Phantasialand, is a park situated not to far away from Cologne and Bonn in the north east of Germany. Approaching the park from one direction leads through housing estates and 'Spielstraße' (where the speed limit is drastically reduced because there is a high probability that children will be playing) this suburban environment gives clues to how the park has developed and challenges it has faced in its growth.
Phantasialand is not a big expansive park, in many respects it seems that all of the attractions are built on top of each other and overlap, with high walls and buildings all around as well. This is shown to the greatest extent on Colorado adventure (formerly the Michael Jackson ride).
Vekoma gets a bad reputation in the industry. It's 'hang and bang' SLC's whilst being a well thought out ride layout unfortunately suffer from being shakey, not helped by their restraints. Their looping roller coasters (Goudurix, I'm looking at you) also suffer from bone shaking, a flaw in both the track design and lower engineering tolerances of the past. That aside, the work Vekoma has done for Disney has been exemplary. Space mountain, de la terre a la lune remains one of my favourite coasters, newer track design on Expedition Everest leads to a great ride aside from the Disney architecture and visuals. But Vekoma stands head and shoulders above the rest in its Runaway train roller coasters. No doubt borrowing from the success of Arrow mine trains in the States, the licence was given to Vekoma and the jewel in the crown is Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland resort Paris. Colorado adventure is however a very competent and fun mine train.
Resplendent in the usual Wild West theming, the ride has 3 separate lift hills and each section has long loops of track in separate barns, crossing the midway and diving down high walls built to screen the screams inside the park to the outside world. The ride is not the typical mine train we are accustomed to. There is little to no 'terrain' built up, instead bridges and buildings are the interaction pieces. The lift hills also are not chains, rather kicker wheels, a shame as I believe the clickety clack of the mine train ratchet adds to the vintage appeal, though the kicker wheels are no doubt due to noise abatement.
The climax of the ride is a drop down into darkness and a dark series of helices, very effective and a lot of fun. It is definitely one of the best mine trains in the world, it just lacks a bit of the charm of others so whilst the ride is top class, the experience isn't quite as memorable.
(Incidentally, it was originally called Colorado adventure, the Michael Jackson ride purely because he opened it.)
One of Phantasialands themed areas is a fantasy/magical/fairytale land. It is of course the children's area of the park and the usual frog hoppers, magic carpets and various wet attractions abound. At the centre of the land is a large round building, this building houses two rollercoasters (probably for noise abatement again). The rollercoasters are two halves of Winjas. Fear and Force are Maurer Söhne spinning coasters, a rollercoaster type that even in off the shelf models (sonic spinball, crush's coaster) give great rides. When they are a custom layout (Dragons fury) they are stunning. Add to that, duelling paths, trick tracks and special effects and you have Winjas, in short, outstanding.
The ride starts out with a very fast elevator lift, as you ascent the lift, the car is tipped forwards so that at the top of the lift, you are immediately on the top of the first drop and pointing down. The first drops at good and steep, more so than on other spinning rollercoasters. It then pops back up and starts a traditional wildmouse switchback section, encouraging the spin of the cars. The coaster works towards the centre of the building spiralling almost like a plug hole around each other crossing paths with the 'twin' Winja which set off in the opposite direction. The ride then hits a block brake in semi darkness, at which point the track twist both laterally and vertically, pointing you down another drop. Making the way back to the station there is one more trick up its sleeve, a seemingly straight piece of track suddenly drops away from under you as you are still travelling down it, only to bounce you up to the same level again. The disconcerting part is that the car stays absolutely level throughout. A neat trick.
You don't get any rollercoasters that are more fun than Winjas. Personally I would have liked to see more story through the ride, almost dark ride projections or interactions when the trick tracks happen, however despite this Winjas is a great ride!
Temple of the Night Hawk is proudly proclaimed as European longest indoor rollercoaster. It is a long ride, very long, amplified by the fact that the pace is never that great. The station has very good jungle/Aztec themeing, the queue line preceding it did not. The ride itself is completely in the dark, inoffensive, long, tame and borderline boring. It is how I expect the dated Japanese Jet coasters are like on a warm summers night. Not bad in any way, just not, thrilling.
I have to take pause and mention some of the other none rollercoaster rides in the park. A glorious two tiered carousel, sets the standard. There are also good dark rides, a toy story mania equivalent interactive shooting ride based in a chocolate factory is good fun, but its immaculately themed queue line steals the show (and leaves you very hungry craving anything sweet). There is launch/drop tower that I didn't get to ride which is completely themed to a castle tower and as such is completely enclosed in a medieval tower (noise reasons again) and a brand new log flume called Chiapas with a very fun airtime hill.
I have to give special mention however, to the chairoplane. It is the centrepiece of one of the themed squares. Looks standard enough however it has metal grating for the floor instead of concrete. When the chairs start to spin around, fountains erupt from the floor underneath. The piece de resistance is when the ride tilts to have the chairs orbiting none parallel to the ground, the fountains change their height accordingly, so at no point on the ride the water is more (or less) than meter from the riders feet. This adds spectacle to what is otherwise a standard theme park ride. It gives a dual purpose water feature, and is fun for riders and none riders alike.
Nemesis at Alton Towers is one of the best rollercoasters in the world. The ride it is compared to the most is Black Mamba at Phantasialand. This B&M invert is compact, well themed and packs a punch.
The station is dark and dramatic. The lift hill takes you up and through African themed buildings (noise) and the first turning drop launches into a vertical loop. Following that everything is a blur. It is basically zero G roll, dive under bridge, helix, repeat. Lots of leg choppers and interactions with the midway. I have read that the tightest helix B&M have ever made is on this rollercoaster. Wherever it was, it lacked the speed, change in elevation and closeness of the terrain that makes Nemesis' helix a star in its own right. Black Mamba is a great rollercoaster. A rollercoaster I could ride and ride again. It just isn't as memorable as others. It's the difference between The Swarm and Flüg der Dämonen. Dragons fury and Sonic Spinball. Manta and Air. I am spoilt to have grown up with Nemesis, it's a tough act to follow and any Invert I go on will automatically be compared to it.
Phantasialand is a fantastic park, it has no end of great rides and like Alton Towers, it benefits from its restrictions. It is characterful, charming and not overly big. I definitely recommend a visit!