The Riddler's Revenge

Madness Has Its Rewards.

exhilarating (ig-zil-er-ayt-ing) adj. that which exhilarates, causes intense pleasure, puts one in a state of profound joy, makes the heart pound with unfettered glee. exhilaration n. See Rollercoasters, Bolliger & Mabillard.

Pardon me while I indulge in a little film criticism for a second - I'm a big fan of director Tim Burton, and though I recognize that his two Batman flicks are not his strongest efforts, I still think they're the best of that franchise. Since then, without his dark vision to guide it, the series has gotten progressively goofier and less entertaining.

But we Thrillseekers need not complain, for that cloud comes with a sterling silver lining - while the Caped Crusader's cinematic adventures are getting worse, the thrill rides inspired by them are getting much, much better. We can revel in the numerous Batman: The Ride inverted coasters and the recently reintroduced Batman and Robin: The Chiller and Mr. Freeze linear induction terrors, each of which makes up for a dozen lousy movies. And that silver lining has just gotten even brighter. On April 4th, 1998, a Bolliger & Mabillard-designed scream machine debuted to join this notorious collection and enter the record books as the longest, tallest, fastest, loopiest stand-up rollercoaster in the world: Six Flags Magic Mountain's magnificent Riddler's Revenge.

Friends, I suppose it's possible that, someday, I'll have something truly negative to utter about a Bolliger & Mabillard thrill ride. Not today. Pure and simple, the Riddler's Revenge is as close to perfect as any other rollercoaster in operation. This superlative piece of engineering feeds your ravenous Thrillseeking hunger like a seven-course banquet. It may not be the scariest coaster you've ever ridden, but I dare you to find one that, from chain lift to brake run, is more spiritually satisfying.

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Six Flags Magic Mountain, nestled around the rolling hills of Valencia, California, has never looked better. Locals tell me that the West Coast got a ton of rainfall, courtesy of El Niño, and if any good has come from that infamous atmospheric disturbance, it's the abundance of lush green growth that covers the Mountain these days. If you walk clockwise around the park, up the slope past Revolution and Viper, you'll enter a dense thicket of trees whose leafy branches completely obscure the legendary California sunshine. It's mighty purty and a welcome relief from the heat, to boot.

But the greenery you'll be wanting to see is not something any natural phenomenon created. No, you'll be looking for a product of the super-natural, and you'll find it farther along. The Revenge is tucked around at the back of the park, in the new 4.9 acre "Movie District" zone, a themed area that has replaced the "Monterey Landing" section. And once you stumble into this coaster's main plaza, you'll be greeted with a panorama that brought me to my knees in pious reverance:

Is that not a sight to affirm your belief in a higher power? Bolliger & Mabillard rollercoasters are more than just thrill rides; they are kinetic sculptures, as pleasing to the eye as they are to the adrenal glands. The Riddler's Revenge, with its graceful curls, twists and loops, is a blend of form and function that would do any museum proud. I may not know Art, but I know what I like... and this I absolutely love.

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As you'll recall from the Batman Forever film, Edward Nygma, a sad-sack inventor toiling away at Wayne Industries, became quite unhinged when his proposals for a new kind of television were soundly rejected. Choosing to pursue a life dedicated to Evil, he transformed himself into The Riddler and went on to terrorize Gotham City's endlessly terrorized population. Of course, Batman intervened and poor Eddy's nefarious schemes were ultimately thwarted - the final reel saw him locked away at Arkham Asylum. End of story... or so we thought.

Doin' time at Arkham, Mr. Nygma had little to distract him from plotting this final Revenge. Now that he's back on the loose, our fortunes have taken a delightful turn for the worse. That winged cone over the entrance to his new lab looks innocent enough, but it's actually another of his consciousness-scrambling NygmaTech gagdets, just the thing to subdue and lure us in (as if we needed to be lured).

Standing in the queue, intertwined with the back half of the Revenge's course, we are in right in the thick of things, with trains sometimes roaring directly overhead. I do mean roar, people: at one point, beneath a barrel roll inversion, I'm happy to report that the sonic blast is enough to make ya wince. Before entering the station, you can turn to your right and check out both the 156-foot tall lift hill and jaw-droppin' 124-foot-tall vertical loop, two hightlights that are just a hair bigger than those found on Kentucky Kingdom's Chang... and all that sky-piercing green steel is mesmerizing.

Once you're actually inside the station, your wait is nearly over; the loading platform is up two short flights of stairs. The interior is a bare industrial space, but there are some nice touches: The Riddler's symbolic "question marks," projected from overhead spotlights, flicker and dance against the walls, visually punctuating a driving musical score. And watching those sleek green and yellow coaches load and unload is all the pre-flight entertainment you'll need.

It's nothing you haven't heard before, but I'll say it again anyway: climbing into B&M's beautifully-engineered passenger harnesses is like puttin' on your favorite pair of pants; ya just slide right in and make yerself comfortable. Once you're locked in place, snuggling up to the shoulder pads, those last few seconds of anticipation are like Thrillseeking foreplay. Soon. So soon.

