Opening Day Impressions
As chance would sometimes have it, events happen very much for one’s own benefit, as was also the case on the last day of May by the Ministry of Joy. This institution, based in the county of Staffordshire – more precisely at the Alton Towers amusement park –, was looking for volunteers for their novel apparatus for correcting the human mind, called The Smiler.
Built on the site of the former Black Hole roller coaster, the Smiler attracts everyone’s attention and sends one train after the other through the layout. The number of people to be corrected on that day was quite high, resulting in a queue with a small swerve inside the X-Sector up to the towers. However, after filling up the entire official waiting area, the situation was halfway settled. There was no preferential treatment for individuals and private patients on this day, however, only outpatient cases were recovered at short notice.
After leaving the outdoor waiting area, you enter the station building, where you are made to wait for a rather short time with all kinds of subliminal messages and optical illusions. In addition, there is the fully corrected staff that prepares you for the upcoming activities and frees you from everything that is not necessary. The station of the machine, which is not unlike a roller coaster, is kept simple and creates trust. The already marmallized persons seem to have successfully left their therapy behind. Shortly after, our mindbending journey is about to start.
The ride begins with a curvy descent, which ends in a heartlineroll covered by fog and illuminated to match, after which one waits under loud laughter for the driver of the lift hill in front of one. Once hooked into the lift, the brake swords are lowered – just like on the second lift – which allows a safe roll down in case of a broken chain. After adding enough energy, we start our descend to the ground, whereby the second inversion takes place. Now everything follows in a very fast pace. We go up into an Immelmann only to be led into a Dive Loop. The first hill, which is pretty steep, follows and lifts us out of our seats. This is followed by an element, not dissimilar to a Batwing, where we first pass a corkscrew and follow a half loop, whereupon we experience the same in a mirrored form. A surprisingly high corkscrew joins in and releases the passengers half way corrected into the second lift hill.
In comparison to the first hill, the climb to the sky is now much steeper. Then, the game starts all over again the same way: A curvy drop guided us into a roll to the ground. Next we pass a roll over, which again turns us over twice, whereupon the second hill kicks us out of our seats. This is followed by a cobra roll, which features the only weak point in the otherwise very smooth ride, as you actually come into contact with the restraints when exiting the element. In the consecutive heartline rolls, this is already forgotten and the last inversion-free curve ends our therapy by leading us into the brake run.
With the words “You belong to The Smiler” you are released from the station, whereupon, after a few steps, you can collect your belongings and enjoy the spiritual purity to the full. Under all sorts of optical illusions, you leave the station in the direction of the exit, whereupon the grin continues to be visible in your face.
The Smiler is without exaggeration a very big coup for Alton Towers and makes you hungry for more. Whatever the next Secret Weapon will be, it will be outstanding. The ride on this roller coaster of the Münsterhausen manufacturer Gerstlauer is totally insane and reaches the goal in perfection. Hardly any other roller coaster is as fitting in its name as The Smiler and hardly any other roller coaster has the effects along the ride being so well received by the passengers as The Smiler. There is no need for a lavish design, as often requested by fans, but simply a good idea and minimalism in its most distinctive form. The waiting passengers are entertained by all the movements within the ride before they take a seat in one of the rows of, according to the author, the best roller coaster in Europe.
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