Ride Review – Flash
Even though Mack Rides have now been building rollercoasters for 100 years, they were rather late to the hyper coaster party with their HyperCoaster model. On New Year’s day in 2016 their very first build to exceed 200ft opened to the public at Lewa Adventure in China, over a quarter of a century after that same height barrier was first traditionally broken.
Flash comes with a twist though and it was certainly worth the wait in my humble opinion. Traditional hypers always ended up as lots of straight hills, often boring corners and never went upside down, nothing like the stunning work of art you’re seeing pictured above then. This vertical loop matched the world record for tallest of its kind at 160ft, forcing Full Throttle at Six Flags Magic Mountain to share this title for 18 months until the modification of Do-Dodonpa in mid-2017, and is the first of two inversions found in this rather groundbreaking layout.
This ride is currently solely responsible for putting Xi’an on the map for coaster enthusiasts, already one of the country’s top 3 most visited cities largely thanks to the Terracotta Army – so it has to be said that they were disgracefully slow on the uptake when it came to building amusement parks! In 2018 I experienced both, and you can no doubt guess what was the highlight of the visit was for me.
I arrived at the entrance first thing in the morning to find that the park were equally slow on the uptake as daily testing had not yet been completed. Very unusually for China, a small gathering of either keen guests or already avid local fans were camping out the entrance in anticipation – a display of good taste! General experience has shown that this is rarely a consideration out here, particularly when other attractions in the park are available and notions of coaster fandom are far younger. Ever the professional, I joined in with this waiting game, mind firmly set on boarding that sacred first train of the day.
Light entertainment to pass the time was found on the entrance sign. All the important details are documented on here so you don’t even need my review now, but here it comes anyway.
After some particularly extensive operational procedures had taken place, I took my seat and was greeted with the following view:
I’m a fan of intimidating framing on rollercoasters and this one surely fits that bill. A reasonably brisk climb takes the train up through the centre of the impending loop, providing somewhat of an illusional effect that you’ll never make it out the other side – the track appeared at least as high as the first drop until the moment it left my field of view. That’s not going to work, surely.
The real fun begins at the first drop, which is no world beater, but it does provide a satisfying blend of forces with decent airtime, a sharp twist and some strong positive forces in the still curved pullout.
Turns out I’m a fan of huge loops too. There’s just something about them once you hit a certain scale; the sustained sensation of surrealism in being upside down (but not feeling the adverse side effects) for so long, having a quiet moment to yourself to look around and appreciate that fact, even subtle little visual cues like noticing how tiny you and the train feel against all that track. Things have come a long way with these rides and it’s beautiful to behold.
Traditional hyper coaster service resumes with the first huge surging airtime hill of the layout. POV watchers may have spotted the trim brakes present here, often a pet peeve of mine too, but I’m happy to report that they made no impact on the ride experience for me, to the point that I flat forgot they existed.
Keeping things highly varied and also providing a slight change of direction, the crest of the following hill banks at 90° to the horizontal, somewhat gracefully hanging riders out to one side through a slightly more subdued airtime moment, but one that delivers well with an extra twist both in and out.
Another faster and lower airtime hill completes the outbound sequence of elements and is perhaps the most potent of the entire layout.
There is a solid reason why I keep mentioning traditional hypers one too many times, here it comes again. Where we might often find a huge and largely uninteresting sweeping turn at this point to turn such a massive chunk of steel back in the other direction and break the flow of the ride, on Flash we find this exciting pseudo-inversion (doesn’t quite hit that golden angle), almost-immelman type turnaround with a forceful start and whippy finish.
The second and final actual inversion hits next in the form of a beautifully executed Zero-G roll. Sometimes this element can feel a little overused, out of place or even unnecessary in a layout, particularly in more recent times, but there’s something about Mack’s versions that always seems to hit the spot for me, perhaps complimented by such wonderful freedom of movement in the seating – I forgot to mention this ride of course has my favourite trains, a.k.a. Helix trains. This one is perfect.
While navigating the next two slightly twisted airtime hills I may have started to notice the only real issue I see with this coaster – it’s not quite aggressive enough for my personal tastes. I do like a ride to get a bit wild at some point and really give me something to think about and feel like this part would have been the golden opportunity for that. The experience remains highly competent and polished here, if just the tiniest bit underwhelming. Let’s overshadow that thought now by asking have I mentioned how gorgeous Flash looks?
The final sequence involves a sharp and forceful corner that brings the train right to the ground for a little twisted S-bend slither, some semblance of a tiny overbanked turn and a hop into the brakes. I love the change of pace in these final moments here and they emphasise a little more the point which I alluded to in the previous paragraph – more violence please.
What a ride though. Easily one of the worlds finest and, for me at least, a significantly greater experience than any traditional hyper I’ve ridden to date. Almost everything about the varied and forceful layout just suits me down to the ground, from the powerful airtime moments to the graceful inversions, from the cracking visuals to the wonderful trains. It exists amongst the absolute best in terms of all round coaster packages, particularly across this scale and height, though it just never truly exceeds at any one thing, leaving it to somewhat lurk in the shadows behind some of the more bombastic attractions amongst my favourites.
Dare I say it’s almost too well designed? It lacks a little in what I often coin as ‘character’ by feeling so damn competent, even just a bit of theming or music or one wacky moment could have pushed this one over the edge for me. Maybe it’ll come with maturity – there’s a plaque stating a 50 year shelf life on this one and I certainly hope it lasts that long.
Look at that – I managed to make it to the end without once moaning about the fact that it got cloned and built in Turkey with a generic-ass name, further robbing it of any charm and individuality! Bah.