After our heroic and harrowing journey to the gates of Joyland, we entered through the massive circular Gate of Heroes with a feeling of awed disbelief – after all this time and speculation, we were actually setting foot inside the fabled Warcraft/Starcraft theme park. But the Blizzard ripoffs are only two of seven sections in the park, so to begin with, we’re going to give you a primer on the the other five sections.
China has big ambitions for this park, which quickly became apparent with their seeming attempt to include as many different characters from as many genres and games and cartoons and comic books as humanly possible. We’re talking robots, monsters, aliens, wizards, elves, animals, dragons, gnomes, fairies, orcs, trolls, dinosaurs, goblins, ninjas and witches. The only thing really missing were super heroes and zombies, which I’m sure you can find in the gift shop on the way out.
Worth noting: While items for sale at shops in the park may be legitimate, we can say with almost absolute certainty that they purchased no rights to any of the characters depicted throughout the park (including Blizzard characters and a charming Kung Fu Panda statue, to name a few.) This grey (slash illegal) area of intellectual property rights practices has at least one big positive: the names of the rides/areas are as amusing as the rides/areas themselves.
The park isn’t quite finished, and the crowds weren’t exactly overwhelming, surprising on a mid-summer Sunday afternoon. We honestly can’t explain the lack of people, because this was one of the single most satisfying, dare we say amusing, amusement park experiences we have had to date.
Here’s our guide to five of the seven sections of the park. Check out Joyland’s insane interactive map to follow along (and stay tuned for the Warcraft/Starcraft review tomorrow!):
The first section of the park is Taobao street, which you have to walk through to access any other part of the park. It’s basically just a bunch of merch shops for the kids, similar to the Main Street USA idea in Disney parks, and interesting only in the fact that all the brands are legit. Transformers, Disney, Hello Kitty, Snoopy, etc. – and no knock offs! As you stroll through, you are greeted in typical Chinese fashion, by lines of smiling waving attendants standing robotically at attention in groups of three in matching outfits.
The centerpiece of Joyland is the rainbow castle in the middle of the park. Unlike Disneyland, there isn’t really a grand street leading up to it, because you’re cut off by Fairy Lake, the body of water surrounding the castle.
There are phoenix/eagle/dragon-bedazzled ferries that can whisk you across the lake, and you can watch bizarre jet ski water shows or, even more entertaining, Chinese park guests trying and failing to water ski. It’s a hoot! The top of the castle looks to be a restaurant in the works, but like the rest of the parks, isn’t quite finished.
World of Legend
World of Legend centers around the theme of lost heroes, or lost anything for that matter, since the main roller coaster is a dinosaur (dragon?) and also utilizes totally ancient roller coaster technology (jerky, standard mine ride that managed to bruise us while failing to thrill – the opposite of our roller coaster experience in the Starcraft park.) This is the most substantial section of the park outside of the Warcraft/Starcraft areas.
The major attraction in World of Legend is the circle rollercoaster – confusingly called both a “fantastic airship” and “Aladdin’s genius creation” on the sign board – a giant twirling loop of a ride. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open when we were there.
More important than the rides, however, is of course the Cosplay center across from the Dragon ride (Joyland broke Cosplay world records on its opening day). Unfortunately prices were out of our range: dressing up five or six people was going to run us something around 700RMB, and individual shots were something like 200 (sorry the numbers are fuzzy, my memory is blighted by the pain of disappointment.) The obvious solution is simply bring your own costumes, duh.
For a laugh, try to catch a showing at the Ice Sword Realm, where an epic love story is mimed out by two actors on a pitch black stage where they battle an array of holographic enemies including some kind of green lion and a dark lord. The holograms are fantastic, and kind of depressingly wasted on such a lame, boring story (told in Chinese, btw.)
There is something of a gamer’s hub, called “Game Fort” on your way out of World of Legend that is cool because you can go in and theoretically play around with 3D game technology and various first-person shooting/driving games, but even COOLER because the building housing it looks just like a church. No subtlety there, Joyland. Worth noting: while they handed us 3D glasses on the way in, none of the games really appeared to be working in 3D. But the feeling of walking into a church with a space pod interior chock-a-block full of game consoles made us somewhat more forgiving of the technical faults.
This part isn’t finished, but it’s a giant monolithic construction towering over the rest of the park, and somewhat terrifying if it is actually built as their designs suggest.
This section of the park is just for the kiddies, and keeping with the general theme, they seem to have squeezed just about as many animated characters in as possible. Every ride has a “Happiness Index” and they all receive at least 4 out of 5 little green bunny (sprouts??) icons (take that North Korea!)
Robert O’Connor contributed to this post