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Nemesis Sub-Terra entrance

Billed by the park as "your worst nightmare underground" and named after the legendary Nemesis roller coaster, Alton Towers' new ride for the 2012 season has some lofty expectations to live up to. With the park's marketing campaign having pulled in large crowds for its opening day, could Nemesis Sub-Terra possibly deliver, or would it prove to be a disappointment?

Located in the Forbidden Valley area of Alton Towers next to the original Nemesis attraction, Nemesis Sub-Terra is housed entirely indoors. Perhaps surprisingly, the park has done an excellent job of keeping the precise nature of the ride a secret, creating an air of anticipation among those joining the queue.

As with its most recent addition, the Thirteen roller coaster, Alton Towers is promoting Nemesis Sub-Terra as a horror experience. Ultimately, Thirteen turned out to be more suitable for families than for hardcore adrenaline-junkies. We were intrigued to find out whether the park's latest addition would really set pulses racing, or if it would be another case of hype over substance.

SPOILER WARNING: This review contains full details of the Nemesis Sub-Terra ride experience - do not read on if you do not want to know more about the attraction before riding it for yourself.

Extending the Nemesis legend

Nemesis Sub-Terra is situated on the periphery of Forbidden Valley, sandwiched between Nemesis and Alton Towers' monorail. Riders on the monorail hoping to catch a glimpse of the new addition will be disappointed, as not much is visible from the outside. Indeed, little more can be seen from the ride's entrance, other than the large, green, metallic building that houses it.

Nemesis Sub-Terra queue entrance

Guests can't discern much about the ride from its entrance area.

It's been a while since Alton Towers built a ride with a genuinely interesting waiting area, with the last example probably being Hex: The Legend of the Towers back in 2000. Nemesis Sub-Terra's uncovered queue line snakes backwards and forwards, with few scenery elements on offer to add to the atmosphere. The presence of "Angry Birds" sideshow games close to the queue does little to make guests feel immersed in the experience.

Nemesis Sub-Terra queue

Pre-show videos fill in the Nemesis Sub-Terra backstory.

On the positive side, a number of video screens are dotted around the area, playing a series of short clips that fill in Nemesis Sub-Terra's backstory. This is an extension of the original Nemesis storyline, which was based around an alien that had been buried beneath the Earth's surface for 2 million years. A shadowy organisation known as The Phalanx has now taken over the site, and has discovered a further series of caves beneath the alien's subterranean home. Guests are about to enter these, in order to study an egg that has been found within.

Meet the Phalanx

In a neat touch, the Alton Towers staff members that operate Nemesis Sub-Terra are all dressed in black, military-style Phalanx uniforms. While some are simply polite and efficient, others really attempt to act the part, shouting orders at guests in a semi-humourous fashion. It's not often that a ride operator shouts "stop talking and get walking" at a guest, but involving the staff in the storyline is an inspired move by the park.

Phalanx members

Members of the Phalanx organisation meet guests at the ride's entrance.

Guests are allowed onto Nemesis Sub-Terra in batches of 40, and although queues reached lengths of up to 60 minutes on its opening day, we found that they moved reasonably quickly. This was aided by the presence of a single-rider queue, and if you're willing to be separated from the other members of your party then we strongly recommended using this. When the excitement over the new ride dies down, we expect that wait times will be significantly shorter.

Nemesis Sub-Terra queues

Nemesis Sub-Terra features standard, Fastrack and single rider queues.

Alton Towers is also offering Fastrack tickets for its latest addition, which enable guests to jump straight to the front of the line. We're on record as hating paid-for queue-jumping schemes, and can see little point in wasting money on skipping the queue for Nemesis Sub-Terra.

Descending "underground"

Nemesis Sub-Terra building entrance

Guests are ushered into the Nemesis Sub-Terra ride building.

On reaching the front of the line, guests are asked to leave any loose items in the baggage drop area. They then enter the ride building, being asked to stand on one of 40 circles that are located in front of two "elevators". The ride operators have a bit of fun in this area, barking instructions at guests and picking on those who look particularly scared about what they are about to experience.

Nemesis Sub-Terra elevator

"Elevators" take guests on the trip down to the alien's lair.

