Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tatsu

Where:
-Six Flags Magic Mountain (Valencia, CA, USA)
Height:
-170 feet
Top Speed:
-62 mph
Manufacturer:
-Bolliger & Mabillard

Riders face straight down once locked in
Boy, I've reviewed a lot of B&M coasters, haven't I? Well here is Tatsu, the world's largest and fastest flying coaster. Riders settle into the seats upright, but once locked in, the ride repositions itself and faces straight down. Tatsu takes you up a steep lift, which is terrifying if you're afraid of heights. Look down, there's nothing below you but the ground. The scariest part of the ride is when it hits the top and you dive headfirst, before sending you into a Zero-G roll (the first of its kind on a flying coaster). You'll be flying around and diving until Tatsu transitions into a massive, 124-foot pretzel roll, and then the ride's fourth and final inversion, a twist. Tatsu is the centerpiece of Six Flags Magic Mountain, located high above the trees. It's one of the smoothest rides in the park, if not the smoothest. Tatsu is the most fun at night, but I'd ride it at any hour of the day. If you're only spending a day at SFMM, make sure Tatsu is one of your top priorities. Don't let long lines intimidate you, this and X2 are worth waiting every second. This ride is the closest I can imagine to actually flying. The sensation of lying straight down and soaring through the air has never been done so well. Tatsu is debatably the best ride in the park, and that's saying a lot.

The Roller Coaster

Where:
-New York New York Hotel & Casino (Las Vegas, NV, USA)
Height:
-203 feet
Top Speed:
-67 mph
Manufacturer:
-TOGO

The Roller Coaster (creative name, huh?) is one of the most noticeable attractions on the Las Vegas strip. Riders board a train that looks like a New York cab, right above the casino floor. The ride begins with a large chain lift between New York New York's "skyscrapers" and stops at the top. The first dive goes right back up a hill, and the second drop is the most fun, plunging riders 144 feet before transitioning to a vertical loop. The ride's second inversion is a twist that leads right into a half loop. After this, the ride feels sort of tacked on, with lots of brakes and slow turns. At the end you'll travel back inside the casino, getting a brief glimpse of the slot machines and gamblers below, before exiting the ride. The Roller Coaster is a great way to get a view of the Las Vegas Strip, but it doesn't serve as much else. As I mentioned before, the second drop is wicked fun, but overall The Roller Coaster is mediocre for a $14 admission price. It's also rather hard to locate, taking you through many shops and arcades before finding the ride at the back of the casino; compared to Buffalo Bill's Desperado, which can be entered right from the casino doors. On its own, The Roller Coaster is nothing special. That said, it's got a great view of the Las Vegas Strip, and having never been on a Roller Coaster right in the middle of the city before, it's a new and fun experience. If you're staying in Vegas and you like roller coasters, or you're just under-21, The Roller Coaster might be a better way to spend your money than blowing it at the casino.

The Incredible Hulk

Where:
-Islands of Adventure (Orlando, FL, USA)
Height:
-110 feet
Top Speed:
-65 mph
Manufacturer:
Bolliger & Mabillard

I'm going to go right off the bat and say that this is my favorite roller coaster in the state of Florida. And believe me, I've done them all. Now, as expected, the lines are massive. I've done this ride twice and both times the lines totaled hours of waiting time. Fortunately if you're riding alone, the single rider lane will practically take you straight to the ride. The Incredible Hulk doesn't screw around. You board the station high above the ground and enter a dark tunnel. Some audio of Bruce Banner plays over the intercom, announcing that something has gone wrong before launching the ride at top speed over a sideways drop. As you glide over the water, you'll enter a massive cobra roll, in fact, the largest in the world. The launchpad and cobra roll really are the highlight of the ride, but it doesn't stop there. After being cooled off in a mist tunnel, riders experience inversions nonstop, 7 to be exact. When the ride brakes at the end, you'll finally be able to catch your breath as the train pulls into the station. If you're a fan of roller coasters, I implore you to try this one out. Islands of Adventure features only a couple of coasters, but The Incredible Hulk and Dragon Challenge will more than make up for the price of admission. Despite Florida's heavy competition of coasters, the Hulk takes the cake.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dragon Challenge


Where:
-Islands of Adventure (Orlando, FL, USA)
Height:
-125 feet
Top Speed:
-60 mph
Manufacturer:
-Bolliger & Mabillard

The Dragon Challenge (formerly Dueling Dragons) is a pair of steel inverted coasters that intertwine with one-another. Since 2010, with Islands of Adventure's addition of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it has undergone a complete makeover, turning it into a Harry Potter-themed ride. Riders travel through a very detailed maze around Hogwarts and the school's grounds, before choosing which coaster to ride. The two are not symmetrical. Though very similar, the Chinese Fireball travels at a higher speed and drop than that of its counterpart, the Chinese Fireball. However, both are highly intense and feature 5 inversions. I last rode Dragon Challenge in 2010, but I've since heard that the dragons no longer duel, though I can't confirm it myself. My favorite part about the ride is that there are two halves, so once you've rode one side your second time on the ride will be totally different. With a high number of inversions and low number of drops, the Dragon Challenge is one of those rides that will toss you all over the place. And those get an A in my book.

