Although I have described Walibi Belgium as a ghetto amusement park in my last report, I was always curious about new development of the park. Since my last visit in 2009 a lot has happened in Wavre. Starting with the Mise en état of the Intamin Rapid Ride Radja River and the associated reactivation of the long-forgotten water effects in 2010, the overhaul gradually moved through the rest of the park and the swimming pool Aqualibi. The whole park just got back to its former glory, a condition which only a few are likely to know. Accordingly, I’ve been wanting to revisit the park for over a year just to convince myself of the status quo, but a promising and long-awaited novelty kept me waiting until the end of this season: The roller coaster Psyké Underground.
After redeeming our Fort Fun season ticket coupons in the service centre, we went straight through the newly designed entrance area and directly followed the paths to our right in the direction of the roller coaster Vampire. Now in black and red, the coaster lost its typical Six Flags colour scheme. Although I have no negative attitude towards Vekoma Suspended Looping Coasters, the last ride on Vampire was just way too slow and the incompetent staff made the experience even worse.
Even Jan and Julian were not particularly euphoric about the upcoming ride. Interestingly, our expectations were absolutely wrong. Compared to other rides of this type, the Vampire is not only a good ride, but an absolutely smooth one too. You can’t even imagine how bluffed we were, when we finally hit the brake run. There is simply no major contact with the restraints, which is quite surprising, especially with the rather sturdy Vekoma over the shoulder restraint construction. However without all the flaws of a typical SLC, the ride is rather boring despite the very good layout. Even through the ride was smooth, the desire for further confirmation of our freshly gained experience was rather limited. Nevertheless, what ever Walibi Belgium did with the ride, it was the right decision.
Starting with a ride on the Boomerang Cobra –which typically runs much quieter than most other roller coasters out there –, we now followed the paths clockwise around the lake towards the Palais du Génie, a mad house by the Dutch manufacturer Vekoma. As the music was barely audible and all the other sounds made it seem as if the ride was about to collapse, my last experience on this ride was not that good. This time, however, I was very satisfied. The story of the djinn transforming the house into a merry-go-round is effectively told. Considering this background story Le Palais du Génie is one of the better representatives of this very beautiful attraction, at least if you understand Dutch or French.
Driven off our intentional path, which was mainly due to the search of something edible for breakfast, we now entered the queue for the wooden roller coaster Loup Garou. As many rides within the park this roller coaster is made by Vekoma and as long as you are no idiotic roller coaster enthusiast, who believes that everything coming from Vekoma is bad, you will love this ride! Like the sister rides in Tusenfryd and Walibi Holland, Loup Garou can be considered as one of Europe’s best wooden roller coasters.
Where in the old days the sparks flew around the curvy sections of track and the track fluctuated visibly a few centimetres back and worth during braking, the Weerwolf seems rather tame these days. The ride which still uses its original Vekoma trains turns out to be a very pleasant experience. Due to the well designed layout, the ride offers a lot of fun and a very high re-rideability. Especially on an empty day, you could easily do 50 laps in a row.
One of the more interesting things for me was a visit to the 4D cinema next door, where the park now runs a self-produced movie. The story is based on the excellent Walibi comics by Morvan, L’Hermenier and Wuye – which can also be bought in the parks or could be read online – and carries on the events on Shimeria a little further. If you understand French or Dutch, you’ll have a blast of a time, as the movie and its animation are absolutely fantastic!
Past the second novelty of this year, the Fanta Play House and through one of the two children’s area, we headed towards the Calamity Mine Train, a solid Vekoma mine train roller coaster. The layout of this ride was unfortunately copied over and over again, as it serves as the default layout by the manufacturer. Calamity Mine Train however was the first of its kind. With all of the effects working, the ride offers some great family fun.
Along the unfortunately closed boat ride we headed towards the roller coaster with the guaranteed longest waiting time for adults, the tivoli coaster La Coccinelle. During my visit in 2008 I was very happy to have taken my cousin to the park, after all a strict rule only allowed adults to ride with their children. Nowadays, the train can run with up to two adults per ride. This is particularly annoying when only a small queue exists, as for children who can not ride without an attendant or childless adults, this creates a fairly long queue. In the mean time, they are constantly overhauled by older children.
As I watched Jan and Julian standing but not moving, I decided to take a ride on the Chance Wipeout Octopus (a variant of their old trabant rides, quite similar to a Hully Gully by the manufacturer Mack). Since this ride was always broken during my previous visits, I was very curious about a ride. This turned out to be quite fast in the early stages and was able to convince me with higher lateral forces than a Musik Express. With the inclination of the arm, the ride resembled more and more the well-known feeling of a Hully Gully.
Although many adjustments were needed, not every step in reinterpretation the park was right. Where previously the color olive green outweighed the industrial looking theme area with its time travelling log flume Flashback and the magnificent shuttle loop Turbine, it is now drenched in colours. While the log flume currently adjust itself to the old state without giving up all the benefits of the overhaul, the sight of Psyké Underground is just uncommon and needs a lot of time to get used to.
The front on the covered shuttle loop is the only negative aspect of the brillant renovation of this classic roller coaster. As soon as you enter the queue the positive impressions dominates. The queue now leads you to the ride’s former flywheel, which could not be removed due to construction-related reasons. By the music of the awesome soundtrack, the path unfortunately leads you outdoors, where you queue in a half enclosed waiting area. Back in 2008 you waited in this area for ages, as the ride was only operated every 5 minutes due to its ageing ride system.
In the station you are greeted by a new train built by Gerstlauer, the Münsterhausen based manufacturer and therefore true successor of Schwarzkopf. The comfort is very similar, but the trains offers additional supports which automatically bring you into the correct ride posture. Since the launch drive changed from a flywheel to a linear motor, the launch does not happen directly from a standstill.
When the ride spent its last season as the Turbine in 2008, the lights turned off the train was sent under the use of loud electronic music and strobe lights on the journey towards the looping. Nowaday a suitable and well-made video is played before the train leaves the station driven by friction wheels. In order to get the same velocity as the old system on a shorter launch distance, the ride now accelerates with a punch (which also explains the high power consumption of the ride). The adjacent looping pushes you mercilessly into the seat. Within the tubed spike you slowly lose your speed. With the gained potential energy, you now change direction. The looping is now approached backwards and turns you world once again upside down. But don’t be fooled after ¾ of the way, as the looping is not yet over. Surprised and thrilled, you enter the station once again. Slightly braked, we enter the rear peak about halfway up, before we come to a stop in the station.
Psyké Underground was a surprise beyond compare. Although the drive is now a new one, the ride lost nothing of its old glory and actually even got better. The higher number of launched per hour, the much more intense launch and the still surprisingly powerful looping ensure that this ride has found its way into my favorites once again. The overall theme of the ride is great and fits the Belgian roller coaster legend very well.
Walibi Belgium has indeed changed to good in recent years. The Compagnie des Alpes has done a fantastic job in all of the Walibi parks. Every change was done with the right intension, although it has certainly cost quite a lot of money. The park developed from a former ghetto like park with an anti-social audience, to one of the best family parks in Europe. Walibi, please don’t stop :-).