It's fitting the new roller coaster at Six Flags Great America is named The Joker. From the moment you roll over the top of the lift, it's nearly impossible to avoid a fit of laughter.
Located right next to Batman: The Ride, The Joker is what the manufacturer, Utah-based S&S Worldwide, refers to as a 4D free-spin coaster. The trains position riders on the outside of the track, with nothing above or below. The cars spin as you move along the track, flipping you head over heels along airtime hills and beyond-vertical "raven drops." The really cool part? The ride has magnetic technology that allows the park to control just how intense the flipping can get.
I've ridden The Joker a few times now - allow me to answer a few of the questions you may have?
I love roller coasters, but this looks way too intense for me. Can I handle it?
Believe it or not, that's a question I've been asking myself ever since I saw the first ride of this kind open at Six Flags Fiesta Texas a few years ago (their version is called Batman: The Ride). We had a live report on WGN Morning News the day that ride opened....
Now that I have been able to ride The Joker a few times, I can tell you that I walked away laughing and without any kind of nausea or vertigo. Does that mean you will be the same? I can't promise that. But as many enthusiasts have told me leading up to this launch - "it's not as bad as it looks." In fact, I found it even more fun than I was expecting.
So what does it feel like to ride it?
The Joker is a truly unique roller coaster experience. I can't compare it to any other ride I've been on in the past. I found myself forgetting which way was up - but I never felt dizzy or out of control. There is this feeling of weightlessness and unpredictability, like you truly don't know what is coming next.
But it's only like 30-some seconds long - isn't that too short?
In my opinion, no. For what the ride does, it's the perfect length. Too long with this kind of flipping may be too much for me. Hopefully with good operations teams they can move people on and off quickly, which would bring down wait times.
Do the cars really flip on their own?
Yes. Depending on how much weight is in each car and how it's positioned, your ride could be different each time.
You mentioned the magnetic stuff, how does that work again?
From the way it was explained to me, there are magnetic triggers throughout the ride that can help push the trains to flip. The park has the ability to set the strength of these magnets, resulting in more of less intense flipping throughout the ride.
So how intense are the magnets set at Great America?
Good news - you have a choice! The Purple side of The Joker is less intense, the Green side is more intense. I have been on both and neither pushed me over my limit, but the green side is definitely crazier.
As the cars sit in the station, I notice some people are facing forward and some are backward. How does that work when the ride gets going?
You have two ride experience choices. You can start out going backwards or forwards. It's hard to explain, but the ride features a 90-degree elevator lift. So if you leave the station going forward, you will go up the lift facing away from the ride, and when you go over the top you will be going backward. So if you want to start the ride portion going forward, you need to be facing backward in the station.
It will make more sense when you get there and see it in person, trust me.
Is this really a roller coaster? It seems like some gimmicky carnival ride.
This has been the knock on these rides from many of my fellow coaster enthusiasts. In my expert opinion, I believe this is a roller coaster. It features trains on a track moving from a station, through a course, and back. Yes, it flips and it is unconventional, but so what? Every ride is different. Have fun.
How does this fit in with the rest of Great America's rides?
This is exactly why I believe The Joker is a great addition to the park. It's completely different from anything else they have. I love that they positioned it right next to Batman - another ride that was completely unique when it opened.
Wait...it's next to Batman? How the heck did they fit this there?
They had to reconfigure the midway and move the walkway. You'll see when you get there.
But what about the covered bridge? That was original to the park!
Breathe, fellow thusie, breathe. They saved the bridge! They were able to move it near Roaring Rapids. You will pass through it when you are walking around The Joker.
The Joker officially opens to the public on Memorial Day weekend. We'll be riding it all morning on media day, LIVE on WGN Morning News. I want to hear your thoughts on the ride! Let me hear them on all of my social media channels -
Snapchat: Marcus Leshock
And don't forget I am COASTIN' THE COUNTRY on WGN Morning News! Follow ALL of my theme park and roller coaster coverage at WGNTV.com/CoastinTheCountry