Rollercoaster Ranking – Intamin Launch Coasters (part 2)
As we enter the top half things get a lot more interesting, for me at least. It’s out with the world records and in with the exciting bits in between. I’m a firm believer that by no means does a launch coaster have to be all about the launch – where in the earlier days it may have been the main selling point, draw or appeal on an attraction, with the sheer volume of these installations that now exist it has since become just another means of dynamic propulsion to add a degree of excitement to the core of what actually makes a rollercoaster fun for me: the layout.
I’m rather conflicted on this one. The ride suits and visually compliments the whole vibe of the Pixar Pier (formerly Paradise Pier) area it encompasses and it’s a great spectator attraction. I wasn’t impressed, for Disney, at the retheme of the ride itself and the onboard experience is also rather mixed. The unusual layout, pacing and flow is all in good fun, with the launched first half and lift hill/drop combo in the second half, I do like a bit of variety to keep me guessing. It’s also really long ride time, but that’s not to say it’s particularly well used.
I had a change of heart and bumped this one just over the halfway point because it’s more fundamentally interesting than anything in the previous list. I thoroughly enjoyed my very first lap in the front of this ridiculous machine (goggles and all). The unmatched speed is physically exhausting, totally admirable and there’s even decent airtime to be found on all the parts of the layout that aren’t just ‘bigger Rita.’ Watching the water cooling system kick into action on the brake run was a highly satisfying moment in my own world of enthusiasm. You could go as far as to say I loved Formula Rossa, for a couple of hours…
I then ruined the ride for myself with a subsequent lap in the back where I discovered a jarringly violent, headache inducing vibration throughout the fast bits – namely all of it. Though I declared that physical discomfort was behind us in the last post, it reared its ugly head for 50% of my time spent on the world’s fastest rollercoaster and therefore I just can’t say that it deserves any better than this position without a return visit to try and skew that percentage in its favour. As a wise ride host on Dæmonen once said to me – ‘front row 4 life.’
As Intamin’s only fully winged coaster to date, it’s fair to say there have been some issues with this one. It’s often regarded as rough and unpleasant due to the stresses involved on the outside seats that really shake and bounce up and down as the train traverses the short but effective layout – a physical issue that has carried over to many of the B&M successors of the ride type, only with far less extreme speed involved.
Personally I found this sensation (in what should be the worst seat) unintentionally hilarious and right on the edge of tolerable. After an amusing onboard preshow (the whole ride looks gorgeous by the way), the hydraulic launch catapults riders over an airtime hill to land with a real crunch before absolutely tearing around the rest of the track which, other than the wonderfully executed inversion, feels like exactly what it needed to do.
I remember following the announcements of Ferrari Land and being highly skeptical about the whole thing. Already being unenthralled by this over-simplified style of Intamin coaster and firmly believing that no longer using the hydraulic launch to execute it would further sap it of any real impact, expectations were set very low. While the sheer ugliness and corporate unpleasantness delivered exactly as promised, the ride itself was a decent surprise, with a great lurch of shock factor in the initial LSM acceleration and far superior lap bar restraints to finally provide a sense of openness and spectacle on board a ride of such massive scale. Even the weird lumpy brake run at the end managed to be a success.
More points for the dark ride section than the layout itself for me here. The attraction begins with a long indoor section of kicker wheels transporting the train around various themed set pieces to provide a bit of context as to why Superman himself is glued to the back of the train. An amusing launch sequence follows and the catch car hurls riders out into the blinding sunlight over this airtime filled top hat. The restraints do hamper this effect somewhat and the remainder of the track is nothing we haven’t seen before – yet another Rita variant, but each of the twisty hills are at least hit with a greater momentum.
There’s been a lot of praise around this attraction over the years and at a glance it seemed to me to finally be an upgrade over the earlier concepts of top hat + more like we’ve already seen with Xcelerator. Whilst I do appreciate what it was going for, the execution fell rather short for me, with the trains still being detrimental to the experience there just wasn’t enough else to make it stand out from the pack. Riding iSpeed 10 years after opening just made it seem like the glory days were far behind it, sadly.
With a long string of extreme thrill coasters preceding us it feels a little unusual to suddenly start talking about family rides again, but I honestly think a lot of what we’ve seen so far has been a bit too focused on the inital launch over the whole package, which you may well have noticed by now just isn’t my cup of tea. Jet Rescue feels like the perfect blend of thrilling and fun, with the main focus being on tight, forceful and twisty turns around a nicely landscaped area. The design never even leaves the ground by more than a few feet, there are no hills to speak of but, perhaps most importantly of all, it contains a second, rolling tyre launch – the first we’ve seen in the topic so far. While standing launches rarely get me going any more, I find the sensation of an extra burst of acceleration part way through an attraction you’re already enjoying to be infinitely more appetising.
