So then. =P As you all know by now, this last weekend myself, some people from other Sonic sites around the web (everything from TSS to NiD) and a lot of people from the press were hoarded onto a coach at Green Park in London and driven up the M1 to Alton Towers to promote the new Sonic Spinball ride that’s just been opened there, as well as a bit of tie-in promotion for Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, out at the end of this month. This is basically a little diary of the trip, including a bunch of pictures, so here we go!
I arrived in London’s Green Park tube station about 10:40 (the meet-up time being 11am) trying to figure out which way to leave the station and how to find everyone else in the group, when someone in a Sonic 2 bomber jacket walked past me and out of one of the exits. That problem sorted, I headed out the same exit and introduced myself to the rest of the community group, almost all of whom turned up before almost all of the press did (and even the last, who I’ll leave nameless (unless he volunteers himself =P) arrived before most of them did, so yay us, I guess.
Anyway, we set off for our destination. On the way up we did a couple of things – a play on Sonic Classic Collection was planned but sadly the current build was corrupted and wasn’t working on hardware, so that was ruled out; but the community group had a competition with two prizes up for grabs for the winner – a copy of Phantasy Star 0 for DS and being the first to sleep in the themed Sonic Room at the Alton Towers resort (which I’ll get back to a little later). AAUK had designed the quiz to be fiendishly evil, what with our group basically being as hardcore in terms of knowledge as you can get – I made a note of the questions, see how well you’d do if you want (and using the wiki for answers is cheating >=P) – the answers are hidden in the forum topic mirror of this newspost:
1. What’s the number of female characters in All-Stars Racing?
2. Including Sonic, how many characters were in the axed band idea from Sonic 1?
3. What colour are Sonic’s eyes in Sonic 4?
4. Nigel Kitching from Fleetway’s Sonic the Comic wanted to include Big the Cat in the Sonic Adventure storyline as he reminded him of which anime character?
5. What’s the name of the main boss in Sonic Chronicles?
6. Shadow said DAMN a lot in his game, but 2 other characters also did – name one.
7. The animal friends from Sonic 1/2 – what was the name of the bear?
8. What were Sonic and Tails sleeping in in the AoStH opening?
9. In the Egyptian episode of Sonic Underground’s song, what word did Sonia “cleverly” rhyme with “brothers”?
10. Omochao has been in a Sega franchise other than Sonic – what?
If you got 6, you tied with myself, the eventual winner (Dreadknux) and his partner (whose handle I don’t know and I’m not sure if she uses her name online or not) – though they got a different 6 to each other, so had they worked as a team they’d have won right there, but we went to a tiebreaker:
* What is Big the Cat’s weight in kg?
I guessed 150, she guessed 225 and Dreadknux went with 300 – and he won, the actual weight being 280. Ironically I was thinking 300 myself but figured I’d seen it as an Imperial weight and converted downwards – though in retrospect, the lack of attention as a result suited me just nicely. =P
We finally pulled into Alton Towers and went straight to the entrance of the park, leaving the hotel alone for the time being, and at the gate we were met by someone vaguely familiar:
Yes, Sonic himself (=P) had turned up to welcome us all to his new ride. We then entered the park and walked down to Sonic Spinball.
There was then a brief opening ceremony and the tape was cut, officially opening the ride around 4pm on the Friday.
The ride area itself contains a large spinning sign, bumper mats on the floor, a few UFO Catchers with Sonic plushies in, and a booth for photos of your ride on Spinball. Powerful speakers pump out ring collecting and loss sound effects from the games (roughly timed with points on the ride, as I understand it), and music from Sonic titles and a few regular music tracks – I remember hearing the Unleashed overworld theme, one of the levels from Unleashed (I think Apotos, I forget), Open Your Heart and Twinkle Cart from SA1 (this track, being a remix of the Flicky theme from Sonic 3D, is probably the oldest piece of Sonic music on the ride – though the Mega Drive version of Sonic Spinball’s music is an obvious choice here I think it was unrealistic to expect anything from it). Occasionally, you hear Sonic talking about the ride over the same speaker system (the same voice actor from the Sonic Room, which we’ll get to in a little bit).
Photos of the overall area done, I then bit the bullet (I’m not a huge fan of rollercoasters), and joined the queue for the ride itself – and was soon spinning around the track.
At this point, I should elaborate on how the ride works – each car sits 4 people (though on the opening day they were only doing 3 at a time due to it raining. The next day it was better conditions and all 4 slots were being used). The car itself consists of 2 parts – you have the lower section which rides around the track like a normal roller-coaster, and the upper section that you sit in that’s attached to the car vertically but moves around horizontally in a circle randomly from the moment you’ve finished climbing to the top of the coaster to the point where you’re back into the starting station. The result is that no two rides are identical: you might follow the path of a given curve in the track, or be facing in one direction the whole time you go though it – for an example, at one point I went though a 180 degree turn facing the sky the entire time, whereas someone else in our group was facing the ground for the same turn.
