When I was very young, say maybe five or six, my dad took me on a roller coaster on a visit to King’s Island. Or maybe it was Carowinds. Or the World’s Fair. I don’t remember all the details exactly, but I do know that it was the first (and last) time you would ever get me on one of those things. It would be another 40 years until I rode one again.
We almost made the same mistake with Madison. On our first trip to Disney World, Nicole decided to take her on Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom. If you’ve never been, not only does it have large drops, at one point it appears the ride will leave the tracks thanks to a broken area ahead. Fortunately the cars stop in time. Unfortunately they then continue backwards. It was a while until she would ride a coaster again.
On subsequent visits we did get her to ride some smaller coasters, but not until a recent visit to Six Flags Great America (and some peer pressure) on a class trip did she get the nerve to take on some of the bigger rides again. She survived and cannot wait to go back again. Crisis averted.
Both girls have always loved the premise of roller coasters. They enjoy watching YouTube videos from a first-person point of view and have assembled their K’Nex Typhoon Frenzy Roller Coaster a number of times. But that set is a build-it-and-you’re-done fare. Neither wanted to try to design their own and after a couple assemblies it really didn’t provide any new challenges for them.
As it turned out, our friends at ThinkFun already had a solution in the works. Their brand new Roller Coaster Challenge puzzle game not only let our girls build their own rides, the included card deck gave them goals of ever-increasing difficulty to achieve.
If you’ve ever tried any of ThinkFun’s puzzles, you’ll recognize a similar design choice in Roller Coaster Challenge. The challenge cards have setup instructions on one side and the solution on the back. Your goal – to build a functioning roller coaster using only the pieces depicted on the setup side of the card. The overall feel of the game is very similar to their previously-issued Gravity Maze, but with the addition of ramps. A nice step up from the prior issue – and still just as difficult!
Track pieces come in five colors and are also imprinted with dots. The color of the piece dictates how steep the slope of a particular piece of track is expected to have. For instance, green tracks drop down only one level while orange will drop three. Yellow tracks not only drop down five levels in total, they also feature an exciting loop-the-loop! The number of dots on a section give you clues as to how many spaces across the grid the track will span. Fortunately, all the pieces fit easily – if you find yourself tugging and pulling to make a piece fit, you know it is in the wrong place.
And building a good coaster doesn’t involve just slapping some tracks together. Roller Coaster Challenge includes posts to elevate your creation, tunnels and curved tracks, and even a tiny roller coaster car in which to ‘ride’ in!
As with most of ThinkFun’s puzzles, Roller Coaster Challenge starts off with very easy challenges, easy enough for any elementary-aged child. As you progress in order through the card deck, the tasks get harder. Once you reach the final grouping of “Super Hard” cards, most adults will have great difficulty easily solving the puzzles.
While mainly designed as a single-player game, we enjoy tackling Roller Coaster Challenge as a family affair. With each family member bringing their own talents to the table, it makes some of the harder puzzles more easily attainable. Alas, even with four great minds, some of the Super Hard challenges still evade us.
Featured in this year’s gift guide of S.T.E.M. ideas, Roller Coaster Challenge has already proven to be one of this year’s hottest gifts. You can still find copies on Amazon for under $25 shipped or on the shelves of your local retailer. If you want a chance of winning a copy for yourself, we’ll be giving away one to a lucky reader of SahmReviews starting on Day 95 of our 150+ Days of Giveaways!
What is your favorite roller coaster?