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Report from the 2004 Global Gaming Expo

23 November 2004

Clint Eastwood was at the Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center earlier this month, promoting WMS Gaming's new line of slot machines bearing his image.

Pamela Anderson was there, and Ann-Margret, Pele, Drew Carey, Paul Rodriguez - well, you get the idea. Slot machine manufacturers have been mining pop culture for years, and the annual fall conference and trade show gives them their big chance to show off the games we'll be seeing in the coming year.

When I stopped to hobnob with a celeb, it was the biggest of them all - standing 8 feet tall - Bullwinkle J. Moose.

As I stepped up to one of Bally's two new "Rocky and Bullwinkle" video slots - there are also two new reel-spinners featuring the moose and squirrel - Bullwinkle waved with enthusiasm. He didn't speak at all - must be laryngitis season in Frostbite Falls - but showed keen interest as I entered the "Save Nell" bonus round. Nell was tied to the railroad tracks. Would Snidely Whiplash do her in, or would Dudley Do-Right save her? Nell's fate was in my hands as I touched the screen to see who would advance up the track.

"What do you think, Bullwinkle? Can we save Nell?" I asked.

The muscular moose nodded in enthusiastic affirmation.

I needn't have feared. Just as it appeared Snidely would win, Dudley and his horse charged to the finish. Nell was safe, and I collected bonuses based on how far both Snidely and Dudley advanced up the track. Bullwinkle raised his arms in triumph as I grinned.

June Foray, who voiced Rocky and many of the female characters in the original Jay Ward animated cartoon series, does the same here. It's a kick just hearing that voice announce, "Here's another of our special features" before Bullwinkle tries to pull a rabbit out of the hat in another bonus round.

Alas, I soon had to take my leave. Bullwinkle had customers to greet, and I had other games to try out:

Pong (Bally): Beyond Bullwinkle, there were plenty of kicks at the Bally booth. Pong, with the Atari logo overhead, harkens back to the '70s and the release of the first video arcade game. In one bonus round, you actually play a game of Pong against the computer. The longer you last, the bigger the bonus. Skill counts.

Another bit of nostalgic fun comes from S&H Green Stamps. As you play, you collect stamps, just as we used to do in grocery stores oh so many years ago. The stamps accumulate separately from any wins or losses on the game. When you leave, take a ticket for the amount of green stamps you have and feed it into a "Redemption Center" kiosk to either claim a prize or open an account to save for the prize you want.

A Fistful of Dollars (WMS Gaming): There are two themes to kick off WMS' new line of Clint Eastwood five-reel video progressives, and both have shoot-'em-up bonus rounds. In "A Fistful of Dollars: Wanted," on the second-screen bonus, players hunt the bad guys and Clint guns 'em down. And in "A Fistful of Dollars: Wild Shot," Clint puts a bullet through symbols on the reel, turning them into wild symbols that match anything on the payline. That leads to bigger payoffs and big fun for those in a spaghetti Western frame of mind.

WMS brings back the "Men in Black" with Riches of the Universe - touch the aliens to send them back to their mother ship. The latest in the "Hollywood Squares" franchise is Premiere Night, with live-action video of Joan Rivers announcing as a limo pulls up. Touch the car's windows to choose a celeb for bonuses.

Monopoly Reel Riches takes players on a trip around the board that doesn't end until they choose a property deed that has already been sold - even landing on Go to Jail didn't end my round.

And WMS is getting back into reel-spinning slots, where it has had little presence in recent years, with a new series of Dotmation games. These aren't the plain old orange-on-black Dotmation boards of the old days. This time, WMS has gone for full-color Dotmation to bring fun bonuses to the reel-spinning format.

Wheel of Fortune Super Spin, (IGT): Think you've seen a lot of "Wheel of Fortune" on slot floors? With this version, you'll be seeing a lot of "Wheel of Fortune." Here, the wheel is huge, big enough that nine players sit around it, each with their own video screen. If multiple players reach the bonus round at about the same time, they can opt to wait their turn or can choose to get in on another player's spin.

One IGT game I loved was Elvis Multi Strike, taking Leading Edge Design's "Multi Strike Poker" concept to a video slot format. Win on the first spin of the video reels and you get a second set of reels, worth double paybacks, and a win there gives you a third try, quadrupling the pay table. Presley fanatics will love the bonus rounds - a "Concert Clips" bonus with live-action Elvis clips and an applause meter deciding if the King gets an encore appearance; a "Photo Memories" bonus (building an Elvis photo album) and a "Record Sales" bonus (spinning an Elvis hit as sales and credits mount).

Back to the Future gives players a unique opportunity to improve the past - the flux capacitor of time-travel movie fame allows players to take the last four spins again.

In Donald Trump's The Apprentice, you choose contestants to fire, until The Donald announces, "Even though you're a big winner, you're fired."

And for a campy good time, inventor and TV pitchmeister Ron Popeil is represented with But Wait! Win More! Pick a Popeil product such as the electric inside-the-shell egg scrambler and you'll think of a thousand old commercials as first a bonus award is revealed, then Popeil announces, "But wait! There's more!" as the bonus is increased.

50 Lions and Star Drifter (Aristocrat): How far can game manufacturers push the number of paylines on video slots? How about 50? That's what Aristocrat has done with "50 Lions" and "Star Drifter." The twist is that each credit buys two lines. Aristocrat uses five reels, as is common on video slots, but puts four symbols on each reel instead of the traditional three, opening more paylines. The game is very much Australian-style, with an emphasis on free-spin bonuses.

Aristocrat, which has had big success with its "Reel Power" series, where wagers buy symbols instead of paylines, has stepped up the concept with Super Reel Power, featuring five symbols per reel and 3,125 ways to win. It also has combined the gameplay of "Reel Power" with its four-way Hyperlink jackpots in the new Money Honey game. And then there's Zorro, where spelling Z-O-R-R-O across the screen brings a second-screen bonus to win credits, multipliers and free spins.

Cash Fever (Atronic): A four-way progressive system, "Cash Fever" starts with two new base games - "Time for Money" and "Bedazzled." You don't have to bet maximum coins to be eligible for the progressive jackpot - any wager can win. But the more you bet, the higher the possible jackpot. Unlike other multilevel progressives, "Cash Fever" lets you watch your progress toward the jackpot levels. As your winnings accumulate on the second-screen bonus, you watch as you reach the fourth-tier jackpot and then, if you're lucky, advance to the third, second or first. It gives you the fun of striving toward a goal instead of just letting the jackpot be a mystery. With an ever-expanding game library, including the Magic bonus series and new "Penny Parade" games, Atronic continues to be a strong up-and-comer.

Report from the 2004 Global Gaming Expo is republished from GamingMeets.com.
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Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski