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Those Great New Video Slots

12 November 2012

By John Grochowski

The video age has been liberating for slot machine designers, and not just in ability to use animation and special effects to create entertaining bonus events. They can play with the configuration of the reels, and even change the number of reels from spin to spin.
Take The Munsters Family Portrait, one of the spotlight games at Incredible Technologies’ booth at the annual Global Gaming Expo that ran Oct. 2-4 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas. Instead of the standard five reels that we usually see on video slots, there are nine reels full of Munsters characters and icons, including the actors from the spooky 1960s sitcom.

But only five of the nine are used to determine your outcome on each spin. There’s a five-reel frame for this portrait, and it slides back and forth over the full reel set. Wherever it stops, it frames the five reels that are going to count for that spin. Those reels are bright and in full color, while the other four are dimmed.

For us old-timers who took math before iPads --- or even pocket calculators --- the effect is like a slide rule, using the slide to frame your calculation.

On a slot machine, the frame means the players will be able to see the other four reels, and what they would have gotten if the frame had stopped elsewhere. Sometimes players will be excited the frame stopped in the right place, sometimes it'll be more, "Darn! I woulda, coulda, shoulda won."

The Munsters Family Portrait is the first Incredible game that uses a licensed pop culture theme. Other IT games on display at G2E stuck to themes developed in-house, such as The Herd, which raises excitement level whenever the herd of bison --- or horses, or antelope --- stampede across the screen to celebrate a big win. It’s easy to make out the animals of The Herd, but what of the characters in Squishy Blobs. There, the reel symbols are … ummmmm … squishy blobs, cartoon shapes in a fun game featuring stacked wilds and a musical free spin bonus kicked off when the DJ Scatter character appears on the second and fourth reels.

The Herd and Squishy Blobs are both part of Incredible’s Traditional line. But IT is known for designing games with a difference, such as Ultra Mega in the company’s Innovation Collection. Ultra Mega figures to appeal to the first generations of video gamers, those who played the 8-bit games with tinny music and what now looks like simple animation.

Ultra Mega is wonderfully retro with its stylized strawberries, cherries, 7s, lightning bolts and bars. But it’s also right up to date as a 64-payline game with each of the five-main reels being four symbols deep, and it adds a new twist in the Power Reel. The Power reel is a single-space reel off to the side of the main game play. It displays a multiplier giving you anywhere from one to 50 times your winnings on the base game, or up to 75 times pay in bonus play. Bonuses start with 12 free spins, and can be retriggered for up to 75 plays.

Aristocrat plays with the reels, too, in its eye-catching Superman video slots. Sometimes the Clark Kent symbol turns into Superman, soars up the screen and extends the reel, creating extra symbols and extra paying connections.

Superman is really two games in one. You can bet with a row of red buttons to play for pennies, with increments from 50 cents to $2.50. Or, just above, there's a row of green (for kryptonite) buttons to play the Lex Luthor game instead. That's a high-denom game, with increments from $5 to $25. Play for 50 cents, and the top jackpot starts at $50,000. Play for $25, and it's $2.5 million.

And speaking of unusual reel formats, Aristocrat has put a different spin on games that present four sets of video reels. If you play video slots, no doubt you’ve seen machines where the effect is that you’re playing four games at once.

Up till now, all four games were the same theme. Aristocrat is changing that with its Wonder 4 slots. The initial release includes four titles --- Buffalo, Wild Splash, Firelight and Pompei. Touch the screen to choose which games to play. If you want four games of Pompei, that’s fine. But you could choose one of each game or two Buffalos, a Firelight and a Pompei.

Pick any combination you like. This video reel format gives you a little of the designers’ flexibility.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com.
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, with podcasts at www.wlsam.com/sectional.asp?id=38069. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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