Derren Brown's Ghost Train - Thorpe Park
Very few details have publicly been released about Derren Brown's Ghost Train, which is now open at Thorpe Park. What we did know was that the attraction was created to "derail our minds" and would make extensive use of the HTC virtual reality system. After some lengthy delays which stopped the attraction from opening in May, the Ghost Train quietly slipped into Technical Rehearsals this week and we were invited down to try it out.
We entered Derren Brown's Ghost Train knowing nothing about what was going to happen inside. We don't intend to reveal any large spoilers in this review (it's not what a review is for) but the nature of any review will hint at some of the elements of the attraction. If you just want to know what we thought of the attraction, then finish to the end of this paragraph and then go and look at some cat videos on YouTube! Seriously if you really want to enter the experience completely in the dark then just know that we thought it was "mind scramblingly scary fun"
Still here? Good. Now let's address the choice of words in that last paragraph. The experience is billed as an attraction and many people have wondered what this means. Would it be a ride? would it be a walkthrough experience or would it be a seated theatrical show where things happen around you (a la Hex at Alton Towers). Really without giving the game away - the train definitely moves somewhere during the experience, there IS a live element to the show and there are a lot of things happening around you. In which order any of this happens, is one of the secrets we will keep.
The key element is the stunning virtual reality powered by HTC Vive. One minute you are sat in a crowded train surrounded by fellow park guests and the next you are sat alone, in an empty carriage, at night. The eeriness of looking up and down and all around you in a completely empty carriage is both stunning and unnerving. At one point this reviewer had to reach out with an elbow just to make sure that there was someone sat next to them. It's a very vulnerable and quite scary experience, so once creepy things start to happen, it's quite hard not to be scared. There is a simple but effective story that continues some subtle references from the queueline, but to be honest we would have liked the audio to be a little louder. Once people around were screaming, it was hard to hear everything going on. The early VR scenes are cleverly subtle and unnerving and the immersion is very realistic. Especially as you can feel the movement of the train, which matches the action playing out in your head. One of the most exciting things is that different people have slightly different experiences, and half the joy of the experience is discussing afterwards some of the subtle differences between shows.
By the time all hell has been let loose, the VR takes a slightly more computer game style element, slightly eschewing the photo realism of the early scenes. But it's understandable with what you experience. Just sit tight, look all around you, and remind yourself over and over that you aren't alone on that train and those things AREN'T coming just for you!. You will jump in places, you may let out a scream (certainly those around us did) or you may just sit grinning from ear to ear in awe at the VR world unfolding around you. It's hard not to get caught up in the action, as the live movement of the train interacts seamlessly with the images. In these scenes Thorpe and Derren really throw the book at you and it's clear to see why an age restriction has been put on this experience!
We left Derren Brown's Ghost Train completely blown away by the WHOLE experience. Granted the sound could have been louder in the first half to really set up the action ahead, but that should be easy to remedy. Having now experienced the full show it is understandable why it has taken so long to get ready and why it is still have technical difficulties. The VR technology, combined with the ride movement, the effects, the live elements and the sheer logistics of moving 60 people around quickly and efficiently within the building, are staggering - it is certainly the most ambitious attraction the UK has ever seen.
But was it worth all the hype and the long delays? Absolutely!
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Terrifying - At first I was too nervous to go on it but when I finally had enough courage I came out of it so terrified I had to have something to eat to calm down lol. Don't get me wrong, it's a truly amazing and uniquely entertaining ride. I just haven't been on a ride that terrified me to death for quite a while lol. As it's such a popular ride the queue can get quite long but I'll tell you now that it's definitely worth it. It's nothing like the type of ghost trains we're familiar with. Seriously if ever you go to Thorpe Park make sure you go on it at l east more than once as it's never the same ride twice. One of the best rides I've ever been on in my entire life. And I'm only 27. I'm not surprised Derren Brown invented this as he is the master of mind manipulation