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Curse of DarKastle

Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Curse of DarKastle Busch Gardens picture

The ominous Curse of DarKastle ride at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Arthur Levine 2005. Licensed to About.com.
Think of a traditional amusement park dark ride. On steroids. Curse of DarKastle is a 20th-Century-style romp through a haunted, Gothic 15th-Century castle using 21st-Century technology. As with the dark rides of yore, there are spooky corridors, things that go bump in the faux night, and loads of scary "gimmicks" or gotchas. But Curse's gotchas use 3-D CGI animation, roving motion-base vehicles, and other new-age features. It's an incredible achievement, particularly for a seasonal park.

Curse of DarKastle Up-front Info

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 5
    Loud noises and "haunted" theme may frighten young children, virtual freefall, some spinning.
  • Attraction Type: 4-D, roving motion-base simulator, dark ride
  • Height restriction (minimum, in inches): 42
  • Curse of DarKastle Photo Gallery

You have to hand it to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. With its rich themeing, stunning landscaping, and superior food, it's a seasonal, more-or-less regional park that thinks it's a year-round destination park. And it doesn't skimp on its rides and attractions either. Thrill-ride freaks love the place for its world-class coasters. And park fans of all thrill-tolerance levels love the park for its highly themed splashdown ride, its unique motion simulator presentation, its elaborate shows, and other attractions that are more typically found at Disney and Universal parks. With Curse of DarKastle, however, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has raised its own bar. The Busch folks say that it is the most expensive attraction in the park's history. It is one of the most elaborate and sophisticated rides on the planet.

Like the park's 4-D film, R.L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse, the ride uses engaging 3-D computer-generated imagery (yes, for all the advances made in attraction development, you'll still have to wear those goofy 3-D glasses) and multi-sensory effects like fog, blasts of cold air, and water droplets. But unlike Haunted Lighthouse, which takes place in a theater with static seats and a single screen, Curse features nine different screens arranged throughout an enormous 40,000-square-foot building. In dark-ride fashion, guests move from scene to scene (or screen to screen, if you will) in vehicles.

In this case, the vehicles are roving motion bases. As with Corkscrew Hill, Busch Gardens' delightful motion simulator attraction, Curse's seats move in sync with the projected action to immerse riders in its virtual world. But, the seats are in eight-passenger "golden sleighs" that are on the go. Not only do they pitch and yaw in concert with the screened imagery, but the vehicles speed up, slow down, and spin wildly as they travel throughout the attraction. In one scene transition, they even do a herky-jerky bounce as if they are moving upstairs.

Will you be able to handle the ride?

The combination of 3-D imagery and roving motion bases gives the attractionÕs designers an incredible pallet of effects. Crossbows, fireballs, and other projectiles come hurtling at riders. Although the vehicles never leave the ground, they magically appear to rise and freefall. With all of the frantic action, both virtual and real, is Curse exclusively for the stout-hearted?

While the ride is thrilling, and sure to get thrill-ride junkies' adrenaline flowing, it is not a full-tilt thrill ride. "We believe we've created a unique experience," says Larry Giles, Busch Gardens' VP of design and engineering. "(Curse) is dynamic enough to engage teens, but it's fun for the entire family. For kids, it's a rite of passage."

If you enjoy motion simulator attractions, you should do fine. If you're not sure whether you want to tackle it, I'd recommend that you give the ride a shot. Except for the spinning (which is brief), and the forward motion (which is not particularly fast), the vehicles never really move more than a few inches in any direction. If the action becomes too intense, you can close your eyes and the illusion, along with your anxiety, should subside.

Next page: A (Dark) Castle Fit for a (Dead) King

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