It had been a few years since I had the chance to visit Knotts Berry Farm and was invited to check out their newest dark ride Voyage to the Iron Reef. Before heading over to the new ride, I had to visit some old favorites.
Sad Eye Joe is still locked up in the Ghost Town Jail. We chatted for a while about how he sneaks out when the Sheriff isn’t looking and has fun at the park. Per his recommendation, I went to the Calico Mine Ride next.
Next up was the Timber Mountain Log Ride, which has always stood out as one of my favorites and a pioneer for flume attractions. Yet again, the team at Garner Holt and Cedar Fair did it right. All of the charm is still there and then some.
Finally, I decided to queue up for the newest attraction Voyage to the Iron Reef. This attraction occupies the space formerly used for Kingdom of the Dinosaurs and Knotts Beary Tales.
A full disclaimer: I rode a similar attraction at Canada’s Wonderland last year called Wonder Mountain’s Guardian. Iron Reef and Guardian were both created by a company called Triotech who started building video games over 25 years ago and has now moved into dark rides and attractions.
For Canada’s Wonderland, this attraction works extremely well. It adds a dark ride with roller coaster elements which can be changed out seasonally for Halloween or even Christmas attractions thanks to the flexible use of the media screens.
The backstory for Voyage to the Iron Reef is that a captain went underneath Knotts Berry Farm in his submarine to find steampunk fish and octopuses who feed on the steel of the attractions in the park. They’re getting hungrier and can destroy the park if we don’t save them!
Pictured above is the ride vehicle which also doubles as our submarine. In front of each guest is a standard dark ride “gun” which lets us blast the bad guys. From the start of the ride, which is in 3-D, the theming falls apart. These ride vehicles look nothing like a submarine.
The majority of the attraction consists almost exclusively of projection screens where guests blast away the bad guys via their on-board guns. There is next to no story, just shooting steampunk sea creatures.
Most importantly, it lacks charm. Maybe I am too old and don’t see the value in these interactive video games on wheels. However, I happened to visit Knotts on a day where there were tons of middle and high school groups swarming the park. Surely they must be eating this stuff up. They’re the “target demographic,” right? Sadly, no. I hung out around the exit to hear the reactions from many students. No one seemed to be digging this.
If this were a lesser park and I didn’t have any expectations, this ride would work just fine. Unfortunately, I know Knotts Berry Farm can do better. I decided to drown my sorrows in a boysenberry tart. Better luck next time, Knotts.
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