Attraction Review: Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

It's still a little crazy to me that I'm sat here writing a review of this thing. Throughout its entire construction I only kept half an eye on the thing because I knew timing-wise it'd most likely be a good few years before I got round to riding so didn't want to hype myself up too much. So imagine my surprise when I found myself in the surreal moment of walking through the gates of the thing and joining the queue mere weeks after it opened due to us returning to Orlando way sooner than we'd expected for a family wedding! So despite only having been to the park just a few months before in September 2018, here we were again at Universal Islands of Adventure, but this time managing to experience not only an entirely new attraction for us, but a huge multi-million dollar investment and one of the most hotly anticipated rides to open in 2019.

I guess I should start this review by saying, much like my opinions on Star Wars, I'm not what I'd call a die hard Harry Potter fan. I grew up reading the books like the rest of us 90s children, and my brain has a strange capacity for remembering minute pop culture details so I am well rehearsed in the detail that goes into the world itself, but it's not something I have an emotional attachment to. I'll also go in here saying I'm no theme park purist, I've written articles before defending Universal's use of screens in rides so I definitely wasn't one on the hype train for this coaster due to it actively choosing to avoid being a screen-lead attraction.

I'd managed to avoid most of the spoilers for the ride, so in honour of that consider this your warning - there are spoilers ahead so if you'd rather not know the details of Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure I'd suggest you click away! OK now that that's out of the way, let's get stuck in.

I'd been keeping a close eye on the queue times for this coaster and it had pretty much solidly been stuck on 180 mins for the past few weeks, so we'd made our peace with the fact that we were probably going to be waiting a while for our ride. Turns out the throughput of this coaster is INSANE and not only was the queueline constantly moving through fantastic, highly themed environments we actually only ended up waiting 90 mins for our ride - half the advertised wait and not too shabby at all. The queue itself is what you'd expect from a Universal Potter style attraction at this point, everything serves a purpose and is there to tell part of the story as well as keep you entertained whilst you meander through. Getting up close and personal with the pumpkins outside of Hagrid's hut, moving into the castle ruins and taking note of the nod to Duelling Dragons (hello 'Duelling Club'). All of the 'Care of Magical Creatures' paraphenalia adorning the walls could have you easily stood there for hours taking in the detail and I was slightly shock/sad to note that the park do not sell the magical creatures posters? Seems like a missed opportunity to me!

What's also great about the queue is that, much like Escape from Gringotts, the queue is broken up several times by what we would typical identify as a pre-show. A little extra thematic element using fantastic themed technology like Pepper's Ghost effects to keep you entertained and engaged with the story the ride is trying to tell. I particularly adored the way the coaster trains were explained - Arthur Weasley uses a duplication spell on Hargrid's motorbike, hence why there are so many of them. Cleverness! My favourite of these scenes was definitely the pre-batch section under the wooden slats where you hear Hagrid roaring around on his bike overhead - the lighting and shadows used here are so realistic and the effect pulled off is magnificent, you really do feel like Hagrid is right above your head and you can feel the reverberation of the bike's engine as it backfires.

The ride itself is an absolute fucking whirlwind - it's so crazy and action packed and relentless but in a...family way? Doesn't that make sense? Like in no way is this thing trying to be Taron and of course you have to make sure the pacing is absolutely correct in order for you to take in and appreciate all of the fab thematic elements but somehow it manages to pitch everything just perfectly. And bearing in mind I had no idea what lay ahead, I was yelping as we zoomed around corners past Blast-Ended Skrewts, Fluffy the three-headed dog, Cornish Pixies and Devil's Snare. Each creature is brought to life wth animatronics and theming - there are no screens here. So when I mention a three-headed dog I mean there is actually a giant fucking three headed dog! The Devil's Snares tentacles and vines really come out of the walls at you and appear to be wrapping around the coaster train before you drop to your escape. It's such an incredible feat that Universal have so many of these giant animatronic pieces throughout the attraction - it does feel a little like they're sticking the fingers up to Disney: you have one giant animatronic in your ride? WE HAVE LOADS!!

The only animatronic I was a little...meh about were the unicorns at the end. They're kind of just plonked there and given the fantastical way you've interacted with all of the other magical creatures throughout the rest of the rides the way the unicorns are presented does feel like a little bit of a bum note, especially given how much seeing one is hyped up throughout the queueline and pre-shows of the coaster.

The coaster itself then - it's really thrilling! Usually with these kinds of highly themed coaster experiences the metal itself tends to be a little lacking in order to accommodate a slow enough pace for the theming and story to be appreciate. I truly believe that HMCMA is the best themed coaster experience in the world in terms of the stand-alone coaster experience matching the theming and narrative for quality. You could strip all of the bells and whistles away from this thing and still have an incredibly enjoyable coaster experience so that is testament to just how much of a blast this ride is. Being Intamin, you know the launches are going to deliver and each one packs just as much of a punch as the last. Again, it's nothing too intense so it's perfect for families but still equally just as thrilling. I adored the way the buttons on the coaster trains gave the illusion that we were controlling the boosts in speed - just another little detail that's gone in to bringing this story to life as we ride.

So yes, I was very, very impressed with Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. I'd have happily queued three hours to ride and still would have come off satisfied (although obviously I'm glad that wasn't the case!) I think it's exactly what the Wizarding World in Orlando needed - it's a distinct point of difference from the other two major attractions and I'm glad Universal took the chance to differentiate with this one to deliver an entirely new experience for the park. It makes me very excited to wonder what could be coming to Epic Universe as in my opinion they've now successfully proven they're capable of delivering a high-quality 'purist' themed attraction as well as just their screen-based bits.

Talk later xoxo,

CONVERSATION

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