|| n. A disembodied spirit imagined, usually as a shadowy or evanescent form, as wandering among or haunting living persons.
Derren Brown's Ghost Train is Thorpe's latest multi-million investment; a high-tech re-imagining of the traditional ghost train from master illusionist & showman Derren Brown.
||2016 / 2017 (ROTD)
|On Ride Photo
||Min Age 13+
Derren Brown's Ghost Train represents something of a departure from Thorpe Park's typical investment strategy, which has since the early noughties involved 1-3 years of low or medium investment, followed by a big roller coaster (Nemesis Inferno in 2003, Stealth in 2006, SAW in 2009, Swarm in 2012). 2016 was to be once again a "big" investment year, but this time there was no new coaster - the Park were investing heavily in a dark ride.
Expectations were rightly high, given the expenditure involved, and the fact that the ride was conceived and realised by master showman and illusionist Derren Brown. This author has always been a fan of Derren's; watch any of his live shows or feature TV specials and you generally come away in awe. Past experience indicates that Derren would be unlikely to put his name to anything less than excellent.
And true to form, Derren Brown's Ghost Train is indeed excellent. The experience begins with (up to) 58 guests being batched into a pre-show room, where a holographic Derren appears to both talk about the emotion of fear and introduce his next-generation ghost train. Some clever effects here make a great first impression.
As is the case with much of his other work, holographic Derren implores the audience to keep the secrets of the following 10 minute experience to themselves, and this website is more than happy to oblige. We will say only that following the pre-show guests are invited to step up into the main warehouse, where they are greeted with an eerie 26m-long Victorian train carriage suspended 3m above the ground. Stepping into the train, you realise that you are now in a London Underground carriage, and there are 58 VR headsets dangling from the sides. Strap on the headsets, and the ride begins...
The VR is generally well executed, and unlike other existing attractions where the VR has been bolted on at a later date (both Alton Towers and Six Flags have tried to add VR to their existing roller coasters, with mixed results), for a tailor-made dark ride it works very well. The fact that there are multiple different experiences available, individual to each rider, is a great touch and will surely add to re-rideability. That said, it is a shame that the VR story is split into two, with a (well performed, but fairly predictable) live-action segment sandwiched in between; bringing riders out of the VR world somewhat interrupts the overall flow.
The storyline itself is also a little strange, and although Thorpe Park sensibly opted for the best-in-class HTC Vive VR headsets matched with high-quality Sennheiser headphones, there is a sense that this ghost train could age very quickly. VR is very much in its infancy, and there is quite a way to go on image quality; despite boasting OLED displays with a resolution of 1,080 x 1,200 per eye, the effect is still somewhat pixelated.
These are excusable niggles in an otherwise ground breaking ride. Derren Brown's Ghost Train is the best execution of VR at a Theme Park we've experienced to date, and it's presented and themed to a very high standard indeed. The "Return of the Demon" update in 2017 significantly enhanced the ride, with much louder audio, more realistic VR footage, and a new "trick" ending, all adding up to a genuinely unnerving, very unique experience. If it gets too much for you - and for many it does - the best advice is to simply close your eyes. For everyone else, Derren's train provides a hugely enjoyable journey - so make sure you jump on board!
- Wonderfully themed; especially the suspended Victorian carriage
- Decent 10-15 minute ride length
- VR is detailed and immersive
- Storyline is not the clearest
- VR technology is early-stage and will age quickly
- VR sections are broken up, which hampers the ride flow
"I rode both the 2016 version and the 2017 Rise of the Demon tweak. Personally, I think the 2017 changes are a big improvement. Some bits still don't quite make sense as a story, but to me this has been way improved and is well worth it. We also found the queue system was much improved too, with 'pens' for each group to improve the queue line.
It's not really a traditional *ghost* train, but I think it's a really interesting ride."
Ali, Midlands, UK.