Riders get a glimpse of numerous eggs, before being subjected to various special effects, as the Nemesis creatures supposedly surround the riders. These, on the day, included mist and strobe lighting on both of our rides. However, upon talking with senior staff at the Alton Towers Resort, it has been revealed that many effects have been installed, but are currently not working. These include ‘leg ticklers’, ‘back pokers’ and air blasts behind riders heads, to simulate the aliens breathing on riders. It has been noted that all of the effects should be reinstated around/after Easter this year, upon installation of extra compressors to rectify the problem. Whether these effects will noticeably improve the attraction, it is unknown. We will however, update you once the technical problems have been resolved.
We must say, despite it’s shortcomings, we were relatively hopeful up until the drop, that Nemesis Sub-Terra would provide a great ride experience. Though we knew that ahead would only be a drop of 20 or so feet, we had hoped for a more interesting drop sequence, perhaps dropping and rising numerous times.
After the effects cease, riders are slowly raised back into the chamber, accompanied by smoke and strobe lights, to find that the egg that previously lay dormant, has hatched. Guests are then urged out of the chamber by the Phalanx Operatives, and into another elevator to begin the ascent back to the surface. The lift then begins to shake violently, as loud bangs can be heard thundering throughout the lift. During the ascent, roof and wall panels become dislodged, shrieks can be heard and lights flicker as the creature attacks the lift, trying to get at those inside. Upon reaching the top, a Phalanx Operative jumps out at guests, urging them to run and escape, thus ending the Nemesis Sub-Terra experience.
Overall, we were disappointed with Nemesis Sub-Terra. Though it had its merits, the ride left us at UKPN, aswell as many others, suitably underwhelmed. Upon exiting the ride during 2 cycles, we heard many remarks asking in disbelief “was that it?”. The decision to install numerous small-scale Drop Towers to the park as the next significant ride, following 2010′s Thirteen seems a rather illogical and rushed move, and one that could potentially discredit either of the rides. As a substantial investment for the park, we feel that the ¬£5million could have been better spent.
Many riders are going to be left dissapointed, following Nemesis Sub-Terra’s vague marketing strategy, hyping it to be an extreme horror attraction, yet not delivering on the promise, as was found with Thirteen. We have talked to many members of the public who assumed the ride would be a new rollercoaster, a revamp of the current Nemesis, or certainly more than it is, due to the marketing campaigns being far too abstract. Though the marketing shall certainly bring in many excited visitors to the park, which will of course increase profit, customer satisfaction will suffer, with people already beginning to lose faith following two overhyped rides.
That said, the ride is worth going on, should the queue not be significant, and should bring increased footfall and attention to Forbidden Valley. It will also serve as a nice overfill attraction for Nemesis and Air. The theme behind Sub-Terra could have lent itself to a much greater experience, and we feel that this is a case of good intentions, but poor execution. Hopefully, once the hype has died down, people may begin to be less disappointed with Nemesis Sub-Terra and appreciate it for what it is, but currently, we envisage many unhappy customers.