Eventually, the elevator doors open and guests are ushered inside. The elevator vibrates to suggest that guests are descending deep underground, and a short video explains that they should proceed into a chamber once they reach the bottom.

The big reveal

On exiting the elevator and navigating a short tunnel, guests finally come face-to-face with the Nemesis Sub-Terra ride itself. As had been widely rumoured, it is a small drop tower manufactured by Swiss firm ABC Rides, and is very similar in design to the Extremis ride at The London Dungeon.

Nemesis Sub-Terra egg

A mysterious egg sits in front of Nemesis Sub-Terra riders.

Riders on Extremis face away from each other, and view a "hanging" scene played out by animatronic characters. However, on Nemesis Sub-Terra, the four rows of seats surround a central chamber, with guests' attention being focused on a mysterious egg that sits at its centre. A short video explains that the egg was originally believed to be inert, but is now showing signs of life. Predictably, things then start to go awry, with the video cutting out and the lights in the chamber going out.

We were reasonably impressed by Nemesis Sub-Terra up to this point. The combination of the videos in the queue line, the enthusiastic acting of the ride operators and the elevator's "descent" did a solid job of setting the scene for the ride itself. But was it worth waiting for?

Dropping into the abyss

After a short moment of anticipation, the drop tower plummets a few metres into a second chamber below. For theme park fans accustomed to large-scale drop towers, the free fall section will offer only very limited thrills. We had hoped for a more interesting drop sequence, perhaps involving multiple drops, but the end result is a very similar experience to that offered by Extremis.

This chamber is themed to resemble the alien's lair, and a number of special effects are used to add to the atmosphere. This includes mist and water effects, although riders do not get particularly damp. The main gimmick is a back-poker similar to those seen on many "4-D" attractions, which is designed to make guests feel as though they are being grabbed by the alien's tentacles. Unfortunately, this was out of action on Nemesis Sub-Terra's opening day.

Escaping the scene

Hatched Nemesis Sub-Terra egg
The egg has hatched and it's time to leave...

After a few moments, the drop tower returns to its starting position. The egg is revealed to have "hatched", and loud announcements instruct guests to "escape" immediately. Staff usher them into a second elevator, which then ascends to the surface. On the way, vibration effects are used to suggest that the alien is attempting to break its way in. Guests are then chased out of the building's exit by members of the Phalanx.

Our thoughts

The most common reaction that we heard from other guests after riding Nemesis Sub-Terra was "was that it?". While our expectations were only moderate given the relatively minor nature of the new addition, we couldn't help sharing those feelings. Even allowing for the impact of the missing effects on opening day, this is a hopelessly underwhelming attraction.

Credit where credit's due: Alton Towers deserves praise for attempting to overlay a plot on top of what is basically a small flat ride, and it's great to see Nemesis' neglected backstory being resurrected. The problem is, instead of being the finishing touches to an amazing ride, the elevators and over-the-top acting feel like attempts to compensate for the weak nature of the drop tower itself.

Nemesis Sub-Terra tank

Nemesis Sub-Terra is unlikely to achieve the lasting fame of its namesake coaster.

Ultimately, the decision to install a drop tower at all seems like a strange one by Alton Towers. Thirteen, which opened just two years ago, offers a drop tower-like section already, with the added twist of the drop taking place while seated in a roller coaster train. Nemesis Sub-Terra offers very little that differentiates it from this.

The use of the Nemesis storyline may also backfire on the park. While well-informed fans will know not to expect a major new ride, we overheard a number of guests who were fully expecting to ride a new, underground roller coaster - or at the very least, something considerably more ambitious that what is actually on offer.

In its defence, Nemesis Sub-Terra is probably the best miniature drop tower you will ever ride. It's certainly not worth queuing for an hour to ride it, but in years to come it will offer a fun little distraction on the way into or out of Forbidden Valley. Just remember to take Alton Towers' marketing with a hefty pinch of salt.

You can keep up to date with the latest confirmed and rumoured opening dates for new attractions through Theme Park Tourist's "New Attraction Watch" section, and by signing up for our weekly newsletter.

