Opinion

Review: The New Revolution Gear VR Roller Coaster

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Courtesy Six Flags

This post is published on both this site and our sister VR site, VReview due to the overlapping areas of interest. The New Revolution Roller Coaster is slated to open to the public on April 21st, but I got to ride the attraction early; here are my thoughts on it.

Remodeled from The original Revolution steel coaster which opened on May 8, 1976 as the Great American Revolution; the creatively named “The New Revolution” is North America’s first dedicated VR Roller Coaster, powered by our beloved Samsung Gear VR opening at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, CA. From Six Flags:

“The New Revolution — North America’s first fully-integrated VR roller coaster using Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus — was unveiled, providing a multi-dimensional virtual ride experience never before done on a looping, twisting coaster. From the moment riders board and don Samsung Gear VR headsets, the traditional roller coaster experience is transformed. High-definition imagery and storytelling sync with the unique track configuration creating a one-of-a-kind seamless “real world” to “virtual world” thrill-ride experience. Riders are now co-pilots seated in the cockpit of a true-to-life fighter jet, flying through a futuristic city while virtually engaged in a battle to protect the planet against alien invaders, all while racing over the 3,500 feet of twisting, turning, looping coaster track.”

It sounds like an interesting proposition. A mobile VR experience synced to an intense roller coaster. I got in the queue and was presented with the choice of a headset or no headset… I obviously went with the Gear VR. These were mostly consumer Gear VRs, with some modifications because, y’know, it’s a roller coaster. Headsets are given out individually to each rider.

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Tougher straps with metal hooks and the addition of a chin strap make sure the Gear VR doesn’t fly off on the ride. It is a very tight fit, which is to be expected. The cover is also much larger, and is better at sweat resistance. The headsets are cleaned with antibacterial wipes before being given to riders.

 

 

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The actual phone used is the AT&T Galaxy S6 edge. To prevent theft, metal bolts are holding the phone securers in place, where you would normally be able to slide them back to release the phone. That black strap in the top of the picture is a lanyard, which you are asked to put on your neck immediately after receiving the headset.

As I entered the all-American ride trains, I did not have any difficulty putting the headset on, however it should be noted that I am very experienced in operating the Gear VR, so this was probably a factor in this; my group displayed some difficulty in putting it on as the straps were very tight, but the employees were very helpful in this regard. It was admittedly a bit disconcerting to lose awareness in the boarding station and not see my friends around me; as I put it on I immediately was greeted by a screen that said “calibrating..” which took a second or two. I’m pretty confident this was not focus, just the gyros, as the screen was still blurry and I had to adjust the focus manually. Here’s one of my biggest gripes: there was NOTHING about focusing or the focus wheel in the queue or told to us. I could only alert my friends that were in my immediate area (we were on separate trains). If I had not had this knowledge with the Gear, my experience would probably be a lot worse.

On to the actual ride, after the calibration screen I was transported into an aircraft cockpit in a hangar, with text on the screen saying “tap the touchpad on the right side of the headset to shoot” or something to that effect.  As the ride train started on the lift hill I started ascending into the virtual chaos. More on the story from Six Flags:

“Seated in sleek new red and white custom trains, the epic battle begins. From the cockpit of the aircraft in an underground bunker, the massive vehicle quickly ascends up the lift hill through the bunker’s roof, onto the launch pad ready to take flight. Once cleared for takeoff, the heroic adventure commences as riders are forced to navigate dangerously through the narrow city streets, up and over skyscrapers while avoiding obstacles and incoming fire from alien drones. The battle intensifies at the edge of the skyline where the mother ship is revealed ominously hovering above. Heavily protected by drones, the mission is clear, penetrate and destroy the mother ship to save the Planet.”

