After months of anticipation Derren Brown’s Ghost Train has officially launched at Thorpe Park Resort with a media event held last night for invited guests. SouthParks were invited along to experience the ride for ourselves and give our verdict on the Resort’s latest addition.

Located in a custom built warehouse at the heart of the island, Thorpe Park Resort and Derren Brown have re-imagined the ghost train for the 21st century, combining HTC Vive virtual reality technology, live action, physical transit, and grand illusion to create a 13 minute experience which is designed to leave guests questioning their own perception. Your journey begins as you head underneath the entrance and enter the themed queueline. Whilst the exterior theming doesn’t give a great deal away about what awaits inside, it does offer subtle clues to some of the issues explored within the attraction via carefully chosen posters, and through the two photo points, one of which is designed to be an infection check point. Once batched, guests are shown into a room where a projection of Derren Brown gives a brief presentation on the nature of fear and how it fits into our everyday lives. This pre-show sets the tone and expectation for the ride making guests wonder in just what way their sense of fear is about to be tested. Once this is complete guests then make their way to the suspended Victorian train carriage, however all is not as it seems. Whilst we don’t want to give too much away, what we can say is that guests experience multiple sections of virtual reality, interspersed with live action which adds a theatrical element to the experience. The publicity surrounding the attraction promises 12 possible journeys with two different endings, however whilst we did get to experience a number of different characters, we only experienced one of the endings, despite multiple rides, something which was slightly disappointing.

By far the most impressive aspect of the attraction is its theming. From the exterior of the building themed to a disused warehouse at Thorpe Junction, to the grand showpiece Victorian Carriage inside the high level of attention to detail is evident throughout and is something which sets the attraction apart from other dark rides. The attraction relies heavily on the virtual reality systems, and whilst it is good to see a theme park embracing new technology to help create a unique experience for their guests, the attraction perhaps uses the VR a little too much, it would have been nice to see more of the live action, theatrical elements to help further build the story. One of advantage of the VR system is that it is designed as a smart system where the experience in the VR can be lengthened or shortened depending on a number of factors. However, this does mean that potentially guests can be left viewing a ‘filler’ section for what seems like a long time. With the attraction using such state of the art technology this inevitably presents a number of challenges in keeping the attraction running to its full potential. In the run up to the launch night the ride has experienced some short periods in downtime, and it will be interesting to see how the attraction copes with the busy periods ahead. Despite its flaws, the attraction is undoubtedly a strong addition to Thorpe Park Resort, and looks set to be hugely popular with visitors to the park.

With the park opening a selection of its headline rides, the official launch night attracted a range of well-known faces, all keen to experience Derren Brown’s latest creation for themselves. From Harry Potter Star Rupert Grint and pop band Lawson, to Masterchef host and judge Gregg Wallace and a range of reality TV personalities, the evening saw them all enjoy a selection of hospitality laid on by the Resort before taking a trip on the Ghost Train with reactions being generally positive, if a little bit spooked!

The official launch of the multi-million pound dark ride follows an extensive marketing campaign which began back when the first signs of construction appeared at the Resort back in May 2015. Marketing stepped up during Fright Nights 2015 with various hints being hidden within THE BIG TOP scare maze, before Derren Brown was revealed as the mastermind behind the attraction at the end of October 2015. In the months that followed, a series of clues were released via the ‘Minds Wanted’ website, each one revealing another hint towards the theme of the attraction. In January 2016 the secret was finally revealed that Thorpe Park Resort’s newest attraction would be a ghost train, but one reinvented for the 21st century. Taking a team of over 1000 specialists more than three years to create, the attraction is Merlin’s biggest investment to date.

Now Derren Brown’s Ghost Train has officially opened will you be visiting the Resort to try it, or have you experienced it already? Have your say on this and more over on the TowersTimes and SouthParks Forum. SouthParks will continue to bring you all the latest news and developments from the southern parks as they happen.

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