California Screamin'

The Mickey Mouse head, which has since been replaced with a golden sun
Where:
-Disney California Adventure (Anaheim, CA, USA)
Height:
-120 feet
Top Speed:
-55 mph
Manufacturer:
-Intamin

California Screamin' is one of those rare Disney park attractions that features an inversion. The wait times are always relatively short. Once riders board, they are taken down to the lake in Paradise Pier and stationed right on top of the water. A countdown begins, followed by a launch sending the train at the top speed up a hill. The ride swerves and turns before beginning up the second hill, this time a chain lift. California Screamin's helixes are so massive that they hardly feel like helixes at all. Finally, riders dive into a vertical loop that goes around a large sun (it used to be a giant Mickey Mouse head, as pictured). California Screamin' is enormous, covering a whopping 6,072 feet. The length of the ride makes up for its relatively low speed, but best of all is the scenery. Riders enjoy a view of Disney California Adventure from up high, and a high-speed tour of Paradise Pier. I especially appreciate the structure of the ride, making it appear to be a vintage wooden coaster, while closer inspection reveals that it's a smooth steel coaster. Whether you're a beginner or a veteran, California Screamin' offers excitement for all.

Kumba

Where:
-Busch Gardens Tampa (Tampa, FL, USA)
Height:
-143 feet
Top Speed:
60 mph
Manufacturer:
Bolliger & Mabillard

Kumba: Translated from the African Kongo language, this word means roar. And it does just that. The Kumba takes riders through an astounding 7 inversions, including a Zero-G roll, Cobra Roll, and Double Corkscrew. This is one of those roller coasters that will have inversion-junkies in a frenzy, as the ride offers little other than spinning and spiraling. The ride takes you straight from a 135-foot drop into a vertical loop, and then a diving loop. At nearly 20 years old, Kumba is still one monster of a ride. In fact it's one of the smoothest for its age that I can even recall. Another unique feature is that the lift hill actually passes right through the first loop. After its final inversion, Kumba caps off by gliding through a metal tunnel, amplifying the screams of riders and the noise of the tracks to a high-volume roar. If you're in Busch Gardens Tampa, Kumba is the #1 attraction. Just make sure that those of you with weak stomachs only ride it once.

SheiKra

Where:
-Busch Gardens Tampa (Tampa, FL, USA)
Height:
-200 feet
Top Speed:
-70 mph
Manufacturer:
-Bolliger & Mabillard

When I came to Busch Gardens and took one look at SheiKra, I couldn't believe my eyes. A 200-foot dive coaster. Granted, it's practically identical to Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Griffon, but I first rode SheiKra before Griffon even saw the light of day. Now onto the ride. Riders are pulled up a 200-foot chain lift and around a bend, giving a gorgeous view of Tampa's surrounding wilderness. The train hangs over the drop for a second, before the lock releases and the ride dive bombs into an inversion (the fifth largest in the world). After that, the adrenaline factor is mostly gone, but until you've experienced a 90 degree drop, SheiKra is one of Florida's musts. SheiKra finishes by swooping down into a pool of water and spraying any bystander in the ride's vicinity. Roller coaster enthusiasts of all sorts will adore this one, especially those who enjoy steep drops.

Desperado

Where:
-Buffalo Bill's Hotel & Casino (Primm, NV, USA)
Height:
-209 feet
Top Speed:
-80 mph
Manufacturer:
-Arrow Dynamics

Located on the border of Nevada and California lies Desperado, a massive 5,843 foot beast that broke records when it opened in 1994. Desperado really is in the middle of the desert, so don't expect a large crowd or long queues. For a $10 admission fee, you'll board inside the casino and immediately begin the 209-foot lift hill. I was unlucky enough to face this ride during a blazing summer day, so be warned of the heat. But once you're over the hill, Desperado plunges 225 feet, taking you underground before climbing an overbanked turn that will nearly throw you out of the vehicle. One thing to note is the ride's excessive use of banked turns and humps. Toward the end of the ride you'll spiral in and around a mountain which looks impressive from the outside, but inside it just looks like a mess of beams and pillars. Overall, the ride is great for people seeking a short thrill before heading to Las Vegas, but its bumpiness and location don't really make it worth a road trip. All in all, Desperado is a piece of history, as what was once the world's largest, tallest, and steepest coaster is now just another tourist trap in the Nevada desert.