DISCLOSURE: I experienced this ride as part of a media event for which I was invited by Hersheypark. This review is based on my own opinion and perspective, and the special access granted by Hersheypark did not come with any promises from me that I would review the ride favorably.
There’s nothing like a new RMC to get the hype train moving for roller coaster enthusiasts.
Rocky Mountain Construction has been the darlings of thrillseekers for the past decade, with its wood-and-steel, airtime-filled hybrid coasters invariably becoming the best coasters in their respective parks. Sometimes, they’re among the very best in the world.
So when Hersheypark announced its 1996 woodie Wildcat would be transformed by RMC into Wildcat’s Revenge, expectations were set very high. Could this RMC be yet another in the conversation for being the world’s best coaster?
Perhaps that was wishful thinking. After all, the coaster is not RMC’s tallest (at 140 feet tall), steepest (82-degree first drop) or fastest (62 miles per hour). While it does pack a punch — a bit too much in the front row, if you ask me — Wildcat’s Revenge doesn’t reach the world-class level that Hersheypark, frankly, deserves and needs.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good ride.
The ride experience
While the 140-foot first drop isn’t as steep as the taller Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point or Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, let’s not pretend that 82 degrees isn’t going to throw you out of your seat. It’s still delightful.
Hersheypark played up the ride’s next element more than any other: the “world’s largest underflip.” If that term isn’t in your coaster vocabulary, it’s been described by the park as an upward climb, followed by a counterclockwise 270-degree roll and a dive down towards the side. Other RMCs have sported similar elements, but the greater length delivers extra thrill here.
You’ll come speeding out of the underflip into a large airtime hill and then up a huge, upward overbanked turn that packs in several quick airtime pops while turning you near sideways. It’s an underrated element, in my opinion, and nearly as fun to me as the more-hyped underflip.
After that, however, the ride gives me an annoying sense of RMC deja vu. The layout proceeds through more quick airtime hills, a Zero-G stall and a Zero-G roll. Having ridden nine other RMC coasters of this style, for as much excitement these elements deliver on an individual basis, they are now becoming repetitive.
That may not matter to the average guest. But I want innovation from RMC, not elements that feel copied-and-pasted from past projects.
While a YouTube video isn’t a replacement for experiencing the ride for yourself, here’s an on-ride video to give you a view of the coaster in action:
I didn’t want to start the meat of this review by discussing less-exciting topics like operations, but Wildcat’s Revenge deserves two bits of praise in that department.
First, like other RMCs, there is a strict no-loose-article policy that will require you to put your bags, wallets, phones, keys, everything into a locker before boarding.
Before you grumble too much, these lockers are placed just before the final staircase into the station, meaning you’ll be without your smartphone for a few minutes at most That’s a vast improvement over Iron Gwazi — whose lockers aren’t required, but are placed before you even enter the queue — or Steel Vengeance, which can have waits of 30 minutes or more after its mid-queue lockers. Wildcat’s Revenge operates its lockers more similarly to VelociCoaster at Universal Orlando, including making them double-sided to increase efficiency.
My second bit of operational praise is the choice to have separate load and unloading stations. RMC restraint systems can really slow down the loading process (though the new seatbelts on Wildcat’s Revenge may help speed things up), so splitting where riders get on and get off not only makes loading faster (at least theoretically), it increases capacity by allowing for three-train operations.
RMC and rough airtime
While RMC is almost universally praised by the hardcore thrillseeker — and I’m no slouch in that department — several of the company’s coasters that I’ve experienced have issues with airtime that is too rough.
In my recent review of Arie Force One at Fun Spot Atlanta, I called it the “gut punch feeling” where you’re repeatedly slammed into the lap bar by small, rapid airtime hills. Maybe it’s conditional on your body size, but it’s not an isolated problem; I’ve felt the same pain on Twisted Timbers at Kings Dominion and, to a lesser extent, Steel Vengeance.
For Wildcat’s Revenge, the “gut punch” still happened, though it was conditional on where I was sitting. I felt that uncomfortable body blow more in the front than I did in the back, even though most enthusiasts would agree the airtime is strongest in the back on most coasters. Here, the back row provided intense airtime without being so jarring — and there wasn’t anything as bad as the Finale of Devastation on Arie Force One (and to be fair, only I call it that.)
I will point out one element that I found unnecessarily rough. After the Zero-G stall and another overbanked turn, the ride has a double-down element that veers to the left as the train passes by the station. I heard some coaster vloggers praising this piece of the ride, but to me, it felt like a sudden, uncomfortable jolt that delivered only mild pain without a payoff.
Hersheypark’s deep coaster lineup deserves a world-class headliner that’s in the running for being the best coaster in the world.
Wildcat’s Revenge may be very good — and the best ride in the park — but it’s just not at that elite level due to a second half that feels too much like other RMC creations.
Maybe that’s a sign that RMC needs to learn some new tricks if it wants to remain so beloved among coaster fans.