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.

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's Station - Busch Gardens WiliamsburgVerbolten 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.

And here’s a video a POV video of Verbolten with the storm setting:

Note – These videos were filmed with permission from the park. For safety reasons, please DO NOT take a camera on a roller coaster without permission.

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.

Verbolten's Finale - Busch Gardens WilliamsburgI 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.[poll id=”78″]

About The Author

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

33 Responses

  1. Quil

    I think it's cool how they have three different effects. Is there any way to know which effect is going to happen?

    • CoasterCritic

      Good question Quil. I don't know of any way to tell. Maybe others do.

      • Jonp

        I have tested this out and it was consistent on 3 attempts but could EASILY be a coincidence. Each train has a theme'd license plate (for instance Orange "Wolf Xing") and they corresponded to the effects I experienced. Two Orange "Wolf Xing" and two Bad Wolf scenarios and "Blk 4st" was the The Spirit scenario. I am going back Monday and will report if this is more than a coincidence.

      • Zach

        It actually runs in a A-B-C format. So if the train in front of you has the spirit, you get wolves, then the train behind you gets the storm, and then it repeats. It would be nice if it was synced with the trains though so you knew which scene you were getting.

  2. Mike

    From your review it seems like it is a good ride but could've been so much better. The projection idea sounds incredibly cool but I don't know who might try that except maybe Universal. It kind of scares me that you compared it to Skull Mountain because I thought that ride was pretty dull and boring and I don't really find inside dark coasters that appealing to begin with. Great review and I was wondering if you rode Apollo's Chariot during your visit. I haven't been to BGE this year and I am really wanting to ride a B&M hyper as it's been a year since my last visit.

    • CoasterCritic

      Yep. The Skull Mountain comparison wasn't really a compliment. It was just an initial reaction. At least Verbolten really is pitch black and there are tons of effects.

      The only other coasters I made it on were Alpengeist and Grover's Alpine Express (my daughter loved it!). It would have been great to run on all of the rest, but with my wife, kids, and parents with me it wasn't happening.

      • Mike

        Aww too bad about Apollo. I wanted to live vicariously through you. I was hoping to get to the park this year but it looks like it ain't happening due to my being so busy. Maybe I'll get to try Verbolten next year if I can't make it this year. Pretty down this year with the exception of my big FL trip which was amazing. Looking forward to the X Flight review.

  3. Andy

    When will you be going to Busch Gardens Tampa? Its my home park. I would really like to see your review of Cheetah Hunt, Gwazi, and Scorpion. Cheetah Hunt is my personal favorite. I think it is better than Verbolten. It goes faster, has a few pops of airtime, and some canyons and treanches(similar to Montu). Scorpion BTW is a Anton Schwartpoof(not sure if its spelled right) looper.

    • CoasterCritic

      I'd like to get back there Andy. I love that park and Cheetah Hunt looks fun.

  4. Aric

    Totally agree with this review. I got to ride all three programs, and thought the wolf was by the far best. Rating aside, younger kids like my daughter seem to LOVE this ride. Keeping in mind there aren't many 48" height requirement launchers, this ride sticks out for that reason as well, and is another great reason to go BGW.

  5. DRU

    I got to ride front left on the red train, and back right on the green train. As usual better in the back. I thought it was a great ride but the outdoor sections were way too short. Even though the launches are slow the ride seems to be pretty forceful due to the tightness of the turns. Honestly I was pretty disappointed with the indoor section. I was hoping for more complex theming inside. Although the drop section was pretty cool, it really seems like a novelty. If you ask me they really missed a great opportunity to integrate that drop section as the start point for the supposed wrong turn into the black forest. The theming could be as simple as those freaky little gnomes waving you goodbye as you make the wrong turn into the Black Forest, just like in the teaser video. Also like you stated have the Big Bad Wolf stalking you from video screens similar to the Darkcastle rides screens.
    Maybe in the future they can upgrade the effects as the technology improves.

  6. MPM

    There are rumors that they will have a special new theme in the building for howl-o-scream. That would be a good sign that they're being proactive with the building themes & technology, so maybe the effects will improve over time. After all, gotta take baby steps first, who would want projection screens only to have them break down constantly like Darkastle? Over time the outdoor section might improve as trees grow up, but what REALLY gets me is the wasted momentum at the bridge break. I think the awesomeness of that speed would FAR outweigh the slight loss in theming by dropping the creaky sound effect and suspenseful drop. I still haven't seen all three themes but overall this is a pretty fair review; look forward to getting in all three themes plus riding the blue train which supposedly keeps making people sick! (wimps! the roughness should be part of the off-road theme!) Lastly, I won't mince words: Verbolten's rerideability makes it better than BBW (my very first coaster as a kid).

  7. Andy

    Is it just me or Cheetah Hunt is much better? On other websites, people say Verbolten is better.

