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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Earlier this week, the Boomerang roller coaster at Six Flags St. Louis had a significant malfunction, which stranded a train at the bottom of the second lift, with what appeared to be a derailed wheel assembly in car number four. Several passengers were taken to a local area hospital for precautionary reasons. The ride has remained shut down pending an internal and state investigation.
The park not open to the public at the time, but was operating as part of a “School Days” event with local children and their teachers.
In a statement the park said, “Boomerang did not complete its normal ride cycle causing it to stop at a mid-point location where all guests safely exited the ride. Our First Aid staff responded immediately and four guests were transported to a local medical facility as a precautionary measure. The safety of our guests is our top priority and the ride will be closed for a thorough inspection before re-opening.”
It is not unusual for a Vekoma Boomerang model to make news, sadly. Because of the complexities of it’s dual-lift and shuttle nature, a multitude of issues can come together to cause a stranded (or valleyed) train. This is why the ride has brakes strategically placed on the ride in order to limit the possibility of a stranded train.
That being said, gauging from photos taken at the scene – this is no ordinary Boomerang valley:Back in 2013, I had the luck of being at Six Flags St. Louis when this ride opened and can report it operated fine that day, but was closed that next week due to issues with it’s second lift chain.
I, along with most who watch or work in the amusement community will look forward to hearing what the investigation comes up with – and will leave the speculation as to what exactly occurred to the “coaster pundits” that seem to thrive on this sort of event.
That all being said, a friendly reminder to anyone who might be dissuaded of going on a coaster after news like this: your odds are better of being struck by lightning or being hurt driving TO your local amusement or theme park than being injured on any ride or coaster.
Please plan accordingly.
It’s the day after Christmas – and you didn’t get what you wanted, did you? That ugly sweater, socks or worse – underwear!
Have no fear – we’ve got you covered…
Give the gift of an experience that they won’t soon forget – a ticket to the world premiere of ACE’s “The Legacy of Arrow Development,” presented by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk!
Tickets are just $10, with a $10 upgrade available if you’d like priority seating, reception and Q&A with the filmmakers. You can purchase your tickets here or at the Montgomery Theater Box Office.
We’ll see you in your best suits and dresses on the evening of January 23rd!
Yesterday, Six Flags St. Louis unveiled their latest coaster in their collection and Great American Thrills was there on OPENING DAY to see what the venerable Vekoma design had in store for guests.
Amazingly, the ride is SMOOTH for a Vekoma – and the park is working diligently to improve the catch on the second hill to eliminate that traditional “thud” that’s so common on this model. The ride sits between the Tidal Wave flume, Sky Screamer and venerable Screamin’ Eagle wooden coaster at the top of the park.
Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.
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