Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Six Flags Great America Review

Hello all!

Most of the show listeners by now know that I am a huge theme park nut (as if you couldn't tell with two of my blog posts being Rollercoaster Tycoon) and a coaster junkie. Well today I figured I'd give a review of my experience at a theme park I've not been to before. This new park was Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois (greater Chicago area).

I went into this park knowing they had over 10 coasters for my friend and I to try, as I always do my research of different theme parks from the awesome people over at the Rollercoaster Database at rcdb.com. There you can pretty much find every roller coaster on the planet. During our visit, we stuck mainly to the coasters, with one log flume ride thrown in as well, mostly because those are the main attractions, the rest are child's play compared to the big rides in my opinion. Now I may get extremely negative in here, but I do have good things to say as well.

I will start with entering the park and how much it sucks the excitement out of your sails. I'm one who gets really excited to go to a theme park, more so when I haven't been there before. This park all but crushes your adrenaline before you even get into the gates. No matter that we didn't have our park tickets already, we still would have waited just as long to get in the gates. We showed up at park opening, and it took at least 45 minutes to get in. Time lost and wasted, if I was Six Flags, that is time spent by people not in the park spending money.

Before this though, I just want to talk about entrance fee for a second. I won't ever complain about the cost of admission for theme parks, I get it, but when you charge almost Disney prices, you get to be compared to them. This park, and most Six Flags parks make the cost so high that buying a season pass is what you have to do regardless of how close you live to another park. So that's what I did, but now everything inside and out of the park, you are now in direct competition with Disney, and I mean absolutely every detail and service. So honestly, if I ever hear someone complain about Disney being expensive, I will tell you to visit any theme park NOT named Worlds of Fun.

So after you get your park ticket, you then are subjected to the asinine amount of time just to enter the park. They have pretty much a mob rush setup to get through metal detectors, with hundreds of people jamming to get through about 20 detectors. Then you get to the gate. I'm not sure why it took so long to get people through the security here, it isn't an airport. I get that in today's day and age that security is a big deal, but guess who doesn't have metal detectors at their theme park? Heck Universal Studios only has metal detectors at coasters that go upside down, not to get in the gates.

Time to take a deep breath and relax. After finally getting in the gates we headed over to ride our first roller coaster of the day called The Dark Night Coaster, which is based off of the highly popular movie of the same name. This is an indoor dark coaster and the wait time was only a half hour early in the day, so we did it. However, this ride didn't meet my standards for being a good roller coaster. It is of the steel, mini, and compact nature, but it was tacky in its theming and way short. With such a cool premise for the backstory to a ride, this ride failed miserably. It seemed it was just a quick addition to capitalize on the movie's success.

Next we headed over to the Batman inverted roller coaster. Now this is always a great roller coaster. Almost every Six Flags has one of these, of course in different layouts, but this one doesn't disappoint at all. On inverted roller coasters, sitting in the front is absolutely necessary the first time you ride one. Now you might have to wait an extra 3 or 4 trains (about 5 to 10 minutes) at the platform, but you have already been waiting 45 minutes, so what's a little more? The addition of urban looking scenery here, with entering the ride through Gotham City Park with the original (and best IMO) Batmobile parked out front is awesome enough, but this is always a favorite.

Next we shot across the midway and rode the inverted twister coaster Vertical Velocity. I had never been on one of these before, and can say that it was okay. I don't consider these kinds true roller coasters in the sense they don't really behave like one. I scared the living daylights out of my friend though.

We then tackled the oldest coaster in the park, American Eagle. This wooden classic coaster has been around over 30 years, and for its age, it still is pretty good. It provides enough fun for its short line and feels like a piece of history. If you are looking for Fit Bit steps, this one actually gives them to you during the ride with its bumps!

After this, we went on one of the two 'deuling' log flumes. It isn't a Viking Voyager or Splash Mountain by any means, but on a hot day, it felt really good and got fairly wet. The worst part was the long wait in line until we downloaded and started playing Pokémon Go while in line. It made it go so much faster.

