I should have known from the new red and black color scheme that Wildcat’s Revenge was not a predator to play with.
Wildcat’s Revenge, the revamped rollercoaster with a century-long history, opens to the public on Friday, but media and coaster influencers received a preview on Thursday.
The wooden skeleton of what was once known as The Wildcat is still there in all its timber glory, but a hulking mass of red and black metal now adorns more than 3,000 feet of its track. The first Wild Cat opened in 1923 and closed in 1946, before it returned 50 years later as the bumpy, all-wood “The Wildcat” that recent generations of Hersheypark heads have come to know.
Approaching the coaster, I could tell right away that the new color scheme is meant to signal that this is not your grandpappy’s Wildcat. Chunky metal riffs blast from the corner speakers as you take your seat in the ride, which is your first sign that things might get extreme. My immediate thought upon sitting in the coaster car is that my regular posture is atrocious.
To properly sit in the ride, one must sit as upright as a child in finishing school. It’s important to mention here that I am 6 feet tall and somewhat lanky, and my legs just barely felt like they fit in the ride properly. Safety bar or no, I was not going anywhere.
‘Wildcat’s Revenge’ rollercoaster to open at Hersheypark at the beginning of June
An immediate joy about Wildcat’s Revenge is that, from the moment the ride takes off, it almost instantly jolts off instead of giving you a few seconds to ponder the next minute and a half of your life. One of the hallmarks of the old Wildcat is the outsized decibel level of sound from a coaster car sailing around on a wooden track.
Other than the initial tick-tick-tick up the initial 140-foot climb and the hard stop at the end, Wildcat’s Revenge is unbelievably smooth. I say “unbelievably smooth,” because, as I finished my first ride, that was the consensus from most of my fellow riders: “Wow, that was smooth.” “Unbelievably smooth!” “Yeah…very smooth,” they called out in disbelief.
Since the park is essentially re-introducing a beloved favorite after a year out of commission, it makes sense that expectations play a big part of the experience. It makes little sense in my brain that a ride that looks, if you squint, much like the older version, feels as fresh and new as it does.
For those that find themselves scared of rollercoasters, there’s really only one section that had me holding my breath – that 140-foot drop. For as loud as the climb is, the descent is almost terrifyingly silent. It feels, well, like a big fall, almost untethered from the track itself. It’s all part of the experience, but each of my rides provoked a similar sense of giddy dread.
A big selling point of Wildcat’s Revenge is the boast from Rocky Mountain Construction that the coaster has the “world’s largest underflip.” From a rider perspective, I have no idea if that is true, but what I do know is that the underflip caused a tear to dislodge from my left eyeball, quickly fly off my face and then back into my right eyeball, all in the span of a millisecond or two. Is that a scientific way to deduce the effectiveness of an underflip? Perhaps not, but it was exhilarating all the same.
Unlike other coasters at Hersheypark, there didn’t seem to be much difference in your seat affecting your level of thrill – after three rides at near the front, near the back and square in the middle, I emerged at the end of each ride with more or less the same level of frazzled grin.
Time will tell if the new-and-improved Wildcat’s Revenge will be received as warmly as its wooden forebearer, but consider me part of the clowder of fans of this particular cat. It’s already well on its way to nine lives, though I have a feeling this one will be out for revenge for years to come.