Pretty in Pink
Bally takes players on a second trip back to Rydell High with “Grease Pink Ladies”
by Frank Legato
When a slot machine based on a movie becomes a hit, the slot-maker usually goes down the same road often followed by the filmmakers who produced the movie—they capitalize on the success with a sequel.
Slot manufacturer Bally Technologies seeks to do just that with its second slot machine based on the hit 1978 musical film Grease starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. However, unlike 1982’s unremarkable Grease 2, this sequel will most decidedly not be a flop.
That’s because unlike the film sequel, which attempted a new story using the same setting, the new Bally slot “Grease Pink Ladies” continues to mine the same great songs, characters and atmosphere as the original, but focusing on other areas—and using Bally’s remarkable formats, game mechanics and technology to make the 1978 film come alive in completely different ways than the original.
Bally also achieves a monumental task in this game—creating a game that invokes nostalgia about a film that is itself based on nostalgia, a musical recalling 1950s high-school culture.
From the outset, Bally Director of Development Paulina Rodgers, who designed the new game, was on a mission to create an experience different than the original. “When we do a follow-up on a game in the field, we do want it to look different, so people know it’s a different game,” Rodgers says. “I played the first one extensively, and watched people play. I met with Kim (Cohn), who designed the first one, and kind of got a feel for where she was going (in designing the slot).”
After thoroughly studying the original “Grease” slot, Rodgers—who heads a different Bally design studio than the one that produced the original—created a game with a different look, and a different focus. Grease Pink Ladies resides on Bally’s “22/42” cabinet. It’s the format with a standard 22-inch main-game monitor topped by a giant vertical top-box monitor measuring 42 inches. (It was most famously used last year for “Dual Wheel Hot Shot Progressive.”) That top monitor is then framed with a striking pink façade. “When you see this game, it’s a pink blast,” Rodgers says.
Suffice to say you’ll notice this game from across the floor.
As far as the story of the game itself, the theme focuses on the “Pink Ladies,” the clique of popular girls at the film’s 1950s setting of Rydell High, consisting of Rizzo (Stockard Channing), Frenchy (Didi Conn), Marty (Dina Manoff) and Jan (Jamie Donnelly).
It also focuses more than the original on the music of the film, building bonuses around the movie’s collection of award-winning songs like “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “Born to Hand Jive,” “Sandy” and of course, the movie’s anthem, “You’re the One That I Want,” which became one of the top-selling singles of all time by the time the movie completed its first theater run.
“We didn’t use as many voice-overs as we did in the first game, but we concentrated on the music,” says Rodgers. “Everybody loves Grease music.”
The music, the striking appearance of the game and a diverse collection of bonus events make Grease Pink Ladies stand out from its predecessor, while still capitalizing on the popularity of the brand.
“We’re very confident in the appeal of the Grease brand,” says Jean Venneman, Bally’s vice president of product management. “We’ve gotten lots of feedback from players that they love the brand, they love the music, they love a lot of the elements of it. In the first game, we took one approach, one view of how to take that brand and create an entertaining experience for the player. And I think we did a pretty good job with that, but there was another approach we could take that was completely fresh and new and different.
“I don’t think many players will see the new Pink Ladies game and say, ‘Oh, yeah, Grease, I already played that.’ It is physically different than the original game, but I think the players will recognize that and notice it as something new and interesting and innovative.”
All the film’s famous music—along with a ton of audio and video clips taken directly from the movie—are woven into a multitude of special bonus features in Grease Pink Ladies. According to Rodgers, some kind of bonus feature happens every 11 spins, on average, meaning it’s very hard to get tired of playing this game.
Several bonuses occur as mystery events during the primary game. For instance, at random after any base-game spin, the player can be awarded from two to seven “Grease Wild” symbols, on any of the reels, after which he is paid for any additional wins. This happens every 50 spins, on average.
In the “Extra Credits Mystery Feature,” after any given spin, the player can be awarded a credit amount ranging from 20 times to 2,500 times the credits bet per line. If you’re betting the max, that’s up to a quick $250. This one happens a lot—every 25 spins on average.
Another mystery feature takes you up to the big top box for as many as five spins on four separate reel sets displayed on the oversized monitor. The goal of the bonus game, called “Pink Rules,” is to match three, four or five Pink Lady characters on the top reels. When this one is triggered, the Pink Ladies fly up to the top reels from the base-game screen in a cool effect, to a backdrop of the song “Sandy.”
The two bonuses triggered by line combinations are a lot of fun as well. In “Frenchy’s Heartbreaker Bonus,” the hit song “Hopelessly Devoted to You” is the backdrop for a picking bonus. The player picks hearts to reveal credit values and multipliers. The multipliers revealed add up, and at the end, the entire accumulated credits are multiplied by the accumulated multiplier number.
“Born to Hand Jive,” the hit song that serves as the basis for one of the best dance sequences in the film—in which characters perform the famous 1950s dance to Sha-Na-Na’s performance of the tune—becomes the “Hand Jive Kisses Free Games” bonus in the Grease Pink Ladies game. Three Grease Bonus symbols on the middle reels cause a five-by-six matrix of symbols to appear on the top screen.
Eight free spins are played out on the big reel set as the song blares through the sound system, with wins registered on 50 paylines. At random during the free spins, “Wild Kiss” symbols appear on the big reels to boost winnings. “We really play up the music on that one,” says Rodgers. “There is a very creative sequence in which the wilds fall.” She adds that the wild symbols each have a “life span,” meaning they apply for more than one spin.
Topping off this cavalcade of bonus events is one more special feature: a multi-site progressive jackpot, resetting at a whopping $400,000. You need to be betting the maximum $3 per spin to qualify for the big prize, but it’s a pretty big chunk of change as penny games go.
The first Grease Pink Ladies games will appear in casinos in early March, according to Venneman, and the back orders already received translate into this game being available across the country very soon.
“I think players will really enjoy this game for a couple of reasons,” Venneman says. “One, they get the full sensory immersion into the Grease experience. But more importantly, the bonuses Paulina has constructed for this game, and the way the game plays, is going to appeal to a player’s sense of the gambling side as well. I think they’re going to find it’s an entertaining game, but it’s got really good math that’s going to keep them on the game. They’re going to see the credit meter doing what they want it to do.
“The combination of a brand players know with innovative, interesting bonuses means a good ride for players.”
Grease Pink Ladies
Five-reel, 30-line video slot; multiple primary-game mystery bonus events; second-screen picking and free-spin bonus events; penny denomination
PAYBACK % RANGE
AVERAGE HIT FREQUENCY
Progressive; $400,000 reset
Pending at press time