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Our annual look at what’s in store for slot players in the coming year

By Frank Legato

 

For anyone interested in new slot machines, Las Vegas is the place to be this month.

The first week of October, professionals who run casinos around the world converge on Las Vegas for the most important business event on the industry calendar, the Global Gaming Expo—G2E.

The G2E show gives casino professionals the chance to network, to learn about the most important issues facing the casino business, and to view products from a variety of areas that will help them do their jobs better.

However, the products that typically are the most closely watched are the ones that stand to make the most money for the casinos—the slot machines. The G2E show is the annual event where the slot manufacturers of the world parade out their new games for the coming year. The show provides a snapshot of the clever new games, the fun new ways to play, and the great new experiences being cooked up by the people who put the fun into the slot floor.

Casino slot managers show up at G2E with their budget authorizations in hand, so they can stock their floors with new games. Strictly Slots shows up not only to scout out games that will make good features, but to produce the issue of the magazine you hold in your hands. Our readers look to this issue every year to get a glimpse of the games that will be coming to their local casinos over the coming year.

And there are some really great experiences coming your way. Businesses everywhere have cut back because of the recession, and that includes slot manufacturers, but one function the slot-makers have never cut back on is research and development. Game development staffs and budgets are typically the No. 1 priority for slot manufacturers, and the creativity that pours forth from the top slot-makers never ceases to amaze us slot players.

So relax, sit back and enjoy your annual sneak-peek at the games coming to a casino near you in the coming months. We’ve arranged them in alphabetical order according to manufacturer, but that means nothing with respect to who has the best games. The fact is, all of the major slot manufacturers seem to get more creative every year, coming up with new ways to play slots, and ultimately, redefining what a slot machine is.

 

AC Slots

You may not recognize the name, but you’ll recognize the games. AC Slots is the company formerly known as AC Coin  Slots.

AC Slots has always been known for great bonus games that were, until now, always attached to a base game from International Game Technology. This year, though, the company branches out with its own proprietary games, home-grown from bottom to top, thanks to a new video computer platform it calls “Axcess.”

We won’t bore you with the technology, but Axcess comes in two forms—a standard cabinet with dual 22-inch monitors and another with a long, vertical 32-inch monitor. High-definition graphics, booming sound and a lot of new play styles distinguish these games.

The reel-spinning version of the cabinet offers something completely new—oblong reels, fitting five symbols per reel, for reel games with higher hit frequency than most video slots.

Among the special features of Axcess is player choice in the bonus rounds—you choose between a free-spin or pick-style event every when a bonus is triggered—and “Double Roaming Wilds,” which are wild reels that appear two at a time in different positions on the screen during free spins.

One of the best new games in the new series is Freak Show. The high-def video shows off great, intricate artwork re-creating images one would expect to find on a 19th century circus poster. Bearded ladies, strongmen, Siamese twins and other famous oddities are depicted in full-color animation that makes the base game compelling in anticipation of frequent bonus rounds—the player’s choice between a picking bonus that has you matching three “Freak Stars” for an award and a free-spin bonus with the Double Roaming Wild feature.

Other games have AC Slots’ typically easy-to-understand bonus rounds, each with a funny character at the center. A good example is Karate Pig, available in both video and reel-spinning models. It features a three-level second-screen bonus event involving a comical cartoon pig who happens to be a marshal-arts master. In the first level, the pig cooks Japanese dishes. Success at that level moves to a second-level screen in which the pig practices moves for a karate contest—if making the right picks, moving on to that contest in the third, highest-paying level.

The 32-inch vertical cabinet allows specialized games of its own like King Tut’s Fortune, featuring a zodiac over the reels on the vertical screen; and  Lucky Star, which includes a game show-style wheel on top of the reels hosted by a smarmy game-show-host character; and Dream Chaser, which uses the popular cascading-symbols free-spin bonus first seen in “Dream Weaver.”

The new reel-spinning cabinet also will feature revivals of past themes, from  game franchises from past years. In the “Axcess Premium” series are Redfire and Cirque Prime, two new “Big Roller Series” games featuring the familiar scrolling top-box bonus initiated with the hit “Bankroll” series. There also is a new “Double Play” game—the series started with “Phat Cat” that features two machines in front of a single large LCD bonus screen—called Queen Liona. (She’s queen of the lions, incidentally.)

