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Posts tagged “Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom unveils Rage of the Gargoyles VR Coaster for Fright Fest

Being the closest Six Flags park to Silicon Valley, it seems strange to have it receive the virtual reality add-on to one of its coasters so late in the game.

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However, with time comes improvement and those lessons learned at other Six Flags parks were on full display at the media preview aboard Kong for “Rage of the Gargoyles” – a virtual reality experience powered by Samsung and Oculus.

The headsets have been completely re-designed, with a simple click wheel for tightening in the back and bungee straps with a single adjustment point. The phones themselves still have the occasional hiccup, which does add to dispatch times. But overall, it’s faster than other installations I’ve seen.

The newer headsets are easier to clean and adjust, which should speed up dispatches.

The newer headsets are easier to clean and adjust, which should speed up dispatches.

WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD:

The experience itself is fairly straightforward. You’re a gunner in a helicopter, slowly climbing to do battle with gargoyles – because, why not? At the top of the lift, a giant gargoyle appears and rips the top off your helicopter, rendering your gun useless.

During the ride, the gargoyles still come at you, move your head around to target them with missiles.

At the end of the ride, the “boss” gargoyle appears once again, so you have to do battle with him as the train slowly navigates back to the station. If you don’t do battle with him at the end – you actually end up losing the game!

END OF SPOILERS…

My biggest concerns going into the event today were shared by many others: how could a ride known for rough, jerky transitions be suitable for a “blinded” VR experience? I have to say, I did not experience significant headbanging on my two trips (it was far from smooth, however). On the second trip, however my headset did become loose and began bouncing around on my head, which was not pleasant.

Kong VR Instructions

With the large, Vekoma over the shoulder restraint, I also found it difficult to reach the side button to shoot during the game. It also limited my reach when the headset came loose.

Dispatch times were improved over what I saw this past summer at other Six Flags parks. At this special media event, they were averaging around 4-5 minutes. That is a vast improvement over the 7-10 minute dispatches I saw at Six Flags St. Louis, Over Georgia and Over Texas this past summer.

So, is it worth a trip to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom to experience Northern California’s first Virtual Reality coaster? Yes, if you’ve never done it before. Just be prepared for long waits and slow dispatches. I’ll predict that the general public will eat this sort of thing up, while coaster fans (who already weren’t too hot on Kong) might give it a second look.

If you’ve been on a VR coaster before, it’s not much different from what you’ve already experienced. A ride on the Joker or Medusa might be a better bet if the lines are as long as predicted.

Understatement of the century when it comes to VR coasters!

Understatement of the century when it comes to VR coasters!

Overall, I still don’t like the idea of VR on rides, at least on the rides that they’ve been installed on in the United States. While the idea is there, the execution just isn’t worth the wait. At least, not yet. All that being said, this is one of the better VR installations that I’ve experienced.

Have you done battle with the gargoyles aboard Kong? Let me know what you think in the comments section below:

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Six Flags Discovery Kingdom’s New for 2017 attraction is a real headscratcher

It’s the best time of the year for park fans – time to find out what that 2017 season pass will get you at your local or favorite bemusement and theme parks.

Early this morning, Six Flags fans got up early to see what was coming their way – and it was a lot of DC Comics-themed clones.

A lot of them. Several “Justice League” dark rides and Joker-themed 4D Free Fly coasters dominated the announcements, which isn’t surprising – considering the larger investments in parks last year across the chain.

But the real headscratcher in this chain-wide announcement is my local park, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Here’s why:

The park is adding a Zamperla Giant Discovery – a large pendulum ride that swings riders while the disc spins around:

There’s just one thing – the park already has something just like it – a very intense Huss Frisbee known as “Tazmanian Devil.”

Tazmanian Devil at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Call me crazy – but I think many would agree a better addition would have been a Zamperla Endeavour; the same model seen at Six Flags Over Texas:

Of course, Tax could also be having some serious maintenance challenges – and might not be there next year. But if it is – better get some Scalpicin shampoo to cut down on the irritation to your head.

