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Ride review - Transformers: The Ride at Universal Studios Singapore

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Published: December 1, 2011 at 11:51 PM

SINGAPORE - Imagine if you could cram all the action of a Transformers movie into one five-minute, 3-D package.

Bumblebee

If you tried, you wouldn't do better than Transformers: The Ride, which officially opens to the public tomorrow morning, Saturday, December 3, at Universal Studios Singapore. I got the chance to ride during a media preview today.

EVAC the Autobot robot

That's me with EVAC, a new Autobot Transformers character created especially for the new ride. EVAC's speciality is transporting personnel and classified materials at high speeds. He can take the form of a robot (above), a hybrid battle vehicle and a street vehicle.

And when he does that, he looks pretty much like this:

EVAC the ride vehicle

If you think EVAC looks a bit like SCOOP from The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, I wouldn't disagree. Transformers: The Ride is, at its core, the same type of ride as Spider-Man - motion-base ride vehicles moving through a show building where you watch action heros battle bad guys on 3-D screens embedded into the show scenes.

But Transformers takes the experience to new levels - with action that's faster, wilder and more three-dimensional than Spider-Man. When I say "three-dimensional," I don't just mean in the sense of stuff popping off the screen in front of you. I mean that Transformers makes more effective use of three-dimensional space. It's not just robots moving back and forth and side-to-side. Riding Transformers, you really get a sense of height, and the vertical scale of these multi-story Autobots and Decepticons fighting in front you.

My favorite moment? When you're swooping through a skyscraper canyon, then suddenly whipped into an office building. The transition from outdoors to indoors as you crash through the building's glass wall amplifies your sense of speed. Flying indoors you're just inches away from the objects hurtling past you, instead of yards away from obstacles as you were outdoors a split second ago. Transformers: The Ride is filled with moments like that, when your senses of speed, direction and even touch turn instantly. (Watch for water, steam and heat effects, in addition to the visual mayhem.)

The story is set up in the queue, where you're recruited to join NEST - the military command that assists the Autobots in their battle to defend Earth from the Decepticons. Borrowing from the main story arc of the Transformers movies, your job is to help protect the Allspark, the last remaining core source of energy for the Transformers, and to keep it away from the Decepticons.

The Allspark

EVAC's going to help us, the riders, do that by taking us and the Allspark out of the city and away from the battle. Frankly, when I heard this twist in the story, my heart sank. I've railed so many times against the whole "we're evacuating you from a battle" storyline that shows up so often in Six Flags roller coasters that it depressed me to see Universal Creative going to the same well. But Transformers' design team, led by Thierry Coup, wisely reject that lame conceit.

"Cowards run. Heroes fight," Megatron mocks us as the ride's battle focuses on its climax. But EVAC won't let us down. We stop running away. We fight back. We get to be heroes. And Universal transforms what could have been a tired narrative into something worth cheering for again.

For Theme Park Insider readers not in position to make the trip to Singapore anytime soon, Transformers: The Ride also debuts at Universal Studios Hollywood next spring.

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Readers' Opinions

From Joshua Counsil on December 2, 2011 at 12:16 AM
Imagine if you could cram all the action of a Transformers movie into one five-minute, 3-D package.

Now imagine if you could cram all the Percocets, ibuprofen, and aspirin in your bathroom cabinet into one blended, three-ounce tablet. That's what you'd need to handle it.

From David Brown on December 2, 2011 at 3:35 AM
It's interesting - all the reviews I have read about this ride are extremely positive and yet I find myself thinking 'is that it?'... It's not exciting me at all.

It's over 10 years since Spiderman debuted in Orlando and technology has moved on a whole heap in that time. Whilst we knew that Transformers was going to use the same ride system as Spiderman I kind of expected the same level of design creativity as was put into Harry Potter. It would take that ride and lift it to a whole new level with additional twists. Instead what we seem to have is Spiderman but a bit more frenetic. Hell it even seems to include a free-fall sequence. Where's the imagination? Where's the 'thinking outside of the box' that Universal have shown so magnificently in HP?
No wonder there are no plans to bring Transformers to Orlando - it appears that it would add very little new to the park and that's a shame.

