Monday, August 8, 2011

So Sunny Singapore - USS

Nothing completes a vacation in Singapore than a trip to it's newly opened Universal Studios Singapore! It was timely for us because the day before our scheduled trip to USS was the grand opening date. That only meant that the place was spruced up and ready for everyone's entertainment. Therefore, the moment we arrived, the theme park was set to bring us into another world.
Now there are several things you should remember before going to this theme park:
  • If you have the time, browse their website and go through the park map. It's very helpful to plan your trek ahead so you don't waste too much time thinking of which ride to go next or where the restrooms are.
  • Wear something comfortable. If you like walking in 3-inch heels for the whole day (probably running at some point) then that's certainly okay. But if you're more comfortable in rubber shoes or slippers, that would be best as there will be a whole lot of pavement to go through to make the trip special. Just a special note for those opting for slippers: some rides may require you to leave your slippers on their shoe racks because of the danger of your slippers slipping of your feet and causing accidents. Just a precaution.
  • You can bring food! If you're the type to save up your S$ for presents and souvenirs rather than food, that's probably good news for you. But if you have the dollars to spare and would mind carrying extra luggage to the park, there are also food centers and snack shops in the park for your convenience.
  • Bring an umbrella. That, too, is just an option. You may end up walking under the heat of the sun or under the pouring rain but if you don't mind a little discomfort then don't bring an umbrella. Only the Sci-Fi City and Hollywood Boulevard areas are covered. The rest gives you a lot of open air.
  • Be sure that your camera's battery is fully charged and its memory card is empty. The photo-ops are endless. USS is after all a park themed on movies, so there's bound to be scenes and sets that you would love to be a part of (even if its just a replica).
  • Be in good health and bright optimism. Nothing ruins a trip to the theme park than a weak body and a bad mood. So in the days before the trip, drink vitamins and water and be healthy. Set your mind to the positive side and convince yourself that no matter what happens, you are going to have fun. Because who knows if some of your plans don't turn out well.
After making sure the rest of your preliminaries are in order, it's time to start with the ride reviews.

There are only 2 attractions in the Madagascar part of the map and I can only give a detailed review of one.

 Madagascar: A Crate Adventure
This ride is similar to the Small World of Disneyland or the Jurassic ride (which I'll also be reviewing later). It takes you on a boat ride around a supposedly stranded ship. The boat is shaped like a crate and it has markings on whether the occupants of the crate are giraffes, monkeys, zebras or penguins. The tour then brings you to a scene story of the Madagascar movie, following the adventures of Marty, Alex, Melman, Gloria, the penguins and the FOOSA. Each turn focuses the passengers on life-like statues of the characters, some moving and interactive while others are just behind the rocks waiting to be noticed. The audio effects clearly defines what is going on in the adventure and there are even blasts of fire or splashes of water and even falling crates. The ride, in itself, was a good start of the USS adventure since it didn't require much energy, didn't cause much anxiety, had very few restrictions as to the passengers and showcased the blend in movie and reality entertainment.

Next area will be FAR FAR AWAY. Don't worry, it's not really far.

Enchanted Airways

This ride is a mini roller coaster that takes you on spins and slopes on a dragon-shaped vehicle. It's a high speed ride, so hand carried items will be left on the platform shelf. That's one thing you have to risk if you're carrying cameras and other items. But so far, I haven't heard of anyone losing anything from there. The ride is quite short and forces anyone who has never been in a roller coaster ride to realize the adrenaline rush it gives you. It also gives you a foretaste of what you might experience if ever you planned to ride the Battle Star Galactica rides in Sci-Fi City.

Shrek 4-D Adventure
A little way into the Far Far Away area, a large castle immediately attracts attention and a huge Shrek statue calls you into the 4-D adventure. This is a movie theater attraction where the audience can see, hear, and feel what's going on in the movie. At the lobby of the huge castle, Pinocchio and the three little pigs welcome you in cages. The talking mirror also gives you a hint of what you are about to experience. The lobby is actually the dungeon room and you can see the execution table hanging on the wall and Gingy (the gingerbread man) on a screen supposedly being tortured. When the marshals let the audience into the main theater, everyone is seated in a comfy cinema chair and the show starts. With every jump, bump and rocking of Shrek in the movie, the chairs also move. Water sprouts and spiders climb up your legs as if the audience is really in the movie. The only downside of this attraction is that it has been a watered down version of the Battle Star Galactica adventure in other Universal Studio theme parks. The marshals also need to practice their English more and the way they handle the audience.

There are two other rides/attractions in Far Far Away but I cannot give you a detailed review on those 2.

Next stop, the Lost World.