Even more amazing – despite all the issues surrounding the closure of Vortex and subsequent communications afterwards – California’s Great America STILL has an opportunity to not only trump Discovery Kingdom’s announcement – but completely usurp the Vallejo parks’ new addition – if they play it right. Betcha did see that coming last week…

Personally – the biggest and most exciting news out of Six Flags this year – wasn’t even part of the annual announcement – it was released the day before it.

Jeffrey Siebert – long time Public Relations and Marketing manager for Paramount’s Kings Island, Schlitterbahn and Fiesta Texas was promoted to the role of General Manager of the San Antonio park. Anyone who has been to one of his events knows he is the prototype for all communications / public relations employees at an amusement or theme park. He isn’t just another employee – he IS the park. Lives, eats, sleeps and breathes it. It could not have happened to a better person – and I look forward to seeing what he does now that he’s his own boss (sort of).

What did you think of the Six Flags announcements for 2017? Leave a comment below and let’s chat!


California’s Great America announces The Patriot for 2017

With no fanfare or any buildup, California’s Great America announced a long-standing rumor that it will convert it’s Vortex roller coaster into a floorless model, dubbed The Patriot.

Now, I’m all for improving the ride experience for any coaster – and certainly Vortex fits the bill for that. But considering that a longer, faster, taller (and better) floorless coaster is an hour’s drive north from Santa Clara – why would they try to market the world’s shortest floorless coaster in the same media market? (An ultra-competitive media market at that).

The Patriot at CGA 1

The Patriot will convert Vortex into a floorless coaster, with new trains and paint. Graphic courtesy of California’s Great America.

The press release sent out by the park also erroneously claimed that Vortex is the oldest stand-up coaster in the United States (“Apocalypse,” formerly “Iron Wolf” is the oldest at Six Flags America). It also said the ride’s name was inspired by the “All American Corners” section of the park – even though the ride shares no entrance or exit to the area (It’s officially located in Hometown Square).

Vortex Oldest

Not quite, California’s Great America…

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Don’t get me wrong – this is still a good move by the park. But it’s no slam dunk. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has the upper edge on this ride type with Medusa, so Great America must come with a really good angle to get their message heard.

Looking at the park’s social media feeds, members of the general public aren’t really sold on the idea:

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Park fans on CGA’s Facebook feed are a bit confused on the Vortex / Patriot conversion and sadly the park isn’t answering their questions…

For me, the park would have been better off converting the ride into a sit down coaster, such as Kumba, Wildfire or the Incredible Hulk. At least then it would have been unique to the area. But, it’s still a major improvement to a ride that desperately needed it.

Let’s hope the station is also improved, with actual shade and you know – a roof.

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The Patriot will be one of the shortest floorless coasters when it opens in 2017. Graphic courtesy of California’s Great America.

But the one thing I can’t shake from all this is HOW it was announced. At least when Cedar Point converted Mantis into Rougarou – there was a fun teaser campaign (Squash the bug). You felt like you were a part of the park.

But the way The Patriot was announced this morning came off like a doctor giving you a bad prognosis: “This is coming. You’ve got two weeks. Buy a season pass.”

There’s no emotional connection to an announcement this big when it’s done via press release only. Honestly, I don’t feel compelled to buy a season pass at all. The two errors in the release certainly don’t help, either:

CGA Patriot Release Error

What lies “beneath their fee”? Isn’t that your admission? 😉

Overall though, the general public will welcome this change if it’s marketed well – and my hope is that it will be successful. But it will also be increasingly difficult to get the right message across – an emotional one – if the park does not connect better with the fans in the future.

What do you think of The Patriot? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!


Roar wooden coaster at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom to close August 16

On Thursday, July 16th, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom posted across their social media outlets – as well as via a press release – that their GCl wooden coaster, Roar will be shutting down forever on August 16th. The timing is fortuitous – the last day of operation will be National Roller Coaster Day in the United States.

