Rex and I have recently returned from the grand opening of Dinosaurs Alive! at the King's Island park in Mason, OH. During our coverage of their new addition, we were also able to ride some classic KI rides as well as some of their newer thrill rides. The one I was obviously most excited to experience was the park's only megacoaster, the 200+ tall steel monster called "Diamondback." The coaster opened in 2009 and Rex and the Beast were a part of the "First Rider" auction – unfortunately I was under the weather, so Rex covered the event himself, being one of the "first riders" on the coaster. He loved the ride and we had to wait 2 years until we were both able to experience it together.
Thankfully, there was a zero wait time for the ride; we walked right on. The trains are some of the coolest I have ever ridden, situated so that you have a "front row view" from any portion of the train (see photo below). Rex and I rode the first time in the very back and the second time in the very front. Here are some general thoughts from The Beast (Rex will have to speak for himself):
First, Diamondback is much better experienced in the front. Every coaster has its own dynamic that creates a more exhilarating experience either in the front or back. For me, the front of this particular coaster was clearly the better experience. It is one of the only coasters where I felt like the ride was actually faster from the front then the back, which defies all logic, but that was my experience. The sheer size and breadth of the coaster offers a greater impact from the front and even though each train is designed for an optimal viewing experience, there is still something pretty powerful about the freedom of sight from the front row on Diamondback. The lack of any protection on your side adds to this.
Second, Diamondback provides more airtime than any coaster I have ridden. From the top of the hills to halfway down the descent, you are out of your seat each time. I am not exaggerating when I say that a 1/4 of the ride is experienced out of your seat. You just have to ride it to believe it.
Third, Diamondback has a great first drop followed by another terrific second drop (fairly common to megacoaster designs) and then gives a powerful 2/3 remainder of the ride, creating smiles and laughs the entire time. Speed + airtime is what drives this coaster.
On the negative side of things, there are just a couple to mention:
First, the remainder 1/3 of the ride doesn't hold up. The "splash down" effect is pointless (Sheikra at Busch Gardens in Tampa has a much better splash down) and you realize the ride is essentially over – it is just trying to get you back to the station. I feel the same way about the last 1/3 of Hulk at Islands of Adventure.
Second, Diamondback does not offer anything overly unique or different, which isn't necessarily a bad thing I suppose, but it is worth mentioning. Apart from the design of the cars, the track itself is pretty typical of a megacoaster track, which is terrific, but still fairly typical. Ultimately, it doesn't matter too much because King's Island wanted and needed and megacoaster and they got one. Big time.
So, where does Diamondback stand with some of the other classic megacoasters in parkdom? Rex and the Beast still have our fair share of megacoasters to ride before we can offer an exhaustive analysis, but as of this writing I would place Diamondback somewhere safely in the middle. Not at the top, but certainly not at the bottom. I prefer the King's Island coaster over Goliath at Six Flag's Magic Mountain, Skeikra at Busch Gardens Tampa, and Xcelerator at Knott's Berry Farm. I do not think it can compare with Magnum XL-200 or Millennium Force in the megacoaster category (of course, Millennium Force is a giga coaster). After thinking through the coasters with which it is somewhat comparable, then you have to ask how it stands to all roller coasters in general, regardless of the lift hill and design. The Golden Ticket Awards has Diamondback listed at #7 on the best steel coaster list and #8 on the best coaster list including both steel and wooden. I think that is probably dead on right.
What is certain is that Diamondback offers an incredible ride experience and delivers a wonderful addition to the already jam packed King's Island park. KI is really one of the best parks going and hopefull will continue to see great success.