Blessed relief: the train glides forward. Immediately, we begin the ascent, climbing up and threading through not one, but two of the Revenge's inversions. The first shadow is cast by a dive loop, the second by that massive vertical sucker. If several trains are in operation and the gods are smiling, you may get a special treat: a train that soars through the dive loop just as you pass underneath. Soon, so soon...

Once we're through the vertical loop, the rest of the Revenge is behind us, but not fer long. If you've got something to say, say it now cuz once we're over the top, there's not a moment's peace until we're back in the station. (Unlike Chang, which features a brief U-turn at its summit, the Revenge offers no post-chain-lift solace.) The lead car tips forward, and this puppy goes critical.

Swooping to the left and falling hard, our train races down 146 feet like there's no tomorrow. We and our fellow riders become a chorus of the damned, thirty-two voices screaming in unison, drowned out only by the thundering growl of a multi-ton vehicle hitting 65 hell-bent miles per hour. Beautiful!

That 124-foot loop pulls us away from the planet's surface and the world disappears in a swirling blur. Your scream turns from one of terror into one of ecstatic release... there is nothing but the sensation of taking flight, of breaking gravity's shackles and soaring free. It's a transcendent moment, one that makes us the thrill-craving lunatics we most certainly are.

Back down we plunge, charging right into the next element, the first dive loop. Hurtling past the base of the freshly repainted Freefall Tower, the train goes skyward and inverts, twisting to the left. This second whoop-dee-doo may be a tad shorter than the vertical loop, but it's just as exhilarating. At this point, if you've succumbed to the experience, your Superego has surrendered to your Id and all you want... is more.

And it's more you're gonna get. Plummeting out of that maneuver, the train surges back towards the lift hill and into another dive loop, this one hauling us up and over the chain lift.

Shrieking back towards the opposite end of the course, the train careens into the inclined loop, and we're head over heels for the fourth time in a row. It's a non-stop G-force party and everyone's invited!

The wicked loop frenzy is momentarily interrupted as our coach jumps a small hill and swings around for a mid-course brake run. Sure, you can hear a dreaded little hiss as those mechanical nasties try to slow us down, but the marauding train crashes through with defiant anger.

Standing in the last row is especially satisfying; there's a small drop right off the run and, as it regains cruise velocity, the train yanks you away from this one flat section of track good and hard. That brutal little jolt is enough to make the brake run worthwhile.

Those few seconds of uprightitude are over - we pour directly into a bodacious barrel roll, performing this grand maneuver as the train makes a beeline towards the Freefall Tower. Down into a steeply banked curve, we fly to the left and leap over the Freefall's horizontal "run-off" track. Leaning to the right, the track whips us through a 250-foot spiral, turning us around for the home stretch.

We don't deserve it, but we get one last treat, a second barrel roll that tosses us like human salad over the waiting throngs. There's a quick turn to the right, and this sublime Revenge comes to end.

Had I not regained the capacity for rational thought, it would have taken a cattle prod to get me off this thing. My Id was still hollering for more, whining like an overindulged three-year-old. Fortunately, I was able to make myself move away, clearing the aisle for the next lucky foursome. But as I stumbled out, staring longingly at those enormous lime-green curlicues, I could hear that little voice murmuring, "It will be mine... oh yes... it will be mine."

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I remember well one special screening of Universal's classic 1970s thriller Rollercoaster, that "Sensurround" extravaganza starring George Segal and Timothy Bottoms. The movie's climax took place at Magic Mountain and featured a brand-new coaster that was then known as the "Great American Revolution." The first shot to introduce this ground-breaking ride slowly panned from the left to the right, finally coming to rest on the Revolution's signature vertical loop. And when that big white circle filled the screen, the audience gasped. Yes, some 20 years ago, that thrill ride was literally breathtaking.

Today, it takes a whole lot more than something as rudimentary as the Revolution to make the hair stand on end. But year after year, Bolliger & Mabillard continue to raise the bar ever higher, creating the kind of rides that can amaze even the most jaded Thrillseeker. Just think of what we can still look forward to: B&M's first hypercoaster; B&M's first "heartline" coaster; B&M's first "launched" coaster. If there's an upper limit to the pleasures we can endure, Claude and Walter will find it, and they will take us one step beyond.

"The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades..."

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Riddler's Revenge

  • TRACK LENGTH: 4,370 feet
  • TOP SPEED: 65 Miles Per Hour
  • MAX. G FORCE: 4.2
  • MAX. HEIGHT: 156 feet
  • MAX. DROP: 146 feet
  • RIDE DURATION: 3 minutes
  • CARS: 32-passenger trains composed of eight cars; each car accommodates four passengers across.
  • CAPACITY: 1,800 guests per hour
  • MANUFACTURER: Bolliger & Mabillard, Monthey, Switzerland
Six Flags: TM & © 1997 Six Flags Theme Parks Inc. Batman, The Riddler and all related characters, names and indicia are trademarks of DC comics © 1997. Logo artwork reproduced by permission of Six Flags. All rights reserved.





© Robert Coker.
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