On June 16th, 2023, we were invited to attend the grand opening of the highly anticipated indoor roller coaster, “Uncharted: El Enigma de Penitence,” at PortAventura World Resort. Here’s a full review of the experience.
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The grand opening event
The day commenced with accreditation at the elegant Hotel Gold River (where we slept the night before courtesy of the park, more about that later on). Attendees checked in to begin their immersive journey into the world of “Uncharted.” Shortly after, at 9:30 am, the eagerly awaited presentation event took place. The atmosphere was filled with anticipation as press, media, and industry insiders gathered to embark on an action-packed adventure through the themed ride. The stage was set for an engaging talk and show featuring key individuals and companies involved in the creation of the attraction.
Prominent speakers included David García, the General Manager of PortAventura World, and Luis Valencia, the Development Director of PortAventura World, who shared insights into the creative process behind “Uncharted: El Enigma de Penitence.” The event’s distinguished lineup also included Jeffrey Godsick, the EVP of Global Partnerships and Brand Management at Sony Pictures Entertainment, who played an instrumental role in bringing the “Uncharted” IP to the resort. Rich Hill, the Chief Creative Officer of Sally Dark Rides, and Ignasi Guasch, the Executive Director of Intamin Amusement Rides, contributed their expertise, shedding light on the technical and creative aspects of the coaster’s development.
Following the presentation, the much-awaited moment arrived at 11:00 am, it was time for attendees to experience the thrill of “Uncharted” firsthand. We were divided into 10 groups of 12 people, and the riding experience took place in turns. As group 10, there was a one-hour wait from the moment group 1 began their adventure until it was finally our turn.
Review of “Uncharted: El Enigma de Penitence”
The exterior of the roller coaster, while visually appealing, captured the essence of the Far West area rather than staying true to the essence of the “Uncharted” series. However, to its credit, the coaster’s exterior did not disrupt the original theming of the park. The resort attempted to seamlessly fit the “Uncharted” IP into the Far West-themed area, a decision that left some feeling that the match is not perfect. While an “original” Uncharted story has been created for the ride, some felt it could have been better placed in the Mexico-themed area. Ultimately, “Uncharted” didn’t align entirely with any of the park’s existing zones, creating a sense of disconnection.
Once inside, the queue for “Uncharted: El Enigma de Penitence” stood out as the most immersive in the entire resort and one of the few in Spain, setting a high standard for themed attractions in the country.
However, while the queue impressed, the theming quality is not maintained throughout the experience. The transition from the fantastic exterior to the darkness inside the show building left something to be desired. Excessive use of screens for storytelling was apparent, with only a couple of animatronics and lights offering alternate forms of immersion. Unfortunately, the animatronics’ static and robotic movements detracted from the experience.
On a positive note, the train design is detailed and perfectly matches the theme of the attraction. However, the trains’ low capacity, accommodating only 12 people, along with a maximum of just three trains in operation, results in long wait times and a lack of efficiency in handling the park’s sizable crowd. This capacity issue seems inadequate for a usually crowded park like PortAventura.
The usage of projections during the ride, although employed as a storytelling mechanism, doesn’t achieve immersion due to their low quality. Instead of seamlessly blending with the decoration and environment, the screens felt disconnected, resembling a video game clip on a cinema screen rather than a fully immersive experience on a roller coaster.
Furthermore, the final rotation of the train to the unload station can be seen from the load station, which is a significant spoiler for riders who are just about to ride the roller coaster. Concealing this view could elevate the element of surprise and enhance the overall experience.
While “Uncharted: El Enigma de Penitence” is an enjoyable roller coaster overall, it has a lot of room for improvement, especially when compared to similar rides (at least in concept) like “Revenge of The Mummy” or “Escape from Gringotts”, as “Uncharted” fell short of achieving the same level of thrill and immersion. Moreover, regarding the coaster’s launches, they initially provide a powerful sensation, but the presence of trim brakes (or some other kind of element that slows the train) immediately after the launches leads to a bittersweet sensation.
The attraction could benefit from devoting more attention to details and seamlessly integrating the screens into the theming. Despite the allure of its popular IP, “Uncharted,” the roller coaster’s execution fell short of delivering the expected world-class and immersive experience.
VR Inclusive Experience
PortAventura has taken theme park experiences to a whole new level of inclusivity. Understanding the importance of ensuring that everyone can partake in the thrill and excitement of the ride, the park has introduced a groundbreaking VR experience tailored for individuals who may be unable to ride the coaster due to disabilities. This innovative solution incorporates a specially designed platform that emulates the coaster’s movements and a VR headset, showcasing a captivating 3D rendition of the “Uncharted” indoor roller coaster.
