Finally got my A$$ to Gardaland yesterday and I have to say that I absolutely loved Raptor!
I thought I would try to write a fairly extensive review because I like them myself (loved the one of Texas Giant posted elsewhere) so if you do not take well to detailed, and possibly verbose, ride reviews skip to the bottom for my conclusion!!
(Or skip this entire post, whatever man)
(But don't really because I don't this to be the most pathetic and most ignored thing I have ever done)
Raptor is situated on a hill in the center of the park. It is one of the most significant elements of the Gardaland skyline, the lift hill looming prominently over the park as you approach (I took the train and then the free shuttle bus). It is also visible from almost anywhere inside the park itself, constantly reminding you of its presence. In the time honored tradition of Gardaland, Raptor occupies its own unique space in terms of its theme. There are no other rides which share its space or its presentation, and nor can I imagine there will be given Gardaland's history and the limited area the ride occupies.
That being said the ride is presented excellently. Theming begins around the perimeter of the ride area, which is enclosed by a concrete wall with razor wire themeing on top. Beyond this wall the vegetation changes (imagine Jurassic Park-esque tropical shrubbery) and hidden speakers along the paths which lead up the hill to the main ride area play the imposing 'raptor theme. tune'. The main ride area itself is amazing. I had browsed through Hanno's pictures before I went and, as good as they make this place seem, being there in person and seeing the interaction of the coaster and theming elements in real-time, Raptor completely exceeded my expectations. Is it the level of say Disney? I would say not *quite*, but I was equally if not more impressed with Raptor as I was with Nemesis, or for that matter Oblivion. Maybe it is the use of concrete but Raptor did evoke, for me, some semblance to oblivion.
The Ride Itself
Raptor is not an extreme ride. None of the forces induced are particularly intense or sustained, apart from perhaps the first drop if you are sitting in the back rows. What it is, however, is one of the most balls-out FUN roller coasters I have been on. The trains are simply fantastic - if anyone was going to make this kind of seating arrangement work it would be B&M. Yes the ride may feel more jarring than you are used to from a B&M, but I found that this was A) not in any way uncomfortable because the restraints are superb. The most important part, the 'vest' which secures you in your seat functions exactly like that of a flyer. B) It actually added to the intensity of the ride, in a good way. It made the ride feel a little more aggressive, a little more 'out of control'.
The lift is both highly inclined and fast. It seems over in mere seconds, flinging you over the top of the first drop which is itself pretty damn steep. You get some good airtime here in the back seats. The over-banked turn is just good at what it does - turning you around - but the two best moments of this part of the ride are the bottoms of the first drop and the turnaround which are both close the ground, fast and pretty powerful. The drawn out zero-g roll is pure fun. It's hard to describe how the experience differs from either side of the train, but definitely the best foot-chopper of the ride for me happens here for riders on the right in the shape of the inversion's support. I don't know what it was about that support but it got me flinching every time! You then dive under a part of the laboratory and hop over the airtime hill which provides a pop of floater in some parts of the train (in others, sadly, it doesn't really register). The next part of the ride was my favorite, sharp left hand turn followed by a quick corkscrew precariously close to the bridge below and finally into a sharp right under said bridge. What made this part of the ride for me was the interaction with the pond and the water jets. As there are jets on both the left and right turns both sides of the train take it in turns to be close to the water and the jets. You will get wet. You will get an amazing view of a wall of water flying towards you. As you fly under the bridge you get very close to the water and the waterfalls that lie to either side of the bridge. From the main plaza of the ride the waterfalls look a little lame, but on the ride at full speed I was actually impressed by the effect; you brain doesn't really have time to register how fake they are. The last barrel roll is again just pure fun; you rotate pretty slowly but the four separate foot and head choppers keep you on your toes.
Without the great theming interactions and trains this ride could have been pretty poor. But I believe Raptor is very much more than the sum of its parts - the buildings, the music, the water jets and the unbelievable freedom afforded by the trains all combine to provide one of the 'funnest' experiences on a roller coaster I have experienced. This is certainly the best ride at Gardaland and for me really made the park, trying to imagine the park without it I can only picture somewhere very much more lacking.
If you have managed to actually read all of this, thanks. Now buy yourself a congratulations cookie from me.