Canopy Flyer
This is a roller coaster ride where you sit in a swing-like contraption, back-to-back with two other people and soar into the treetops of the Lost World. At first glance, it only looks like a quick round trip for a top view of the park. No twists or sudden slopes. It's basically a 30 second ride (to be verified, I told you it was a quick ride, I don't even remember =). But to the surprise of the first timers (including my mother), right behind a few trees, the ride increases speed and over-bank-turn once before landing you back into the holding area. Short but sweet as some would say.

Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure
This is one ride you might want to bring a plastic bag with. The ride specifically warns all passengers of the huge possibility of getting wet. Lockers are available throughout the theme park but it may cost you a few dollars. Therefore, here's a tip you might want to take to heart: bring a plastic bag for your valuables if you don't really mind getting your clothes wet. At least you don't need to pay the locker for keeping your bags safe and instead, you can buy an 'i survived the rapids adventure' t-shirt. Besides, getting wet makes it all the more fun. In contrast to many other rapids adventures like the Rio Grande Rapids in Enchanted Kingdom, this ride gives you the feeling that you're actually touring the Jurassic Park complex in the movie. First it would calmly tour you in the safer places of the complex until we find out that some of the dinosaurs have escaped and some parts of the complex have been destroyed. All this happens with your mini-boat/tub rocking against the machine-made rapids. You finally get stuck inside a small building where it is terrible dark and then the tub suddenly gets lifted up to a T-rex just waiting to have you within its reach. And then drop, the tub slides down a slope and the poor passengers who happened to be sitting at the wrong place at the wrong time gets the wet impact we've all been anticipating. In general, the ride is great and is definitely a must in the park.

We now go to Ancient Egypt, and face one ride that is sure to make you want to see the movie.

Revenge of the Mummy
the height of that building = roller coaster drop
This is an indoor roller coaster that is made specifically to transport you into the movie (you guessed it) Revenge of the Mummy. It's not a typical indoor roller coaster. It's actually more of a shot into sub-reality. As the cars rotate, you face the mummy cast of the movie and the script falls into place. There are scarabs filling the dim lighted room and at one point, it may seem that the car is heading straight for a wall then BANG! You collide (or seem to collide) with the wall until it cracks and you reverse into it. The darkness of the setting adds to the thrill of its cinematographic feel. The story fits with the twists and turns of the roller coaster. Everything is just perfect and even Imotep, the evil mummy, seems to disagree of you keeping your life at the end of the ride. Perfect for the ones who seek thrill and beauty in a movie-become-ride.

And now, the piece de resistance, Sci-Fi City.

Battlestar Galactica: Cylon

Anyone looking for a complete theme park adventure should definitely try one of the two interlocking roller coasters in USS. You can even try both if you're really into it. For purposes of a biased perspective, I will have to write a review on the Cylon (the blue track), inverted coaster track instead of the Human coaster (red track). What adds to the thrill of being thrown into the air, around twists and loops and corkscrews than the idea that your feet are hanging just inches from the track of another coaster. The Cylon was made to bring the passengers into a wild ride that depicts what the Cylons in the movie have to go through when flying off. The combination of loops, corkscrews and a zero-g will surely keep you screaming all throughout the less than 3-minute ride. It's a 16-story drop into an adrenaline-pumping, heart-jumping, ear-screeching ride which will make you, silly as it may same to those have never tried it, want to go back! Only in this ride will you be able to scream your heart out in the highest pitch you never thought you could reach and yet the people in the ride with you don't mind the noise (I doubt they could even hear you over their own screams). While your body is being tossed and turned, you will also be able to glimpse the Human coaster riders nearing a collision with your own coaster. Well, that is if your eyes were open during the ride. That condition leads to another important tip from my experience: keep your eyes open or you'll forget that you ever rode on that coaster. Every time the coaster loops and the sky and sun is in my face, I closed my eyes. I could only ever remember certain periods in the ride where I consciously felt gravity on my head and my feet right above me. It's a thrill-seekers fill and everyone should try it.

Contradicting my previous statement, not everybody should try it. There's a reason why they placed so many signs from entrance to the boarding of the coasters and other rides that warn those who have health deficiencies such as weak hearts, bone problems and high blood pressures to stay away or to think it over and over before deciding to jump in. That reason is this: your health is at risk and they mean it. For a scoliotic like me, I shouldn't have been allowed to ride that coaster or any other coaster that throws people around. It's dangerous. But then, this is an individual's discretion. If health is utterly important to you, then please think it thoroughly through before choosing to put yourself at risk. The fun will last for a while but the pain (or fever in my case) will cause more discomfort for you at the end of the day.

However, seeing as I am diverting you into a cautious mood, I would like to sum up the whole Universal Studios Singapore experience as absolutely and outright awesome which anyone who ever has the chance of visiting Singapore should not let slip. Five claps for USS!

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