If you’ve never experienced a dark ride known as a ‘Madhouse’ before, let me give you a little background. The concept dates back a long way to a ride known as a Haunted Swing, which creates the illusion of being turned upside-down without ever actually going anywhere. Back in the 1990s Vekoma created a modern, large-scale adaptation of this technique, and the first one was installed at Efteling in 1996. That ride was Villa Volta, and it’s still going strong today.
I have to say, I am a huge fan of the Madhouse as a ride concept and experience. I think the optical illusion it creates is done very effectively, and the fact that they have to be elaborately themed and tell a story in order for the ride to work is always a bonus because it’s always a lot of fun to experience. There is one Madhouse in particular which I absoultely adore, but I shall wait until my next trip to its theme park to talk in detail about that. For now, let’s go a little more into detail on Villa Volta as an individual dark ride experience.
For starters, one thing I like about Villa Volta is its setting. It’s not immediately obvious as a haunted/cursed house, and unlike most haunted house attractions everything takes place inside that one relatively small building. You queue up along the side, enter through a side door and exit through one of the doors at the front. It’s quite impressive that they’ve managed to fit two pre-show rooms and a large rotating drum each capable of holding up to 80 people all into that one building. The soundtrack of Villa Volta is also great, very dramatic and impactful, which is something I think these rides need to keep the suspense and attention span of those riding.
Villa Volta’s pre-show rooms tell the story of a gang of robbers known as the ‘Goat riders’ (believe me it sounds better in Dutch) and their leader, Hugo, who was cursed after he and his gang robbed an Abbey. As you might have guessed, all this is in Dutch, which is fine given that the majority of the park’s visitors are Dutch, but it does get a little lost on those of us who don’t speak the language. This is also true as there is very little else to look at in the pre-show rooms while this story is being told – you get an animatronic of Hugo in the second room but that’s about it, so there isn’t a whole lot to capture the attention.
Then, the ride itself. I have to be honest, after all these years I was a little underwhelmed with Villa Volta’s ride sequence. I think we only turned upside-down twice in the whole thing and it was a fair bit shorter than I’m used to. There’s no big finale as such, despite what the musical score may suggest, and you only get a brief glimpse of what’s under the floor panels when they circle over you, so I didn’t really feel like this brought the ride to a satisfactory conclusion. Don’t get me wrong, the experience and the sensation are great fun, and the music adds to the drama and the atmosphere, but I still felt like it lacked a little ‘oomph’ that a grand finale would have helped to create.
As a ride concept I love Villa Volta, yet as an experience it left me just a little wanting. Nonetheless, if you like optical illusions, speak fluent Dutch, or have kids that would be amused by the experience (or any combination of the aforementioned, really), then I would recommend paying a visit to Villa Volta. It’s certainly an intriguing 10 minutes, I promise you.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your stay here at Along for the Ride.