VALENCIA, Calif. The experience is jaunting — you are set to ride a traditional roller coaster, you buckle up and get ready to climb a huge hill — but what you see is unlike any theme park ride ever.
You still go up, down, upside down and more at super high speeds — but your face is connected to a virtual reality Gear VR headset from Samsung that basically inserts you into a video game.
Friday, I rode the New Revolution, a traditional roller coaster with a VR twist. With the headset (connected to a Galaxy phone), you’re watching a plane flight that turns into an end-of-the-world battle. You have the option of aiming at the enemy and reaching on the headset to shoot away, or just sit back and enjoy the action on the screen. This, as the screen shows non-stop motion, and in your seat, the wind blows through your hair, and your body turns and twists with G-forces, in classic roller coaster style.
Or, if you prefer, take the headset off, and ride the coaster in the traditional, analog manner.
My take: this is a unique twist on the roller coaster, theme park experience. You get the same thrill of soaring through the air, with a different sensory feel. I can get queasy on a coaster as I turn sharply and see the world from an upside down perspective. By focusing on a video screen, my stomach felt stronger.
As marketing, this is brilliant. The New Revolution (an update of the Magic Mountain coaster that had just been called the Revolution) brings the classic theme park ride into the next century, on an attraction whose invention dates back to 1884. Six Flags reps we spoke to Friday were ecstatic. “It’s going to have a major impact on attendance,” said Magic Mountain president Bonnie Weber.
Jessica Naziri, a USA TODAY contributor, and my seatmate on this journey, was whooping it up as we went up and down, and when we landed, she said, “That was so exciting. Every roller coaster should be VR from now on.”
Her reasoning: with the headset strapped on, the ride is now “more immersive. It really feels like you’re in it.”
The New Revolution opens Saturday, in a soft launch for Magic Mountain season ticket holders, and then opens to the general public on April 21. Other Six Flags parks have similar VR adventures on rides, including parks near Dallas, Atlanta, (which have opened to season pass holders) St. Louis, Lake George, New York and Montreal. All look to go wide later this year.