A first-of-its-kind interactive dark ride at Legoland California that let riders use karate-chop hand gestures to shoot fireballs at ninja warriors combines kinetic video-game action with an unexpected upper-body workout.
I rode Ninjago four times during the soft opening of the attraction at the Carlsbad kiddie park and found the new high-tech ride to be easy to play and difficult to master.
Based on a line of ninja-inspired Lego toys and a spinoff television show, the ride is the centerpiece of a new Asian-inspired Ninjago-themed land featuring a food stand and a retail store set to officially debut on Thursday.
The new 3-D attraction adds a twist to the traditional shoot-em-up dark ride by utilizing rider hand movements rather than gunplay to interact with images on giant video screens.
The new ride seems perfectly targeted at Legoland’s core audience: Grade-school boys. The game play could prove difficult for smaller kids, though. Ride operators advise players to keep their hands at least eight inches above the sensor console. While that might be elbow level for an adult, it could be shoulder level or higher for the youngest players in Legoland’s 2- to 12-year-old demographic.
Legoland worked on Ninjago with Montreal-based Triotech, which built the Voyage to the Iron Reef shoot-em-up dark ride at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park. Going forward, Triotech will need to develop a new seating configuration for Ninjago-style dark rides. The four-across side-by-side dark ride seats are too cramped for the amount of karate chopping required to play Ninjago. More often than not I found myself elbowing the 8-year-old boy next to me as we chopped wildly.
I scored 66,500 points on my first try and managed a high of 88,800 by my last trip, just below the 100,000 master ninja level. Ride operators who have ridden Ninjago dozens of times tell me they average more than 300,000 points per round.
And that is the point of the ride. You get better with each trip and you can’t wait to play again — which drives repeat visits to the park.
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