Other game revivals use the tried-and-true IGT base games to extend popular game series. Sparky’s Red Hot Rescue places the fire-house theme on the “Empire Climb” series—the top boxes of the games form buildings, and the bonus event involves climbing those buildings. Merlin is a game carrying the famous wizard theme to a “Super Bankroll” game with a scrolling top-box bonus common to several games.

 

 

Aristocrat Technologies

Aristocrat has always been known for making great video slots, but some of its best games for the coming year have mechanical reels. That’s not to say they don’t have video as well—they are hybrid games. But these are hybrids like you’ve never seen them.

Aristocrat’s newest product is the Viridian Hybrid Stepper system. There are five mechanical reels with a transparent video-screen overlay, but what makes it different from other hybrids of this style is a third display device between the reels and the video screen Aristocrat calls the “Shutters.”

“Active Reel Technology,” as it is called, allows the display to shut off any or all of the mechanical reels from view while video plays on the outer LCD screen. To the player, a five-reel mechanical game can become a three-reel game for the bonus, with animation right next to the reels. Or, the reels can be completely obscured for a total video bonus. And Aristocrat’s game designers are getting really clever with this new toy, in several different game categories.

The new format is used to great success with two new games in the series based on the Zorro books and films. Zorro: The Legend Returns and Zorro: The Mask and the Rose are both three-level progressives with five different common bonus features.

Other Viridian Hybrid games are  Persian Prize, Pixie Riches and Tahitian Treasures, combinations of the Hyperlink four-level progressive and the “Bonus Bank” series, in which a player ante wager activates several game-specific bonus rounds, which alternate at random.

All of the games have a common “Lamp Bonus,” which prompts the player to pick a lamp to reveal either a game-specific bonus or one of the four progressive jackpots. If the progressive is matched, the player selects coins from a new screen to unlock one or more of the progressive prizes.

The screen switches from reels to all video for this event.

“Ultra Spin,” launching in the Viridian Hybrid with Diamond Destiny and Ruby Saloon, is a series of Bonus Bank games using free spins as the main bonus event, with a four-level progressive triggered either in the primary game or a bonus event. “Ultra Spins” collect gems that correspond to each progressive jackpot.

Multiple-progressive slots will be another Aristocrat hallmark this year, including Tarzan: The Adventures Return, a sequel to the hugely popular “Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle” that arrived on slot floors this summer. It will be the same high-hitting progressive link as the original, which is popular because it has a high hit frequency on the top progressive jackpot.

A second game for the same progressive link as Tarzan is another game carrying a licensed theme—Mission: Impossible, the first of what will be a series of slots based on the 1996 film directed by Brian DePalma and starring Tom Cruise. Although Cruise declined to participate or have his image represented on the game, other stars of the movie did take part—notably, Jon Voigt and Ving Rhames, who provided voice-over for the audio.

Other new film-based titles to be launched next year include JAWS: Bounty Hunter, the third entry in the popular series based on the 1970s shark-attack films—this one has an immersive “sound chair” attached to it—and The Mummy, a stand-alone progressive game based on the Mummy films that began in 1999.

One of the biggest pieces of news from Aristocrat, though, is Cash Express Gold Class, a revival of the wildly popular original Cash Express game in the ground-breaking Hyperlink series.

In addition to the random bonus games that lead to one of four Hyperlink jackpots plus a top wide-area prize, the new version of Cash Express—featuring the familiar animated train sequence with modern technology boosting the power—includes multiplier wheel features, with high-frequency base games, bonus and jackpot features., and a bonus tower shaped like the smokestack of a steam locomotive.

Also from Aristocrat, watch for themed slots Sherlock Holmes, based on the blockbuster 2009 film; and the premier of a Superman game, in both the Vervehd and Viridian Hybrid reel formats—one version based on the 1970s films starring Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel, and an animated version based on the classic comic-book hero.

 

 

Aruze Gaming

Aruze is still riding the success of last year’s mega-hit, Paradise Fishing, and its “Reel Feel” technology—that’s the gimmick that adds tension joysticks that serve as “fishing poles” for each player during a community fishing event played out on a giant display. Each player feels the “bite” of the fish, and an authentic struggle to reel it in.

Next year, Aruze will provide the follow-up with Amazon Fishing, another “Reel Feel” community game with a fishing bonus—this time, in the Amazon jungle.

