The latest ride at Universal's Islands of Adventure is the star attraction in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, namely Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The story of the ride unfolds through a number of talking portraits as you make your way through a series of rooms at Hogwarts Castle.
Essentially you are on your way to watch a Quidditch match and just to add to the fun, Hagrid has lost his dragon! When you arrive at the loading area, you are greeted by the Sorting Hat.
Universal have described the ride as a "360-degree theme park experience and first-ever combination of live-action, advanced robotic technology and innovative filmmaking …".
In ride style, the closest comparison would be a combination of Universal's own "The Many Adventures of Spider-Man" and Disney's Epcot "Soarin" with a touch of Disney's Magic Kingdom "Haunted Mansion".
The Forbidden Journey uses a large surround screen and a number of tangible effects like water, smoke and air blasts, in a similar style to Soarin. However, the Forbidden Journey also seamlessly blends the screen action with live action from a number of animatronic characters.
Like Soarin you sit on a bench but in the Forbidden Journey's case, there are only four seats per "enchanted bench" with over the shoulder restraints. The bench itself is suspended from a robotic arm which moves along a track.
This allows you to be swung around and positioned to look at different scenes as you progress through the ride. The ride is not that intense physically but emotionally it can be quite unnerving with encounters with spiders, Hagrid's dragon and the Dementors who turn up unexpectedly. The ride is definitely dark in more than one sense.
For anyone who has seen some of the Quidditch matches in the Harry Potter films, you'll get an idea of what is going to happen. The seats do go up and down, accelerate and decelerate and flip you onto your back at one point but there are no inversions.
The whole ride lasts four minutes but because so much is going on you may well miss some of the action first time round.
The height restriction for the ride is 48 inches (goblin size!) but you also need to be aware that if you are too tall or too wide you might not fit into the seats and be able to lock the restraints. There is a sample seat outside the castle and in the wait line so you can check it for size.
Note that if you elect to go for the single rider line to cut the inevitable long queues, you will also bypass most of the rooms in the castle and miss the introductory storyline.