There’s a huge disparity between the northern and southern hemispheres when it comes to the world of coasters. While we have countless creations to get excited about up top, that keep those like myself busy for years and years, down under there have so far only ever been a small handful of particularly significant attractions spread across the three continents.
2017 was a massive year for the Australian amusement scene. Warner Bros. Movie World had decided to construct their first custom coaster in 12 long years and not only was it going to be by far the biggest around, it would also include a very special feature and have all the potential to be a real world beater. Based on their previous lineup, Australia had always been a distant dream for me in this hobby, somewhere I’d like to go at some point, but no real hurry. As soon as this ride burst onto the scene we were pretty much on the first plane there.
DC Rivals is the second ever hyper coaster to be built by Mack Rides, the German company with a long and proud history who have only really been pushing intense thrill designs on us for the past 10 years or so. They had debuted this coaster type the previous year over in China with Flash, a 200 foot monster with both massive inversions and soaring airtime hills – two features that rarely go hand and hand in designs of this scale. While Warner Bros. chose to forego any conventional upside down moments, this one was also to be far from your traditional hyper coaster as it features two backwards facing seats located on the rear car of every train.
Following on from this is a slight turn to the left, following the outline of the car park and entrance road, into the striking non-inverting loop element. Instead of the traditional hang you’d anticipate from a standard loop of this silly scale, the 360° twist at the peak provides a very unusual mixture of whipping, falling and floating that’s rather difficult to describe. I’ve always found these a visually stunning moment on board any ride that features one as you catch a glimpse of the surroundings from so many angles and really appreciate the such great height.
After such a strong starting sequence, unfortunately the ride wavers a bit for me here in the following section. A high overbanked corner leads into several more twists and turns which, although covering quite a wide range of elevations, the changes are rather shallow and lacking in significant impact. Whilst I appreciate the sentiment of a hyper coaster trying to break the mould of your average out-and-back ‘hill, turn, hill’ design here, this portion of the ride just doesn’t contain any true standout moments and 3 years later I’m even struggling a little to remember what exactly goes on.
So after slightly too long for my own liking, the train enters another twisted moment back under the overbank and negotiates a lower and faster set of turns that intertwine with the non-inverting loop. This picks up the pace again and snakes out towards the station with a couple more sharp transitions before firing riders into what could well be the highlight of the attraction.
Two sequential mini airtime hills that aren’t quite dead straight, with the subtlest of gradual curves the the left throughout both, contain what I’m sure has been claimed at some point in time as the strongest negative Gs on record. While I can’t verify that information, I know that they’re definitely up there as some of the most powerful I’ve ever experienced, to the point of creating an entirely new to me sensation – feeling airtime through my teeth.
We’re not done yet though, as there’s a whole different experience to discuss. The backwards row requires an upcharge ticket of 10 Dollarydoos which may seem a little steep, but the timeslot system keeps the crowds at bay (it essentially doubles as a fastrack ticket) and makes it feel that little bit more special. We more than happily laid down the cash on multiple occasions because clearly it’s not every day that you travel to the literal other side of the world to specifically experience something like this. Besides, it’s nothing short of incredible.
To say we went in unprepared on the first lap is an understatement. A casual conversation was taking place on the lift hill which was then interrupted all too suddenly with sheer terror like little else I’ve felt before on a ride. The lack of visual anticipation plays all sorts of tricks on the body and mind and as you plummet vertically downwards, facing the sky, you may well find your heart in your mouth before being wrenched sideways and out into the rest of the layout at the mercy of some relentless machine.
The massive airtime hill is of course spectacular, in either direction really, though as with everything in this seating position, it feels just that but more intense for not really knowing what’s going on behind you.
The effect is even more prevalent in the twisted madness of the non-inverting loop and, perhaps most important of all, it carries well into the following section. Every moment that I felt lacked impact in the middle third of the ride had something more to offer when travelling backwards. It’s quite clear that they were aiming for an intense, out of control sequence here and though it may not have hit the mark in the traditional direction, each snappy transition and each burst of elevation change just has that all important extra kick to it, ragdolling riders around with far more than they may have bargained for.
Here comes airtime, you can’t stop the airtime. I’ve almost suppressed how stupidly good the final two (three) hills of the ride feel in reverse and this leads us nicely into the dilemma that this attraction now presents me.
Almost every ride has its good and bad days, conditions in which it could be running at its prime based on the weather or the crowds, there are countless external factors that can have an impact on how any individual experiences a coaster and this makes it all the more fun for us to review, rate and rank our personal favourites against all the single snapshots we take in on our travels. DC Rivals provides you with a conscious choice to forego most of these effects and guarantee a measurably altered ride experience, and I’d say it was the first elite level rollercoaster to do this.
Speaking from the present, in a forwards facing seat, I would personally put this ride on par with sibling Flash, around the back end of my top 30 in the world – high praise indeed. It’s far more intense and powerful than the original, fixing what is essentially the only flaw I found in that ride, but considering I’m somewhat of a layout and design fanatic, DC Rivals is nowhere near as wholly competent and that will forever irk me. If we ever get a third design that combines the strengths of the two one day, I’ll be in coaster heaven.
Backwards though, it really is something else. I’ve studied some of the effects on this site before and I’d love to see them feature quite a bit more throughout the industry in future, with this attraction being the primary reasoning behind that sentiment. At the time of visiting it was easily amongst my all time favourites that could be counted on one hand and today, with more than double the coasters to my name, it would likely still crack the top ten.
So how can I really rank it? (Oh no, he’s off on one of these again). As far as I can see, there’s two things you can do with it.
1. Treat each experience as two different entires on the list – although perhaps more meaningful from a purist point of view, this leads to a couple of complications such as:
At what point do you draw the line between separate experiences and start doing this for other rides? As I mentioned above there are always other factors that have an impact on how well a ride treats you on any given occasion.
I already take issue with things having the same name and having to specify which one in the world you mean, so by extension it just feels awkward to say something like ‘My top ten coasters are: Number 5 – DC Rivals Hypercoaster, but only in the backwards seats’
2. Take an average of the two experiences and place it in the middle of the two positions you might have otherwise secured for the individual parts, even though it’s not objectively better than the ride that now happens to be below it, or objectively worse than the ride that happens to be above it – feels harsh, but the cleaner option.
I went for the second option, though the mere thought of this still keeps me up at night. Occupational hazard.