Even under the best of circumstances, Carowinds would be extremely hard-pressed to top a year in which a trade magazine branded one of its roller coasters “Best New Ride” (that’d be Fury 325, and yes, it’s sensational).
So the park’s brass had to have been satisfied Wednesday with the nods of approval they got from VIP guests exiting a sneak peek of a new “intra-active 3-D game” that may well feature the longest name in amusement-park history: Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare: 3Z Arena, which officially debuts when Carowinds opens for the season on Friday.
Of course, nods of approval aren’t as fulfilling as the flushed, wind-blown, giddy faces that stumbled off Fury 325 at a similar – and much bigger – event this time last year. But until its expanded water park re-opens on May 21 as Carolina Harbor, Plants vs. Zombies will have to do for anyone looking for a new experience at Carowinds.
The attraction, located on the south end of the park behind the Afterburn roller coaster, is based on a popular video-game franchise from PopCap Games that pits – duh, what else? – plants against zombies.
Like SpongeBob SquarePants 3D before it, participants board motion-based seats on one of four levels of the park’s Action Theater and don 3D glasses. But unlike SpongeBob, Plants vs. Zombies has an interactive element: Riders grip hand-held laser devices and shoot at 3D cartoon images of either plants or zombies, depending on which side of the theater you’re sitting on.
If you’re familiar with the video game, you know what to expect from the animation (i.e. simplicity). And since their are no safety belts or lap bar restraints, you know what to expect from the intensity level (i.e. it’s very mild).
With up to 34 other people also shooting at the screen at the same time and no real way to tell which live person is hitting which animated enemy, it’s not a terribly gratifying experience for adults.
But as the saying goes: The kids will love it.
Carowinds’ Opening Weekend
Season Passholder Preview Night: The park will be open Thursday to guests with season passes, 5-10 p.m.
Park hours: Friday through Sunday, the park will be open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Because many area schools will be on spring break, those hours will continue daily through April 2.
Easter fun: Eggward the Easter Bunny and Snoopy the Easter Beagle will stop by Carowinds during its Easter Eggstravaganza, which kicks off this weekend.
Also new for 2016: A 3,000-square-foot Starbucks will open at the front entrance of the park, to give guests a caffeine rush to go with their adrenaline rush. … “Cirque Imagine,” a 30-minute live show, will debut in June.
Details: Carowinds is at 14523 Carowinds Blvd. Tickets start at $29.99. www.carowinds.com.