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Comments

This ride was one of the worst rides I have ever been on. I shouldn't even call it a ride! I was at Alton towers on Wednesday 5th of July 2012 and made my best effort to make this the first of the day, bad descision. Put me in a bad mood for the day. This ride probably cost Alton towers about £10,000 to create, it is literally pathetic! They make around £222.5 million PROFIT a year and this is the best they can do? They probably used spear parts from 13 (another flop) for the drop tower and a bit of paper mâché for the egg. I wouldnt mind but they couldn't even be bothered to use real lifts, just vibrating floors and sliding doors and a few pathetic lights. This ride is an insult to the UK. I have been to numerous theme parks around the world and never ever bin on a ride as cheap and nasty as this. It has definitely took a step back in time in the technological and innovative areas.

Went to Alton Towers with a friend about a month ago and decided to give Nemesis Sub-Terra a try. Queued up for just over an hour in anticipation only to be greeted by bossy actors who looked pretty bored themselves. Went and stood on some circles, watched endless videos about the Nemesis, and so on...
When we got out of the "lift" we had to wait in the dark for about 20 mins because it was "running late" or something. Was pretty annoyed already by the time we were let into the main room with the egg. Was thoroughly disappointed by the drop - which felt like barely 10 centimetres - then got cold air and water blown in my face. Something thin started whipping my legs (at which point I thought 'Am I just being over-sensitive or does this actually HURT?') and was poked in the back with some hard plastic thing.
Then we were ushered out into a weird flashing maze of corridors and some actor with a gas mask on practically head-butted me. When we were finally released back into the sunlight to collect our bags, me and my friend just looked at each other in confusion, while the people following us out passed around phrases like, "That it?" and "That was a complete waste of time". My friend's mum actually complained and had a go at the actor standing outside, who acted completely awestruck at her negative comments, as if he hadn't heard the same thing over and over again.
Turns out my friend had red marks on the back of her legs from the whips and her mum's back was hurting from the prodding. This 'ride' is such a waste of time and we warned all friends and family members afterwards not to go on it unless you have a weird will to waste a couple of hours of your life just to be physically hurt.

You'd get more of a thrill going to the 4D ice age film and closing your eyes.

We paid to be fast tracked as we thought this would be a great ride. In fact we hoped it would be the best one. It's not a ride at all. No thrills, no adrenaline. Just lots of noise, shouting, darkness and flashing lights. And one tiny little drop. We felt robbed because we paid £4 each to be fast tracked. But with hindsight that was much better than wasting an hour queuing!

Appalling. Felt so sorry for people queuing. Don't waste your time.

I went on this ride today. A friend and myself stood in the queue for about 15 minutes and I can honestly say that it was worth the wait! I had no idea what to expect, although I thought that there would be an underground rollercoaster. We sat down in the viewing room, the bars came down over you and that was it, I was focused completely on the egg and the backstory. When the video stopped and the lights went off, I knew this was going to be my worst nightmare! The rest of the 'ride' seemed to go by in a bit of a blur to me as I was terrified. But when we had to evacuate the building, people kept popping out of walls with gas masks on, I could barely see a thing as it was so dark in there. I can honestly say that I was terrified by this attraction, when I came out my heart was racing and I always trembling! Well worth a visit!

i went on this ride on the 1st june, and i can assure it has been improved greatly!!! ( i know this because it certainly wasn't crap like others have said!)
although i knew i was on a ride, i did feel very scared and infact ,quite endangered especially when it dropped and the back proders and leg 'ticklers' went into action (of whick to me felt like some kind of creature was trying to grab me!) then the bars went up and we was rushed into another lift ! i don't like lifts at the best of times but when the floor started dropping and walls started shaking i got sooooo scared ! as the lift doors re-opend we was greeted by a man in a gas mask! he shon his torch in my face but me and my friend just ran into a very dark coridor,then to be stopped by another person in a gas mask! he then let us pass and we ran to find the exit... which isnt hard to find, but i was in panic mode and ran into a few walls !

this ride was extreamly scary and in my eyes well worth the hour wait ! i loved it, but i don't know if i will have the guts to go on it again...! ( this ride got be that scared that i couldn't even scream !!!

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