With no additions for 2011, Nemesis Sub-Terra was a much anticipated addition to Alton Tower’s line up – and with a promise of being ‘your worst nightmare underground’, the attraction had alot to live upto.
With ABC Rides of Switzerland announcing through a press release in September that four drop towers would create a new experience in Europe for 2012, rumours spread like wildfire that this was set for Alton Towers, followed by planning documents being filed for a location within the park. It was not until an initial tagline of Nemesis: What Lies Beneath? Was officially announced that the rumour mill was fully engaged, with guests and theme park enthusiasts curious as to what the new development would actually be.
As of 24th March 2012, the public finally had the chance to find out. Located within Forbidden Valley, a tank was parked outside a decommissioned research facility where the Phalanx was patrolling the area with a keen eye. Being the first day of operation for guests, the queue wound down to Fresh Fish and Chips (near Air) by 10am, the official opening time for the attraction.
[notice][PHALANX INTERMISSION : PLEASE NOTE THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS][/notice]
Luckily, twenty guests were handpicked by the Phalanx for a very public surname roll call (including myself), and were allowed through for the first batch of the day. All ride operatives were acting fully within their roles as Phalanx operatives, putting on a thoroughly believable performance as strict, orderly – almost military- workers. Wearing black uniform, the actors where very in your face with demands, however this seemed to work brilliantly in adding drama to the Phalanx story and worked well in its favour.
Due to the main ride feature, a baggage hold is an obligation for those riding, although those wearing glasses should be okay without handing them over. After learning about the Phalanx during several queueline video intermissions, we are now fully prepped for what is ahead.
Much like another ride at the park, we then told to stand on one of ten circles within an allocated number; ready for us to safely access the first part of the Sub-Terra experience. Getting into a faux lift, we stood in anticipation whilst another video is played on the screen above us.
It isn’t long before the doors in front open automatically leading us into what is a rather realistic looking cavern tunnel. This in turn directs us straight into the ride area, with four separate drop towers each facing a central focus point; a glowing prehistoric egg. At this point it feels like we’ve stepped into a retro sci-fi story, with curious devices and equipment focussed on the biological specimen.
At this point, we are sharply reminded whose territory we are on, as Phalanx operatives march into the room barking orders to swiftly get seated and allow our restraints to fall upon our laps. In the process, it was extremely noticeable how wet these were. However, this is no Valhalla.
Curious as to how this may occurred there is no thinking time – for we are rushed by a rather distressed Phalanx member (some quality acting admittedly!) into two lift chambers, relating upon which number we were allocated for the first elevator. Whilst the first lift was rather calm, this is anything but. A rather memorable “Door Closing, Door Closing, Door Closing,etc” broken record announcement is played, before the lift starts ‘elevating’. Without dSat in anticipation, the operatives exit the room, with the doors silently closing behind them. And we wait. The focus of the attraction is inevitably the egg, where all of a sudden monitors and lights start flickering, upon an intercom announcement that the object indeed has life. The lights drop, and so do we – with an almighty blast of water spray. The drop of roughly 10 feet leads us to a dimly lit cavern with a couple of eggs where unfortunately nothing much happened. We then rise back up to the main ride room, where sirens are ringing and the egg has now alarmingly cracked.
Without due notice, the capsule is disturbed and shaken, bringing terror to an already anxious group of guests. A roof tile is dislodged, and it becomes apparent the spawn of Nemesis has set itself upon us. Within seconds, the doors open, and we are sent back out in the relatively calmer world of Forbidden Valley.
Giving the above description you’d be mistaken for thinking Nemesis Sub-Terra is a theatrical masterpiece. However, the experience does unfortunately feel distinctly average in terms of the main ride – essentially the main focus of Alton Towers’ biggest ride of the year.
The drop tower unfortunately was bland as soon as the drop started, with little to see or emotions to stir once the initial shock kicked in. The cavern we were led into had little to see, and it was disappointing to find out that some effects such as leg ticklers, air blasts and neck pokers were out of action.
The ride does have some good points though, notably the strength of the actors leading up to the actual ride itself and the post-show climax in the attacked lift shaft. These did provoke a certain sense of terror, ironically more than the highly marketed egg scene.
Upon riding the new addition a second time, I took a moment to watch reactions of those who had merely seconds ago escaped the clasp of the creature inside Nemesis Sub-Terra. Whilst the attraction did grow on me slightly upon my second ride, it appeared neutral guests generally had a different opinion. “Was that it?” seemed to be a common quote from those waiting to collect their bags, along with criticisms of how weak the promoted scares actually were.
A welcome side addition to Forbidden Valley is an accompanying retail outlet located between Nemesis Sub-Terra and it’s older brother ,the original Nemesis rollercoaster. Whilst small it does seem there is a good array of new merchandise available for both attractions – however it is much, much smaller than the ever popular Air Shop.
Nemesis Sub-Terra does have potential, if all the effects are switched on and work effectively. Most of the drop tower did seem rather bland – almost as if there was no creature at all. Saying that, this could be put down merely to opening day jitters. However, for the attraction to work successfully it is rather labour intensive and is all the better for it. Hopefully staff numbers aren’t cut down during off-peak periods or in future years where Sub-Terra is far from the top of the park’s priority list.
For those complaining full on about the experience, bear in mind that Nemesis Sub-Terra (and indeed Ice Age – The 4D Experience) are effectively filler attractions, leading up to what could be a world’s first coaster in the park’s X-Sector area in 2013. Saying that, those who have a fear of the dark, being underground or the unexpected should benefit highly from the ride, and their accompanying friends even more so.