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Best of John Grochowski
New Slots from Konami and Shuffle Master28 January 2003
Most of the slot machines we see on casino floors are produced by a handful of manufacturers. IGT is by far the largest slotmaker, while WMS, Bally Gaming, A.C. Coin, Aristocrat, Atronic and Mikohn have carved out shares of the market.
At the annual Global Gaming Expo, which I attended in September in Las Vegas, I spend a lot of time looking over new games from those manufacturers, but I also like to check out the companies that are just starting to make a name in the market.
One of those is Konami, a Japanese company that has been claiming growing respect from casino slot managers. Another is Shuffle Master, long known as a producer of card shuffling machines for table games as well as distributor of the table game Let It Ride. In the last few years, Shuffle Master also has become active in the slot machine market.
This year, Konami ventured into the growing trend of licensing pop culture icons for use in slot games. In the middle of the Komani booth was a boxing ring, complete with red ropes. And at the center of the ring were the company's new Rocky video slot machines, complete with Sylvester Stallone's image.
That multiline, multicoin video slot could pack a wallop with Stallone fans, but the bigger crowds were gathered around a bank of reel-video hybrid games. The games have a set of reels inside, facing down. Players can't see the reels themselves, but can see an image reflected off a mirror toward the bottom of the cabinet onto a screen. During regular play, the top half of the screen shows the reels, while the bottom half shows graphics and animation.
When the player reaches the bonus round, reels are no longer shown. Instead, the full screen is used for the animated bonus game. I tested a game called Ninja vs. Ninja, one of several using the hybrid format. My bonus round consisted of several levels, trying to find the ninja warrior behind obstacles such as brick walls. Failure to find the warrior ended the round.
I found the hybrid intriguing, a format that could please players who like both the three-reel format and the bonusing usually found on multiline video games. The screen is set back from the front glass, and a few others who tested the games said they felt like they were staring into a tunnel. I didn't have that problem, and found the games fun to play.
Shuffle Master, meanwhile, put on the largest display of new slots it's had. A number of games were based on pop culture favorites, including The Incredible Hulk, Laurel & Hardy and Rubik's Cube. But the real eye-catcher, and a game with a bonus round that was one of the most fun to play, was the Budweiser slot.
In a cabinet shaped like a beer bottle, Budweiser is a nine-line, five-reel video slot with reel symbols that include bottle caps, cans and various Bud logos. There are two bonus rounds, one of which is triggered by lining up three bottle caps. The reels fade from the screen, replaced by a view from above a case of Bud. Touching a bottle cap reveals a bonus multiplier. The player continues to choose until two matching multipliers are revealed. That determines the bonus.
More entertaining is the swamp bonus, launched when three frogs land on the screen. This animated round features old TV commercial favorites--Frank and Louie the lizards, and the "Bud" "Weis" "Er" frogs. The lizards provide pithy commentary as the frogs dive into the swamp. Hiding places light up on the screen. The player touches the hiding places, collecting bonuses with each swamp creature found. Finding the ferret ends the round. If all three frogs are found before the ferret, the bonus is multiplied.
All the while, the lizards keep up a low-key, humorous dialogue that will sound familiar to fans of the commercials. When I played the bonus round, Louie claimed that "When they win, I win," and encouraged players to send him a check, leading to this exchange:
FRANK: "Easy Louie. No one's sending you any money."
Fun stuff in perhaps the most entertaining bonus round at the expo.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
Best of John Grochowski