I’m going to review Verbolten on its own merits and refrain from Big Bad Wolf comparisons (for now). It’s only fair to rate it as-is, removing any history around its origins. For years, many will experience this ride without knowledge of our beloved ‘Wolfie’. So, as best I can, I’m going to keep it from affecting my review.[divider]
I visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg with my parents, wife, and kids on the Monday during the week of the 4th of July. The park was busy, but it didn’t seem too packed. The 100 degree weather might have had something to do with that. After a day involving two visits to Sesame Forest with the kids, an always picturesque train ride around the park, and lunch in France, it was time for me check out one of my most anticipated new roller coasters of 2012 in Verbolten. The rides’s queue was nearly full, but guest reviewer Aric had given me the heads up that even if it looks long, it’ll move fast. And, it did. I hardly stopped and when I did it was only for a very short time.
Verbolten’s Pre-Ride Experience
So, with a laser focus, I analyzed Verbolten’s highly-themed queue. While I couldn’t hear the video that featured Gerta, it appeared that we were winding our way through a travel agency of some sort. Apparently, the Black Forest was literally alive. In the video, branches seemed to be tormenting our host. They would creep into view and threaten her before leaving the screen again. The bookshelves, suitcases, and office area were all very well-done and provided the park’s best-looking roller coaster queue. The forest-o-meter and aforementioned threatening plant life signaled that we were about to enter some kind of botanical battlefield. I wondered how Busch Gardens was going to bring the Black Forest to life.
As I moved closer to the station I saw slick-looking trains zoom there way up the hill from the Rhine River below and ease their way back into the station. The trains looked awesome and so did the station. There were really nice automotive theming touches everywhere. The cause of that quickly moving line was revealed as I saw the ride ops were smoothly loading two trains at the same time; one in front of the other. After being asked to go ahead of some others waiting to ride with friends, I stepped onto a shiny green car-themed train in the second to last row. The queue seemed long, but it hadn’t even been thirty minutes. Some tweeting, taking pictures and notes on my phone made it all go by really fast. Thanks to The Coaster Guy for making me laugh with his hilarious tweet.
The Ride: Braving the Black Forest
Verbolten had delivered a strong theme and great looks from off the ride. And, Busch Gardens delivered great operations as the ride was not only functioning (unlike Mach Tower which was down all day), but they were also churning out trains. Now, it was time to actually ride this highly-anticipated roller coaster. The train rolled out of the station slightly dropping and turning to the left as on-lookers waved good-bye to the riders. Then, the train took a right turn. As we climbed a hill, we were suddenly launched up into a dark hole on the side of the event building. Being shot from the daylight into darkness was pretty cool. Inside, it was very dark. The only thing I could see was the Black Forest with its glowing pink tree branches. A black-light kind of effect was being used. An archway of lightning shot overhead and I could make out some white glowing object down towards what I imagined was the floor of the building.
I did all I could to not know what was going to happen in the building aside from the drop. It was definitely dark and it felt like we were navigating our way through the forest for a while. There was a short brake run at one point and then we dropped and turned some more.
Eventually, the train slowed as it entered a long flat section. A number of the pink glowing branches were just a few feet overhead as the train crept forward. I knew what was about to happen so I threw my hands up. Then, the bottom dropped out from beneath me. Wile the free fall drop was brief, it was definitely fun. Like a real drop ride, you pop out of your seat for a moment as the vehicle drops. Those that didn’t know it was coming seemed to be really shocked and surprised. After the drop, the train was noisy with rider reactions from laughter to applause. As everyone was recovering from what had just happened, the train rolled down a hill and back out into the sunlight.
The Drop to the Rhine River & The Finale
Not long after exiting the building, the train hit the second set of launch magnets producing a powerful burst of speed. The acceleration is quite a surprise and you’d better have your head against the headrest or it’ll bounce of it like mine did. The train zoomed its way up to a rickety, old covered bridge. At the end of the bridge was the crest of a hill overlooking the Rhine River. The speed from just a few seconds ago was sapped as we were now creeping towards the edge of the drop. Creaky bridge sound effects greeted us at the peak. Then, the train dove down the hill taking a hard banked turn to the left just above the river. I didn’t experience any airtime on the hill and it feels about as big as it looks (not very). Now, near the river we took another turn to the right and began to climb our way up the hill to the station. There’s another heavily banked turn to the left and then the sports car-themed train were slowed by the station brakes even though it had more than enough horsepower for more fun.
The event building portion of Verbolten has three different story effects or modes. I experienced the “storm” effect. There’s also a “wolf” and a “spirit” theme. Here’s an authorized POV video featuring the ride with the ‘Spirit’ & ‘Wolf’ settings.
My Thoughts on Verbolten
Thinking back to my ride on Verbolten, I got a sort of Skull Mountain at Six Flags Great Adventure vibe. It’s obviously a lot more technologically advanced and the launches are fun, but you do spend a lot of time riding around in the darkness. I couldn’t really place my finger on a particularly fun moment or element of the dark indoor section. The effects were definitely cool and the light and sound effects added a lot to the interior as well. I wish that things were a bit more physically closer or menacing like they are in an actual dark ride. I never felt truly threatened by anything in the Black Forest.
I initially thought Thirteen, and later Verbolten, would find a clever way to use projection screens. Maybe something would stalk you while you’re being set up for the drop. That’d have been pretty darn scary. Imagine being stationary while you’re surrounded by something menacing that’s closing in on you until you experience a freefall and escape.
The drop section was still the highlight of the ride. Again, it was short but definitely something that the park can boast as it’s the only one in North America. And, most importantly, it’ll take so many riders by surprise. The energy from the second launch is awesome, but the momentum ends quickly so that the train can slow before it drops to the river. It would have been nice had we been able to enjoy that speed outside of the building for a few turns and brave a real forest; for even just a bit. I guess I’ve been spoiled by other terrain coasters.
My Rating for Verbolten
Verbolten is a solid ride that’ll give Busch Gardens Williamsburg a thrilling family coaster unlike any other. It looks great from every angle and its ran exceptionally well. I give Verbolten a 8.0 for it’s very rare drop track, offering three different interior effects (which greatly add to its re-ride worthiness), its solid theming and its use of Busch Gardens natural terrain. Final Rating 8.0 (Great)
What’s your take on Verbolten? Leave a comment and if you’ve experienced all 3 effects vote for your favorite below.