Continuing his ‘Halloween Horror Visits’ series, this week Kyle made a return to Leicester’s award-winning Xtreme Scream Park at the Twin Lakes Adventure Park to check out its 2017 offerings. With two brand new mazes, does the park live up to its moniker and earn itself a spot on any self-respecting scare fans ‘must-visit’ list?

Last year, the Twin Lakes’ ‘Xtreme Scream Park’ made an excellent argument for itself as one of the most intense, sharply-designed Scare Park experiences on offer in the UK. Riding high from a 2015 win for ‘Best UK Scream Park’ at the aptly named ‘ScareCon’, its theming was varied and grimly imaginative, the production values on display high and the actors and talent notably committed to giving as nerve-shredding an experience as possible.

Despite this, the real raison d’être for the park, i.e. its scare mazes, were a slightly inconsistent bunch. The strongest offerings were up there with some of the biggest, longest and best of their kind you could hope to visit, but sadly the lesser options - namely the very tame and dated ‘Belvoir Dungeon’ and disappointing and disorientating ‘Hunted’ - were far inferior walks.

Fast forward 12 months, and the Xtreme team have struck dark, dirty, terrifying gold. Ousting ‘Belvoir’ and ‘Hunted’ completely, and giving the semi-tame ‘Twisted’ an overhaul into the now-superior ‘Revenge of the Zombie Clowns’, the park has also welcomed two entirely new maze attractions.

The improvement cannot be overstated; as ardent thrill-seekers and regular scare-maze visitors who have taken in scare park offerings across the globe, we loved our time 'Xtreme' last year, inconsistencies and all. But this year, the shedding of dead wood, two new mazes (more on which later) and an added flurry of rides, entertainment and tweaks to the formula have distilled it into one of the all-round best Scare Parks we have ever had the joy (and terror!) of experiencing. 

Thankfully, three of last year’s best offerings make a very welcome return - ‘The Pie Factory’, ‘Ash Hell Penitentiary’ and ‘Stilton Hall Hotel & Spa’. Each are once again brilliantly designed mazes with wonderful flourishes and set pieces that fit with their individual, distinctive theming. For full thoughts and details on these individual mazes, why not check out my 2016 review of the park? Needless to say though, there have been a handful of new touches, areas and surprises added to some of the returning mazes which shan’t be spoilt here, but will keep you on your toes even if you are already familiar with them from previous years.

For those not so familiar, it is worth pointing out that, particularly with the less intense mazes now duly removed from the park, Xtreme Scream Park certainly lives up to its ‘Xtreme’ label. More so than practically any park we have visited thus far, the actors are able - and indeed very willing - to touch you. Of course, visitors are not permitted to retaliate or otherwise wilfully touch the actors back. And whilst, naturally, you are not injured or physically abused (though prepare for some verbal abuse and insults, particularly from the inmates of ‘Ash Hell’), the various creatures, lunatics and denizens that are housed throughout will most definitely grab you and do as they sit fit. At separate intervals throughout the evening I was pinned against a wall by my throat by a foul-mouthed convict, grabbed and pulled away from my party by a deranged pig-man, and prevented from moving by a scarecrow preacher holding me back… by my face.

It’s all suitably thrilling and intense stuff, and makes for an incredibly satisfying and adrenaline-inducing horror experience for fear junkies.

The real crowning glory this time round, though, are the two new mazes. Without wanting to spoil anything with too much in the way of specifics, ‘Hoodoo Voodoo’ is a beautifully-themed experience which initially disappointed somewhat with its implementation of a divisive gimmick that seems to feature at least once in every Scream Park nowadays, but that personally comes across more frustrating than frightening. Thankfully, said gimmick only forms the first third or so of the maze, with the rest being a wonderfully inventive and transportive journey over creaking bridges, wooden shacks and even trippy, psychedelic mayhem, all bursting with jump scares and shocks aplenty. ‘Hoodoo’ is one of the most beautifully realised scare mazes there is, though in truth the majority of the parks offerings are superbly executed, with costume, makeup and production design faultless across-the-board.

