Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Nickelodeon Universe at the American Dream Mall Trip Report, June 2023

We stopped by the American Dream mall as the next stop on our road trip and got some redemption from the lousy experience we had at Lake Compounce with some quick laps on their new coasters.

As for the park overall, my first thought is expensive, but not bad. Individual ride options are now available. Last time we went through the area we opted to skip the park since the day pass was for somewhere in the ballpark of a hundred bucks. The individual ride tickets are not cheap by any means, but less expensive than that if you are looking to just go and ride the rides. 

The collection of coasters is fun, but there was some random and unexpected rattling and roughness on both TMNT Shellraiser (Gerstlauer Eurofighter) and Sandy's Blasting Bronco (Intamin LSM Shuttle Launcher with turntable). I have to say that they are pretty loosely themed, with probably even less theming than Six Flags does, since they at least have some plastic board cut outs of superhero figures. Either theme the rides fully or just give them random names. The weak theming does not detract from the ride experiences, but it would probably be way cheaper to not have to buy rights to use IP. The "Green Coaster" or the "Purple Coaster" are how I referred to the rides anyways. 

The Purple Coaster (Shredder? Is that a themed name?) was the first thing I rode. I loved it. More parks should have these modern Gerstlauer spinning coasters. They offer enough thrill to satisfy a thrill seeker, but are light enough that they are a real crowd pleaser. Might have been my favorite ride at the park. Had no rough spots at all unlike the two other European coasters in the park. 

The orange coaster, Nickelodeon Slime Streak, was great. I am glad to see they picked Chance to make another ride. This is definitely a sleeper ride with some light and fun airtime. If it were any bigger and more intense, it would easily be the best coaster at the park. They probably could have fit a Chance Hyper-GXT along the lines of Lightning Run in at the park. They probably still could. We really need to see more Chance creations like this. I love the coasters that Draves has done. I have ridden five of his seven completed coasters, and aside from Steel Curtain, I think they are all brilliant. Steel Curtain would be a fine ride if they could get it to run reliably and quickly in regards to operations. All of the other rides of his are absolutely brilliance.

Sandy's Blasting Bronco and TMNT Shellraiser are strange rides that would be much better if they did not rattle so much or have some random and unpredictable rough spots. Shellraiser specifically would be one of my overall favorite rides for how strange it is, but the rough spots are not good. It has just about every kind of awesome gimmick they could add, from an inversion right out of the station, to a hidden launch into a giant inversion and twisted layout, plus a vertical lift with a holding brake that gives views out the windows onto the NYC skyline, and the world's steepest drop on a coaster. Even with all of that, the ride's rough spots discourage you from going for a second ride. I do not know if it is a maintenance problem with the park, installation issues, or manufacturing imperfections, but the park should work with Gerstlauer to smooth out these problem spots and get the ride running well, because they have a real winner on their hands otherwise. If the problem spots are due to track issues, Gerstlauer should refabricate some track. S&S has done similar refabrication of track for GaleForce to rectify early issues. This is a new ride, it shouldn't have this kind of roughness. 

Samdy’s Blasting Bronco had some strange deep rattling on the edges where it goes vertical that were way beyond normal roughness. Get it together, Intamin. The ride program was disappointing too. I feel like it would be better if it went through the course twice in each direction. GaleForce by S&S at Playland in Ocean City, NJ is far superior with a program that goes through the intense course a few times. Even the Premier Sky Rocket 2 coasters are superior to this. I expected more. 

Actual quote from the store "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning for the sweet life, and I will give you IT'S SUGAR." This is absolutely dystopian. Reminds me of something out of Glass Onion. 

The atmosphere of this park is odd too. The whole mall feels like an approximation of what American culture is, if the only thing you did was go on Instagram and look at influencer posts. Almost like a less fancy version of the house in Glass Onion. Do not take that as a negative, it is definitely an experience. It would have been a letdown if it were at the old "all day rate" of a hundred bucks, but for individual ride tickets, which were still pretty steep, it was definitely worth checking out. I feel like if they lowered their price point more, the park would be hopping. Another strange thing about the park was that this was a prime Sunday with huge crowds, yet many stores in the mall were closed, and the ones that were open had no one purchasing anything. Not a good thing for the long term viability of such a giant facility. I feel like the future of this facility as a whole might be more as a daily destination place for activities, and with some restructuring, this could be a booming place. 

Add some craft breweries and beer gardens, epic playgrounds, and more, and you have an excellent place. They had these e-bikes fashioned as animals to ride, and they were swarming all over the place. People were waiting in line to ride them and super excited about them. One of the central points in the mall had this karaoke thing that feels like it is specifically tailored to a North Jersey/New York crowd. I feel that with some fine tuning, this place could be flourishing. The days of shopping malls flourishing are long over in this country, which makes this entire development a head scratcher, since malls have opened and already closed in the span that this mall was announced, built, and completed. I think in the 21st century retail environment, you need to be leaner and meaner with store offerings, specifically with store offerings that offer a unique experience that is worth leaving your home. They will need to lean into that if they want to be viable as a retail destination, but I really think the true future of this place is in expanding the entertainment offerings. With some tweaking, restructuring, additions, and rethinking, this could easily be the premier entertainment facility of the Northeast. With its prime location in the center of North Jersey and the NYC metro area and year round entertainment capabilities, I feel like they could really grow this place into a premier entertainment center for the region, but I also see it being a potential white elephant as well. Only time will tell. 

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