Aruze also is launching a new product group—its first new reel-spinning series, “Innovator with Radiant Reels.” The new technology features large reels—they are the largest strips for a five-reel format in the business—along with multi-colored LED back lighting and variable reel speeds add to the effect.

Radiant Reels feature over 10 different spin movements—they spin forward and backward at various speeds, ranging from 3 RPM to 200 RPM, building anticipation before the reel results are displayed.

Aruze is launching four games in the new series, Four Chinese Beasts, Bamboo Panda, Fu Lu Shou and King of Dragons.

Other new standout games will come your way in the “G-Deluxe” series, which features the kind of tall, elaborate top-box bonus device that made last year’s “Chinese Queen” so successful.

In the forefront this year is Wheel of Pharaoh, which combines transforms Aruze’s already-popular Egyptian-themed game into something else altogether, with a progressive jackpot and lots of bonuses in a multimedia package. You won’t miss this one—just look for the pharaoh’s head on top. The eyes light up as it speaks tot he player. Yes, it speaks to the player.

Other games to be launched in the G-Deluxe line include Rock You Queen III, the third interactive bonus slot based on the music of Queen; and The Four Heavenly Kings.       Watch for new Aruze slots featuring “Max Bet Specials” and “High Power” mode. These features increase the payback percentage of the game with a higher bet—a 95 percent return becomes a 98 percent return on a Max Bet Bonus, and on the High Power games, payback percentage and volatility go up as the player increases his per-line wager.

 

 

Bally Technologies

It seems that every year Ballly redefines the slot machine with some feature or form that’s never been seen before, This year, it’s the Pro Curve cabinet.

It looks like a classic reel-spinner, but look more closely—it is a video screen, curved to shape of spinning reels. It is a reel-spinner’s game with all the features of video. The image of the reels can change into a full video screen for animated bonuses, or even switch between three-reel and five-reel games.

Bally is launching 15 new titles on the Pro Curve, including re-issues of some classic reel-spinners like Blazing 7s, only with video-style events such as expanding wild symbols and pick bonuses added, along with fun animation during the reel-spinning.

But leading the new the group of new Pro Curve titles is the latest game in the Playboy franchise, called Playboy Playmate Party. It is a five-level “Quick Hit” progressive with a number of innovative features, such as extended free-spin round. While triggering symbols on three reels start the bonus with a set number of free games, every one of the bonus symbols landing during a free spin adds an additional free game—the free spins can re-trigger indefinitely.

The free games provide an easier path to the progressive jackpots as well. In normal play, five or more of the iconic Playboy rabbit-head logos trigger the progressive jackpots—as in other “Quick Hit” progressives, the more symbols, the higher the level of jackpot won. In the free spins on the new Playboy slot, though, more rabbit-head symbols are added to the reels.

Another high-profile game to come from Bally this year is Betty Boop’s Fortune Teller, a follow-up to last year’s “Betty Boop’s Love Meter” game.

This latest game based on the 1930s cartoon vixen uses the unique Pro Upright Hammerhead cabinet—the cabinet with the oversized top box—along with the iDeck touch-screen button deck to offer a feature-packed game with some 15 separate bonus events. There are two progressive jackpots available for any wager, along with the latest Bally wide-area progressive, “Cash Connection,” available at maximum bet.

The new Betty Boop game utilizes some of Bally’s innovative play features, such as a top-box fortune wheel the player touches to spin using the “U-Spin” technology, the wheel responding to the amount of force applied. The bonus setup allows the player to pick his preferred style of bonus game in a new feature called “U-Choose,” and one of the most clever bonuses has the player placing hands on the iDeck surface—the buttons disappear to change into a touch-screen interactive play surface—to have “palms read” for a bonus award and multiplier.

Another premium brand being launched next year is Grease, based on the 1978 musical film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John—it’s the first time Travolta has ever agreed to be portrayed on a slot machine.

The game features the first appearance of the new “Dual Play” style—there are two sets of reels, each with 25 paylines, which are played simultaneously. Bonuses triggered on either set of reels fill the screen with events based on various parts of the musical. There are “T-Bird Mystery Wilds,” the “U-Spin Yearbook Bonus,” two pick-style features and two different free-game events.

Two of the bonus events use the iDeck panel. In “Dance Off Free Games,” the player can dance fingers across the iDeck to add additional credits or more free games. In the “How Cool Are You?” bonus, the player selects one of four cars displayed on the iDeck to move the car up a ladder on the main LCD screen, with the “Coolness Factor” winning either a credit award or one of the four progressives.

