OK, so Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom at Six Flags Great Adventure is not a roller coaster but it’s connected to one and Zumanjaro is in lockdown mode while Kingda Ka is operating and vice versa. For a limited time Drop of Doom VR, with Samsung headgear powered by Oculus, will be available from 3 PM to park closing time. While VR (Virtual Reality) has been available on a number of roller coasters, mainly at Six Flags parks, since 2016, adding VR to a formidable drop ride is a new twist.
Drop of Doom VR Combines Acrophobia & Arachnophobia
The theme of the VR experience on Zumanjaro is a city under siege by giant mutant spiders. This plays on the combined fears of acrophobia and arachnophobia, and I must confess that I suffer from both. Despite this I’ve ridden Zumanjaro the normal way numerous times; for some reason I feel safer in a gondola seating eight across than I do on a drop tower that shoots people up and down. The wait for Drop of Doom VR on a day of relatively light attendance was about an hour – undoubtedly much longer when the park is crowded – and it was well worth the wait.
The most striking feature of the VR experience, from my point of view, was the extent to which it altered my perception of what was really happening. Zumanjaro is 415 feet tall and when the ride is dispatched, the three gondolas ascend vertically, picking up speed as they reach the maximum height. After about a five-second pause, they plummet straight down at 90 mph.
The VR Experience
With the VR headset the ride was remarkably different. What the rider, in a virtual helicopter, initially sees is a building with a street in front of it and what appears to be a bonfire to the right. If you look down you can see a gun attached to the helicopter. Without the VR headset I had watched award-winning coaster El Toro, a massive structure to the left, recede into the distance and became alarmingly aware of exactly how high off the ground I was. With the VR I did not have the same perception of the height or the ascent. Interestingly, another rider had the perception of being 1,000 feet in the air in lieu of 415. The Samsung headgear gave the impression of ascending to the right in an almost circular fashion. I don’t know enough about the technology to understand how this illusion was created but could feel the difference as if it were real.
During the ascent a succession of spiders comes right at the riders – definitely enough to creep you out – and the only real clue that you’ve reached the top of the ride is the fact that it stops. Then, after the aforementioned pause, it plummets at a record-breaking speed that never fails to create an adrenaline rush. Again, however, my perception of the descent was far different while wearing the VR headgear. Instead of going straight down, I had the distinct impression of going down and forward before bursting into flame.
I should mention that the screen displayed at the beginning of the ride gives instructions to touch the right side of the headset in order to shoot at the spiders. Well, I evidently didn’t touch the right spot because I scored zero. Oh well, so I flunked. I survived the ride and my take is that it’s a novel experience that I would highly recommend.
What’s Your Take?
Have you ridden Drop of Doom VR? What did you think? Leave a comment below.
Photo Credits: Images 1 & 2 – Bobbie Butterfield