Attraction Review: Fantawild Dreamland & Oriental Heritage

One of the things I was most looking forward to about our honeymoon was the chance to try out some authentic Chinese theme park chains, and more specifically finally try out some of their infamous dark rides. I'd read trip reports on CoasterForce for years from people who'd travelled all over China riding these weird and wonderful rides, each seemingly more outrageous and over the top than the last, so I was gagged to finally be able to try some out for myself! This was the main reason we ventured out of Shanghai to Wuhu, to see if the weirdness lived up to my expectations.

Wuhu is about an hour on the train south of Nanjing, where we'd based ourselves for a few days. There are actually three Fantawild parks in the Wuhu area: Dreamland, Adventure and Oriental Heritage. We decided on this day, seeing as their were right next door to each other, to bash out Dreamland and Oriental Heritage in one day. We did the standard thing of jumping in a cab at the nearest station and pointing at a page I'd printed in Chinese from RCDB and we ended up in the right place!

As with a few of the other Chinese parks we'd already visited, the place was an absolute ghost town when we arrived. We wandered around looking for somewhere to buy a combo ticket for both parks, and after chatting with some broken English, Chinese and hand gesture the super friendly staff sorted us out and we were soon wandering round the most blatant Main Street USA rip off I've ever seen, complete with stubby pink castle at the end. It really is absolutely shameless, and I loved it.

It was Dreamland we'd decided to head to first. Only one cred here (the kiddie was spiteful) and I was more interested in mooching around Oriental Heritage for longer as it looked the most aesthetically pleasing (I wasn't wrong). The park was absolutely dead, but being so dead and the rides having such huge capacity they operate things on a timing basis, so you kind of have to make sure you're moving with the herd as it were. Slightly irritating as when a park is so dead you'd expect to be able to day all of the attractions multiple times with ease, but, y'know, China, so no.

The coaster here, Golden Whirlwind, is absolute trash. Built by a company called Sameco, it's a brutal and unforgiven corkscrew type affair that has you praying for the ordeal to be over before it's even started. Urgh. But we weren't here for coasters - it was dark rides we were after!

First up was The Wizard Academy. Yep you guessed it, it's a shameless rip off of the Harry Potter franchise, complete with interactive queue through the castle with moving portraits, the works. And it's actually really fucking well themed! Like the queue is absolutely stunning, the attention to detail is top notch and it's all just really good and impressive. The ride itself is a Spiderman style dark ride with 3D glasses, the narrative of the film being that you had something the bad wizard dudes wanted and you had to prevent them from getting it...or something? Who cares, the movement and special effects were badass, the theming was spectacular and the transitions were perfect. Good start then!

This park also had an Indiana Jones/Dinosaur type ride themed to the Terracotta Army coming to life which I was super excited to ride. Despite the terrible operations and throughput, this ride did not disappoint. It was absolutely obscene - it actually reminded me a lot of Valhalla in that it's really dark and kind of ropey in places but there's so much going on and on such a huge scale that you can't help but be impressed?

The other ride we did in this park was X-cops, which from the start was obviously some kind of Terminator 2: 3D rip off. The capacity of this attraction was obscene. We entered a HUGE room, beckoned over by definitely-not-Skynet-woman into giant vehicles which each held around 36 people. I think there were 12 or so of these in the room itself so you get the idea. Anyway, you started off in one room being told how fab technology is, then the vehicles MOVED BACKWARDS AND SPUN AROUND to reveal a huge show building which essentially screen the Terminator 2: 3D film but reshot on a lower budget with Chinese actors. Oh, and the sound was really, really quiet? It was fun, but I imagine more so if you haven't seen the infinitely superior Universal version.

Because of the spiteful operating times, that was all we had time for in this park. There were a couple more large scale dark ride/show type thing we didn't get a chance to do, but I guess that's just something left to ride if we ever go back!

Next up it was time to pop over to Oriental Heritage to get on the wooden coaster Jungle Trailblazer! This was a park I'd wanted to visit for the longest time. I love parks that do something a little bit different and have a slightly different style, and I adore the way Oriental Heritage parks were designed to be a celebration of Chinese culture and tradition in a similar way to how Disneyland celebrates Americana.

The theming in the entrance area is very beautiful, it almost doesn't feel like a theme park for the most part...apart from the gift shops obviously! Having already wandered around our fair share of Chinese cities it was fun to see a theme park take on the architecture style. Stunning.

After the excitement and anticipation of riding Jungle Trailblazer I'm sad to report that I found it a little lacklustre. Don't get me wrong, it was totally fun, just not mind-blowingly amazing like I'd hoped it might have been! I'd give it a solid 6 out of 10.

The theming and facades in this park were next level. Huge, towering ornate structures of dragons and devils and demons. It really was all very awesome looking. Time for some more dark rides then - first up being a giant boat ride through scenes from around the world (but mostly China). Yep, another shameless rip off of a classic dark ride, this time It's A Small World! Again, it actually was really very good. Everything was working, it was bright, colourful, charming, entertaining. Everything you want from a dark ride through room after room of sinister singing dolls.

Time for another cred then, this time is was Land of Lost Souls, a Golden Horse mine train in the dark. Again, another massive over the top facade and the queue inside was really beautiful. All purple and red uplit with the inside looking like a traditional Chinese town but with a slightly spooky edge what with all the ghouls and ghosts hanging around. The theming of the coaster itself wasn't incredible, but there was a ridiculous INDOOR FIRE EFFECT. Like what? Ridiculous place haha.

We decided to make it three for three and get the last cred out of the way, a delightful Vekoma Boomerang hilariously named the Stress Express. I actually don't hate Boomerangs as much as your standard enthusiast, and this one had the sexy new restraints. It was fun, it was a plus one, we moved on swiftly. The end.

More dark ride madness next - this time another Spiderman thing called Legend of Nuwa. Similarly to Wizard Academy, the theming was impeccable. Really impressive - this time the theme was more of a fantasy epic type thing with elves and ogres etc. Again, the transitions were seamless, the sets were huge and detailed and the quality of the 3D was perfect. Really good ride.

Our last ride of the day was Devil's Peak, a Kuka Robot Arm dark ride themed to the legend of the Monkey King, a well known Chinese folk tale. Urgh, this ride. After Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey I was really intrigued to see what this ride had in store. I guess it's a little unfair to compare this to Potter seeing as that ride is actually obscene but my god. Ok, so first up they run this ride like absolute shit. They only have like three trains so the throughput is SLOW AS BALLS. And then there's the ride kind of lumbers from screen to set to screen and whilst the theming IS good and as detailed and impressive as the other dark rides before it the transitions were awkward and the quality of the screen content was really poor. Again, the sound was really quiet so there was little to no immersion and honestly we were bored for most of the ride. Blergh.

These parks were a lot of fun. They're a lot less finessed than I'd hoped they'd be so the immersion wasn't 100% there, and obviously the crappy operations and timings etc made it really hard to get the most out of our day, but there's no denying the dark rides are impressive. Definitely one to check out if dark rides are your thing!

Talk later xoxo,