The theme park industry has become an IP war as major players grab the rights to Harry Potter, Star Wars, and other popular franchises. Six Flags controls the Warner Bros. characters, including super heroes like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. They have mostly used them for thrill rides with modest theming from the DC universe, however. Prime examples include coasters like Bizarro at Six Flags New England and Superman: Ride of Steel at Six Flags America. Neither is fully immersive or tells a convincing story. Even less exciting is the Dark Knight Coaster, which often appears on lists of the worst rides in existence. Thankfully, a new attraction has arrived this year that doesn’t simply use the familiar faces like window dressing.
Justice League: Battle for Metropolis was designed by the Sally Corporation, known for interactive dark rides. Their work includes Gobbler Getaway at Holiday World, the infamous Nights in White Satin at the now defunct Hard Rock Park, and many Scooby-Doo attractions. Scooby-Doo Ghostblasters was the lone dark ride at Six Flags St. Louis and occupied valuable real estate near the front of the park. It offered the perfect spot for an indoor ride that represented a huge technological leap over the previous resident. Instead of building an overlay (a la Frozen Ever After), Sally was given the budget to completely overhaul Ghostblasters. Oceaneering’s motion-based ride vehicles helped raise the bar.
Last week, I experienced Battle for Metropolis at Six Flags St. Louis while visiting the park with my daughter. We arrived shortly after park opening and strolled through the large outdoor queue without a problem. The line barely stretched into the room just beyond the spot where you board the ride vehicles. I was immediately struck by how different the entire building felt than any previous occupant. I was most familiar with the Legends of Dark Castle and Castaway Kids boat rides during the ‘90s. This queue would not feel out of place at Universal, and that feeling remained during the main event. The effects don’t quite match Spider-man, but we’re not far that out of that zone.
The queue’s first indoor room is a basic switchback that includes multiple screens that describe the situation in Metropolis. The Joker and Lex Luthor have nefarious plans to take down the Justice League, and only we can stop them. A final room includes the animatronic Cyborg, who educates us about the ride. It’s an impressive effect for the queue and immerses us in the story. There’s another large screen in the back with more familiar heroes and villains appearing.
I noticed a few interesting things during our extensive time in this room. First of all, the individual vehicles travel quite far apart. This creates the illusion that we are the only ones fighting this menace. The downside is that limits the ride capacity. The other issue was the confusion during repeated technical difficulties. The ride shut down for a while later in the day, so I was lucky to get a chance to experience it.
Battle for Metropolis offers an interesting mix of The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man with Men in Black: Alien Attack. The six-person vehicles move smoothly through the mix of sets and screens while fire and smoke adds to the environment. There are five large 17-by-30-foot screens with characters that respond directly to your individually colored laser shots. The physical sets don’t mix with the screens as well as Universal rides, but they are impressive. Despite the intensity on the screens, the vehicle movements are deliberate. This should be good news for guests prone to motion sickness. The final two battles involve rapid chases down a street and through a subway, but closing your eyes should remove any issues. It’s an exciting four-minute attraction with great repeatability.
Six Flags deserves credit for giving Sally the resources to build a top-notch attraction. The big question is whether this move is the start of a trend or an isolated example. I expect that we’ll see more versions of Battle for Metropolis appearing at other Six Flags parks during the next few years. It’s still the only dark ride in Six Flags St. Louis, however. It would be thrilling to have more ways to escape the summer heat coming down the road. The technical issues could signal that this ride was rushed, which is not a good sign. I spoke to other guests who waited in line and eventually gave up after repeated breakdowns. If Six Flags wants to go further with dark rides, they will hopefully learn from this experience. Regardless, Battle for Metropolis is a wonderful addition to a park that needed a more diverse collection of attractions.