After raiding the UFO catchers (I think everyone in our group got at least one plushie out of it, several got more), we then headed back up to the coach to head on to the hotel, but as we passed a litter bin on the way up to the gate, someone spotted a familiar looking figure on the bin:
This rather tattered looking Luigi being here can’t have been an accident, surely? 😉
Heading to the hotel, we checked in; then in groups of 3 or 4 were shown around the Sonic Room. While we were waiting (and enjoying a drink), someone noticed this nice touch on the junior cocktails menu:
Finally, my turn came and my group were ushered up into the world’s most dramatic lift (it plays ominous music and promotes in-park rides like Nemesis), and to the Sonic Room.
Though you’ll note in the first shot here the large Sega banners at the doorway, they were taken away by the next day, and at that point the room (when the door’s shut, obviously) looks identical to any other room in the hotel – as such, I’m not revealing the room number.
When you enter the room, Sonic greets you and asks for your help in defeating Robotnik (well, Eggman, but old habits die hard >=P) by answering the quiz board by the door and opening the secret drawer, located beneath the TV. Contained in the drawer are a couple of plushies, 2 of the Summer of Sonic ’09 art books, a Priority Ride Pass (for Spinball), and a sprinkling of rings.
The general theme of the wallpaper around the room, as you all know by now of course, is Sonic 4. Is it sad to note my first thought on seeing that boost pad was that it was going to cause a hell of a shitstorm on Retro as soon as someone on the board saw it? I was confirmed right yesterday when I got home and checked in =P
The room has ample beds – you’ve got the main double bed, a bunk bed, and a pull-out bed from the double, for a grand total of 4 separate mattresses, obviously designed with families in mind.
Some random odds and ends shots now – the blind for the window (using the same artwork that’s on the Spinball ride), a palm tree (that you’d have to ask Dreadknux to be sure, but I THINK it’s a lamp), and the carpet – chequered with rings, naturally. =P
Finally, the bathroom – largely the same as the other rooms in the hotel, but with these two columns – Chaos Emeralds (that I would like to know the source of, actually) and some plushies that presumably perv on you when you’re in the shower or on the loo *shot*
After this, we had a little bit of downtime to go to our rooms and get ready for the evening’s party, during which, OL being OL, I took advantage of to use the tea-and-coffee-making-facilities that are always in hotel rooms that are much beloved of Bill Bailey:
Tea! ^_^ However, this was by no means the best bit of the room, oh no! When I walked in, I was greeted by a bag sitting on the desk in the room:
And inside it? Goodies!
The bag contained: a copy of Super Monkey Ball Step and Roll (out that day) that I might pick a Balance Board up for (depends how well the remote control works), a Sega overnight survival pack, a bottle of Schweppes Abbey Well mineral water and another of the SoS ’09 art books. Also present (though not pictured, mine had somehow ended up in someone else’s bag) was a DVD-R with press assets for the ride and ASR. Before I headed down to the bar for the press & community round-up before the party that evening, I took the opportunity to take a couple more photos of the photo booklet that I’d gotten in the park earlier:
This is the front, back, and inside of the booklet that the ride photo comes in (everyone at the opening who wanted theirs got it for free, though I’d have bought it anyway), with the photo removed with the convenient excuse that it hides the Sonic & Alton Towers logo that’s underneath it. =P
I then headed down to the bar, and the party at Alton Towers’ Waterpark, where some Xbox 360 demo pods were playing the final build (and it had to be, it had a title screen and achievements and multiple courses and everything – bearing in mind the game’s out in 2 weeks, this isn’t exactly unbelievable), and we had a decent number of booze-fuelled races of ASR. The game plays just as well as it did at Summer of Sonic – if not more so, now that the frame rate isn’t jerky, it’s pretty much at a fixed 30fps for 2P and 15FPS for 3P and 4P (I.E. a 4-way split-screen). Though the frame-rate hardcore may recoil in terror at this, it really doesn’t matter that much, honestly – we all had great fun playing it. I played on 5 separate tracks: the Sonic Heroes one on the Xbox 360 demo (that everyone with a Gold account has played by now); the Super Monkey Ball course and the Casino-based Sonic Heroes course from Summer of Sonic; a new Samba De Amigo course that is trippy as all hell (you drive though portals into a rainbow hued area with giant Samba heads and back), and a futuristic course based off Jet Set Radio. I played as Amy, Sonic, Robotnik, Tails and Shadow – the hedgehogs seemed noticibly faster, likely a class thing that I didn’t really pay much attention to =P Won a few games, lost a few games, but this is definitely a first day purchase for me.
The next day, we had complimentary tickets for the entirety of the park, so we spent the day there. I’m sure some of the regular guests who’d appeared for the half-term opening were wondering why so many people were walking around with white PVC Sega bags. XD I took this final shot of the Spinball ride at a distance when heading out of the park:
Then, exhausted, we all clambered back on the bus back to London, and after saying goodbye to everyone I’d gotten to know over the last day or so, I headed back down into Green Park tube station and started my journey home.
I’d like to thank everyone at Sega for throwing this event, with a special thank you to ArchAngelUK for getting the community on board and bringing me into the fold for this trip. Also to all the other community peoples: you guys are awesome, and you’d better all be at SoS this year! =P