The touch-panel iDeck is also used in Fish’n for Loot, which uses the device as a substitute for a joystick in an arcade-style bonus.

Fish’n for Loot is the official debut of “UShoot,” a feature that turns the iDeck pad into a flat interactive panel for shooting at objects on the screen, just like an arcade or home video game. The player uses touch points on the screen to shoot bubbles at fish passing on the LCD screen, or to actually drag bubbles toward targets (in this case, blowfish swimming by on the screen).

Bally is launching several new play styles this year. In Moon Goddess, the “Big Bang Free Games” feature lets you collect moon symbols, until the last free spin, when the moons “explode” into wild symbols distributed around the screen.

Another Pro Curve game, Money Works, debuts a feature called “Rolling Wilds.” When wild symbols appear on two or three rows in stacks, the stack of wild symbols will move down one row on each subsequent spin until all the wilds disappear. On free spins, the first, third and fifth reels are wild for the whole bonus.

Big Vegas features “Double Directional Wilds.” Introduced last year, Directional Wilds are wild symbols with a dial that spins to end in one position, making all symbols in its path into wild symbols—vertically, horizontally or diagonally. The new feature adds a reel—the Directional Wilds appear on both the second and fourth reels.

 

 

International Game Technology

Leading slot-maker International Game Technology is about to have one of its best years ever, game-wise.

At the head of IGT’s list this year are new versions of one of the game styles that once defined the company, the traditional reel-spinner. In the coming year, you’ll see new reel-spinners—three reels, one payline, in quarters, dollars and higher.

The new spinning-reel games are available in the S AVP cabinet or the new premium Universal Slant, with top titles including Haywire Multipliers, a modern version of the classic IGT Haywire game, in which the reels randomly re-spin several times to repeat winning combinations, with the reels vibrating and spinning in opposite directions—going “haywire.”

Haywire Multipliers can re-spin a winning combination three, six or even eight times, with a Haywire feature happening every 37 spins, on average. It also adds a multiplier to Haywire events.

These new classic games are joined by one of the best groups of video slots IGT has ever created. At the top of the list is Wolf Run 2: Into the Wild, a super-charged version of the “Wolf Run” game that was one of the top games in IGT’s history. What distinguishes the new version are the visuals, a mix of beautiful artwork and graphics with actual photographs of wolves in the wild. The LCD screen on top alternates among several wildlife scenes, and the entire backdrop scene for the primary game changes every five minutes.

Other than that, it’s classic Wolf Run—high hit frequency, stacked wilds and free-spin bonus events.

Classics join great new video slots games like Vivaldi’s Seasons, which uses the classical-music reference (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons violin concertos) as the starting point for a showcase of elegant graphics and artwork highlighting the four seasons; The Mighty Atlas, a stacked-wild-symbol game with a body-building theme; and Swan Lake, a ballet-themed game designed for female players.

The Mighty Atlas and Vivaldi’s Seasons follow the math model of “Black Widow” and “Golden Goddess,” two of IGT’s most popular video slots. Both games “Super Stacks,” a feature that guarantees a stack of the same symbol in each base game spin. Swan Lake and the new Barnum & Bailey game each include “Reveal A Wheel,” a bonus feature in which one of the reels transforms into a horizontal view of a fortune wheel for a bonus.

Other new IGT video slots mine popular culture from music to films to TV. Elvis the King is quite possibly the best slot game yet in the venerable Elvis Presley series. It is the most bonus-packed of all the Elvis slots, with six bonus options that can appear during a base game that includes stacked wilds and other innovations. Five random bonuses, “The Song,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog” and “Viva Las Vegas,” are accompanied by the “Jukebox Bonus,” which involves picking an Elvis record for a song-related bonus event.

Elvis history scrolls across the screen while the player decides on the song bonus.

For TV aficionados, there’s the 3D version of The Twilight Zone, with Rod Serling hosting a selection of classic Twilight Zone episodes presented as bonus events; and from the movies, The Joker’s Heist, a new slot based on 2009’s The Dark Knight, only this one with theme and bonus events presented from the perspective of the Joker, as portrayed in the film by Heath Ledger. (IGT has even gotten a spot-on Ledger impersonator to do the voice-over.)