This brings me to another comparison gripe. So Six Flags has this thing called a Flash Pass which is their version of Disney's FastPass. Disney was the first to every have such a thing, and it remains the best, and it isn't even close. First of all, FastPasses are included with park admission. You do not need to pay extra money for this. Universal has one too, but you have to pay, and there you don't need it, it is a waste of money. Here though, it would be great to have, but not for $45 at the lowest. Adding this cost to your park entrance fee, you would be looking at a cost greater than getting into any Disney park. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The only way this makes sense is if you bought a season pass and visited Six Flags almost every weekend. You then would essentially be entering the park at $45 a day (roughly Worlds of Fun price last time I was there) and get to ride something guaranteed short wait every hour. If you are on a one time visit, it isn't worth the cost.

After this, we then went on the flying coaster Superman: Ultimate Flight. My friend had never been on one of these before and it didn't disappoint. These coasters load you in like an inverted coaster, but the cars then flip up so you are face down to the ground and go through the ride head first, hence the flying part of the name. Despite the cramp I got in my hip after getting locked in, this coaster was great. Heck, even the line had awesome comic book info statues like the one seen below.


 
We then headed up to ride another really good roller coaster called Raging Bull. This steel hyper twister instantly became our favorite of the park so far that day. It is one of their top two in terms of height and speed, and is easily the longest. It was just a really good coaster. I highly recommend it.
 
 
We then rode another of the old classic roller coasters here called Demon, and this one has arguably the best theming in the park. Demon is a corkscrew roller coaster and has four inversions, two vertical loops and two corkscrews. The second loop features you passing through and over an old west style looking rock formation, and before you hit the two corkscrews you pass through a cave that is below a rock with a skull seemingly carved into it. It was pretty cool despite its shorter length, but at a wait time of less than 15 minutes, it was awesome.
 

 Before I get to the last two coasters we rode on the day, I want to take a moment to comment on the other services encountered in the park. When we stopped for lunch, it took entirely way too long to get through the line, especially at a time when it wasn't busy. It might have been just that vendor, but holy cow it took forever to get to place an order and pay. They certainly weren't in any hurry to help customers get their food quickly. It was super annoying to see them trying to do their job and failing miserably, but who am I to tell someone how to do their job, I'm not and I understand that. As much as the cooks were keeping up getting the food ready (they were awesome and had a bunch ready) the cashiers were painfully slow. Disney gets food out super quick, but it also helps that you order and pay at a small register first, then pick up at the counter.
 
My last gripe of the day comes with ride operations. I totally get you want to make sure no one falls out of your coasters, which Six Flags has had happen in the past (looking at you Six Flags Texas...), but holy smokes their operators had to be the slowest I've ever seen. The line waits wouldn't have been bad at all if these people were efficient at what they did. The only coasters that were good at this were Raging Bull and Goliath. The other teams were dreadfully slow. Coasters are supposed to have a high hourly capacity of riders, however this park seemed to encourage slowness. Guests aren't happy if they are spending too much time waiting. One way to cut this waiting down is to increase ridership.
 
I swear that every closed circuit roller coaster had the other train (only Raging Bull had three trains operating that day) wait outside the station platform for at least one to two minutes before the train ahead of it LEFT the station. THIS INCLUDES THE ENTIRE TIME THE TRAIN SPENT ON THE ACTUAL RIDE! There is no way it should take 5+ minutes to load a train and check all the lap/chest bars. I would like to say the people checking them inspected each very carefully, but no, they didn't do anything special, just be extremely slow at what they did.
 
Fine, back to the final two roller coasters, both of which were really neat. The first was called X-Flight and is a wing coaster. I had never been on one of these before, and while it broke down while in line, a lot of people left the line and actually probably made the line a lot shorter for us. It's neat in the sense that your feet dangle and you are seated almost beside the center track (2 on each side) and you go through multiple twists and inversions. One barrel roll even sends you through the air traffic control tower as seen below.