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Photo credit: Kris Rowberry, http://www.GreatAmericanThrills.net

“We are a dynamic and evolving entertainment venue,” said Don McCoy, park president. “Although Roar continues to be a guest favorite, sometimes hard choices must be made to allow for future expansion.”

Roar opened in 1999 as the park was officially re-branded as the “New Marine World Theme Park” – which brought several new shows and attractions, restaurants and shops to the park. An estimated 11 million guests have experienced the 10-story coaster which features the first use of GCI’s throwback “Millennium Flyer” single bench, articulated trains.

According to the park, a special fond farewell to Roar will include a series of events for guests and Season Pass holders, the highlight of which will be a special last rider event.

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How much will this skyline change after Roar is shut down forever this year? Only time will tell… (Photo credit: Kris Rowberry, http://www.GreatAmericanThrills.net)

The shutdown fuels rumors that the ride may be next in the Six Flags chain to receive some sort of renovation from roller coaster manufacturer, Rocky Mountain Construction. While none of this has been confirmed by the park or RMC,  a job posting several weeks ago that advertised several temporary positions available in California has had some in the industry speculate that the Roar project was what they were advertising for.

The ride had become particularly rough over the past few years, culminating with a major track replacement which involved removal and replacement of approximately 1/4 of the total length of the ride last year.


Dare Devil Chaos to Debut at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in 2015

They say “What goes around, comes around,” and in the case of the new Dare Devil Chaos opening at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom next year, that’s quite appropriate.

According to the park, “Dare Devil Chaos is a single looping thrill ride that builds anticipation as riders seated back to back travel backwards and forwards until momentum takes them at top speed revolutions, only to stop upside down at 70 feet high and reverse direction.”

They add, “The new ride brings the number of ‘coasters’ at the park to nine along with Medusa, Roar, V2, Kong, Boomerang, Cobra, Road Runner Express and SUPERMAN Ultimate Flight. Dare Devil is expected to open in spring 2015.”

Photo courtesy of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Photo courtesy of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Media Relations

Now, I put the word “coaster” in quotations because there is some controversy with the way these rides are being marketed. Many in the industry are saying that while Six Flags is marketing these attractions as roller coasters – they are in fact, not. While the manufacturer’s website claims their “Super Loop 22m” is a “compact coaster,” experts in the industry are vehement in their opposition to the marketing:

“In perhaps the most disappointing announcement for the 2015 season, four Six Flags parks are to install pendulum style thrill rides typically associated with traveling carnivals and county fairs. Adding insult to injury, Six Flags is intentionally misrepresenting these rides as roller coasters.” 

– Brady MacDonald, Los Angeles Times

 “For the record, I applaud Six Flags for trying to finally add more flat rides, but don’t lie to people and promote them as coasters.”

– Lance Hart, Screamscape.com

For comparison, Elitch Gardens – the first park to install this new model of thrill ride in the United States – does not market their model (identical to the four going into Six Flags parks next year) as a roller coaster:

“Lose your mind on Brain Drain, the All-New 7-story steel looping thrill ride that sends riders forwards, backwards and head-over-heels in an adrenaline drenched 360° revolution.”

– ElitchGardens.com

While these rides are definitely fun and have the ability to be intertwined with others (imagine a ride passing through the loop) they’re constantly powered by drive tires and don’t actually travel on a track, the “train” is attached to one giant conveyor belt loop that’s ingeniously nestled inside the larger, outside loop.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Dare Devil Chaos Coaster

Photo courtesy of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.

If the ride looks familiar to you, it should. It’s a larger, permanent installation of the “Ring of Fire” attractions seen at carnivals around the world, from Larson International. Although, these permanent models lack the guy wires – they’re still quite thrilling.Just expect to wait for those thrills – hourly capacity is expected to be around 500 – 600 people per hour.

Photo courtesy of Larson International.

Photo courtesy of Larson International.