    • DRU

      I think you may be correct. I hope to find out personally by next year. I think Cheetah Hunt looks like more fun. It's faster, and it uses the terrain in a cool way. My buddy who rode Cheetah Hunt said it seemed very long, and he said that flying low through the terrain was "special". I liked Verbolten a lot but I was also hoping that they would have utilized that great terrain better.
      We should start a drive to get something similar to the original designs of Drachen Fire built. This time built by B&M as it should have been done originally. That diving corkscrew for the first drop looked so cool! Of course update the design and layout so it's not so painful. I bet that first drop would be great in a flying position.

  8. RCTPro

    i still firmly believe that they wasted millions on this ride. And when the seizure inducing light effects break the ride will loose it's 'magic'. If they would have waited a cuple more years they could have built something MUCH better.
    According to Screamscaape B&M has a launch system now and are wairing for someone to make a move on it (feel free to correct me if i red the article wrong, but in a nice manner), and that would have drawn a lot of publicity, a late 2013-2014 opening would well be worth the wait.
    An RMC Iron Horse, sure they'd have to redo the river drop supports, but with how ''Outlaw' is shaping up (check Screamscape for the latest pictures, or gut go to Theme Park Review). Plus they would be free of a layout and it would not be a wooden coaster, appiesing the complaints, and giving a ride that would be in the vein of the praized Texas Giant.
    A B&M flyer, just think of how amazing that drop would be while laying prone, and the custom layout could have been fantastic.
    But they went with this and squandered the use of the best location in the park and built this when they could have built it where Drachen Fire sat, and let a more deserving ride take BBW's place in the latter years.

    • CoasterCritic

      Interesting points RCTPro. There are a number of ways that they could have went, but don't forget that they already have a few more thrilling rides already. They needed another 'family'-ish ride, not a white knuckle terrain masterpiece. I'd prefer the latter, but you've got to see it from their point of view.

      I will say you've got a good point about putting Verbolten in Drachen Fire's old location. They could have done that and used BBW's land for something more intense down the road.

      • Tracy Bates

        They use the old Drachen Fire building for their halloween festival, so I don't know if they want to do that. I got lucky enough to get to go into the Verbolten building with the lights on, but they wouldn't let us take photos. (I was on the roller coaster tour and the elevator to the top of Griffon broke so they showed us the inside of verbolten instead. There wasn't a whole lot to see honestly. Just a bunch of track and some banners that have the lights on them. We were on the wrong part of the building for the drop so we couldn't see that at all. They did say when you first go in the building there is a different sound effect for each one, so if you hear wolves, it's the wolf one, the wind howling is the forest and I forgot what the third was. I only got the wolf and the forest, and the wolf was definitely the better of the two.

      • @mattmcirvin

        Hmm… The old Drachen Fire location is kind of out of the way, whereas the BBW/Verbolten spot is relatively accessible. I can see why they wouldn't want to banish their new signature coaster to the margins if they could help it, especially considering that BBW was sort of a family ride in the first place.

      • RCTPro

        i do understand why they'd do that CC and what else was said by the others, butwhere's the terrain coaster, i doin't call it a terrain coaster since i believe that one terrain element doesn't count as a terrain coaster. And the old Drachen Fire spot will eventually be used for a ride, and nw they have to banish the next coaster that'll likely be a thrill ride to that obscure location, and with any of the options i gave, that would be more of a waste then this being built there with a much better event building, that could have combined all three effects scenarios into one and have actual objects. And BTW, Air, the prototype B&M flyer was very tame and not that tall and in a way a family coaster with a slightly taller height requirement.
        Amd the RMC iron horse could have had a theme that involved hunting the wolf down but ending up becoming the hunted, if that puts things into perspective.

  9. MPM

    Now that I've seen the wolf theme and FINALLY gotten in a different theme from the spirit one, and now that I've ridden 3 out of 5 trains, I feel like I can more accurately judge this. Some trains can definitely be rougher than others – orange was silky smooth (rode it twice), blue had a definite rattle to it similar to a wooden coaster but nothing uncomfortable, and green was about as close to a "headbanger" as you can get at BG. On all my rides I experienced the noted head slam on the dip before the second launch to varying degrees, but all my rides were great except on green. They really need to create a more consistent ride experience in that area – get on top of maintenance and make all trains run as smooth as possible. The wolf theme was so much better than the spirit theme that I'd have to rate the ride a 9.0 on the former and 8.0 on the latter. Unless you get a particularly bad train I'd have to say this is slightly better than Leviathan in Canada's Wonderland, which I rode back on Victoria Day weekend. That may seem shocking but Leviathan really had no wow factor after the initial drop, and it had me missing Apollo's Chariot halfway through. I know this is an apples to oranges comparison but as two of the best new rides of the year I couldn't resist!