 
The final coaster we rode was Goliath, which as stated on the park's website is "the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in the world". This can possibly be debated based off the RCDB site, but for the sake of riding it, I say it is. I wish I got a picture of it during the day, but you almost go vertical on the opening drop. It looks harrowing standing in line. Darkness fell while we were in line, but at night, I feel it was great. We chose to sit in the absolute back (best place on traditional coasters IMO) and got dragged over the first hill down the 85 degree slope and into absolute mass hysteria. This is also the first wooden roller coaster I had been on where you go upside down as this one has two inversions. We were so glad we went on this one last as it was both our favorite of the day. Only Raging Bull had the potential to match this one, but it doesn't. This coaster immediately jumped into my Top 5 Coasters I have ever ridden.
 
All in all, it was still a fun day of riding roller coasters. Yes there were some things that were annoying and could have been easily avoided from a park service standpoint. Oh, one more minor thing for you Six Flags, don't advertise you are the cleanest theme park in the world if you are not, and you are not even close. Disney is pretty much spotless. So there. Overall I thought a lot of the themed areas were really cool, and I say that in relation to other NOT Disney theme parks. Would I go to this particular Six Flags again? I would have to say I would, and I don't discourage anyone from not going. Hope you guys found this interesting and thanks for reading!
 
Mike G.
 
P.S. Here are my Top 5 Roller Coasters I have Ridden:
 
1. Expedition Everest (Disney's Animal Kingdom, Florida)
2. Goliath (Six Flags Great America, Illinois)
3. Millennium Force (Cedar Point, Ohio)
4. Riddler's Revenge (Six Flags Magic Mountain, California)
5. Nemesis (Alton Towers, England)

 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Rollercoaster Tycoon - World of Witcher

Time for that new post Ladies and Gents, this time created while at O Comic Con! This time, since the last rollercoaster tycoon post was extremely popular, this time hopefully I can up the ante. I had a Twitter poll of which park people would like to see next and the winner was my theme park based off the Witcher video game series, namely Witcher III: The Wild Hunt.


This park will look drastically different from the Star Wars one I posted earlier as this one was created using RCT3 as opposed to RCT2. The main difference between the two of them is that while RCT2 is cartoonish in nature, RCT3 has realistic environments and day/night cycles. Another bonus feature of RCT3 is that you are able to upload your own music library into the game and use as ride music and also use any image that is on your computer as a sign in the park. These two features make theme park building in RCT3 much more realistic.


So now let's dive into the World of Witcher, which features areas from the game with the city of Novigrad serving as the portal to the park. Other areas to explore are White Orchard, Velen, the Monster Den, the Isles of Skellige, and Kaer Morhen.



The city of Novigrad features many familiar taverns that you would visit as in the game including the Kingfisher Inn, the Nowhere Inn, the Passiflora, and the Chameleon. Dijkstra's Bath house is also present here so go in and take a look at the luxurious spa. Thanks to CD Projekt Red by releasing the game's soundtrack with the game itself, I used most, if not all of the tracks throughout the park, and this area features many of the tavern bands and jolly drinking music songs.




Every area in this park has at least one roller coaster and the one in Novigrad is called Escape From Novigrad and is based off a quest in the Witcher III where you team up with Triss Merigold and lead all the witches and mages in the city through the sewer to escape the clutches of the vile King Radovid of Redania. This coaster launches you through the sewers and you emerge from underground through a series of loops and up a steep slope, only to plunge in reverse back through the sewers to the station.


The second area of the park to explore would be White Orchard, and here you can find the world famous Temerian Inn, a Nilfgaard camp, and a couple of high thrills. One of the rides is a drop ride called The Devil in the Well which is based off of the monster hunt of a moon wraith in the game. On this ride, you drop down the well and come face to face with her. The coaster in this area is called Griffin and is a tall and fast hypercoaster that zooms along the skies before dipping into the trees.



If you head the other direction out of Novigrad, you could enter through a cave into a rocky valley called the Monster Den. This area is filled with rides named for monsters you would find in the game ranging from a Wraith, Chort, Fiend, Water Hag, Ghoul, and Royal Wyvern. In the center of the area is a restaurant and shop called the Ghoul Den, and here you can conveniently dine in the confines of a dark cavern.


Fiend is a vertical launch that shoots you upwards at speeds near 70 mph to the top of a tower almost 200 feet high.



The Water Hag is a log flume that let's you splash down into the swamp, while during the ride you come face to face with her in the caves before your drop to the swamp.