This is a follow-up to last year’s “The Dark Knight,” which was in the inimitable “Center Stage” series of theater-style game setups, with a bank of slots in front of a 103-inch LCD screen for a community-style bonus. The new release in that big setup this year is a Center Stage version of Texas Tea, with four separate bonus events based on the hugely popular video slot themed on Texas oil wells and oil millionaires.

But perhaps the bigger news for the Center Stage series is the game IGT is launching on the new “Center Stage Duo” series—two machines in front of a 70-inch LCD monitor. It is an interactive video-slot version of the legendary arcade game “Big Buck Hunter.”

In fact, the bonus in Big Buck Hunter Pro is pretty much a replication of Big Buck Hunter. The first thing you’ll notice is that there are two plastic rifles holstered at this game. When the bonus is triggered, the big video screen goes into a high-definition, animated 3D video sequence that inevitably leads to the appearance of a trophy elk, white-tail deer or big-horn sheep. You know what you have to do.

Players aim the rifles to bag as much game as they can, and consequently, the highest bonus. The perceived skill is there—it seems to the player as if he or she is bagging the game through shooting just like in the arcade.

The other new Center Stage Duo game is a new entry in the series based on the Ghostbusters films. Ghostbusters: Who Ya Gonna Call includes community bonus events tailored to reflect familiar sequences from the original 1984 comedy.

Other IGT standouts this year will be Sex And The City: Fabulous, the next episode in that enormously popular series; and Breakfast At Tiffany’s, a new video slot based on iconic film starring Audrey Hepburn as café society girl Holly Golightly.     Finally, the “Reel Edge” skill-based video slot series continues this year with Atari Centipede, a skill-based slot that replicates one of the most popular shoot-em-up arcade games of the 1980s. The bonus round is a game of Centipede, with the player using a joystick mounted on the button panel—introduced last year with the vampire-themed “BloodLife”—to shoot lasers at the centipede as it squirms through the familiar field of mushrooms on the game screen.

 

 

Konami Gaming

Konami’s highlight for the coming year will be the  Dynamic 5 series of reel-spinners, which features two-part mechanical reels—they are reels within reels, one layered over the other, allowing for unique graphic effects, expanding wild symbols, reels turning into fire, and other bonus “animation” in a stepper format that once was only possible with video.

The format, which is being launched on Konami’s new Podium Slant cabinet, also includes a 22-inch LCD monitor for more traditional styles of bonus games, along with the primary game effects and a “skill-stop” feature that allows the player to stop the reels.

The 25-line and 30-line games use the new KP3 platform as the operating system. Konami will show two banks of Dynamic 5 games at G2E, with titles including Dragon’s Reward, Glamorous Gold, Hot Winning Wilds and Kingdoms of Treasure. Each of the games features a four-level stand-alone progressive setup, with jackpots displayed on the top monitor.

Other new Konami offerings are Fortune Chaser, an eight-level progressive system that awards “Pirate Tokens” with reels symbols during primary-game play that are used in a community-style bonus game.

Each of six or eight players on the bank has a corresponding pirate ship on the community bonus display. When five Pirate Tokens of the same color are collected, a die is rolled on the screen and the player’s ship is moved. The object is to land on one of four islands, which triggers the progressive game. The player is prompted to select a space on a grid, which either awards a bonus or the Gold or Silver Progressive jackpot.

The spaces on the grid remain out of play for subsequent bonus rounds—meaning the chances of revealing one of the top progressives goes up every time someone triggers the progressive round. The spaces remain out of play until one of the progressives is awarded.

What’s great is that each player’s bonus round benefits the entire bank, by increasing the chances at a progressive.

 

 

Multimedia Games

As usual, Multimedia Games is launching many great, entertaining new games. But the Texas company’s hottest product these days is TournEvent, the tournament controller that turns a bank of slots into a game-show of a slot tournament.

When a casino turns on TournEvent, players can enter their names for a slot contest. During the tournament itself, cameras record each player. A running tally of the score is on an overhead display, and leaders are shown on the big screen as the contest goes on. It’s like a sporting event.

Last year, TournEvent added a pop-up game that appears on the screen of each player during the tournament. Balloons float up the screen, and if the player touches a balloon, it increases his score. It gives players something to do besides mindlessly slapping a spin button. This year, a “shooting gallery” game is being added, with gallery-style prizes popping onto the screen during tournament play, for players to touch to boost their scores.

