*The Pointless Writer*
has a life you're completely uninterested in. But it's okay because I can write. No abbreviations. No shoddy grammar (though I'm not immune to mistakes). Just quality writing on sometimes completely pointless topics.
UnPoints of Note
1. I write when fancy takes. Sometimes, fancy takes many months of leave.
Universal Studios Singapore: A Review
This writer apologises for another lengthy absence. Her excuse is a little more varied this time: work, choir, studies, house-packing, and an absent muse. As a peace-offering, she has written a review of Singapore’s current most desirable destination: Universal Studios Singapore. Be warned: it’s going to be a loooong ride. P.S. I've written select phrases in bold for easier scanning and navigating through this post.
According to Wikipedia, Universal Studios Singapore opened its heart-palpitating doors to the general public on 28 May 2011. Being the hopeful tortoise that I am, I took my time making my way there, dreaming that prices might drop in the near future after all the hype died down. Also, having been to countless amusement parks including Warner Bros. Movie World in Gold Coast, Australia, and having enjoyed my fair share of vomit-inducing roller coasters, I was a little lazy to make the trip to Sentosa all the way from Boon Lay just to pay $74 (!!!) for an old experience. No matter how fun being upside-down and almost free-falling can be.
To be honest, I never might have visited the theme park if not for Burger King. With a touch of his yummilicious sceptre, he granted me a 1 Day Peak Period Adult Pass into head-spinning, monkey-howling insanity. I was, of course, utterly delighted. I never expected that creating a measly three coupons on BK’s coupon generator would yield me the coveted ticket into my dream home. In fact, I’d only bothered to create those coupons in order to get my free dessert with my upsized-meal, the only guaranteed plus of the coupons. Winning a lucky draw? Pft. Unheard of, impossible, and completely and unarguably unlikely. And then it happened.
Ruled by cautious logic, I figured my eyes were deceiving me, or that the email was in fact a prank by some low-life spammer, or that the King had sent the email to the wrong address, since the email rather generically began “Hi there”. So I decided to call up the King himself, who answered in a rather feminine voice. It seemed that he hadn’t deigned to waste breath speaking to me personally. Ah well. I was lucky enough to have been blessed by his beefy sceptre. I would take what I got.
Then began the planning. Which day should I go on? What should I wear? Which rides should I target first? Knowing that it is not uncommon for working adults to take leave before and after weekends for short overseas trips with their families, I decided Wednesday was the best day to go. Stepping into the shoes of the stereotypical Kiasu Singaporean, I even figured that the last week of the June hols was a no-no as people would be back in Singapore to prepare for the next semester and might squeeze in a last bit of local fun. With my schedule book with choir till my concert on 10 June, it seemed we (my brother and I) were left with only the week 11-17 June. Since I wasn’t free that Wednesday, we went on Thursday, 14 June. Now, as lengthy as this paragraph is, don’t complain, because it’s really a tip to help you pick a less crowded day to go.
So my younger brother (whose ticket was covered by my mother and me) and I excitedly planned out the rides we wanted to hit first and then embarked on a magical journey of cinematography and topsy-turvy roller coaster rides. (Yes, the review is finally starting.) We arrived at 9.10am, way earlier than my planned 9.30am, but it was just as well, for the queue started to build up even though the park only opens at 10am.
We planned to hop on Transformers: The Ride first, since my wise father had informed us it was the most popular and to go before the rest of the crowd started streaming in. However, it seemed the Fates favoured us… We got slightly lost and ended up at Battlestar Galactica: Cylon instead. Where the queue was stated to be only 5 minutes long. Seeing the crowd rushing for Transformers, we happily hopped onto Cylon to get our guts thrown about in all directions. We were the only 2 on the roller coaster. This was my brother’s first time on a corkscrew since the last time when I’d gone on one at Warner Bros. Movie World, he’d been too short. However, I really must say that I was IMPRESSED, because by the end of the day (the queue for BG remained 5-10mins for most of the day), he’d gone on it SIX TIMES. More than me, his aged sister, who only went 5 times because mine stomach doth protest. In fact, I was already nauseous by my 2nd ride, but since my stomach regained normality once on terra firma, I continued going and feeling sick during the ride. I only stopped when I continued to feel sick once on-ground for more than a minute. In my defense, the nausea was caused largely by an empty stomach. I’d run out of food—we brought our own to cut costs, because we’d easily have eaten $30 worth of food each, given our appetites and the over-inflated prices—and wasn’t willing to buy a $10 hotdog. I feel a bit miffed that I hadn’t brought more food, because halfway through the day, my brother proposed going on Cylon 10 times. That would have been one for the record books. As added fun, for our 4th and 5th rides together, my brother proposed we sing during the ride. Apparently, he got it off some reality show. Being the nerd I am, I chose to sing “When the Saints go marching in”, “Humpty Dumpty” and some nursery rhyme about a duke and his men going up a hill while he sang some pop song.