The roller coaster in this section is called Royal Wyvern and is an inverted coaster that puts you into a burned out valley full of charred trees and animal carcasses. (Disclaimer: I fully understand that Wyverns are known to not breathe fire, but I'm not too concerned about still creating an awesome experience.)


The next area to explore would be the first of two of the Skellige Isles, Undvik. In the game, Undvik is known as the home of the Ice Giant, and this section of the park is no different, as it features the massive hyper-twister coaster with the same name. Another ride here is called Siren, and is a spinning ride surrounded by the annoying ladies of the sea as they shriek in you disoriented face.


On the corner of this island overlooking the harbor below it is the famous light house where the climax of the game happens that you can climb up and get a fantastic view. It looks even better all lit up at night.


The Ice Giant is the second tallest and fastest coaster in the park that is over 250 feet tall and goes over 70 mph. At one point it zips through one of the abandoned buildings on the island as the story is the Ice Giant ran everyone off the island and destroyed most of the villages there. Near the end of the ride, you enter into his cavern and encounter him as he swipes at your train.



The other isle of Skellige you get to is the island of Ard Skellig and has the main village of Kaer Trolde brought to life with many shops and stores. A top spin ride named Berserker is also present here that is based off the men that have the ability to turn into massive Grizzly Bears.




The centerpiece of this area has to be the large trident statue in the waterfalls outside the village and marks the entrance to the coaster on this island called Skelliger Fury. This ride starts out in abandoned mines and sends you hurtling through a massive quarry.


 

It seems the most amount of time you spend in the game centers on your travels around the war-torn wasteland of Velen. It is also the biggest area of the park here, and has many rides that center on the terrifying Ladies of the Woods (game players, you know what I mean, and if you don't google search an image of them), the Witch Hunters which appear here as bumper cars, a re-creation of Crow's Perch, the Pellar's Hut, and the Inn at the Crossroads.





At the base of the mountains that head up to Kaer Morhen is Foglet Cove, a small basin that houses the splash boat ride and a platform that you can drenched on.


Two roller coasters call this area home, including the tallest and fastest one in the park called Wild Hunt. At over 300 feet tall and 80 mph, this is the penultimate ride in the park. It also comes in at a length well over a mile. The Wild Hunt are the main villains of the game, and this park puts them right at the center. Entering the park, the building that houses the entrance is immediately visible straight on through Novigrad, and with its height, easily dominates the skyline almost no matter where you are.



The other coaster here is at the back of the park, deep in the woods as you would find them in the game, called Leshen. This is quite possibly the coolest looking monster in the game, as it is a cross between an elk and trees... I guess that's what you would call it. Google it, it looks awesome. This wooden coaster (See what I did there?!) races through the trees and has a couple Leshens littered throughout it, even having one at the entrance to the queue line.



The final area of the park is the old Witcher School of the Wolf headquarters, Kaer Morhen. It is nestled up in the mountains and has five rides for each of the Witcher signs, Aard, Igni, Quen, and Axii, and Yrden. A great character meeting spot and restaurant called Vesemir's Hall is also here.




The first roller coaster here is the namesake of the park, Witcher, and it starts by launching you out of the side of the castle into a barrel roll and half corkscrews and down into the forest through many twists, loops, and turns.


The last roller coaster in the park, in the back of Kaer Morhen is a stand-up twister coaster nestled into tight quarters and also has many loops, is Alchemist. Every Witcher is trained in the art of Alchemy, and this coaster puts you through the trials to become a Witcher, testing all of your senses.


So that is the quick version of World of Witcher, I have a pdf that goes way more in depth of all the rides and shops and is pretty much like a theme park guide like Frommer's or someone would do for Disney World with a lot of these screenshots and more. If you would like to see more, hit us up at daydreaminstructionmanual@gmail.com or simply comment on this article and let us know.

I hope you guys found this park just as awesome as Star Wars, this park is probably my crown jewel, but all of them are great. I can't wait to share the other two that I have screenshots of, and I soon will be starting my next one based off of the Warcraft series.

Thanks for reading,

Mike G.