Nemesis Reborn and Nemesis Sub-Terra review: here's what Alton Towers' relaunched roller coaster is really like

Press events - jollies, to you and I - are rarely something I take up these days. I don’t really have the time to do them, and often find the words that follow can feel contrived or artificial, but believe me, the words that are about to follow are from the heart … they just happen to follow a jolly.

That jolly was to Alton Towers and the relaunch of its world-famous roller coaster, Nemesis. You see, my wife and I have two little boys who are roller coaster addicts; the moment Christmas is out of the way our nine-year-old asks: ‘when are we going to Alton Towers?’ It is an invitation I am forbidden to decline, even if I wanted to. And I didn’t, because this year was a special one for my youngest.

For those who don’t know, 1.2m is massive when it comes to Alton Towers. Once you hit 1.2m tall, it unlocks Wicker Man, Spinball Whizzer and Thirteen - three roller coasters that our littler-than-most six-year-old has watched his big brother ride for years, longing to be on there with him. Well, this year he hit the milestone measurement (just) and as the kind lady measured him for the first time, he stood there, holding his breath, chest out and chin up until she said those magical words: “It’s only just 1.2 but I’ll let you on!” “GET IN!” he roared, punching the air.

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Each year, for as long as I can remember, the park creates a hook on which to sell re-opening for the season ahead. This year that hook is Nemesis Reborn, the reinvention of its iconic inverted coaster - one that first opened in 1994, when I was just 14 years old.

Now, I have no recollection of my parents going on roller coasters with me as a child. That’s because, well, they didn’t. Except in the summer of 1994, I think, might have been ‘95, my dad took me on Nemesis and three decades on I still vividly recall that ride with him. There was a junkyard band bashing out rhythmic beats beneath us, the sense of anticipation I felt was puke-inducingly hypnotic, so much so that all of these years later I still recall bonding over fear and trepidation with my dad, and it still crops up in conversations to this day.

Thirty years on and for the first time (he was too small when they closed the old one down for refurbishment) my boy got to ride her - ‘she’s back with a vengeance’, the marketing slogan says - with me and in those moments I was a boy and a dad, all at the same time. I can’t quite describe how joyously nostalgic I felt, looking down at my Harry bobbing up and down in the queue, like Tigger after a bottle of luminous pop, mesmerised by the machine as it roared around our heads.

So what’s it like? Well, it’s bloody brilliant, frankly. It’s smooth and it’s fast; it’s forceful (3.5G!) and it’s fierce. Hitting 81kph in parts, flipping you upside down four times, hurtling through valleys and ravines - you feel like a Top Gun pilot. At least, you do when you’re nine-years-old and have read books and books, watched video after video about the one coaster you haven’t yet ridden (he’s done them all, from Thorpe Park to Flamingo Land, Fantasy Island to Pleasure Beach. All except The Big One - everytime we go to Blackpool it’s closed due to high winds. Who’d have thunk it, eh? Windy in Blackpool!?

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Anyway, despite all of Nemesis Reborn’s credentials aforementioned, the best thing it has going for it is the story they have created that goes with it. The secrecy of the Phalanx, the ‘armed’ forces patrolling the ‘controlled area’. The egg in Nemesis Sub-Terra - and what happens when it cracks open, splattering riders (it is hilariously gross) with its contents. The risk of rider contamination, guards in hazmat suits scanning riders with beeping, bopping gadgets - no word of a lie, it’s enrapturing. I won’t spoil the theatre of the Nemesis Sub-Terra, only to stress that it too is enthralling: exhilarating and terrifying, all at the same time.

Nemesis Reborn launch weekend at Alton Towers - our reviewer gets to grips with the Phalanx as they keep in check an alien predator with a thirst for humansNemesis Reborn launch weekend at Alton Towers - our reviewer gets to grips with the Phalanx as they keep in check an alien predator with a thirst for humans
Nemesis Reborn launch weekend at Alton Towers - our reviewer gets to grips with the Phalanx as they keep in check an alien predator with a thirst for humans

Before I sign off on this piece, I should say this: being in that park on Saturday was an absolute privilege. Not in the sense that we were invited as members of the press, but in terms of being amongst people who, momentarily, suspended their disbelief in order to be characters in a story. It’s hard to put into words, but we were literally rubbing shoulders with all of humankind. There was pink hair, blue hair, long hair and no hair - tattoos and piercings, leather and cotton. There were mumsy mums and straight-laced dads, there were men holding hands and women in embraces. There were children in costumes and grown ups, too. Disabled people and able-bodied, all with smiles on faces, enjoying access to the same things. Teenagers sprinting about the place and grandparents holding the bags. Honestly, ask an AI ‘bot to show you all of life and it wouldn’t be able to offer a better representation than that park did on Saturday, people of all persuasions from all over the world, united by a love affair with joy itself.

And so I cannot express my gratitude enough to the Alton Towers team for giving me the opportunity to recreate with my own son a childhood memory of my own that for me has endured into adulthood. I know, for sure, it will for Harry, too and for any parent brave enough to take on the challenge. Go on, you know you want to…

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