Ride Review: The Big One

Published by Theme Park Addict on

If you’ve ever been anywhere near Blackpool Pleasure Beach, you’ve probably seen the towering silhouette of the tallest roller coaster in the UK- but it’s also one of the most controversial…

In this Ride Review, we’re taking a look at The Big One, which has thrilled guests in Blackpool for more than 25 years. At over 200ft, it holds the mantle of the country’s tallest ‘coaster- but as we know, there’s more to a good ride than length. We judge every ride we review 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)

This isn’t the first Pleasure Beach ride we’ve reviewed on the website, with Icon scoring an impressive 8/10 back in March. Will The Big One come close? Let’s find out…

Queue and Facade
As with most Blackpool Pleasure Beach rides, the focus here is very much on the non-visual. After all, it’s more of an amusement park than a theme park, so you can understand why there’s no elaborate facade or entrance sign. The queue line, like the station building, is simple-but-effective in style, leading guests up a ramp and into a spacious room where they scan wristbands and board the train.

It’s nothing special, but it doesn’t need to be because the park has already established an aesthetic that isn’t heavily themed. If anything, the theme of the whole park is ‘British seaside amusement park’ and The Big One fits perfectly. One thing I will mention is a slightly confusing pair of giant Pepsi Max cans that still serve as a pre-lift hill tunnel years after the brand was removed from the ride’s name. It’s an appropriate look for a ride that transcends the need for a theme. 6/10.

Ride Experience
Much like in the case of Icon, this is another extremely divisive ride at the Pleasure Beach. To plenty of ‘coaster enthusiasts, this is an excessively rough experience that lacks excitement after the first drop- but others love the ‘coaster, which is one of the longest in the country, and believe it keeps up enough force to stay interesting for the entire duration. Personally, we fall in the latter category- but the truth is that the first drop is so good, we probably wouldn’t mind if the rest was just a few laps of Flying Fish. For starters, the view throughout is nothing short of incredible- arguably the best on any ride in the UK, as you can see the entire park as well as much of Blackpool and the surrounding seaside.

Once you finally peak at the summit of that enormous lift hill (so big it places little signs to give riders an ETA), there really aren’t many feelings like the one you get as you stare down the barrel of a 200ft drop before plunging for a solid five seconds. Well, I say plunging- if you sit towards the back of the train, you really feel like you’re being yanked over the crest of the drop and towards your inescapable fate. While the rest of the ride doesn’t boast the most thrilling layout, the sheer adrenaline from those five seconds makes up for it- and then some. 8/10.

Theming
Ok, so, there isn’t any. As we’ve already gone over, it’s Pleasure Beach, and they never pretended to be a theming-centred park. But there are still some good things to cover, with an infectious soundtrack taking centre stage inside the station in recent times and the famous Pepsi Can tunnel offering something for enthusiasts to nudge each other excitedly about as they go past. There’s no emphasis on story or location, but that’s entirely for lack of trying, so we can’t complain too much. 6/10.

Operations
Things can get a bit murky here, as The Big One pretty much always has the biggest queue at the park. There’s a lot of valid reasoning for this, however- not only is it probably (still) the most popular ride with tourists, as it catches the eye from miles away, but it’s also a three-minute coaster, which obviously hurts throughput. I’ve had experiences where The Big One has been running on one train on a fairly busy day, which was just insane given that that meant only 30 people could ride every five minutes, but I understand that that was an exception rather than the norm. And while it’s far from a serial breakdown ride, maintenance on such an enormous and fairly old coaster is never going to be an easy task, so breakdowns are unavoidable. When operated properly, though, there’s not much to dislike here. 7/10.

Suitability
To draw another comparison to our Icon review, The Big One also has no themed area to try to exemplify. It’s essentially the centrepiece of this iconic park, the one that even people who’ve never been to the park will know. For that reason, it’s become a great symbol for the park, particularly to the general public who are drawn towards the ride without knowing it’s history.

Fast, famous and, of course, massive, The Big One fits right into Blackpool’s lineup, largely because it goes through or past half the other rides on site. There’s a good reason it’s the first ride most people think of when Pleasure Beach is bought up. 8/10.

Overall
The Big One isn’t considered a world-class roller coaster by a long shot, but plenty of people still love this classic hypercoaster, including us- we’ve given it an overall score of 7/10, which places it one full rating below Icon but is still an extremely respectable mark. It scored big on ride experience but fell short when judged aesthetically, which as we’ve explained isn’t really a failure on the part of the ride. When examined purely by the standards of an amusement park this ‘coaster would reach another level, but it’s still earned high esteem in our eyes.


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