A fair warning to everyone venturing beyond this point, this topic will contain serious spoilers about Wicker Man. If you've yet to experience the attraction and want to keep things a secret then we suggest immediately leaving this page.
With Wicker Man now
I was lucky enough to be invited on a press preview of the attraction a week or so before it was due to open. I've been on a fair amount of wooden coasters and enough GCI's to have a good understanding of what the ride experience would be like prior to boarding, I was expecting a low thrill but highly entertaining ride with some nice theming, but all of that went straight out the window as soon as I walked into the entrance plaza for the ride itself.
The Wicker Man structure itself is very imposing and the 'fire' effects are incredibly realistic. The ride itself is sprawled out onto the landscape behind it and looks incredibly impressive, it's certainly not a scary ride to look at but then it's not meant to be. The queue doesn't contain any real cattlepen elements and has some nice thematic touches throughout, along with the soundtrack which gets a gradually darker tone as you progress. This is very noticeable by the time you reach the preshow and the overall atmosphere is considerably more menacing than that of the entrance area. The bag room and preshow room itself are highly themed, way beyond the normal level that you would expect of a UK attraction. Our group took a long time checking out all of the details and I'm sure there is still more to see on subsequent rerides.
The preshow itself is like nothing before seen in the UK. It's right up there with the likes of Disney and Universal in its presentation and quality. The effects are simple but work effectively to get across the storyline easily to the general public as well as provide a spectacle with the projection mapping elements. It's over very quickly and you're immediately led into one of the most striking rollercoaster stations in Europe. The far wall is ablaze with faux fire and smoke and the lighting on the rest of the station adds a very dramatic scene to the ride. It's a far cry from the sterile environment of The Smiler.
As for the ride itself, put simply, it's immense fun. It's not overly intense yet the second drop and subsequent banked turns provide a serious thrill. The speed is a lot faster than it looks off ride and there are some genuinely shocking airtime moments. Possibly my favourite is the small bunnyhop into the Wicker Man structure itself as you see the real flames burst out the top as you plunge towards it. The ride doesn't really let up towards the end and you're still travelling at a fairly high speed when you hit the brake run. During our preview rides the maintenance building and tunnels at the end of the ride were dark and empty, though I believe fog and lighting effects have now been added to this so I look forward to seeing those on my next visit.
Overall the ride is an incredible addition to the park and it cannot be overstated how impressive it feels when all the elements come together. I'm not sure yet if it's toppled Nemesis as my favourite ride at the resort but it's certainly up there with the best.
There's not much else to say other than go and ride it ASAP!