One of the best things about living in the good ol’ USA is the abundance of roller coasters we have at our disposal. All across the west coast, eastern seaboard, and deep in the heart of the Midwest, there’s a theme park close to every major city.
Every now and then, something truly unique and noteworthy gets built and captures the attention of every thrillseeker in the country. Many times, however, the new ride at your local park is a mirror image of an existing coaster or a 100% clone.
The latter was the case when Chicago’s Six Flags debuted The Joker in 2017. It’s a 4D freespin coaster from S&S, meaning the seats are on the outside of the track, very similar to ‘X2’ at Six Flags Magic Mountain. There are currently 7 duplicate roller coasters throughout the prominent theme park chain, so there’s no certainly shortage of ‘em.
(all photos by Eric S unless otherwise noted)
Joker is located close enough to Batman to be included in the Gotham City area of Six Flags Great America. It took over the space formerly occupied by Ragin’ Cajun, a Zamperla spinning wild mouse. The color scheme is a striking purple and green, but apart from a nifty sign there’s very little themeing present. Some TV’s in the queue play obnoxious clips of the Clown Prince of Crime on an endless loop.
*THE BIG GIMMICK(S)*
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of these S&S free-fly coasters is that they operate in a single plane. By that I mean the layout would appear as a straight line, as seen from a birds-eye-view. There are no lateral turns.
The vertical chain lift hoists the 8-person train (4 across x 2 cars) up to 120ft and from there it’s a series of wavy dips, a few larger drops, and a semi-random cycle of spinning that dishes out anywhere from 0-3 flips.
*THE REST OF THE COASTER*
Despite the modest height, the major drop is only 54ft and the cars themselves only get up to about 38mph. The experience lies with the head-over-heels flipping moreso than anything else. Based on weight distribution – and possibly time of day – the flipping sensation can either be mild or wild. Odds are good you’ll wind up stuck with the former category and could walk away disappointed.
Something I really appreciated about this attraction was the inclusion of a single rider line—one of the only ones to utilize the concept at Great America. You can typically hop on within 5 minutes this way, otherwise the normal queue can stretch anywhere between 30-60 minutes (yikes). Loading times are quick, but the overall rider capacity is low.
Of the three times I’ve ridden Joker, not a single one has yielded more than 1-1/2 true “inversions”. On one occasion, our car didn’t even flip over at all! That was a tremendous letdown when you factor in wait times and the media selling it as a multi-looping attraction. They should guarantee AT LEAST 2 flips or refund your money! I kid, but maybe offer a FastPass for your trouble in the event you get zero flips?
My friend and I described The Joker much like Mardi Gras Hangover, a nearby Giant Larson Loop: they’re both like overgrown carnival rides, and although this one is indeed a roller coaster – refer to my rant on why the latter is definitely not a coaster – it’s not a very compelling one at that.
I distinctly recall Fiesta Texas’ “Batman: The Ride” being a MUCH crazier ride, to the tune of at least 5 flips. In fact, I almost lost my sunglasses and wallet on that one! Though I haven’t ridden any of the other identical installations at SFOT, SFGAdv, SFNE, or SFDK, I can say with certainty that the only thing funny about this particular ‘Joker’ is just how unremarkable it is.
Next year I’ll be visiting Nagashima Spa Land which houses Arashi, another variation of this exact model that apparently has no flip-limiting switches and is reported to be totally out of control. My guess is that park in Japan has different operating standards and can afford to run their 4D coaster at full tilt. Hopefully that’s a better experience than this nonsense.
I’d give Great America’s Joker a 2/10 for uniqueness and 4/10 for thrill factor. Definitely a skippable ride on your day at the park, and certainly not something I’d recommend waiting any more than 20 minutes for…..unless you’re thirsty for the coaster credit.
Final Rating – 3.0 out of 10 (Unsatisfactory)
Have you ridden this variety of 4D coaster at any of the Six Flags parks? Do you think the concept is fun but poorly executed, or do you love this style of attraction? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
This was a part of our 12 Days of Coasters special! Every day from Christmas until January 5th, we gave away a roller coaster review for you to enjoy. You can check them all out here. We thank you for reading, hope you’ve had a merry holidays, and wish you a happy New Year!