Several new slot experiences create fun without the use of the standard spinning reel
By Frank Legato
At the heart of the slot machine experience since the 1890s has been the spinning reel. The basic format of the slot game for most of the 20th century remained three spinning mechanical reels.
When multi-line video slots ﬁrst appeared in the mid-1990s, a wealth of new play experiences came with them, from picking bonuses to animated wheel-spins. But at the center of all those games remained spinning reels—video reels, ﬁve instead of three.
The spinning reel certainly is going nowhere for the foreseeable future. However, several slot manufacturers have recently introduced fun new slot experiences to the casino ﬂoor without the use of spinning reels, and many of these are a blast.
One of the pioneers in this area has been Everi Holdings. One of Everi’s biggest hits of the past few years has been the Crush series of video slots. Instead of an array of spinning reels, these games are centered on an animated stone Aztec sculpture depicting a giant head.
When the player presses what would normally be the spin button, balls roll down under the stone head, which is suspended in the air. The head crashes down on the ball, generating credit rewards. Sometimes, it takes several crashes to “crush” the icon for a bigger award. It is great fun, without a reel in sight.
This year, Everi launched Cha-Ching!, another reel-free slot experience. This game essentially uses a picking bonus as the primary game. The player selects from a ﬁeld of gift boxes to reveal potential credit awards, additional boxes, or coins that travel upward to ﬁll one of three bonus pots.
Again, great fun, and no reels.
For the past two years, Aruze Gaming has released games in what it calls its “Activ-Play” series. These are arcade-style or carnival games built for the slot ﬂoor, relying on tried-and-true childhood games for fun, instead of watching spinning reels.
Aruze is no stranger to going outside the reel format. In 2011, it released Paradise Fishing, which, while it had a primary game based on the reel format, had a bonus feature that was a community- style game setup that used a sort of joystick that simulated tugging on a ﬁshing line as the player “ﬁshed” for bonus awards.
The company released several iterations of the ﬁshing bonus technology within the subsequent few years, but last year, the company took reel-free play to a new level with Go Go Claw, an arcade-style game that applies slot math to the classic claw machines everyone remembers from arcades, bowling alleys and other public places.
It is like nothing else to be found in the casino. In the see-through chamber are plastic balls containing any variety of cash prizes. You use a control knob to manipulate the claw, grab a ball, move it to a bucket, and win the prize— just like at the bowling alley. This year, the slot-maker followed that up with Rock Paper Scissors, replicating the classic kids’ game. There are buttons to wager Rock, Paper or Scissors. At the center of the screen is an LED representation of a hand that ends up with one of the three gestures of the classic game—a ﬁst for Rock, an open hand for Paper, or a two-ﬁnger sign (like a V for victory) for Scissors.
Just like in the kids’ game, Paper covers Rock, Scissors cut Paper, and Rock smashes Scissors. The game progresses through rapid wagers and outcomes. When the player wins, a prize wheel at the top of the 55-inch screen spins to a credit award or one of two progressive jackpots. If the player picks the same outcome as the computer, it is a tie, and the game repeats for free.
Next up for Aruze will be Wacky Gator, an electronic simulation of the classic whack-a-mole game using an alligator instead of a mole. Three gators take turns lunging toward the player, who must decide when to send a hammer down on the gator by pressing a button. If he hits the gator, it stuns the character, and the player can then rack up credits by repeatedly hitting the hammer button until the gator is “ﬁnished.”
Elsewhere, slot-maker Gaming Arts is launching a multi-player game called Ocean Phoenix. It is a ﬂat table covered by a giant monitor displaying various-sized ﬁsh swimming under the water. Players sit around the table with joysticks and buttons to shoot at the ﬁsh for prizes, in an excellent accomplishment of perceived skill.
While these new games all achieve great fun without the use of reels even in the primary game, there are many others that depart from the reels for a unique experience in the bonus round. For instance, Everi’s Fruit Ninja Frenzy has at its heart a “frenzy” of player interaction in a fastpaced bonus event, as various pieces of fruit ﬂy across the screen and the player physically swipes and slashes the touch-screen to obliterate as many pieces of fruit as possible within a short time, revealing bonus awards each time.
Eclipse Gaming just debuted the new Cash Arcade family with The Big Shake series, featuring a virtual replication of the classic arcade and casino coin-pushing machines. Central to the game is a bonus wheel, which dumps its awards onto the main replica of a pile of gold coins under the mechanized pushers that continue to push the pile to spill credits to the player’s meter. It is a remarkably authentic replication of the player-favorite arcade game, according to the manufacturer using a technology known as “real-time physics.”
Then there are other games like Incredible Technologies’ Multi-Ball Blast Panda Joy, featuring a pachinko-style bonus, and a wealth of other new ideas that have nothing to do with spinning reels.
Yes, the spinning reel is still at the heart of the slot game, but it’s gratifying that there are so many creative alternatives of late. Here’s to variety on the slot ﬂoor.