“This is a great new addition to our line-up of world class rides and attractions, and is sure to be fun for all,” said Don McCoy, park president. “What appears to be a simple track is really complex and riders will have a great time anticipating the inversion they know is coming.”

The announcement, part of a coordinated, chain-wide event for all the other Six Flags parks, coincides with the biggest season pass sale of the year.

What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments section below, or reach out to us on social media!


Coaster Con XXXVII in the Bay Area this week

All this week, Great American Thrills will be bringing you insider coverage from Coaster Con XXXVII – the biggest event on the American Coaster Enthusiasts calendar – and the first time ever the event has been held exclusively in Northern California.

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From behind the scenes tours, special VIP events and even a few surprises along the way…stay tuned to Great American Thrills as we update the site every evening.

You can also follow our social media accounts – as we’ll be updating LIVE as we can with these hashtags across all the platforms:

#CoasterCon

#GreatAmericanThrills

#LostParks


Tsunami Soaker a Watery Blast of Fun

Each amusement or theme park is different. They each “need” attractions based on their audience and climate.

Many park fans (and even general public guests) have argued that one ride Six Flags Discovery Kingdom was desperately missing was another water ride. The park had two Intamin water rides (both debuted in 1999), a standard 20-person splashwater and rapids flume. But that was it. With temperatures easily pushing above 90 during the summer heat waves, the park needed something more – something new.

For many years, a rumored “log flume” was on the books, designed to interact with the animal exhibits already in the park. Consider it a “Water Safari,” but for whatever reason, the ride never materialized.

So, it was with great anticipation that I rolled up to the park last week to test drive the new Tsumani Soaker – a Mack built “Aqua Twist.”

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The ride is deceptively simple: Four turntables (one large, three small) sink down into water when the ride begins and slowly rotate. Riders are seated in “barrels” that actually float, as they “battle” other riders, those waiting in line and would be passerby’s with water guns attached to their barrels.

As soon as the ride cycle starts, the entire platform sinks, revealing the water though the grated platform. From there – the best I can describe it is this: ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE. Water is flying literally everywhere – even the ride operator’s booth isn’t out of the firing line.

Part of the cool interactivity of the ride is the fact that you can still cool off – even if you never go on the ride. Five water guns are stationed outside of the ride’s fence, allowing non-riders to soak those on the ride. Just remember, you’re in range of the guns on the ride, too. You can even nail people waiting in line – which should be interesting to watch if people begin stampeding to try and stay dry.

And don’t let the small streams of water fool you – you will get soaked on this ride, there is no “wet.”

That being said, there are some minor flaws. All of the Great American Thrills team that day noticed a lack of a “long enough” queue line for the ride, which is bound to spill would-be riders into the midway.

I also imagine it’s a matter of time before the ride is modified, to include some form of seatbelt or restraint. Many riders on Media Day were seen standing up or switching seats to avoid the watery blasts. While riders were always safe and secure inside their barrels – most parks would rather you be COMPLETELY secured…in your seat.

The ride cycle is also quite long (this is a complaint?!?) but there’s a reason why this point ends up here. You see, all of the ride’s “guns” are built for right-handed people. We found that we had tired out from the one arm firing about halfway through the cycle (as did many of the other riders).

That being said, the long ride time also ensures no one will leave the ride dry. Scratch that – the ride’s cycle length ensures no one leaves the ride that isn’t drenched. Even with only one-fourth of the seats occupied, the entire Great American Thrills team was soaked to the bone. I can’t imagine how quickly you’ll be drenched when this ride is operating at full capacity.

Despite my qualms (and I’m a picky person), Tsunami Soaker is the perfect “family flat ride” that Discovery Kingdom desperately needed. It will be a welcome relief during the summer and if you bring an extra set of clothes. (You can always use the air dryer that’s now conveniently located at the ride exit too – though it’ll cost you $5.00 for three minutes).

WORD OF WARNING: Get a locker before going on this ride. Any electronic device is NOT safe from the inevitable drenching in your pocket, or in a backpack or other bay lying on the side of the ride.