Thorpe Park has always been bold and brave with its attractions offerings.
Standing out from the rest of the theme park scene, the Merlin owned theme park has been transformed over the past decade into one of Britain’s top thrill seeker hotspots. And there’s a diverse range of attractions making up the park's impressive selection of thrills including; the first 10 looping roller coaster with Colossus, the world’s first horror movie-themed roller coaster with Saw - The Ride and with what is promised to be a revolutionary dark ride on its way in 2016, Thorpe Park certainly understands how to push the envelope to create innovative thrills.
Following suit for the 2015 season comes arguably one of the most bizarre yet intriguing attractions to land on the ‘Island of Fun’. I’m a Celebity…Get Me Out of Here! has been a family favourite on British television network ITV since 2002. The show follows twelve famous faces who are stripped of all luxuries as they set up camp inside the Australian bush. Within the programme, which is enjoyed by millions each year, the celebrities compete for luxurious food items by enduring a series of tasks named "Bushtucker Trials". With live insects, bugs and even the occasional rat making an appearance, the trials have built something of a cult following within the world of showbiz and entertainment.
For 2015, Thorpe Park is aiming to bring a flavor of the Australian jungle to the less-humid Surrey theme park. The appropriately named I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! maze uses a familiar format that fans of the theme park will recognise. Adapting a walk-through style attraction reminiscent of the likes of the Saw Alive Horror Maze, guests (or should that be camp mates?) take a 10-minute journey through the Surrey jungle with a chance to win a series of meals for their fellow campers. On paper, it’s a rather bold and brave attraction choice for a park that is best known for its impressive arsenal of roller coasters. But does it really live up to the hype of its legendary television counterpart?
Warning: The following review contains spoilers
Upon approaching the new attraction, there’s no doubt that the maze does look the part. With the famous logo plastered over the jungle themed entrance feature, fans of the show will certainly recognise a few familiar props from the programme when reaching the show building. Throughout the cattle pen queue line, you may spot a few iconic items from the famous challenges.
As the new camp mates navigate their way around the twisted and claustrophobic queue area, atmosphere picks up. There are ambient sounds of crickets whistling and even sprays of mist as you weave around the foliage. Perhaps Thorpe Park have taken this too far however as we found ourselves practically shouting over the ambient sound to be heard by the person next to us in the queue line. The mist also became somewhat of a damp distraction. That being said, there’s no doubt the mood is set for the adventure that follows.
The attraction itself takes around 10 minutes to complete with camp mates navigating various challenges along the way. Following in the footsteps of other major Merlin attractions including Nemesis Sub Terra at Alton Towers, ride hosts are costumed to fit right in with the jungle theme. Fans may recognise the iconic burgundy and green shirts worn by the likes of Mark Wright and Tony Blackburn as they survived fourteen days within the Australian sticks. The famous uniform is now worn by the crew who guide guests around the maze. It’s a nice touch that ensures the experience feels as authentic as possible.
The journey into the jungle begins…
Batched up in groups of 10, the experience begins as the reality show’s latest recruits are warned about the critters and special effects that lie within. You would expect an enthusiastic, and bright welcome considering the presentation style adapted by hosts of the series, presenting duo Ant and Dec.
Here at Thorpe Park however, the welcome was far from enthusiastic. Greeted by a performer who had clearly been drafted in last minute, he struggled to gain the attention of the group with a rather awkward ‘hello’. Stumbling through his lines with great difficulty, I wasn’t too convinced I was about to take a swift trip to the iconic jungle. A moment of good humor came when we told to yell "I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!" if the surprises within became just too much to handle…
As the doors open the Surrey breeze is soon diminished and replaced by more jungle visuals. There’s a fake campsite awaiting guests as Ant and Dec greet I’m a Celebrity’s latest recruits and warn them about their adventure ahead. Our next guide, who was thankfully slightly more enthusiastic than our first, then took us through the enclosed attraction navigating various obstacles along the way. Crossing the famous bridge into the jungle, the adventure is made up of walks through various enclosed spaces, coming face to face with bugs and critters (artificial, of course) as well as battling the occasional thunderstorm.
One of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’s most iconic moments came in 2008 when singer from late British Boy band Blue Simon Webbe, and television host Joe Swash endured terror in the "Trauma Tank" trial. One of the first moments to be recreated from the show is this famous trial where the two contestants placed their hands inside various compartments containing all sorts of critters and bugs. Providing hilarious reactions, camp mates are instructed to throw their hands inside holes built from a purpose built rock face to find stars as well as facing numerous (fake) critters along the way. Once time is up, it’s time to venture further into the jungle.
Theming to admire
There’s no doubt that the theming within the maze is something to be admired. Thorpe Park has really encapsulated the atmosphere of the programme within the attraction. From tanks that drop critters on unlucky contestants' heads (which, at Thorpe Park is thankfully just a sprinkle of sawdust) to searching for stars in porridge, fans of the reality show will surely appreciate what the attraction has to offer.
Like its television counterpart, the attraction ends with the iconic Celebrity Cyclone trial where guests are subjected to various wind effects and loud noises as they scale a small incline. As they reach the top, the ride comes to an end with a slide into the Nemesis Inferno shop. It’s a nice touch to an attraction that is much geared towards the family market compared to the thrill seekers that Thorpe Park has historically targeted.
After leaving the attraction, you are left with a unique impression. Whilst there are moments of pure brilliance within the enclosed maze, there’s always room for improvement. The throughput of the attraction let it down as even on a quiet day, the queue vry moved slowly. That being said, Thorpe Park should be praised for a new and innovative attraction that at least stands out from the crowd. With what is promised to be an unique enclosed ride on its way next year, it can only be an exciting sign for what is to come.