Ride Review: Steeplechase
Yes, it’s a classic. Yes, we love it. Yes, the charm comes from the fact that it feels like a deathtrap. But sometimes being a Theme Park lover means being able to admit that a ride you cherish is a bit rubbish.
Welcome back to another Ride Review, and the first since we found out that Britain’s theme parks will start to re-open on July 4th, 2020! One of the parks opening on that date is Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and that’s where we’ll be heading for today’s review. We judge every ride by the same 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)
Until now, we’ve mainly reviewed the biggest and best rides in some of the most popular theme parks in England. Today, we’re looking at Steeplechase, one of Blackpool’s more niche ‘coasters- and one that divides plenty of enthusiasts. Let’s get into the review…
Queue and Facade
While Blackpool Pleasure Beach doesn’t tend to go overboard with theming on it’s coasters, Steeplechase actually has one of the more extravagant aesthetics in the park.This is mainly because you can see the entrance from a mile off, a huge and fairly ugly board that’s just about impossible to walk past without a second glance. The queue itself is extremely simple, taking guests onto a bridge where they split into individual lines for each of the three tracks on the ride. In the usual Blackpool style, simplicity is favoured in the design of this ride, although that’s at least partly because it’s so old that theming was barely invented at the time. 3/10.
The first thing I can say for Steeplechase is that it’s unique. I’ve never ridden anything remotely like it before and I doubt that I ever will. Unlike most racing coasters, which typically have two tracks, this one offers three. It’s also more personal than any other racer, because you’re competing against just a handful of people and they’re usually the people you came with, which adds a competitive edge to proceedings. Your seat, atop one of three colourful horses, isn’t the most comfortable- but this hardly matters much as the ride is over in two minutes.
Once this thing gets going, it knows how to toss riders around. Even with the restraints, it’s easy to feel like you’re constantly in a battle to stay on your horse, adding to the sense of danger which roller coasters are, if you think about it, built around. The corners seem to get increasingly tight as the track progresses, and although the drops aren’t steep, they get up enough speed to make things interesting around each bend. It’s not thrilling in a traditional sense, but when you combine the unique experience with the genuinely scary corners you have a ride that never feels boring. 6/10.
In the interest of fairness, I’d like to point out that this is not a young ride by any stretch. Over forty years after opening, much of the theming- where there is any- looks as though it could have been there the whole time. Once again, this isn’t a failure on Blackpool’s part, as they’re an amusement park and theming shouldn’t be a priority. However, you do at least get some great views of the other ‘coasters in the area, and you’ll be too busy keeping an eye on your opposing racers to notice any theming deficiencies anyway. 4/10.
There aren’t any huge maintenance problems to speak of here- Steeplechase tends to keep ticking along well enough for a ride aged at over four decades. The issues can come from throughput on busier days, as only three riders leave the station every minute or so at times, which can cause queues to get pretty big. This is problematic, because to be honest, most people wouldn’t want to wait longer than twenty minutes or so for Steeplechase when there are so many amazing ‘coasters in the park. The ride staff also need to be fairly high in number to keep things moving at the station, which isn’t ideal for efficiency. 5/10.
Classic rides are what truly make Blackpool Pleasure Beach so special, and this is one of the best examples at the park. Iconic, vintage and gloriously weird, it stands out as one of the rarer credits around, adding the perfect amount of eccentricity to the lineup. It’s also ideal for almost any age, and something that parents can take younger kids on as an early ride experience. 7/10.
When the scores are totted up, Steeplechase comes in at 5/10, giving it our lowest rating yet. But does that really matter? This isn’t a ride that people love for it’s quality. Blackpool Pleasure Beach is about more than that- and Steeplechase exemplifies this ethos more than any other ride at the park. It’s a classic, it’s family-friendly, and above all, it’s fun. It’s what theme parks are all about.