The park’s finest hour, however, is second new maze, ‘The Village’. Taking you on a journey much akin to your own personal instalment of a Resident Evil game, you will make your way through a darkly opulent home, an industrial garage complex, sewage pipes, a not-so-abandoned school, a laboratory and an imposing monastery, all whilst trying to avoid the clutches (quite literally) of the village’s twisted occupants, including a group of hellish Scarecrows hell-bent on capturing you. False turns abound, the environment itself seems rigged to take you out, whilst jumps and scare attacks will come from behind you, beside you, below you and even from above; at one point we watched on helplessly as a member of our party felt something touch their head, turning around and looking up only in time to see a scarecrow leap down from above a doorframe that chased her off into the distance. 

As with most of the park’s mazes, ‘The Village’ is a long, varied experience, easily 2 - 3 times the length of a standard scare maze, which makes the level and consistency of fiendish creativity and stunning production values on display all the more impressive. There is so much to say and be excited about here - particular set pieces and moments which will stay embedded in our memory (and nightmares) for a long time to come - but again, to divulge too much would be to ruin what is confidently one of the best scare mazes in recent memory. Some of the visual moments as you enter key rooms and areas are outstanding. 

It’s certainly the best maze we have experienced this year, at any scare attraction.

When it comes to planning your visit, we noted that, perhaps unsurprisingly, weekday evenings were an easier recommendation to go for if possible, not only because they are marginally cheaper, but there also seemed to be far more manageable queues when compared with last year’s weekend visit. With 6 fantastic, lengthy mazes to do and a 10:30pm close, you’re also advised to book for as early a slot as possible and arrive in due time, whilst booking online will also get you an added discount. There’s a fasttrack ticket option, but at £8 for an individual maze or £30 for a fasttrack of all 6 mazes, this is most probably only for serious consideration to those visiting at weekends or on/immediately around Halloween. We did not have access to a fastrack and were able to quite comfortably do all 6 mazes whilst still having half an hour's break for food.

General admission prices range from £21 - 34 when booking online, but given the sheer quality and length of the mazes, and the overall consistent quality of experience, this is an extremely fair and well-judged price. For those who want to attend and soak up the atmosphere and side attractions without venturing into the mazes themselves, the park also offers a ‘Chicken’ ticket for £9. For families, the park emphatically states that it is not suitable for those under the age of 12, whilst guests aged 12-17 will require at least one adult aged 18+ to accompany their party.

Overall, returning to Twin Lakes for their 2017 ‘Xtreme’ offering has been a real highlight of this Halloween season. 2016’s park was solid, with some fantastic highs and a handful of superlative mazes that more than made up for some weaker offerings. 2017, though, is a whole extra level of terror. The weaker mazes have been given the guillotine, and in their place are two of the most audacious and masterfully crafted scare maze experiences out there, including one which is up there as arguably the best in the business. And that’s without even going into some of the extra touches such as free rides being in operation this time round, and the very welcome return of an abundance of actors, all uniquely costumed, prowling throughout the park, never quite allowing you to feel relaxed or at ease.

In all, it easily makes ‘Xtreme Scream Park’ a wholly recommended Halloween ‘must-visit’ for any scare fans and thrill seekers out there. There’s the usual disclaimer that it may be a little too intense for those who are more comfortable with lighter scares and a hands-off approach, but personally we wouldn’t have it any other way; intense, terrifying stuff and a quality and standard of execution that leaves its competitors looking like mere strolls in the park. 

Put simply, when it comes to intensity, scares, production values and consistency of experience, there’s no better.

Or worse, depending on how much of a chicken you are...

XTREME SCREAM PARK 2016 runs at the Twin Lakes Theme Park until Tuesday 31 October 2016.

To book your tickets, head on over to the official website by clicking HERE.

Press tickets to Xtreme Scream Park were provided courtesy of Twin Lakes Theme Park directly. The author gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation. 

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