Theme park ride manufacturers are always innovating, pushing the boundaries of thrill-seeking and immersive experiences to new levels. Most fans will be pretty familiar with the new rides that are in the works from big-hitters Disney and Universal (if not, look here and here!). But what about rides from independent manufacturers - the sort that might spring up at regional theme parks all around the world?
Let's take a look at 5 impressive new concepts that could be on their way to a theme park near you!
5. Suspended Powered Coaster (Mack Rides)
Mack Rides is not just one the world's leading ride manufacturers - it's also the owner of Europa Park, Germany's most popular theme park resort. No surprise, then, that it's testing out its latest concept at the park in Rust.
The Suspended Powered Coaster is a new evolution of a Mack classic, the powered coaster (seen in rides such as Alton Towers' Runaway Mine Train). As the name suggests, the trains hang underneath the track, rather than on top of it, and are powered by motors rather than gravity.
Mack is billing the new system as ideal for hybrid roller coaster-dark rides, due to the ability to control the speed of the train. It'll aim to prove that the Suspended Powered Coaster is ideal for this role by launching Arthur - The Ride, a new attraction based on Arthur and the Invisibles, at its home park in April 2014.
Image: Europa Park
Riders on the new addition to Europa Park will be suspended beneath a steel track in one of nine, 12-person vehicles. The track will be relatively short at 1,800 feet, and guests are expected to pass through seven scenes after climbing up a spiral lift hill, many of them packed with audio-animatronic characters and 4-D effecs.
4. Interactive Dark Ride (Triotech)
Montreal-based Triotech has developed the technology behind Canada's Wonderland's new ride for 2014: Wonder Mountain's Guardian. The attraction will feature 3-D effects overlaid with 4-D elements such as wind and water tricks. Riders will be equipped with weapons boasting "the fastest, most-accurate target system", with "real-time graphics" being employed to show the impact of their shooting. The world's longest interactive screen will help to add to the immersive experience.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Wonder Mountain's Guardian, though, is its price tag. Its reportedly has a bugdget of just $10 million - a fraction of the amount that Disney and Universal spend on their dark ridecreations. Is it really possible to create a headline ride on such a relative shoestring?
This isn't just about one ride. Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet - once of Disney - hopes that the experiment at Canada's Wonderland will be a success. This will enable the company to roll out similar dark rides across its North American chain. Not only that, but it hopes that each will be customisable at the flick of a switch, enabling the entire plot and characters to be changed almost overnight.
3. Dual-Launch Family Coaster (Gerstlauer)
Gerstlauer-manufacted roller coaster FireChaser Express will debut at Dollywood in 2014, boasting two launch sections - one forwards, and backwards. That'll be a first for a family coaster in the US.
The ride will feature a 2,427-foot circuit, stand at 79 feet tall and hit a top speed of 34.5 miles per hour. The first launch section on the mine train-style coaster will see riders fired from 0 to 16 miles per hour in 1.1 seconds, while the second will take them up to 20 miles per hour in 2 seconds. There will be six "airtime" hills, two helices and a "trick track" section in a ride that is squarely aimed at families.
The theme for the new coaster will be based around a major fire, with riders playing the role of "heroes" who have answered the call. Dollywood claims that guests as young as 4 years old will be able to experience the ride, billed as "the nation's first dual launch family coaster".
2. Drop 'n' Splash (Mack Rides)
Mack showed off another new concept at the IAAPA conference in Orlando in late 2013 - the patent-pending Drop 'n' Splash. The unusual creation is a combination of a roller coaster and a water ride, with the boat being attached to a track that rocks back and forth. There's no news of any installations yet, but Europa Park seems like a likely eventual destination for an early version of the ride.
1. 4th Dimension "Free Spin" Coaster (S&S Worldwide)
S&S Worldwide snapped up the remains of the bankrupt Arrow Dynamics in 2002, with the famous coaster manufacturer having collapsed into insolvency following the disastrous debut of X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain - its first 4th dimension coaster (previously known as X). The "4th dimension" moniker comes from the trains' ability to rotate 360 degrees during the ride. X suffered from serious problems even before its opening day, eventually opening half a year late.
That hasn't stopped S&S from plotting another crack at the 4th Dimension coaster mark. It's put together a prototype of a new version, dubbed the "Free Spin". It's very different to X2, with no control rail in place to limit the spinning. Instead, as the name suggests, gravity alone causes the free spinning effect. You can see Robb Alvey and his pals from Theme Park Review trying out the prototype in the video above.