The bigger brother of the above model does try for some hills, maybe even some airtime, though there’s little of it to write home about. Aside from that the longer ride time is more satisfying, more forceful in certain places and the second tyre launch is surprisingly vigorous, always catching me off guard, particularly in the back as it whips you into the subsequent corner.
Although exactly the same ride, the original version of the previous entry is more highly themed, including a superior preshow before the launch track and much better detailed landscaping around the bulk of the layout that leads to some great near miss moments in such satisfyingly open seated trains. This ride made me fall for the type and it hasn’t let me down since.
It seems like it took me forever to fully appreciate an Intamin hydraulic launch coaster as a complete package and Speed Monster was the first one to pull it off. Aside from the gorgeous location and landscape that it lives in, I finally felt that the sequence of elements that follow the launch were specifically designed to overpower the speed and acceleration itself (contrary to the name). I just love the flow from that incredible norwegian loop into the rest of the layout – it was born on this ride (hence the name) and is one of my favourite inversions around. Every moment is potent and full of purpose and I highly suspect that Helix drew some significant inspiration from this relatively nearby neighbour, for which I will be eternally grateful.
With my faith in the type finally restored, the very next example I rode took it one step further. Storm Runner shocked me with how much intensity and variety of force it packed into the layout. The lopsided top hat into the first inversion took the air from my lungs, the flying snake dive remains one of a kind and the final uphill slither is brutally well delivered – the whole experience from start to finish is just such a refreshingly satisfied approach to what was seeming like such a tired old one trick pony concept and it really stands out for me.
A legend in the industry for having such an unusual quirk – the unique selling point for the Aquatrax is the availability of ‘interactive water features’ which, in the case of the only example to exist in the world, means a few jets of spray aimed towards the rails of the track in certain places. I’ve been twice and never experienced this in person so what are we actually left with?
The short 8 person cars share the same seating as the earlier family coasters with a simple lap bar in a quadbike style position and this massively amplifies the impact of the punchy and dynamic layout, which begins with a powerful LSM launch into a violent twisted indoor top hat. Due to the special location and styling in play there are some glaring pacing issues throughout the rest of the experience, including the return of the strange mid course lift hill, but I simply adore this totally unorthodox approach to making conventional water coasters seem even more blundering and boring than they already are.
Let’s not spend too long talking about the operational issues that still haunt me to this day and the fact that I only got to experience one half of this otherwise mind-blowing spectacle of an attraction. It took nearly 20 years for Intamin to have another attempt at a full scale inverted coaster with any layout to speak of and the main advantage of the long wait is that this one uses their now much coveted lap bar restraint. With this comes an awesome sense of freedom and terror never before felt on this style of coaster – from the unnerving airtime in the reverse spike of the triple launch to the glorious suspense in the huge loop. It lacks the grace, flow and forcefulness from the best of current invert kings B&M, but I’d love to see more of this style and believe they could easily take that crown with another design.
The first of the huge Intamin triple launch pseudo shuttle coasters made a real impact on the scene with its striking appearance of massive elements, insane theming statue and gorgeous trains. I really admired the overbearing presence of this ride over its surroundings, with the roaring sound of the LSM launches audibly intimidating would be riders throughout the closing stages of the queueline. Each onboard moment that Soaring with Dragon delivers is excellent and it’s just a shame there are so few of them. My only real criticism is that it always left me wanting more.
And what better attraction to give you more than the legendary multi launch with its endless entanglement of twisted track. Taron kickstarted the golden age of coasters we’re seeing at the climax of this list and never has the sensation I described earlier of being relentlessly wrenched into a second half of a ride you’re already loving, with even more speed than before, been more satisfying than in the depths of Klugheim.
But while some believe the creature above to still be the pinnacle of this Intamin design, for me the smug bird has swooped in and destroyed all notions of that idea. Though Taiga doesn’t deliver the glorious second launch with as much impact, it does absolutely everything else far better than anything in these lists and we’ve come full circle on the notion that it simply isn’t the sensation of acceleration that make these rides special for me – it’s what you do with it afterwards. With countless standout moments in this layout, some way beyond what we’ve seen from the manufacturer before, this coaster is the one and only from Intamin that makes me even consider that they could ever best the best of the Mack launch coasters with a future design of this ride type.
I can’t wait for the day that happens.