Roller coaster names don't get much more direct than Scream. Six Flags Magic Mountain seems to know what it wants from the riders of its new coaster, but fans who are willing to look beyond the primal name will find a ride more frisky than terrifying.
For the last two summers, Magic Mountain has left visitors to broil in hours-long waits for innovative new coasters that too often failed to work. No matter how thrilling a ride looks on paper, a four-hour wait is enough to drain the pleasure out of any attraction.
This year, the park wisely has picked a proven design for its new ride. And it picked a great one in Bolliger & Mabillard's delightful floorless coaster.
The floorless places riders in "flying chairs" perched above the track. Riders board by stepping across a temporary floor in the boarding station, which drops away when the ride begins.
With no side panels or floor to pen you in, Scream provides a refreshingly comfortable ride (though Magic Mountain has neglected to include special chairs for larger riders, as SeaWorld Orlando does on its floorless).
Better yet, with no floor or side panels to intrude on your peripheral vision, Scream creates an effective illusion that you are alone, flying above the track.
After a quick dash up the lift hill, Scream delivers 90 seconds of coasting time, starting with a 150-foot plunge. Along the way, riders sweep through seven inversions, including a 128-foot vertical loop, a 96-foot twisting dive loop, a zero-gravity roll, a double-inversion cobra roll and interlocking corkscrews.
Credit Bolliger & Mabillard for devising a layout for Scream that keeps riders heels over head through much of the ride without leaving them doubled-up afterward.
(White-knuckle roller coaster novices, take my advice: You'll feel better after the ride if you keep your eyes open and focused on the track ahead. That helps your body adjust to the inversions and maintain its balance.)
Magic Mountain has placed Scream in a corner of its parking lot, next to the wooden coaster Colossus. The compact layout gives Scream a tighter ride than other floorless coasters, including Marine World's Medusa and SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken. But Scream leaves enough track between its elements so that even though the ride feels fast, it is never rushed -- unlike last year's X, which crammed too much action into too little space.
In contrast to Kraken, though, Scream doesn't try to entertain you along the way. A floorless coaster allows awesome visuals, but who wants to look at a parking lot?
I might get my Y-chromosome revoked for this, but why can't they tease us a bit before we climb aboard?
Yes, I know Magic Mountain aspires to be an "extreme park," not a family-friendly Disney clone. But anyone who's lived a while should know that a good story can elicit extreme thoughts and emotions. The heart and mind can send stomachs tumbling as wildly as a roller coaster track. Why ignore those opportunities when building a thrill ride?
Of course, the lack of atmosphere didn't appear to bother the phalanx of teenagers who rode Scream with me. For them, maybe the dreary setting is enough: Forget the build-up: Let's just get to the action.
But I'd much prefer that Magic Mountain lose the demanding moniker and find a name with a little personality.
Dress up the queue and tell me a story. Wake my imagination with mythic tales. Show me some scenery. Give me a reason to care.
Without it, I feel a little neglected as I shuffle off the otherwise exciting ride.
What: A floorless coaster by Swiss designers Bolliger & Mabillard
Where: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia
Park restrictions: Riders must be 54 inches tall, free from back, neck and heart conditions and not pregnant
Times guidelines: Riders experience momentary weightlessness, as well as downforce more than four times that of gravity. Bring sunscreen and drinking water and anticipate long waits.
Cost: Adults, $44.99; children under 4 feet, $29.99; age 2 and under, free
Info: (818) 367-5965
On the Web: For on-ride video of Scream, plus an interview with designer Walter Bolliger, go to www.calendarlive.com/scream