Slot manufacturers strive to put their own spin on the hold-and-respin bonus
Holding and Spinning
By Frank Legato
As I’ve noted in this space before, the hold-and-respin bonus has effectively become the new bonus wheel. The modern bonus wheel originated with one inventor and manufacturer (Randy Adams and Bally), after which it was patented by IGT and eventually, when the patent ran out, was adopted by all other manufacturers.
We’ve seen the bonus wheel presented in myriad different ways—credit awards joined by multipliers and jackpots; multiple arrows on the wheel for easier prizes; giant horizontal wheels; wheels that dominate slot screens. Each manufacturer has strived to distinguish a wheel bonus to make it the manufacturer’s own.
The same thing is now happening with the hold-and-respin bonus. Originated by legendary slot designer Scott Olive for Aristocrat’s Lightning Link franchise, the hold-and-respin bonus—branded “Hold & Spin” by Aristocrat—is appearing in games from just about every slot manufacturer. It is a proven slot game mechanic that players have shown that they love.
Hold-and-respin is practically a requirement now for any manufacturer’s game library. And, just as happened with the bonus wheel, each manufacturer puts its own spin, if you will, on the bonus sequence in an attempt to stand out from the crowd.
At its most basic, the hold-and-respin bonus goes like this: A given number of special symbols, usually coins, appear to trigger the event. These symbols are usually “cash-on-reels” symbols, each bearing a credit amount. The triggering symbols remain in place for three spins. Every time another coin symbol lands, the spin count returns to three. The bonus continues until three spins occur without a coin symbol, after which all those credits are added up and awarded.
Most games of this nature award a special prize for filling all reel spots with coins (known as a “blackout”)—often a top progressive jackpot.
Slot manufacturers each strive to make this basic game mechanic their own by adding a unique twist. That even applies to the originator of the feature, Aristocrat. Take its new game Tarzan Link. The feature progresses in the familiar manner—four or more bonus symbols lock in place to reveal cash-on-reels symbols or jackpot symbols, and the three-spin cycle follows.
What distinguishes this event is the availability of jackpots. The game has two separate Hold & Spin events that can yield one of four jackpots. The Super Hold & Spin event includes the three lower ones—static awards of $10 (Mini) and $50 (Minor), and a progressive resetting at $1,000 on the lower denominations and $5,000 on the $1, $2 and $5 denominations (Major). The Super Super Hold & Spin includes the top Grand progressive, resetting at $10,000.
This is one of the only games you’ll see with jackpots that big available through a hold-and-respin event.
Some manufacturers use expanding reels as the twist. Light & Wonder’s Ultimate Fire Link features a hold-and-spin bonus triggered by fireball symbols. Every fireball is held as a cash-on-reels symbol, and the normal three-spin counter begins for respins. The twist here is a special gold Ultra Fire Link fireball on a full reel, which triggers the Ultimate Fire Link spin. The reel array expands to eight symbols on all reels, and all fireballs are held as cash-on-reels symbols for a respin.
Some games, like Big Fat Dragon by Gaming Arts, inject humor into the mix. In a unique sequence, three or more scatter symbols trigger the “Feeding Frenzy Free Spins.” The reels will move to the upper part of the screen. For each spin, a blank reel position will display either food or armor. Armor locks in place, and the food is eaten by the Big Fat Dragon, revealing cash-on-reels symbols, or one of three progressive jackpots. The player continues the free-spin feature until all 15 positions are filled with armor.
In Bluberi’s Double Flamin’ Link, the central hold-and-respin feature revolves around “cash balls” that land on the reels. Six cash balls trigger a hold-and-spin bonus. The usual script takes place—three spins, cash-on-reels and jackpot symbols holding in place. The unique feature here is the “Helping Hand” character, which can throw cash balls onto the screen, or split cash balls into two symbols, to help trigger the bonus or to reset the spin meter.
The Helping Hand characters can even split cash balls or save a player when they’re out of spins. If the hold-and-spin feature yields a blackout—all 15 reel spots containing cash symbols—the Helping Hand character appears and juggles fireballs until one reveals a guaranteed large progressive jackpot—the Major, resetting at $500; or the Grand, resetting at $10,000.
Other unique hold-and-respin events can be found in games from Ainsworth and Konami.
Ainsworth’s Ca$h Stacks Gold uses the manufacturer’s trademark “Hold ’N Stack” feature with a twist. Values displayed at the top of each reel increase with every spin. Landing a stack—coins on all symbols on a reel—locks in the award at the top, and the player keeps spinning until no symbols land for the remainder of the spins, or all 15 reel spots display coins. The values underneath each coin are revealed at the end of the feature, and are added to the value on top of each stacked reel.
The feature begins with five free spins, but extra spins can be awarded throughout the bonus. When three of five reels achieve stacks, the Major jackpot appears over the remaining two. When the Major is secured, the remaining reel is topped by the Grand, awarded with all reel spots displaying coins.
In Konami’s Stuffed Coins, the main event is a free-spin feature that includes a hold-and-respin round. Three, four or five Gong symbols trigger eight, 10 or 12 free spins, respectively. During the free spins, three or more cash-on-reel coin symbols lock in place, and the reels respin for as long as more coin symbols land. The respins continue until no coin symbols land, or until all reel spots contain coins. At the end of the session, the main character can award a multiplier to the accumulated bonus.
What’s interesting here is that the respins are not counted as free spins. When the feature ends, the free spins pick up where they left off and the bonus continues.
The hold-and-respin bonus is not going anywhere, any time soon. All that’s left is to wonder what new twist on the feature will appear in the next game.