Anyway, Cylon is fantastic, but it’s pretty much the only high-thrill ride you’ll find at USS, where “high-thrill” is defined as “inclusive of legs hanging free to create the illusion of free-falling during downward segments of the roller coaster and lots of upside-down moments”. So if you’re only interested in that and not in the special effects Universal Studios is known for, you’re better off saving $74. How you know Cylon is 100% pure awesomeness? Both of us couldn’t walk straight the first time we got off. Also, when I went to bed that night, I was spinning in circles in the dark, even though opening my eyes and seeing my immobile room let me know I was perfectly still. And I felt like puking when I got home. ^^
After our first Cylon ride, we rushed to Transformers, where it seemed the queue had cleared and we only waited 10-15mins. One word: INCROYABLE. (French for “unbelievable”. See, I even have to use a foreign language to emphasise how AMAZING the ride is.) The graphics are spectacular. No one was joking when they said the ride will put us right in the middle of the action we so love watching. Visually, you seldom see proof that any of it is merely the work of a 3D screen; the only times you are reminded none of this is real are when the car turns and you see the unexciting drab grey walls. However, of 4D, there was only a slight sprinkling of water. No heat when the missile came towards us. That was a bit disappointing as my heartbeat instantly slowed when my sense of touch did not confirm the information coming from my sense of sight. Note: first row is undeniably better. When we first went on the ride, we were in the last row, and the heads in front constantly reminded me that this was pure fiction. The second time we went, we queued for 40mins (it was our last ride of the day and we joined the queue at 5.25pm), but it was all worth it because we ended up in the first row and the rest of the world faded away as Transformers took over everything I knew.
After that, since we were nearer to it and there was no queue, we decided to hop onto the Accelerator which is basically a glamourised version of spinning teacups. This ride was straight out disappointing. We hopped on expecting a fairly tame ride since we’ve been spinning in circles since kindergarten without the help of machinery, but this was… let’s just say the robotic voice announcing the need to accelerate became pretty lame when we barely felt the breeze. My fan at home provides a stronger wind than the “Deccelerator” (my brother’s nickname for the ride). “Dizzy” wasn’t even in the dictionary while we sat there waiting for the action to start only to discover it was over. I would put my 2-year-old kid on the ride if I had one.
Next, we decided to try out Battlestar Galactica: Human, which was labeled “tame” by a reviewer on Trip Advisor. It was quite fun, but after Cylon, it was like a stroll in the park. My main lamentation for the BG rides is that I couldn’t see much since I’m as blind as a bat without my spectacles. Apparently, downward whooshes aren’t as scary when you can’t see the depth of the fall because you have no glasses on.
Finally, we left the future and headed on to the past to suffer the Revenge of the Mummy. Before I go on to that, I want to drop a tip on lockers, in which you MUST leave your belongings before going on the fast rides Mummy and BG. The lockers are free for the first 30-50mins, depending which one you go to. If the queue for BG is 5-10mins max, you can safely fit 2 rides within the half-hour for the Sci-Fi City lockers so you don’t get slapped with a hefty fine, provided you run from the lockers to the ride and back. We ambitiously tried to squeeze in 3 and had to pay $3 because our locker usage exceeded by 4mins. How sad is that? And trust me, you won’t want to leave your stuff in the locker the whole day because that $3 only covers 20mins. The more ingenious visitors will realize that if you’re willing and able to run back every half-hour, you can effectively leave your bag there for an extended period of time without paying a cent. Back to our favourite mummy. The “plunge into total darkness” (I quote the USS Studio Guide) is only really scary if the kid in you still pisses in his pants at the thought of monsters under the bed. If not, it’s more dizzying than anything else when ‘scary’ images flash in the darkness. The best part of the ride was a short backward trip, which sadly ended almost before it had begun. During our two times on this ride, my brother happily pointed out the book in the ghostly robot’s hand as he threatened us, telling us that if we didn’t find the Book of Life, our souls would be his. Really. I’m quivering in my boots right now. Although USS boasts of this as a high-speed ride, personally, I find the darkness so dulls my senses that I can barely feel the momentum.
