Rollercoaster Ranking – Mack Launch Coasters
If you know what my favourite ride is then there will be no suspense as to how this list turns out. Using what I consider to the best trains in the business, these LSM launch coasters began life as a prototype at Mack’s own testing ground and world renowned theme park – Europa Park. That particular example has spawned at least 7 other clones throughout Russia, Asia and soon to be Australia (with a twist), but with the subsequent addition of multi launch and passing launch features there’s some other massively varied layouts out there already for this model, and what a model it is.
I have successfully ridden all of the unique layouts across the world so far, if we don’t count Slinky (RCDB hasn’t and I’m not going to argue it just yet). It felt like a bit of a personal mission to make this happen as I have been so enamoured with the ride type over the past few years. In the earlier stages I may well have declared it my overall favourite kind of coaster but I think as none of them ever come close to touching the #1, a couple of other manufacturers have slipped into the foreground since. Not to say these aren’t amazing of course, nearly all of them can be found in my top 10% in one form or another – let’s take a look.
Ahh, the sight of those trains has me excited already. This one was, temporarily, the last in the set for me and the first ever multi launch version of these creations. And therein lies the problem, for whatever reason the train has a little pause to itself as it hits the second rolling launch, slowing down before speeding up again and this threw me quite a lot. It doesn’t just upset the pacing, it stunts what should be one of the highlights of the whole experience – that sudden surge of extra momentum to let you know the ride is far from over.
I still liked Manta a lot though, it’s a highly attractive package with some decent twists and turns. Fun for everyone. Of course something had to come last, even if it was really good.
It feels rather harsh putting this one down here too because I massively enjoyed it. The queueline theming almost outdoes the ride experience if you’re a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation like myself, but that’s not to say the triple launch features, reverse spike, top hat, inversions, weird speed bumps and Borg cube don’t all add to it as well. It literally has a little bit of everything and that really is the core selling point of the rides in this list.
A similar vibe to the above but it felt like the layout flowed a lot better. Each element really hits the spot from both the dead straight reverse spike to the loop and the twisty airtime hill to the Zero-G roll. Mack always seem to nail these inversions for me, they may well be the manufacturer that actually introduced me to enjoying them and that’s yet another reason there’s such a strong showing here.
To plump the list out a bit and because the accompanying theming packages are really rather variable I’m going to list out all the Blue Fire clones I’ve tried individually. I’m not cheating and posting the same ride many times!
Not China’s best effort, this one had generic dance music blaring in the indoor pre-launch section and then other than a few big crystals around the entrance, some barren land and a metal roof. I wouldn’t normally complain about things like that but we’re literally comparing the same piece of hardware four times in a row here.
It’s nice that they kept a nod to the original’s name in at least. I think. I returned the favour by wearing a Europa Park shirt while riding. Not sure if anyone got the reference.
You call that barren land? This is barren land. Scorching hot desert in fact, the kind that you don’t notice while the ride is in motion but as soon as you hit that brake run, every speck of exposed skin screams at the ride to hurry up and get back inside. The pre-launch on this version had some dinosaurs on screens, hence the name, but the effect was ruined somewhat by poor timing and the door opening too early, whitewashing the projections.
Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. That’s more like it China. The indoor section (and name) again left a little to be desired, with some rather uninspired decoration of ancient(?) artifacts on a plain background, but those elephants… They’re even tied into the lore of the evening show in this park. And I absolutely love stuff like that.
Sorry, I haven’t actually spoken about the ride yet. Well here’s the original and still the best. The launch and starting overbank are far from the strongest sensations, but they look pretty. From there it’s the classic blend of variety that make these some of my favourite rides, with graceful inversions, some surprise airtime moments then one final in-line twist that’s everything but graceful. It whips your head around with some serious intensity, waking you right up if you dare to think the rest of the ride is forceless. In my earlier, weaker days that element was almost too much for me but now I just love it even more.
Why does Europa’s remain the strongest? The most elaborately themed pre-launch section, that lovely Icelandic decoration, German operational efficiency (4 trains at once? easy (the others all use 1)) but more important than any of that, for the one time out of many that it actually worked – on board music! I love the soundtrack to Blue Fire and that it’s specifically tailored to the coaster experience, synchronised with the elements and the duration of the ride. It creates an absolutely masterful moment.
Now we get serious, entering the true realm of the multi launch masterpieces and first up is my home favourite. I’ve laid out the reasons before on why this is the only coaster in the country that I actively seek out regular rerides on any more and that’s a true testament to the exciting and varied sensations it provides each and every time. Also another cracking soundtrack.
Just inching the lead on the above, the size, speed and footprint of these two multi launchers may lend themselves to some similarity but they’re also vastly different packages. Copperhead’s strengths lie in it’s own little pre-launch show like forebearer Blue Fire, the wackiness of the inversions – inventing brand new sensations with an insane roll out of the station and floptime in the vertical loop. On top of that we have the super weird rolling launch over a hill and seemingly random bursts of airtime anywhere in between.
I don’t believe this one is paced quite as well and I almost wish they went a little harder to really show the US market what these rides can really do, but I had an absolute blast on it anyway, it recompleted the set for me (tick!) and it suits the park remarkably well.
I’m guessing you saw this one coming. As the best rollercoaster on the planet for me, Helix redefined my hobby, almost 1000 different coasters ago now, and it hasn’t been touched since. Location, layout, pacing, power. This is THE Mack launch coaster. Please, let’s have another one this good some day.