One more new feature is the “Money Man.” This is a character that pops up once in a while, and if it does and the player touches it, it instantly boosts that player to first place in the tournament. Even if there’s a huge disparity between first and worst place, players always know they can be catapulted into the lead in an instant. Great feature.

The new TournEvent joins a group of games to be launched on the new “High Rise” cabinet, which boasts the tallest top box in the business. MoneyBall is a new game series with two initial base games and a versatile bonus screen that transforms the big top-box monitor into any of four scenes—a tree, a hotel, outer space or a classic pinball game—for various bonus events.

The marquee bonus event in MoneyBall is the pinball game, in which the virtual ball is launched to fall through typical pinball barriers and bounce off different obstacles for bonus credits—eventually falling down to the bottom of the screen in a pachinko-style sequence. One spot on the screen locks the pinball in place while a secondary bonus game takes place on the reels or on a bonus wheel.

Other standouts abound in Multimedia’s collection of new games. One is  Alacazam, an Aladdin’s-lamp style of game hosted by a wisecracking genie who, thanks to the voice-over provided by a Multimedia employee, sounds a lot like the late comedian Paul Lynde. The comical genie hosts three different bonus events, and lots of random features in the game.

Hint: Touch the screen. A tiny group of Arab warriors appears, all of them joining in a screaming battle cry. (It’s hilarious.)

Many of the Multimedia games being introduced feature innovative new game mechanics. In  Gallant Knight, the free-spin feature has a video-game-style “Life Meter.” In a random number of initial free games, every princess gives the player a heart—a life—and every dragon takes a life away. The free spins go on indefinitely as long as the player has hearts.

 

 

Spielo International

Spielo International—the new name of the company that comprises former individual slot-makers Spielo and Atronic—has just rolled out perhaps its greatest hit yet, Deal Or No Deal: Join’N Play. Over the next year, Spielo will release several other new games based on legendary Atronic or Spielo game franchises.

One of the most successful game categories of the past several years for Atronic has been the Passion Slots series of classic, high-denomination slots—traditional single-line, three-reel formats with bonuses on a large, vertical portrait-style LCD video screen.

This year, Spielo refreshes the category with the Passion Slots version of King Kong, a license it used effectively on the e-motion series of video slots. The Passion version of King Kong has a fourth video reel next to the three-reel setup, activated with a maximum bet to trigger the “King Kong Bonus” on the top screen.

The top box displays a pyramid, with the Ann Darrow character from the films perched at the top in chains, and the Kong beast looking on. (The video images and the theme are based on Peter Jackson’s 2005 film.) Players make selections to “climb” the pyramid through various pick-a-prize bonuses with the goal of reaching the top to rescue the damsel for the top bonus.

New core video slots include Wild Wild Wranglers, a “243 Ways to Win” scatter-pay slot featuring the “Extreme Stacks” stacked-reels feature. This feature has stacks of like symbols breeze across the screen during the reel-spinning, landing with one of the symbols stacked on all five reels—a lucrative proposition in a scatter-pay format.

Another new video slot, Goldify, features player customization. Players pick their volatility through a unique method: They touch the screen to choose one symbol that will pay 5X in winning combinations—a high-paying symbol for high volatility; a low-paying symbol for low volatility. The pay table changes to reflect the choice.

Wizard’s Gold features “Wild Stays Nudges and Pays,” a feature that keeps wild symbols on the screen and moves them down one position for subsequent spins until they’re off the screen.

Cash Eruption is a stand-alone multi-progressive slot in a multi-game format that includes four base games. It includes a pick-a-prize bonus that adds multipliers to the progressives up to 5X, and the progressives themselves display a level at which the prize is “guaranteed to hit by,” a feature that typically results in frantic play as the jackpot approaches the hit level.

 

 

WMS Gaming

WMS continues its remarkable run of new games in all of its many categories this year, but perhaps none is more spectacular than the latest “competitive play” game, a follow-up to last year’s “Ree Em In: Compete to Win” and its bonus fishing contest between players on the bank.

This year, WMS once again produces a new community experience with two separate games, Pirate Battle and Battleship. They are the first two games in the “Team Compete to Win” series. Banks of four or six games sit in front of a common bonus display, and the bank is separated into two teams—the “Blue Team” on the left and the “Red Team” on the right. Graphics on the machines and the monitors reflect the team colors.

In a nutshell, Team Blue and Team Red battle it out in the bonus round, with the winning team getting a higher award.

