Bally Technologies scores a hit the bonus-packed “Cash Wizard”
by Frank Legato
He looks like one of those “Have A Nice Day” happy-face circles, only wearing a wizard costume. He’s a happy sort of fellow, and that’s the point. He’s the “Cash Wizard,” and he appears very frequently in the Bally Technologies game of the same name.
“Everyone loves the character,” says Kimberly Cohn, the Bally director of game development whose team created the Cash Wizard game. “Players just love how happy the game is.”
Players are happy with Cash Wizard, one of Bally’s biggest successes this year, for more reasons than just the happy little wizard character. They’re happy with what that wizard unleashes—a remarkable lineup of bonus events that call upon many of the innovations Bally has cooked up over the past several years.
It’s the total package that impresses. Cash Wizard is one of the first games on the new computer platform Bally calls “Alpha 2,” which enables a slew of interactive features, high-definition video and graphics, and animation that can only be described as home-video quality.
The game invites you to play by its very look. It’s on Bally’s “Pro Series” upright cabinet, which is unique in itself—the front is curved, so the top screen of two large video monitors is easy to look at without straining your neck. The artwork is lovely, with the transparent five-reel game screen seeming to float over a magical springtime forest scene. In the top monitor are three progressive jackpots, each carrying the theme of the game—the “Wand Jackpot” resetting at $25, the “Dragon Jackpot” starting at $250, and the top “Wizard Jackpot,” resetting at $10,000. (The amounts may vary by casino and jurisdiction.)
Topping it all is a bonus wheel with 22 “slices,” including credit multipliers from 200X to 1,500X, free game awards ranging from five to 20, and each of the three progressive jackpots. It’s quite a sight.
Playing it, of course, is much better than just looking at it. “Overwhelmingly, players love how fun it is to play,” says Cohn. “They love how the experience is never quite the same twice.
The reason for that is simple: the game is packed with bonus features. Bally pulled out all the stops for this game, including everything from the wheel bonus to free spins to a variety of mystery bonuses and random wild symbols added to the screen.
The game also features the new Bally “iDeck,” which is a button deck formed by a single touch-screen LCD panel that transforms into an extra video screen during bonus events. In this game, it’s used to communicate with the player—it will transform into a video screen, playing animation after wins or showing when a bonus has been triggered. “This is the first game to show the player what the iDeck is capable of, in addition to betting,” Cohn says.
Other games featuring the iDeck will be appearing left and right over the coming months—the device is being used almost like a joystick in many games, allowing the player to “shoot” at spaceships and play other video game-style bonuses.
Important point: There is a small ante wager, 20 credits, along with a 30-credit bet to activate the pay lines, that is required to unlock the wealth of features to which the Cash Wizard will play host. It’s called the “Wizard Bonus Bet.”
“You essentially ‘buy’ the wizard,” explains Dan Savage, Bally’s vice president of marketing. “When you do that, the wizard comes to life on the screen, and starts interacting with you. He dances during the free games; he tells you what you’ve won. He randomly places wild symbols on the wheel.”
The bonus package that is activated when you “buy” the Wizard begins to show its benefits immediately. There are several random events that occur while you’re spinning the reels in the primary game. For instance, with the ante bet, the Cash Wizard character will randomly fly across the screen to replace from two to five symbols with wild symbols. This occurs every 41 spins on average.
Other simple on-screen features include “Invisible Ink,” triggered by one bonus symbol on the third reel. The player touches the symbol to unlock a credit award ranging from two to 20 times the total credits bet (excluding the ante).
The “Magic Potions” bonus is triggered by potion symbols on the first, third and fifth reels. The player selects from the potions to reveal credit awards, accumulating a bonus until revealing a “Lose Half” symbol, which cuts the award in half, or a “Curse,” which ends the bonus.
However, there’s a great gamble feature along the way. Players can choose to take their win at any time and end the bonus, or risk the Lose Half or Curse symbols by continuing the bonus, looking for the top prize—if all seven potions are picked without landing the Curse, an extra 100 credits times the line bet is added to the accumulated bonus award.
There also is a free-spin bonus—backed by the hit 1974 song “Magic”—triggered either by lining up bonus symbols or through the top bonus wheel. All free games are paid at 3X, and the feature can be re-triggered.
The main bonus, the “Wizard Mystery Wheel,” is a mystery event—it occurs randomly, every 51 spins on average, regardless of the combination appearing on the reels.
The bonus will pop up to give the player a spin of the top wheel, to win a credit award of 100 to 1,500 credits times the line bet, between five and 20 free spins, or one of the three progressive jackpots.
Spinning the wheel is accomplished through “U-Spin,” the touch feature first seen on the game “Cash Wheel.” An image of the Wizard Mystery Wheel appears on the main video screen, and you touch the screen to give the wheel a spin. The top wheel reacts exactly like the video wheel, spinning faster or slower according to how much pressure you apply.
According to Cohn, player feedback was just as important as the technology itself in perfecting Cash Wizard. Player testing was done on reaction to the iDeck, to the bonuses, to the wheel-spinning. She says players were happiest about how often some bonus feature occurs—one of the bonus events will pop up every 30 spins, on average.
The other thing that was watched during the player groups, adds Savage, was smiles on player faces. “This game was designed to create a happy experience,” he says. “Not all games are designed like that. ‘Happy’ was a very important element; we went through painstaking details to make sure the game is as happy as can be, as well as fun and entertaining.”
This game is only the beginning of the Cash Wizard’s run. Cohn says it has been such a successful character that Bally is likely to continue the brand with lots of sequels. “As Alpha 2 (the video platform) has matured, there is a lot more we can do,” she says. “The Cash Wizard may actually fall in love with somebody.”
For now, though, it is the players who are falling in love with the Wizard—with thousands of games already in the field, it is one of Bally’s most popular new games.
Just make sure the “Wizard” symbol in the left-hand corner of the main game screen is marked “On.” The Wizard has to be on for you to get all the bonus features. “The Wizard is your friend,” says Savage. “He’s happy for you that you’re winning.” •
|Cash Wizard – BALLY TECHNOLOGIES
Five-reel, 30-line video slot; multiple free-spin, on-screen and second-screen bonus events; mechanical wheel bonus; three-level progressive jackpot; penny, 2-cent and nickel denominations
PAYBACK % RANGE
AVERAGE HIT FREQUENCY
Progressive; 1 million credit reset
AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, MI (tribal), MN, MS (tribal), MO, ND, NM, NV, OR, SD, WA, WI (other jurisdictions pending at press time)
|Alpha Team 4
Cash Wizard is one of the newest products of the Bally “studio system” of game design. The manufacturer has doubled its number of game design studios over the past three years, adding a studio in San Francisco headed by Michael Gottlieb (of the famous pinball family), one in Arizona headed by former Atronic game whiz Jason Stage, and a new studio in Australia, in addition to the company’s traditional Reno and Las Vegas game studios.Each of the studios has its own name, and they all compete with each other. Kimberly Cohn’s studio, which produced Cash Wizard, is called “Alpha Team 4.” You can tell by looking for the name of the studio on the game screen, but you’ll know this studio by the games it’s produced—the wild-symbol game “Playboy Hot Zone,” the dual-play “Two For The Money,” the hilarious “Hee Haw.”
Next up for Alpha Team 4: “Grease,” based on the blockbuster musical film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Don’t miss that one.