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If you’re curious about the graphics, they look exactly as they do in Six Flags’ promo video (good on them for an accurate representation of graphics):

 

There was no overheating, probably because you’re rushing through the track at 60MPH; even though the S6 edge is notorious for the issue (and this is my biggest gripe with the hardware). Pushing the back button let me see the battery level of the phone (couldn’t go to anything other than that), I was at 72% while my friend next to me was at 40%. The story was exactly what was described, but I felt the shooting function was just added to further justify inclusion of VR and had no real consequence. On to my thoughts: I really was not that impressed. It was good, but not amazing. Interestingly, my friends who had never experienced VR were amazed and astonished and highly recommended the ride, so I suspect my reaction is because I am a VR enthusiast and have been somewhat desensitized. The FPS dropped when the mothership was in full view, and the graphics were the largest bottleneck to total immersion for me, although I was fully immersed at some moments due to the fact that it was a roller coaster synced to the ride film (like, ducking at flying debris immersion). If you don’t care about that stuff, you will definitely be amazed and think you’re actually fighting off an alien invasion for the entirety of the ride. I did not feel motion sick whatsoever as the ride was synced very well, I assume over Bluetooth.

In conclusion, if you’ve experienced VR this will most likely not be a ground breaking experience for you, but if you have a Six Flags pass or are a coaster/theme park enthusiast like me you should (and probably are already planning on) checking this out, if only to see the breadth of applications for VR. The thing is, most people are not VR enthusiasts like me, and will not nitpick about the aformentioned issue. If you haven’t experienced a higher quality level of VR than Cardboard (or at all), then this is a must-ride, and Samsung is going to be selling a lot of Galaxy phones and Gear VRs due to this ride; it’s that good to those who haven’t experienced VR. The New Revolution opens April 21st.

 

 

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Talking with @AlJean, The Simpsons’ showrunner

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Last week, I had an interview with the iconic Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean.

USHR:
So first things first, what do you do for the Simpsons?

Al:
Show runner, which means head writer/if something goes wrong it’s my fault.

USHR:
Haha! How long have you been working on the show?

Al:
Since April 1989. (crazy but true)

USHR:
What’s it like working for such an iconic show?

Al:
Greatest job in the world; wherever you go in the world there are Simpsons fans.

USHR:
So on to Springfield: when did you first hear about the project? (Starting in UOR)

Al:
2007; I came in the middle of the project. Another incredible Simpsons opportunity.

USHR:
What was your first experience with Universal?

Al:
Taking the tour in Hollywood some years ago. Always loved the terminator show in both parks and SpiderMan ride in Orlando.

USHR:
Ah. What do you love most about the park in Hollywood? (Springfield excluded)

Al:
My favorite is actually walking through the haunted house (House of Horrors) where people leap out to scare you. Always good for some real big yelps.

USHR:
What do you like about Universal as a theme park brand?

Al:
I think it has a great vibe; I love the old horror movie past & people like Groucho talking to you. Park employees are always very friendly.

USHR:
So, what is your favorite thing about Springfield, and how does it feel to see your show come to life with such detail?

Al:
I love the richness of detail and it always feels amazing when heading over skyline on Simpsons ride.

USHR:
Recently you posted some pics of the food test for USHs Springfield. How was that?

Al:
Honestly delicious; love the chicken and waffle sandwich.

USHR:
What do you feel is the appeal of the franchise that makes it enjoyable for all ages?

Al:
Adult writing and great animation plus a whole cosmology of characters.

USHR:
What do you expect will be a popular food item in the Springfield addition coming to USH?

Al:
The donut ice cream sundaes are incredible and the tacos were great. Too hard to choose from everything we saw.

USHR:
That’s a good problem!
What do you see in The Simpsons’ future?

Al:
The expansion is so terrific who knows where they’ll stop? Burns’ mansion? Shelbyville? North Haverbrook?!

USHR:
And lastly what inspired you to get into TV?

Al:
I couldn’t make a living in movies!

USHR:
Hah!
What inspired you to get into movies?

Al:
In college Mike Reiss (my ex-writing partner) introduced me to Harvard Lampoon; loved hanging out & it became a career.

USHR:
Awesome!
Well thanks for talking with us. Anything else you’d like to say?

Al:
I hope you can all enjoy a Duff at Moe’s in USH very soon. Binge responsibly!

USHR:
We will! Thanks again!

Al Jean can be found on Twitter @AlJean.

Diagon Alley Overview and Thoughts

All this week, #DiagonAlleyPreview has been taking place at Universal Orlando Resort. Although I wasn’t there in person, I was there in spirit via the web. Here is an Overview of it and my thoughts. All images except where otherwise noted (C) UOR. Also please remember that I wasn’t there, and my personal thoughts on Diagon Alley are from what I’ve seen on the web.


