Coaster Kingdom

Riddler's Revenge (Movie World Madrid)

Stan Checketts has come a long way since the rickshaw thrill rides he built as a child. Where-as most peoples’ childhood passions have been banished to a photo album caked in dust in some forgotten corner, Checketts’ passion has grown into a lucrative business, and can now answer the beck and call of most parks’ thrill ride requirements.

Although it has traded under several names, S&S Power has been at the forefront of amusement trade for years in one shape or another. From the rickety rope swings of his childhood, S&S have since been responsible in part for the Bungee Jumping craze as well as their popular Trampoline Thing units, a neat fusion of trampoline and bungee jump.

It was in 1994 that S&S struck gold with the Space Shot. Its first high-profile installation - in the literal sense - was 900ft up on top of Las Vegas’ Stratosphere tower. Nearly a decade later, this Space Shot is still arguably the best and understandably the most famed.

As is inevitable, the humble Space Shot spawned many children, most noticeably the Turbo Shot which blasts hapless riders from a lofty height of 180ft (minimum) towards terra firma in seconds.

The beauty of these towers is their versatility. For increased capacity, two or three towers can be installed as a cluster with a variety of tower types so that you have two rides for the price of one. The most memorable examples of this are Cedar Point’s Power Tower and Knott’s Berry Farm’s Supreme Scream, all of which have three towers in a combination of types.

A hundred towers later, S&S now have a new member in their family – christened Combo Tower. The Combo Tower combines the launch of the Space Shot with the freefall sensation of the Turbo Drop, all in one tower. This is available as a new installation or as a conversion to your existing towers, meaning that although the tower phase is nearing saturation point, parks can re-launch tower rides in cases where the public’s imagination may be dwindling.

Most parks use a centrepiece as an anchor point, something pivotal that the park is built around. It’s fair to say Disney have made this fashionable, and other parks have made every attempt to compete whether through an iconic ride like an Observation Wheel (in the case of Six Flags Holland), a multi-function pavilion (Thorpe Park and Fantasy Island), or something more subtle like a lake (Islands of Adventure and Port Aventura).

It’s fair to say the whole of Movie World Madrid orbits around the slender white latticework towers of Riddler’s Revenge. Atop the three towers, a beautiful white pyramid trimmed with gold accents and the eye-catching blue and amber filmstrip WB Movie World logo on all three sides. Riddler’s Revenge forms a beautiful centrepiece, but importantly still embraces the ever-present sense of intimidation.

Presumably as white columns of Riddler’s Revenge intrude so much on surrounding areas, a simple style has been adopted as opposed to the rich theming found everywhere else in DC Superheros World. As such, there is no good theming to impress, but on the plus side, no bad theming that ruins the ride.

Seats are arranged like Blackpool’s Ice Blast in a 2-4-2-4 formation around the tower. Riddler-style question marks decorate the white, violet and lime-green gondola surrounding the entirely white tower.

The seats are fairly no-frills with an overhead restraint and seatbelt. Just as people become used to seatbelts on overhead restraints, the mere fact that the buckle is on the seatbelt as opposed to the restraint slows down both loading and unloading where people clasp the buckle and try pulling the seatbelt from it when they’re joined together. The Riddler would have been proud to see that ride designers like to confuse riders with more than mind-games and conundrums.

Once seated, head against the headrest, the gondola creeps slowly away from the ground pauses... this wait offers as much tension as the slow climb on drop towers, maybe more as your every expression is being scrutinised by the people in fron... WHOOSH – you’re launched smoothly up the tower and those analysing souls are now 280ft below.

The thrill of the launch is now watered down by some non-descript and low-speed bounces up and down the tower where you have ample opportunity to absorb the surrounding view, which is a surreal combination of the hustle and bustle of the park fading into the desolate scrubland surrounding it.

From halfway up the tower, you are grabbed and slowly taken to the very top. Your fragile body is now suspended nearly 300ft above the concrete concourse below. Breathing suddenly becomes harder, time suddenly slows. It is like high noon in the Wild West with a strong breeze rolling through the air, a bated silence interrupted only by the frantic beating of your heart.

And then without warning you fall from the blue, the ground heading towards you before once again you recoiling once again skywards before slowing to a stop so that you can be lowered in a more cordial fashion towards the ground.

Not being the largest fan of S&S Power rides, I found Riddler’s Revenge to be a pleasant surprise. Neither the shot or drop segments are powerful enough to have you burning up on re-entry, but both offer nice sensations, and both are enveloped with great moments of suspense.

Those of you who have ridden Ice Blast will probably agree with me that you find getting out of bed in the morning more intimidating (and indeed forceful) than the ride itself. Well, at nearly 300ft, you can’t help but think that the shot on Riddler’s must be at least swift and forceful. It delivers more than adequately. Meanwhile the wait at the top of the tower is more dramatised than even the Intamin drop rides. The wait is so drawn out without ever becoming tiresome.

The drop is excellent, but never seems anywhere near as out of control as either the Intamin Giant Drop rides or the excellent Fabbri Megadrop. A problem is created by the fact you’re slowing right down midway down the tower with the sharp change in direction occurring about a third up the tower. Without the magnetic braking, there is not the sense of panic that you find on traditional drop rides where your feet are almost on the floor before you stop.

Aside these points, Riddler’s Revenge triumphs. The location simply could not be better with a view of at least one of the parks’ areas guaranteed wherever you sit, as well as great views from the ground either from the lakeside in Hollywood or right at the base of the tower itself in DC Superheros World.

With the towers each being a triplet, many seats have a view of one of the other towers. Whilst this can detract from the sensation of isolation you can get on the ride, it is a beautiful touch when two (or even three) towers are run together and you follow a respective car up and down the tower. Staring at other woe-bedraggled riders opposite will either bring the ever-evident panic into perspective, or re-assure you that you’re not in anguish alone.

Even the best tower rides can be accused of being to short time-wise, but Riddler’s Revenge is one of a few that actually offers a fairly decent ride time, especially with the drop sequence halfway through the ride.

Like any comic book villain, Riddler’s Revenge is a flamboyant and intimidating figure. He is easily subdued, though, which makes a far more palatable experience focusing on thrills rather than hardcore terror and offering pockets of intimidation wherever possible.

4/5 Marcus Sheen