I think this is a missed opportunity and am rather disappointed at what I'm hearing, despite the praise...

Tell me why I'm wrong Robert or is everybody putting a brave face on this?

From Robert Niles on December 2, 2011 at 3:59 AM
I just finished a one-on-one interview with Thierry Coup, and he has some very interesting things to say about the technology of this ride. (I'll start transcribing the interview tonight, but it might be next week before I get it posted.)

That said, though, sure, I'd love to see something that took attraction design in a fresh new direction, rather than improving upon the Spider-Man platform. But this ride is great fun, and ultimately I think you've got to give a ride props if you really enjoy it. Which I did.

From James Rao on December 2, 2011 at 4:28 AM
Sounds amazing! I hope to be able to ride it next year when I visit the SoCal area.

Robert, any idea on the similarities or differences between the Singapore version and the upcoming Hollywood version?

Keep 'em coming!

From Robert Niles on December 2, 2011 at 6:12 AM
They'll be identical. The exteriors and queue layouts will differ a bit, given their settings within their parks, but Coup said that the ride layouts and experiences are identical.
From James Rao on December 2, 2011 at 8:31 AM
Glad to hear that! Thanks for the info, Robert!
From Brian Emery on December 2, 2011 at 9:10 AM
Sound Great- Thx Robert…
On another Note – I hope all is well back in Pasadena..

Those high winds look scary..

From Eric Malone on December 2, 2011 at 9:57 AM
Kinda hope that this comes to Orlando at some point, 'cause I'm sure not going to Hollywood or Singapore anytime in the immediate (decades) future.
From Dominick D on December 2, 2011 at 10:39 AM
Robert, why do you always have interviews RIGHT BEFORE Universal announces something? When you finished, Jaws closing got announced.
From Joe Atchison III on December 2, 2011 at 11:50 AM
I'm wondering if Jaws closing opens up the possibility for Transformers in Orlando.
From Daniel Etcheberry on December 2, 2011 at 12:18 PM
Robert,

Are there elevators in the ride? According to Wikipedia, the ride vehicles get into elevators.

From Ricardo K on December 2, 2011 at 12:22 PM
Looking awesome!! Wishing I had vacation time and $$$ to go to Singapore tonight!!! Can't wait to be able to ride this in California! And if they decide to have one in Orlando, even better!!
From Robert Niles on December 2, 2011 at 12:48 PM
There is a transition where you move up to the second floor of the ride, then back down again, but it's so seamless, it's really hard to tell where that happens.

Coup said no Transformers in Orlando. Too similar to Spider-Man. He waffled with the same never-say-never disclaimer people always give you about this sort of thing, but seemed pretty clear to me.

He also shot down the Harry Potter in Singapore claim, saying that there were "no plans" to bring the Wizarding World to Singapore.

From Aaron McMahon on December 2, 2011 at 4:51 PM
Are there a lot of detailed physical sets and props during the actual ride like Spidey and Potter or is it mostly generic facades in between the giant 3D screens? I've heard that it's mostly gonna be the latter.
From Robert Niles on December 2, 2011 at 8:15 PM
I thought that the physical detail in the ride was similar to on Spider-Man. And there's a very impressive physical Megatron at the end. (Look up!)
From Manny Barron on December 2, 2011 at 9:21 PM
Sounds amazing. Thanks for the report, I can't wait till this experience comes to Hollywood. I've been excited for this since the day it was announced. Any update of the opening of Transformers at USH other than Spring 2012. A specific month maybe?
From José María Sandoval on December 3, 2011 at 8:22 AM
Great review!!
From 119.56.114.176 on December 5, 2011 at 8:02 AM
Hey dood nice review! rode the ride today and it was amazing!
Totally worth the trip to USS.
Oh and its 1000x better than the Transformers movies.
Defintely one of the best dark rides in the world. I'd give it a 10/10.
From Muhammad Akmal Bin Salim on December 5, 2011 at 8:52 AM
Rode the ride today and it was amazing!
Totally worth the trip to USS.
Defintely one of the best dark rides in the world. I'd give it a 10/10.
Going again December 12 and i might submit some photos too.

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