Both of the displays are spectacular. For Pirate Battle, four Bluebird xD cabinets sit in front of four adjacent 32-inch monitors—portrait-style monitors turned sideways to form a long, horizontal display. To the players, it’s like looking out of windows at one scene. (WMS calls it the “Metascreen.”)

In the bonus events for Pirate Battle, the scene is a cannon battle between the pirate ships of Team Blue and Team Red. In the free-spin event, all machines go into free-game mode, and all wins on either machine for each team go to the other player on the team as well. Certain reel combinations cause the ship cannon on the big screen  to shoot at the other team’s ship. After three “hits”—after the second, your ship is ablaze—a ship goes down, and the winning team gets a “treasure chest” for an extra bonus.

Battleship is the first in a number of new games WMS is launching under its ongoing partnership with Hasbro, owner of the Monopoly game that has become a top franchise for the slot-maker. Battleship, based on the popular board game in which players try to sink each other’s battleships by placing pegs into a game board, takes the game’s ship battle to a competition on the big screen.

A new game this year in the virtual-reality “Sensory Immersion” series will be Aladdin. In this one, the main bonus is a remarkable 3D Magic Carpet Ride, with the player’s chair swaying and moving to simulate a ride through the air in an Arabian market.

The other major Sensory Immersion launch this year is the next entry in what has been the biggest hit for WMS over the past several years, the “Wizard of Oz” series. The new game, called Journey to Oz, packs several different play styles into one experience.

The “Lord of the Rings” Adaptive Gaming series gets its second entry with The Two Towers, a sequel game that follows the second book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1950s trilogy and the second installment of the Peter Jackson 2001-2003 film trilogy, on which the slot game’s images, audio and video sequences are based.

The Two Towers is the next progression of the bonus “journey” in the series—players are earning miles for their virtual journey across Middle Earth, so the eight bonuses from the original game are available in this version, plus four new bonuses specific to The Two Towers book and film. The Gollum character appears as clumped wild symbols in one event. There is 3D animation in bonus sequences themed on the scene from “Helm’s Deep” in the story, and another event involving “Tree Beard,” the walking-tree ally of the story’s protagonists, along with his fellow “Ents.” “March of the Ents” has the tree characters rolling boulders for bonuses.

The Two Towers is joined in the Adaptive Gaming category by Clue, another adaptation of a Hasbro board game. This one plays out the game’s classic murder mystery on a large LCD monitor as players land bonuses that offer the same propositions as the board game: pick a room, pick a weapon, pick a suspect, all in an effort to solve a murder.

Other WMS standouts: Leprechaun’s Gold: Land O’ Luck, with a main bonus played out on 52-inch video monitors that is almost like a Nintendo game, with “Lucky the Leprechaun” bouncing from tree trunk to pot of gold to clovers, all the while hitting or stopping on obstacles that increase the bonus award.

The Monopoly franchise gets a two new entries with Monopoly Party Train, a new adaptation of a title that was popular several years ago; and Epic Monopoly, a multi-play game.

 

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Bluberi Pie

Canadian game-maker on the rise

One name appearing on the faces of an increasing number of slots these days is Bluberi, a Canadian gaming company with divisions spanning such broad fields of expertise as hardware engineering, game design, graphics and sound, mathematics, programming, quality control, 24/7 network operating center and technical support.

Bluberi slot games are well-known in Class II Indian casinos, where the company operates more than 7,000 gaming machines with various partners in the Native American gaming market.

In 2007, Bluberi undertook an extensive hardware and software redesign, allowing it to create highly competitive games with original themes and top graphics. Bluberi games are now available in both Class II and Class III markets.
This year, Bluberi has produced over 20 games for its newest gaming platform. Johnny Wallet, Flying 7, Conga Party, Crazy Night, Johnny and the Black Velvet Quartet and Hot Wings and Beer are a few of the most promising Bluberi games.  Hot Wings and Beer is a hoot—it typically draws crowds around the machines.

Bluberi is poised to release a series of unique patented game concepts that will give players a lot of great new experiences. One of them, the wide-area community gaming Target Jackpot, gives everyone a chance to win different jackpot prizes ranging from several thousand to several million dollars every few minutes.

All players share and increase the same score while competing to be the first to match the target. Another wide-area jackpot can be integrated into regular blackjack or poker video games to transform them into Million-Dollar Blackjack or Million-Dollar Poker, bringing them to a whole new level.

Hot Slots.

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