REVIEW: Fallout Shelter at Knott’s Halloween Haunt 2012

Like gamers remaining loyal to their favorite shooters, Knott’s Halloween Haunt fans are very loyal to Fallout Shelter, which returned in 2012 to the event. It was one of the few mazes that wasn’t truncated this season, other than its marquee signage. So, if you were fortunate enough not to pass Fallout Shelter by, you were in for a treat!

Created by veteran Halloween Haunt designer Daniel Miller, Fallout Shelter remained virtually unchanged from previous seasons. Much like a nightmarish first person shooter (Miller is an avid game enthusiast who admits much inspiration comes from his console experiences and loves), Fallout Shelter is a dark, disturbing jaunt into the radioactive bowels of a military blast shelter, which had been sealed shut for many years. What lurks within is a great assortment of disfigured soldiers and mutated creatures. Fans eat this stuff up! And rightfully so, as Fallout Shelter is good old fashioned Scary Farm fun, very reminiscent in ways of old-school mazes such as Industrial Evil and Toxichem.

Radioactive glowing messes aren’t new to Halloween Haunt, but they sure are neat! And Daniel’s design showcases this gruesome goodness completely with both live talent and absolutely nasty robotic figures. Throw in some really heavy fog and some water spritzing gags, and you have yourself a fairly successful Haunt attraction. That’s exactly what Daniel did, and it’s managed to hold up nicely over the years. The fans love it, the crew loves it and so for the most part, all is well in the land of Fallout Shelter.

Fallout Shelter at Knott's Halloween Haunt 2012

Except for that nagging no signage issue that Knott’s management dropped in everyone’s lap this year. Besides someone standing next to the Sierra Sidewinder exit with an orange sign bearing its name, Fallout Shelter was all but unmarked at Halloween Haunt; a huge mistake in our opinion. As we have before, we implore Knott’s to please reconsider this seemingly silly ban on signage; it didn’t do anything this year except confuse and inconvenience guests while cheapening the overall Haunt experience. No bueno, guys and gals. No bueno.

One of the things about Fallout Shelter that I have really thought was cool over the years has been that half of the maze is a traditional “white light” experience that becomes a glowing black light nightmare approximately half way through; I’ve always dug this about Fallout and am pleased that it remained this way, although this year’s transition moment wasn’t as good or smooth as it’s been in previous versions of the maze.

Fallout Shelter at Knott's Halloween Haunt 2012Another aspect of this attraction that reminds me of past Haunt mazes so much is the amount of creatures that have been placed in the various scenes, some animated and some static props. My memories of Haunt from earlier years (1980s) are filled with bizarre monsters and hand-crafted critters that lined the mazes and weren’t simply off-the-shelf figures or pieces. There were quite a large number of handmade monsters throughout Fallout Shelter, and that is absolutely awesome; I hope Knott’s never loses sight of its own originality and creativity.

While some Haunt mazes were greatly reduced in size this year, as I mentioned, Fallout Shelter remained mostly the same; any changes made were so small that even most hard core fans wouldn’t have picked up on them. For that, we are grateful and we think the talent throughout this maze was decent; nothing jaw dropping, but certainly not terrible. We’d love to see fewer masks used in Fallout Shelter if it happens to return next year for Haunt 2013. If it doesn’t, well, it had a great run at the Scary Farm; a very solid experience that Daniel and everyone involved with this year and in years past should be proud of!

– Rick West

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