BGW Curse of DarKastle Ride Experience

Monday, May 2, 2005 11:01 AM
Busch Gardens Williamsburg opened its new ride, Curse of DarKastle, yesterday. As a season pass holder, I was excited to see the new ride and was one of the idiots, er enthusiasts, who braved the four-hour line. A majority of this wait time was because the ride kept breaking down. We experienced at least three "temporary suspensions of operation" during our wait, each of which lasted more than a half hour. The line snaked out of the line house, back over the bridge, behind the recording studio, through the double-gated path that is normally kept closed, past the coo coo clock shop, around the fountain, and all the way to the wrought iron gate between Rhinefeld and Aquitaine.

BGW employees were doing everything possible to make the wait more bearable. They were passing out free bottles of Aquafina and one-day 30% discount cards for food and merchandise purchases. I also saw a few park guests who got upset being taken aside and quietly given meal vouchers. As the wait stretched on and the staff had more time to react and respond, loud speakers and microphones were set up to keep the crowd in the line entertained and informed. The young man given the unenviable task of talking and keeping hot, frustrated people's minds off the wait did an excellent job; interacting with the crowd and actually convincing a few passers by to stop and sing into the microphone.

Okay, now what you really care about... the ride.

Once in through the ride’s main entrance, the line first goes through the gardens around one side of the building. The grounds include a “maze” of low hedges and themed dry fountains and statues. As is the standard for BGW, the landscaping and horticultural displays in the ride are exceptionally well done. Once inside the building, the line doubles back on itself several more times. The line moves in short spurts, as groups of approximately thirty-to-forty are moved into the pre-show area. The pre-show area, in keeping with the "castle frozen in time" theme, was absolutely freezing. I’d gauge it to have been below sixty degrees Fahrenheit. After being in the hot sun for so long, the effect was particularly uncomfortable. My teeth were chattering and I was covered in goose flesh before the end of the short computer-generated animated intro.

After the pre-show, a “hidden” panel opens in the wall and riders are ushered into another queue for the loading area. Large golden "sleds" (so we are told in the pre-show, which is good, because they have no visual resemblance to a sled whatsoever) move into the loading area two at a time, serving two different lines. Guests take a pair of 3D glasses and load four to a row into the sleds. There are two rows per sled, with the back seat slightly elevated above the front.

When the sled doors are closed, the rider is essentially sitting in a three-sided box. The high sides completely screen any peripheral vision. The sled moves through the ride on a track and comes upon a series of tableaus that are theme decorated for different rooms of the castle. Each has an incorporated 3D screen. The computer-generated images include many of the time-honored (a.k.a. old) 3D effects like having knives thrown at you, people reaching for you, etc. At certain points throughout the ride, the car spins, similar to the effect in Men In Black at Universal Florida. I was very disappointed to find out that the "drop" that was hyped before the ride opened is a visual drop effect, not a physical drop.

I have the disadvantage of monocular vision, so I'm not a good judge of how well the 3D effects were done. However, I can tell you that those around me were jumping and hopping around pretty good. My friend later told me they were very well done.

With the exclusion of the awful costumes issued to the ride attendants that appear to have no relevance whatsoever, the ride is well themed and visually spectacular. The spinning effect didn't seem to have much to do with the context of the theming or the story line, however, and was apparently added simply to make the ride a little more physical.

Speaking of the story line, I wish I knew a little better what was going on. The sound in the sleds was awful. The voices are indiscernible. They cannot be heard clearly because of their low volume and the noise of the background music and sound effects. I normally have no hearing issues, but wasn't able to understand a word that was said throughout the ride. In the pre-show, the noisy crowd greatly overpowered the dialog; mostly with comments about how cold it was and how their teeth were chattering.

Curse of DarKastle is an overall good ride and a nice addition to BGW. However, I hardly rate it in a category that makes it a "must see" or a reason to travel to Virginia.

Monday, May 2, 2005 12:39 PM
Sounds like they are still working out the kinks that come with a ride like this. I am sure volume, temperature etc will be worked out soon. Unfortunate people have to be part of it.
Monday, May 2, 2005 2:15 PM
Yea I like it.. but I wouldn't waite 3 hrs again!
Monday, May 2, 2005 2:16 PM
Has anyone ridden Spiderman and DarKastle and able to compare and contrast the two rides?
Monday, May 2, 2005 2:41 PM
Is it just a fixed point ride vehicle that can spin, or is it like a rolling motion simulator like Spiderman?
Monday, May 2, 2005 3:02 PM
Never been on Spiderman so I can't compare the two. The sled does more than roll along and spin, it has motion simulator capabilities.
Monday, May 2, 2005 4:56 PM
I have... and all I can do is refer you to my post

the 3-d effects and movie are better on DARK and the interaction between seenary (SP i know) and movie better in siderman!

Monday, May 2, 2005 4:57 PM

The Mole said:
Is it just a fixed point ride vehicle that can spin, or is it like a rolling motion simulator like Spiderman?

I can tell you that both rides spin! I've been on both and I am not sure what you are talking about... please explain

Monday, May 2, 2005 5:18 PM
Has Busch ever announced the price tag for DarKastle?

Didn't Spiderman cost around $100 mil? I can't imagine a seasonal park spending anything close to that...


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