By providing this inclusive VR experience, PortAventura has set a commendable precedent for theme parks worldwide, aiming to create equal opportunities for all guests to relish the magic of their attractions. Furthermore, the park has expressed its commitment to extending such inclusive experiences to other rides within the resort in the near future, ensuring that every visitor can share in the adventure.
Approximately around 12 pm, a media reception was held. We had the opportunity to gather and share our experiences with David García, the General Manager of PortAventura World. The reception provided an excellent opportunity to discuss first impressions, highlights, and insights. Apart from that, PortAventura’s General Manager, David García, stated that he would like to build a Harry Potter themed attraction at the resort, but that’s a subject for another article (although here you can read our previous article about the rumors of Universal Studios buying back PortAventura World).
During the opening weekend, “Uncharted” operated with only one train, it went out of service multiple times, and many of the special effects did not work as intended, dampening the overall experience for early visitors. Also, wait times were over 6 hours and there was no air conditioning inside the queues despite being June. “Uncharted: El Enigma de Penitence” could have benefited from soft openings, technical rehearsals, and better crowd management on opening weekend.
Beyond the new “Uncharted” coaster, PortAventura World offers a great variety of attractions. We were able to enjoy numerous rides, highlights included multiple rides on the adrenaline-pumping Shambhala B&M hypercoaster and the heart-racing Itamin’s Red Force at Ferrari Land. The resort’s diverse offerings cater to all ages, with attractions like Street Mission, El Diablo Tren de la Mina, Tami-Tami, Tomahawk, Junior Red Force and many more, providing family-friendly fun, while others like Hurakan Condor, Furius Baco, Dragon Khan, Stampida, Shambhala and Red Force provide intense emotions for thrill-seekers.
Throughout our two-day stay (courtesy of PortAventura), the Hotel Gold River’s Callaghan’s Superior rooms served as a comfortable and welcoming retreat.
The theming within the hotel perfectly complements the immersive experience of the park, and the exceptional service made our stay truly memorable. We also spent part of the second morning exploring the hotel.
Dining options at PortAventura World are delightful, with themed restaurants providing an immersive atmosphere. On the first day, we savored a delicious lunch at the recently renewed Bora Bora restaurant in Polynesia.
Followed by a satisfying dinner at Ristorante Cavallino in Ferrari Land (courtesy of PortAventura).
The second day’s culinary adventure led us to La Cantina in the México area, which offers mouthwatering dishes that mirror the authentic flavors of the region.
The overall ambiance and theming of PortAventura World are exceptional, with lush landscaping and immersive theming prevailing throughout the majority of the areas, accentuating the authenticity of each themed zone.
Notwithstanding that, it appears to still be Christmas in Mediterrània, since the Christmas lights on the facades of the buildings turn on at night.
The park was bustling with energy, mainly due to the presence of school trips celebrating the end of the academic year. Ferrari Land, which operated from 4 pm to 10 pm, felt relatively quieter than PortAventura Park, which operated from 10 am to 7 pm.
The resort proves itself to be a top-notch destination for thrill-seekers and families alike. PortAventura World truly stands as a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an unforgettable and action-packed getaway.
How does “Uncharted: El Enigma de Penitence” compare to the other main new Spanish roller coaster that has also opened this season?
While the budget for “Uncharted: El Enigma de Penitence” was comparable to that of “Batman Gotham City Escape”, the other new roller coaster that opened this season in Spain at Parque Warner (read more about it here), the outcomes of each attraction are significantly different. Parque Warner’s “Batman Gotham City Escape” received praise for its execution, while “Uncharted” at PortAventura World Resort faced public criticism for not fully realizing its potential.
The PortAventura staff played a pivotal role in making the entire experience truly exceptional. From the moment we arrived at Hotel Gold River, the staff’s warm welcome set the tone for the stay. Throughout the event, they were not just there to facilitate logistics but went above and beyond to ensure that we were well taken care of. Their proactive approach in attending to our needs was evident as they actively checked in on us. They also graciously assisted us in capturing the best possible content during the Uncharted opening event. Their professionalism and attentiveness were truly commendable, leaving us with a sense of appreciation and gratitude. To the PortAventura staff, a resounding and heartfelt thank you for making this experience extraordinary.