After several weekends of “beta testing” California’s Great America officially opened “Mass Effect: New Earth” to the general public today.
So, did the park finally “dial in” the attraction?
In a word…yes.
I’ve written about the ride experience previously, but that was based on the “beta” experience. Thankfully, the park took feedback from guests and made many of the necessary adjustments to make the experience even better. (Still need more shade in the line, though!)
Speaking with the people who worked on the attraction after the “first ride,” many of them had been on the project from the initial concept nearly 18 months ago. You got the sense talking to them that this experience is just the beginning for this technology.
But don’t take it from me – see it for yourself:
Even the CEO of the company who created the over 4K display screen told me, “We could have pushed the envelope even further.”
Further? I’m not sure how much more realistic it could be. Remember, this is the same technology that was supposed to debut for Michael Jackson’s “This is It” tour – and the tech has only become better since then:
With all the sound channels now perfected and all the effects now working – Mass Effect: New Earth is worth a trip to California’s Great America.
However, I do echo the sentiment of at least one other reporter, who mentioned in their review that while gamers will love this ride and understand it top to bottom, but those who have not played the series may have a difficult time discerning what’s going on in front of them.
As much as video game people like to think otherwise, it’s still a niche marketplace and doesn’t have the mass appeal that say, “Star Tours” or a “Star Trek” themed ride would have. A bit more background and storyline in the queue would certainly help that.
Overall though, I think we’re looking at a solid new attraction for a park that needed it, and it just might the ride we look back on a few years form now and say this is where the amusement industry stepped up to the tech plate and started a truly digital revolution.
You read it here first, people.
For more information on “Mass Effect: New Earth,” visit: www.CAGreatAmerica.com
California’s Great America this “soft opened” their latest offering: a 4D holographic experience called, “Mass Effect” – themed after the popular video game series from Redwood City, CA based Electronic Arts.
After being lucky enough to experience it for myself this past weekend, does it live up to the pre-opening hype?
Well, yes…and no.
If you are a fan of the video game series or a serious tech nerd, this will probably be a mind-blowing experience for you. The amount of technology behind the screen alone is unlike anything that has been placed inside an amusement or theme park – ever.
But, if you’re not really into “geeking out” on technology, or playing the video game that inspired the attraction, you may end up passing on this attraction if the line is too long.
Let’s begin with the positives:
Upon walking inside the theater, you might think the screen up front is a prop – but no – that’s a massive LED screen you’re looking at. The resolution is incredibly high and feels like you’re looking at real pod bay doors.
A live actor / actress at the ship’s helm instructs you to place all loose belongings in the ample area in front of your seats, which are bundled 4-abreast. That captain will stay with us throughout the ride.
When you sit down, you’ll immediately notice the first bit of the 4D experience – vibration synced to sound effects – as your ship goes through pre-flight checks. It definitely adds to the realism.
After placing on our 3D safety goggles (which ALL real commercial flights have you do, of course) we embark on our space journey to a resort. The holograms are VERY impressive and are even customized for the park, which is a nice touch in an era of generic attraction films.
The experience plays out much like other motion simulator experiences – a fairly routine flight suddenly has everything go wrong – and guests are soon wrapped up in a fight for their figurative lives. Along the way, the film is accompanied by appropriate visuals, sounds, feelings and smells.
Yes, SMELLS. Suddenly, Soarin’ over the World has some decent competition…
Of course, the good guys eventually win and we limp to our original, intended destination, albeit a little worse for wear.
In the main gift shop at the front of the park, you’ll find Mass Effect models, jackets and even a custom display case – which really stands out from the rest of the generic stuff the park currently offers.
So, what could the park do better before officially opening the ride to the public later this month?
There were some moments where I had trouble following the action on-screen. It moved too quickly in spots for my taste and the audio was tough to process at points, especially coming from the holographic interface.
The capacity for this ride is going to be bad, period. The cycle lasts four minutes and thirty seconds, and only one side of the former Action Theater was renovated. Translation: expect to wait in long lines on the busiest days. Speaking of waiting…
The outside queue has no shading in a majority of the switchbacks (some of which were added anticipating larger crowds). If you plan to get in line before 4-5:00 p.m. this summer, expect to be out in the direct sunlight until you get to the final grouping section.
Why this park is so adverse to shade structures, I will never know. It would be nice to get that shade up, especially if they’ve already anticipated long waits with that extended queue.
There are some things to look at in the line, but not much, considering the subject matter. Original plans called for a line with tons of plexiglass in it, but after seeing what guests already do to Star Tower’s windows and Gold Striker’s wooden queue, those plans were thankfully abandoned.
Also, the unique seats that hide all the fun 4D effects have one noticeable feature that’s missing – a restraint.
Take that, CalOSHA!
It turns out that the motions of the seats are not violent enough to warrant a restraint system, such as a seatbelt. Only time will tell if this becomes an issue with guests who try to exploit this and ruin the ride for others. I hope it doesn’t occur. But if it does – you heard it here, first.
I was also let down by the exit from the ride. Before, it housed an arcade with a myriad of games. This weekend, it was just empty. While it was a soft opening (and not everything may be finished) I do hope they fill that space with actual gaming consoles, so that guests can experience the game that inspired the ride they were just on.
Despite the potential for guest stupidity, lack of shade and taking into account this was only a soft opening, Mass Effect is still a VERY GOOD and SOLID attraction for California’s Great America.
But, it’s not 40th anniversary GREAT.
Yes, it is a much needed refresh of an under-utilized and outdated motion theater – and yes, Cedar Fair spent a LOT of time, effort and moolah to spruce it up. All are admirable coming from a park that most people had written off just four years ago.
However – at the end of the day – it is still just a motion theater.
Mass Effect at California’s Great America is fun and worth a trip to experience for yourself. But as a “repeat ridership” attraction or “destination ride,” I cannot see it having the pull that Gold Striker did in 2013 or that the Joker at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom will become when it opens later this month.
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Did you experience “Mass Effect” yet – if so, what did you think? Tell me in the comments section below or on our social media links!
Today, California’s Great America announced “Winterfest” a spectacular larger than life holiday event. The event will be in direct competition with Six Flags’ “Holiday in the Park” which has been running for several years now up in Vallejo. “Winterfest” will be free to attend for anyone with a Gold of Platinum season pass.
Included in the winter wonderland will be a skating rink in front of Carousel Columbia, light displays, holiday shows, limited ride operation and holiday themed food options.
It will be capped off with one of the Bay Area’s tallest Christmas trees and even giant toy soldiers greeting guests.
Not too bad.
The five-week WinterFest celebration begins November 25 for weekend operation. Daily operations run December 19th through 23rd and 26th through 30th.
Suddenly, buying a season pass to the park this year got a whole lot more enticing. Certainly the addition of “Mass Effect” wasn’t enough to bring me back for another year – but this might do the trick.
Now, the park HAS tried something similar in the past – in the first season, back in 1976. Those small rings near Carousel Columbia’s top were to help mount Christmas lights. Unfortunately, it didn’t do so well, mostly due to poor weather. However, with the success of Six Flags’ “Holiday in the Park” in nearby Vallejo – it seems like a no-brainer to capitalize on the demand.
The other major issue is ride rehabilitation schedules. Staying open longer means some rides won’t be ready in late March, when the park opens for its 2017 season. Disneyland has perfected this art with a complete schedule of when rides will be down.
However, no other park has been able to duplicate this, usually resorting to single train operation for a majority of the early-season. We shall see how this park is able to handle the lack of time for annual rehabs.