Legends, voyages, challenges, and quests await in Punta Cana
Katmandu Park brings E-Ticket attractions to the Caribbean
Rejoice park fans. This is the glorious time of year when our favorite places pull down the construction walls and debut their shiny, new offerings. It seems every few days during this busy 2023 season a coaster is rolling out or an exciting, new attraction is beckoning.
Let’s turn our attention to the Dominican Republic resort town of Punta Cana where a bunch of attractions debuted at the recently opened Katmandu Park. Developed and operated by Falcon’s Beyond, it is an entirely new breed of park, although its captivating attractions, which draw on the latest technology and break some new ground in their own right, are reminiscent of those found at Disney and Universal. Known as a micro park, it is a fraction of the size of places like Disneyland. I’ll provide an overview of Katmandu and the many ways that it distinguishes itself and defies industry conventions in a future article. But today, let’s focus on its four featured attractions.
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One of the highlights of the park is Legend of the Desirata. Utilizing a roving motion base ride system (think: Universal’s The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man), the screen-based, 4-D dark ride transports passengers to the Himalayas alongside explorer Kilgore Goode and into a mysterious, upside-down realm. It serves as a brief introduction to the proprietary Katmandu mythology, on which the entire park is based. And when I say brief, I mean Legend of the Desirata spans about two-and-a-half minutes. Compared to another Universal roving motion base attraction, Transformers: The Ride-3D, which lasts more than four minutes, the Katmandu attraction is something of an, ahem, micro ride. Still, the 3-D animation is sharp, the storytelling is rich, and it otherwise has all of the trappings of an E-Ticket ride.
The ride vehicles are from Oceaneering, the same company that developed the vehicles for Universal’s groundbreaking attractions. The sleek vehicles move in sync with the action on a series of screens (a mere 3 of them, compared to 12 for Transformers) and include blasts of wind and other sensory effects to convincingly blur the line between virtual and reality. In addition to the media, there are some dimensional, practical sets that provide elements of a more traditional dark ride experience. As with Katmandu’s other major attractions, Legend of the Desirata includes a nicely-themed queue and pre-show presentation. Also, guests can choose either English- or Spanish-language soundtracks for the attractions at the bilingual park.
Instead of soaring high above the action, as is generally the case in a flying theater ride, guests dive down into the watery realm of Azurlan to encounter a fearsome, tentacled beast for Voyage of the Fathom Wanderer. Again, the 3-D media is well done, and the ride system, also from Oceaneering, complements the visuals nicely. Unlike the truncated Legend of the Desirata, the length of the experience (as well as park’s other attractions, for that matter) is more in line with industry norms.
While they were not yet operational when I visited, smells, water spritzes, and other 4-D enhancements will be added, which should make the attraction even more immersive. I quite enjoyed the unique sensation of riding in a flying theater bank of seats to dive down and meander through an ocean environment.
For Challenge of the Mad Mage, guests sit in a tricked-out 4-D interactive theater and blast away at curious-looking chess-bots on a large, high-def screen. Designed by Falcon’s Creative Group, the attraction represents the company’s ON!X Theater technology. It’s got all the quasi-aggressive 4-D elements that parks fans would expect, including back pokers, leg ticklers, and subwoofer-enhanced seats that put some bottom end into bottom ends (if you know what I mean). The seats also deliver a surprising amount of movement, jostling guests up, down, and to-and-fro. The game play is intuitive and accurate.
As with most video games, the goal is to rack up points. But Challenge of the Mad Mage is a multi-player game–in this case, an entire theater full of competitors are gunning for you–and guests are compelled to outscore the family members and friends alongside them as well as the rest of the audience. There is a leaderboard that lists all the players, and the top three scorers get the additional glory of having their avatars stand on digital platforms to soak in the accolades at the conclusion of the game.
Speaking of which, visitors can choose personalized avatars at kiosks near Katmandu’s front gate, which are then stored in bracelets issued by the park. Guests scan the wearable technology, which serve as digital tickets, to gain entrance to the attractions. In the case of Challenge of the Mad Mage, the bracelets also transmit each guest’s avatar profile to incorporate into the game.
Game play figures heavily in the park’s final headlining attraction, EtherQuest, as well. To begin the walk-through experience, guests make their way through a disorienting vortex tunnel and seemingly get turned upside down as they emerge into the topsy-turvy “Jadu,” the house of Katmandu. They then make their way as a group through a series of small rooms in which they use interactive devices to combat ghoulish-looking Explorer Mages.
The clever, engaging experience, which has elements of an escape room, incorporates large-scale projection mapping that encases the walls and other theme park trickery. According to Falcon’s Beyond, EtherQuest is the first attraction of its kind and features proprietary technologies. As with Challenge of the Mad Mage, visitors can record their score by using Falcon’s tracking system that is embedded in the park’s bracelets.
As if guests aren’t disoriented enough, they have to–blam!–find their way–crash!–out of–yipes!–a mirror maze to end the EtherQuest experience. That deposits them in Kilgore Labs, which is like a mini children’s museum filled with hands-on exhibits and games. At one station, for example, foam balls travel through a maze of vacuum tubes only to get launched into the air for visitors to nab.
Katmandu includes other attractions and features, which I will review in an upcoming article.
Does the new Katmandu Park sound enticing to you? Might you plan a trip to Punta Cana to check it out?
Cost? I read the entire article waiting for the admission prices but none was given.
Please let us know what this park charges for admission. Thanks
You write about the main attractions. But you don't mention roller coasters, or any outdoor rides. Is this an indoor park?