 

The Wizarding World of Money continues – Literally

Gringotts Bank. Fun Fact: The Chandelier has 16,000 crystals.

I’m not a Harry Potter superfan, I’ve watched all the movies, and think they’re good. However, no one can deny this masterpiece of theming will be getting countless awards (and dollars). Recreated incredibly faithfully to the books and films, Gringotts Bank. No, that is not a render.  The level of theming here is making me very excited for what they will do for our Hogsmeade, gaining the benefit of new technology, in 2016. The goblins are all lifelike animatronics, stopping to look up at you occasionally, then hastily returning to their jobs.

And this is as far as I’m going to go here, I haven’t been on the Roller Coaster-4K Screen Hybrid Ride- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. However, Ricky Brigante from Inside The Magic has a highly detailed description and Queue Video of the ride, which you can check out here.  I will say that I am slightly disappointed by the level of intensity the ride offers. We can’t forget the fire-breathing Dragon on the outside of the bank, though!

Fire breathing dragon atop Gringotts #diagonalleypreview #universalorlando

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Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

 

 

The Animatronic Goblins inside Gringotts Bank.

Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts Ride Vehicles


 

London

Moving on to the entrance of the Wizarding World at Diagon Alley: London,and Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross, where you can board the Hogwarts Express (more on that later). Here’s a tour, courtesy of Inside The Magic.

 The Knight Bus, Conductor, and everybody’s favorite Jamaican shrunken head are also present.  For those wondering, the Platform 9 3/4 illusion is similar to a Peppers Ghost Illusion.

 

You enter Diagon Alley through the Leaky Cauldron (on the right) which leads to this:

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

Kings Cross:

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando


Kings Cross advert - look familiar? #diagonalleypreview #universalorlando

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Heading off to Platform 9 3/4 #diagonalleypreview #universalorlando

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Knight Bus


 

Shops

Diagon Alley includes many shops from the franchises such as Wiseacres’ Wizarding Equipment, Weaseley’s Wizarding Wheezes,  and more. At the Gringotts bank exchange, you can trade your real money in for Gringotts bank notes (see: Disney Dollars) that you can spend throughout the Wizarding World. These shops are amazingly detailed, and, of course, offer many overpriced and expensive  high quality items faithful to the books and movies. You can also take a dark turn towards Knockturn Alley, the dark part of Diagon Alley.

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

 

Shops in Diagon Alley


Hogwarts Express

The Hogwarts Express is also present. There are two ways of entering the train: Right next to Dragon Challenge and Through Platform 9 3/4 in Kings Cross. The stations are very detailed, and the sound of the Express entering the station is amazing. Screens are used to simulate the journey from Hogsmeade-London and vice versa. The animations are different each way, and the train itself moves to the animation. Yet another major draw for the Wizarding World.

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

The London Station

 


Shows

Two shows are available in Diagon Alley: The Tales of Beetle the Bard (The Tale of the Three Brothers) and Singing Sorceress: Celestina Warbeck. The shows are cute and not meant to be something that is prepared in advance. However, I feel Universal Orlando’s strong suit has never been shows, and the Three Brothers in particular just needs a little more… “magic.” Celestina Warbeck, though, is amazing, full of great songs and execution.

 


Interactive Wand Experiences

You can purchase a wand at Ollivander’s for around $45 and you’ll find a map in the box. The map shows you locations where there is a plaque in the ground. Located near shops, these plaques allow you to wave your wand, say a spell, and make something magical happen. This is really cool to a non-Potter fan, and to a Potterhead, this will be heaven.

 


The Final Verdict ( Again, remember that I wasn’t there, and my personal thoughts on Diagon Alley are from what I’ve seen on the web)

Diagon Alley is the best themed land in a theme park right now. The detail is impeccable, the products offered plentiful, and all-around an immersive experience. The ride is definitely directed towards families, and I can’t say I’m thrilled by that. The shows are decent and the interactive wands are a nice touch. All in all, Diagon Alley is something you need to visit, Potter fan or not.

 


Diagon Alley Slideshow

Credit to Inside The Magic.

http://www.flickr.com//photos/insidethemagic/sets/72157644847887689/