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Arrr! Six Flags Great America gets into the game with Buccaneer Battle

Written by
Published: May 12, 2009 at 4:42 PM

Tuesday Park Visit: While Disney has Buzz Lightyear and Universal has Men in Black, Six Flags now offers its own shooter attraction. However, instead of using electronic guns, Six Flags has gone to something simpler and more reliable: Water!

Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois today debuted its newest attraction, Buccaneer Battle, to the media. In seafaring tradition, Mr. Six (the chain's bald dancing guy) Christened the ride by breaking a bottle against the hull of one of the ships.

Basically, the attraction is a pirate themed water ride in which each guest is armed with a water gun which can be used to squirt targets, other boats, and even “landlubbers” who are just passing by the attraction or shooting back at you with their own water cannons. Each boat holds eight people, with four on each side, and each side has 4 to 5 different targets which guests can shoot at with their water guns.

One of the easiest and fun targets is a crab that shoots jets of water back at you! There are various opportunities, especially when turning corners in the pool, to shoot at other boats and individuals who are standing on shore near the front of the attraction. Of course, those landlubbers have their very own (and free to use) water cannons to return fire, often getting people on the ride absolutely soaked. At the end, if you are unlucky enough, there is a giant water pail that dumps water on guests exiting the ride.

Afterwards, I was able to speak to two people who worked on the ride: Robert Dean of Mack Rides and Bill Scmell of Six Flags Design. This attraction's basic "Splash Battle" design is also at other parks such as Alton Towers, Legoland and Dollywood. However, Great America's is the largest and longest version of this ride, at 450 feet. Dean mentioned that the idea for this ride is not a new concept; rather the innovation came from combining old ideas to create a new one.

Something different from many water shooters is all the guns on Buccaneer Battle are manually operated, meaning that instead of using electricity and pulling a trigger, guests need to turn a crank to get the water squirting. The ride also runs in "creek mode," meaning it never stops, which allows the attraction to get 1000-1200 riders per hour, which they hope will keep the lines down for this attraction.

Schmell talked about how Six Flags, especially Great America, has dived into theming on their new attractions, starting with the Dark Knight Coaster and now with Buccaneer Battle. He mentioned that Great America will be getting a new attraction in the next two years, as well as a celebration in 2011 for Six Flags’ 50th Anniversary and Great America’s 40th Anniversary.

For the most part, Buccaneer Battle is just simple fun. Probably one of the best way to describe it is one of those Disney water rides (It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.) with water guns (oh, the possibilities!). As with other shooter rides, its re-rideablity is huge since it’s a lot more fun to shoot at the people than the targets after awhile. The only downsides to the attraction were that the guns were manual; making it very tiresome after awhile, as well as a relatively short ride. Still, I high recommend everybody get their eye patches and pirate hats and meet me at Six Flags Great America to battle to the wet pirate death on Buccaneer Battle. It’s all good clean fun!

Readers' Opinions

From James Rao on May 12, 2009 at 7:47 PM
Great report, Anthony! Buccaneer Battle looks like a lot of fun, and you're right, it is very much like the River Battle at Dollywood. I am pretty surprised at how well the ride is themed for Six Flags. Kudos to them...and again, kudos to you!
From Anthony Murphy on May 12, 2009 at 7:51 PM
According to the Mack guy, they are more or less the same, but I thought he said it wasn't open due to the economic crisis.I might have heard wrong. Its a pretty decient attraction and, while it is not very long, it looks very well put together meaning it is likely to last pretty long.
From Robert Niles on May 12, 2009 at 8:26 PM
River Battle opened last year at Dollywood. It was the Adventure Mountain play area, next to River Battle, that was originally slated to open this year, but that Dollywood delayed.
From Joshua Counsil on May 13, 2009 at 12:31 PM
Great review. Glad to see Six Flags taking new initiatives.

A few downsides to the attraction:

1) Manual pumping, like you said, might be exhausting to children and the elderly.

2) The streams appeared to be rather tiny.

3) No points system, making the target practice somewhat redundant.

From Anthony Murphy on May 13, 2009 at 3:59 PM
Very good points!

I completly agree and, if you watch the video again, you will see the little boy never cranking his own, but rather dad doing it for him.

Going along with that, you get a real workout to get that stream going! Some of the targets are too far away so you can't get a good pressue to get the targets to go. They could have not been working too.

After going around a couple of times, people decided to just start going after other boats and people on the land. It was much more fun that way.

But even with all of that, its alot of fun and the thing is built like a tank. It looks like it can take some beatings from guests so I doubt this ride will be down too often!

From 75.86.149.235 on May 13, 2009 at 5:32 PM
This is great! I am so exited to go! I love Six Flags Great America!
From Scottland Jacobson on May 14, 2009 at 11:23 AM
Anthony - great report! I'll be hitting the park in July so I'll look forward to riding (and getting soaked!). Is this one included in the Flash Pass?
From Anthony Murphy on May 14, 2009 at 12:58 PM
It is built for Flashpass (one of the first in the park I think), but I do not think the lines will be too long due to getting close to 1200 on an hour. It would be interesting to see how it compares, but its in a continuous circle meaning around 80 people on the entire ride at a time!
From 69.76.105.193 on May 15, 2009 at 11:26 AM
Good report!!!!

While i go to SFGAM often, I dont like getting wet so likely wont ride this, I do hope it serves a purpose by having a LONG line so other lines are shorter.
A interactive dark ride would have been a much better addition to the park!!!

From 96.253.53.44 on May 18, 2009 at 10:11 AM
Great article - I think you captured the essence of the ride very well. I'm Mark Weston, President of Funtraptions, the company who designed and built all the themed water effects/sets, targets and interactive show system. This was one of the most immersively themed rides that Six Flags has built. The interactive targets, themed water effects were intended to create the fun of an old fashioned Disney ride with the excitement and pure fun of interactive water play. With custom sculpted pirate characters, a giant squid with moving-water spraying arms and Crocs snapping at the heels of the Pirate in the tree, we hoped to tell a whimsical and fun story in an exciting and high energy ride for all ages to share.
Working together with Six Flags designer, Bill Schmeil, Mack Rides, the skilled maintenance department staff at Great America, Carved Rock and great local contractors, I am thrilled to say the ride is a huge success. The guests I watched (age 4-74) for 3 days riding the Buccaneer Battle loved it - many running from the exit back to the entrance to ride for a second third or fifth time. Wait until it hits 90 degrees then the fun will begin.
Mark

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