Since the shows at USS have fixed times, I made sure to keep an eye on the clock and we made our way to WaterWorld for the 12.30pm water show, arriving about 15mins before, munching $6 nachos (the only food I found reasonably priced) on the way. The pyrotechnics was pretty cool, with explosions all over the place and fire burning on the water. I videotaped almost the whole show on my brother’s hand phone and then the Fates decided to have a huge laugh at my expense: my finger slipped and tapped something and the video closed just in time to miss the fireworks. -.- The storyline itself was pretty boring and the acting was far from great, but the staff did very well filling in the time as the audience waited for the show to start. They were cheeky, energetic, playful, humourous and comical.
After that, we planned to go to the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure, but I wanted to check the show times for Shrek 4D Adventure first. Since the next show was in 15mins and my Dad had said USS specializes in effects, I figured we should prioritise the show over the potentially not-very-high-thrill ride, and we went for it. Shrek was fun. I’m not a techie so I can’t do much judging. It definitely wasn’t as real as Transformers simply because you can see a few hundred in the audience. The show is two-part. You stand for a while in a ‘holding room’ of sorts listening to the Mirror on the Wall recap one of the Shrek movies. The recap is boring (but essential for anyone who hasn’t watched the movie, I guess) and the Three Little Pigs and Pinocchio with their interjections are a bit annoying, but I like the Mirror—despite being only a white mask, he’s facially very expressive. After that, you move into the auditorium. The plot isn’t great but the 3D visuals are still enjoyable.
Finally, we joined the queue for the Rapids ride. And this was where I made my worst decision the whole day: I left it. Why? The queue was 25mins, which wasn’t very long (not like the 2-hour queue that was mentioned in another review on Trip Advisor), so we SHOULD have stayed. However, it meant that we would miss the next showing of Monster Rock at 2.30pm and the next one wasn’t till 6.10pm. And I wasn’t sure that we would stay that late since we’d exhausted the high-thrill rides and the rest of the rides were kiddy ones, apart from the Rapids ride. Also, I love music and I wanted to watch a musical. Here’s why I regret leaving the queue and going for the show: both the singing and dancing were not great. I was honestly very disappointed. I expected that in USS, supposedly a world-class attraction, they would have world-class performances as well. Alas, it seemed the comparable lack of Singapore’s investment in the arts scene was showing even in a world-famous amusement park. I’ll admit that with classical training, I’m particularly sensitive to pitch. No one actually sang completely out-of-tune; they were just on the flat end of the right notes for the most part. However, I also acknowledge the difficulty of dancing while singing. The physical effort is phenomenal. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were bad. But the dancing is equally mediocre. Who knows? Maybe I expected too much of an amusement park. Maybe the performances in other Universal Studios are as mediocre and that’s why the performers are in a theme park instead of on Broadway. Just… don’t prioritise this if you like high-thrill rides and have high standards for the arts.
After the show was when we did a lot of running around, going to check the Rapids queue and then returning to re-ride various rides and checking and re-riding etc etc . In between, we popped into Lights! Camera! Action! Hosted by Steven Spielberg for its 10min show. I consider this the best show and second best for effects after Transformers. I found the setting a bit confusing and I wasn’t sure whether we were supposed to be experiencing the hurricane or watching a set where the hurricane. And the set seemed a bit off. But I loved the recording which said “cue” and “cut. Reset to 1.” It contributed to the whole on-set atmosphere. For the record, our total rides for the day: Cylon (5 times together), Human (twice), Mummy (twice) and Transformers (twice). The queue for the Rapids never went below 70mins and we ended up leaving the park at 6.25pm when it STILL said 70mins. :’(
All in all, USS is a good destination for those who aren’t particularly high-thrill seekers and for those with kids. Basically, every ride I haven’t mentioned is tame and suitable for kids. The only really high-thrill ride is Cylon, and potentially the Rapids. I can’t judge the effects very well, but unless you have a very good eye for them (maybe you study such stuff), you’ll enjoy them. The best stuff any high-thrill seeking teenager MUST go for: Cylon, Transformers and Light! Camera! Action!