With the hype train going strong for Kong: Skull Island, March sure does feel like a long way away. It is bound to be packed all sorts of mythical monsters, dinosaurs and of course, the main attraction himself: King Kong. If you’re like us, you simply cannot wait to get your taste of all the chest-beating, Sam-Jackson-yelling action that awaits you. Fortunately, for those of you looking to get a taste of the action before it hits the big screen, you can get an incredible appetizer on the all-new Skull Island: Reign of Kong ride at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure.
Skull Island: Reign of Kong is the newest original attraction at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida. It debuted earlier this year to rave reviews, and we here at Nerdbastards were curious to see how it held up. So we figured it was time to take a good ole’ excursion down to the Sunshine State to check out this attraction.
From the moment you approach Skull Mountain: Reign of Kong you are greeted with an ominously awesome entrance sign. This dark hunk of stone sticks out like a sore thumb with its torches and realistic-looking human skulls, beckoning brave explorers to give it a go. Who wouldn’t want to make haste and get in line after seeing a sign like that?
After making your way through the queue line, you approach the station and board your ride vehicles. These trucks are enormous, and they totally fit the environment of expedition and adventure. Not to mention the fact that these vehicles are entirely trackless, leading to a much more realistic experience. The presence of a track would have killed the 4D experience
After pulling out of the station, you approach the stunningly surreal gates of Skull Island. The menacing faces built into the structure’s architecture permeate a sense of danger, but there’s no turning back now. It is time to venture forth to a land of creatures beyond your wildest dreams. Seriously,though, the many hard-working engineers and designers did an amazing job of building this structure. There is so much attention to detail, and when those gates open, there’s no doubt that passengers will be holding their breaths in anticipation for what’s to come next.
Upon entering the gates, your ride vehicle descends into a dark cavern. Passengers are instantly greeted with the skeletal remains of a giant ape. The head is easily as big as a mini cooper, perfectly teasing the eventual appearance of the eighth wonder of the world himself. Also lurking in the caverns are giant bats, which admittedly aren’t the best-looking animatronics. The designs are wonderfully disturbing, but the motions are so robotic that it takes away from the attraction’s realism.
After passing the bones and bats, you enter the main bulk of the attraction: the 4D show. Passengers follow a team of 1930s explorers on a journey through Skull Island, eventually coming face-to-face with the big ape himself. Rather than traversing through galleries of animatronics, this dark ride is more like The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man with its prominent projection screens and use of 3D glasses and effects.
Speaking of which, with every awesome 4D dark ride, you’ve gotta have some amazing special effects to enhance the experience. The way the trucks move with the events on screen, while not as intense as Spider-Man, still plunge you into the chaotic, monster-inhabited environment. In addition, on some parts of the ride, you may even get a bit wet. More specifically, practically invisible water jets will spray and squirt at you during certain scenes. In one particularly nasty sequence, your vehicle is stuck in a pit of giant, sharp-toothed worms that can squirt venom. You’ll very likely hear a few audible screams of disgust as they are spritzed with nasty worm saliva. At other points of the carnivorous dinosaurs will lunge at you with mouths agape, once again spraying you with so-called spit. While it would have been nice to see some more fire or fog effects on this ride, the utilization of its existing special effects really makes for a worthy experience.
On a lot of other 4D dark rides, you can clearly see where the projection screen ends, killing any sense of immersion. On the contrary, the screens on this ride manage to fill your entire peripheral vision, fully encasing you in the setting and making every fearsome t-rex, terrifying pteranodon and gruesome giant worm really pop out at you. And here’s a quick tip: at some point, try looking away from the projection screen on your right or left and look in front of you towards the front of the vehicle; the screens will look like they’re fully encasing the truck and you can really get engrossed in the ride experience. Of course, once King Kong shows up, you’ll want to whip your head to the side and take a look at him in all his hairy glory. The big guy makes quite an entrance too, so you’re not gonna want to miss it.
After plummeting off cliffs and navigating your way through every monstrous being inhabiting Skull Mountain, you come face to face with King Kong; not on a projection screen, but as one of the best animatronic busts out there.
The animatronic head of King Kong at the end of your journey is absolutely phenomenal to look at. Pretty much every facial muscle on Kong’s head is perfectly emulated, and the ride even has the courtesy to stop for a few seconds so you can admire its attention to detail. Plus, for those lucky enough to remember the original Kongfrontation dark ride at Universal Studios Orlando, the sight is a true shotgun blast of nostalgia.
On Kongfrontation, one of Universal Orlando’s original attractions the entire ride took place on a trolley in the middle of King Kong’s trademark rampage through the streets of New York. After minutes of anticipation, passengers ultimately came face-to-face with Kong, which at the time was the most advanced animatronic characters out there. The same magic of seeing an iconic primate like King Kong in the robotic flesh is just as awe-inspiring on Skull Island as it was on Kongfrontation. Moments like this really show how much admiration the fine folks at Universal Studios have for the park’s history.
When the ride finally ends, you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear thunderous cheers and applause from the other passengers. As you depart the trucks, you’ll be hard-pressed not to get right back in line and give Skull Island another go; it is really that incredible. With its state-of-the art technology, epic 4D effects, and a supremely satisfying conclusion, Skull Island: Reign of Kong is yet another amazing attraction that makes Orlando a vacation destination you’ll want to start saving up for. Plus, with Kong: Skull Island set to hit theaters in a matter of months, this ride’s popularity is destined to last for quite some time.