Delayed by about a year, which has only added to its aura of mystery, the Guardian debuted at the start of Fantasy Island’s 2022 season.
Details of the ride are still not easy to find, even six months after it opened. In the era of social media and internet coverage, this is quite an achievement.
Sadly however, some of the reason for this is might because the ride simply isn’t remarkable enough to cause a social media storm.
What is remarkable however, is the fact that Fantasy Island has managed to squeeze yet another ride into its pyramid building, the original hallmark of the Lincolnshire amusement park.
And the Guardian, with its use of simulation technology, is also a throwback to Fantasy Island’s origins, when a SimEx motion simulator featured the IMAX film Fun House Express: Jimmy’s Clown Chaos.
Sadly though, the 2022 ride pales in comparison to its 1995-built predecessor.
Medieval and supernatural
The Guardian’s exterior has seen considerable effort go into theming and modelling, even if its medieval appearance does somewhat clash with the pyramid’s pseudo-tropical spirit.
The castle-like façade features model dragons, faux-torches and ivy-covered walls.
The ride hardware itself is well hidden, being completely obscured by both themed walls and black cloth screens towards the back.
As you ascend the queue line, there are several well-themed medieval props in enclosed sections. Overall, passing through the queue is a good experience.
At the entrance to the building, the ride host invites groups of up to four people to sit and watch a pre-show video.
This depicts an odd mixture of both medieval and supernatural themes, with computer graphics which are average at best.
Nevertheless, the pre-show room is well themed and features a suit of armour among its props.
As you are called through to the ride itself, four seats await. This gives a capacity of about 50 or 60 people per hour at most.
As the ride begins, you are suddenly moved upwards and over in a 180-degree turn to face the simulation screens.
You are effectively on a flight through a medieval world, but the screen is unfortunately of low resolution, a little too high in brightness and has numerous seams visible throughout.
Collectively, these flaws do affect the ride experience massively.
In terms of the ride, it is a relatively gentle experience, considerably more so than the short-lived Galactica at Alton Towers for example.
Forces align with the movements of the screen footage well, but they are way below levels what would be reasonably expected of a 1.4-metre height restriction – and £6 (if not using a wristband) – ride.
On your virtual flight, it is often hard to make out where you are or what is happening in terms of the story, or indeed exactly what part the riders are supposed to be playing in the story.
As the footage ends relatively abruptly, you are again flipped over to the starting position.
Ironically, it is the start and finish that are the most forceful and surprising parts of the ride, and indeed these are the points at which your photograph is taken.
Theoretically the video footage, screen and even ride cycle could all be improved in future, and this would be welcome.
But in its current form, the Guardian is a disappointing execution of what is an admirable attempt by Fantasy Island to enhance their offerings.