Ride Review: Icon
Photo by Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s newest rollercoaster has divided opinions across the entire UK Theme Park community, so it’s high time we place it under Ride Review scrutiny.
The Mack Launch Coaster is almost two years old now, and as it enters it’s third season of operation we felt it was the perfect time to judge the ride against our usual five criteria:
– Queue and facade
– Physical ride experience
– Theming (including audio and atmosphere)
– Operations (reliability, capacity and throughput)
– Suitability (sense of belonging in the area and park as a whole)
Icon blew us away when we first rode it, so I expect it to come out with a good overall score. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who, for a variety of reasons, aren’t nearly as keen on the ride as we are. Let’s get into the review and see how Icon holds up.
Queue and Facade
There’s not a whole lot to talk about here as, in typical Blackpool fashion, the facade consists of a simple-but-effective entrance sign that lights the way for guests to find the ride. Meanwhile, the queue line is short and extremely straightforward, but with one excellent quality- it passes within metres of the station, giving riders a perfect view of the first and second launches, ramping up the excitement for waiting guests. On a similar note, one of the few negatives of Icon is the long-winded exit that includes several flights of stairs. The pre-ride experience here does very little- but it does it very well. 7/10
This is where there’s disagreement among riders surrounding Icon. Some people feel the ride is too slow, too tame, too predictable in the layout- particularly in the second half of the ‘coaster. Personally, I fall in the other category: the category that absolutely loves this thing.
No, the launches aren’t that snappy- but they don’t need to be. With Icon, it’s not about pure speed, nor is it about intensity. The word I believe was at the forefront of the minds of the designers of this ‘coaster was fun. And that, it most certainly is. It’s also a long ride- particularly in comparison with other UK ‘coasters- which gives riders plenty of value for their queue time. Special credit must go to the restraints, which give riders the freedom to do whatever they want with their arms throughout the ride, only amping up the enjoyment as they find themselves hanging upside-down at the peak of this special structure. 9/10.
One thing Icon has in buckets is style. Famously based off of a dream that managing director Amanda Thompson had, the theming for the ride features Japanese-style arches, smooth metallic textures and pink blossom trees. The track, painted silver, is sleek and simple. It works.
This isn’t a heavily-themed ride. It’s one of those that prefers to let the hardware do the talking, and the visual flairs serve simply as an accent. It ties the experience together, starting from the moment guests pass under the entrance sign. With that said, what it does offer is a fantastic soundtrack which ramps up the stakes as you board your car. The other thing to mention is the mist in the tunnels, which, when working, turn a fairly tame launch into a thrilling moment. 7/10
Considering that this is the star attraction at one of the UK’s busiest theme parks, the throughput is outstanding. It eats up riders, especially thanks to the staff working in the station, who get trains out at an impressive rate. I’d certainly go as far as to say that the queue for Icon moves faster, on average, than any major roller coaster at any Merlin park in the UK.
Maintenance is also a strong point. This isn’t a ride that goes down often, or for long. Of course, it helps that the sleek trains seat sixteen riders each, and that there are three of them. Overall, this is a ride that rarely lets you down, and even more rarely gives you a wait longer than it’s worth. 9/10.
Unlike most parks which we cover here on Theme Park Addict, Blackpool Pleasure Beach is an amusement park rather than a theme park, meaning that there are no traditional themed areas. For that reason, the most that can really be said for Icon in this category is that it doesn’t look out of place. Thanks to the understated colours and shapes, it slots into the park nicely.
In terms of the position in the ride lineup, this ‘coaster is exactly what Pleasure Beach needed. They hadn’t opened a new roller coaster in over a decade until this beauty arrived, offering a new big draw for the park as well as an attraction that will last for several decades, and something unique for the UK. It’s one of the first things you think of when you hear Pleasure Beach. 8/10.
Given how we’ve raved about this ride throughout our review, it’s no surprise that Icon comes out with an overall score of 8/10. It’s a wonderful coaster, one that stands tall as arguably the best in the country and certainly the best at the park, which is no mean feat. While it’s absolutely not a universally shared opinion, Icon is one of the best roller coasters we’ve ever ridden, and we look forward to riding again and again in the years to come.