  10. Dean

    I watched the POV, and I think they should have kept The Big Bad Wolf. The small city that The Wolf went through was so awesome. This new rollercoaster; well, half of it is inside a dark building. I guess if I want to ride Space Mountain, I'd go to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. I mean, there were SO MANY opportunities to incorporate the 'Real Woods' there at Busch Gardens, that they could have done it outside where you could see it. Just sayin'.

    • RCTPro

      they should have went with Intamin over the obsceure Ziier sorry if i butchered the spelling) and made something more akin to Cheehttah Hunt (sorry about butchering that as well), or something different alltogher, tney wasted prime rcoaster land on this ride for what, an ugly event building and one terrain element that hardly makes it a terrain coaster,

  11. Gary

    I, too was disappointed with Verbolten. It didn’t seem much different from the Italian Job at Kings Dominion/Island. I wasn’t much impressed with the launches either. I didn’t know about the multiple themes as I only rode it once. I didn’t feel it was worth waiting in line again. I had more fun on Alpengeist (of course) and the Loch Ness Monster.

  12. Mike M.

    I don't know about you guys, but I absolutely loved Verbolten. And it's weird, because although Cheetah Hunt technically has better elements, I enjoyed Verbolten more. Cheetah Hunt has a better drop, a better airtime hill, and a nice inversion. Yet, Verbolten seemed a lot more intense vs Cheetah Hunt's gracefulness. The combination of the theming, darkness, and drop track made a much more memorable experience for me. Plus I liked the buildup to the final drop even though it wasn't as long as Cheetah Hunt's.

    The Skull Mountain reference is a bit unfair in my opinion. I think Revenge of the Mummy is a much better comparison as far as thrills go. An 8 is a fair rating though. Objectively I'd agree with that. Not a top thrill coaster, but definitely fun.

  13. Shelly Alexander

    While I am certainly not a master of coasters, I found Verbolten to be more of a head ringer than a thrill ride. There are far better coasters out there that don't leave you feeling as though your head has just been spun around by Rocky himself. My children ages 10 and 14 rode along and they too hated the ride. Don't be fooled by the height requirements as I do believe that it's not a "family" ride at all.

  14. Ryan

    I did this (im 12) with my 11 year old and 8 yesr old brother, and we actually liked it better than big bad wolf, bu to us, it wasnt that thrilling. Well, we live near cedar point so that was understandable. I also liked how they saved the land where drachen fire was. They should build a vekoma version (vekoma has gotten much better) of drachen fire with their new trains, new track style, and of course the classic feel. But, i give verbolten a 8.5/10

  15. Lev

    I don’t understand the complainants about this ride, it’s fantastic. It’s basically a combo dark ride/coaster and its VERY well done. Cruising around in the dark with the effects is great. Not the biggest thrill ride at Busch but that’s not what it’s supposed to be. Busch is 5 for 5 as far as great coasters goes, everything is a winner.

  16. NewCoasterLover

    I liked Verbolten ok, but I think Griffon and Loch Ness Monster are better. (Granted, I think I ruined the ride for myself by closing my eyes in the tunnel. What an idiotic move that was.:P) I sat in the second or third row (can’t remember) with my sis, who freaked.xD
    My dad thought it was too herky-jerky.

    I never rode Big Bad Wolf, so I can’t say anything whether it was better or worse.

  17. Mike

    I finally got to ride this coaster and I must say I was totally underwhelmed. I think part of it is I just don’t like dark rollercoaster rides. The drop I though was cool and unique but other than that I just felt like the ride was dull. I rode Cheetah Hunt a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. I felt it was a perfect medium style coaster and just a long fun ride. It was kind of like Goldy Locks… not too intense, not too kiddy but just right to enjoy over and over. Sad to see you go CC. Best wishes!!

    • Joel

      Glad you got to ride it Mike. I’m looking forward to eventually riding Cheetah Hunt. It does look better than Verbolten.

  18. Mark

    Joel, thanks for the write-up. BGW is my home park, and I think you hit the nail on the head in your comments above. For me, the coasters in the park rank Apollo’s Chariot > Griffon > Alpengeist > Verbolten > Loch Ness Monster. And, like you mentioned, I think Verbolten is probably not going to do great with the kinds of thrill-seekers that write and read roller coaster reviews. It’s a family-ride. I have a 7 year-old and all he can ride are Verbolten and Loch Ness. Loch Ness is fun, but is an awfully rough ride. My rides of Verbolten have been silky smooth. And, also as you mentioned, the theming is pretty solid and adds to the enjoyment immensely. BGW has a dearth of medium-weight family rides, as the few coasters it does have are pretty serious coasters. I think Verbolten is much-needed for that reason.

  19. Mark

    Oh, and Joel, if you get a chance to come back and ride the new Tempesto, let us know if you liked it! I’m looking forward to riding it next week.


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