Rydell High Revisited
Bally embraces the movie theme with a masterful reproduction of the 1978 movie musical Grease.
Tens of thousands of slot players of a certain age can tell you exactly what Rydell High is. Tens of thousands of players of another age actually remember a real place like Rydell High.
That was why the 1978 musical Grease—the Paramount film based on the 1972 Broadway play, starring John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and a host of other familiar faces—was so popular to begin with. The film captured the essence of popular American culture in the 1950s, with characters to whom a lot of real Americans could relate, and the icons of ’50s youth, from convertible muscle cars to car-hop restaurants.
And then there was the music—odes to young love penned by a stable of top performers, led by John Farrar’s “You’re the One That I Want,” which went on to be a No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts in 1978.
“I’m a huge fan of the movie, as is my whole development team,” says Kim Cohn, the Bally director of game design who headed the studio that created the “Grease” slot machine. “It’s a wonderful film, and everybody loves it. And the demographic is perfect—if you were around 20 years old when the movie came out, you’re a prime player now.”
Mike Moosman, senior product manager for Grease, adds that new generations have fallen in love with the film since its release. “It’s still popular today; people still watch it,” he says. “And, it appeals not only to females, but to male players as well. The game crosses over age and gender.”
The game design team, then, was faced with recreating an iconic film in a video slot, using bonus rounds to capture the essence with audio and video clips from the movie—and making it a good gamble as well.
“We took the best of everything we had,” says Cohn. :We used the HD Hammerhead cabinet, full-screen video clips, and four monitors’ worth of space to present all the great content.” Didi Conn, who plays Frenchy in the film, did all the voice-overs for the slot. “We were lucky to have her,” says Moosman. “She’s a great talent.”
In all, the slot includes four songs from the film, and 40 video clips. One of the bonus events uses the “iDeck,” the touch-sensitive button panel that transforms into an interactive bonus device. In this case, the player moves fingers across the pad to “dance.”
Grease brings a lot of other “firsts to the market. It is, for instance, the first time actor Travolta has authorized his image to be represented on a slot machine. It is the first appearance of the new “Cash Connection” wide-area progressive jackpot link, which resets at $400,000.
Grease is Bally’s first game in the new “Double Play” format, which means the primary game screen is two 25-line reel sets, to be played simultaneously. The main video bonuses, when triggered on either set of reels, fill the screen with events based on various parts of the musical. (Free spins are played on both reels.)
Finally, Grease is the first Bally slot to use the new Pro Sound surround-sound chair, a booming, vibrating virtual reality-style chair that makes you feel the sound of the music and the roar of the muscle cars.
“The sound of the music is so important, because the movie is a musical,” says Cohn. “The enhanced audio mixing brings out the best quality of the music. We were very focused on celebration in this game—when you win, it’s really a great experience.”
The chair itself is designed to be sleeker than similar slot machine sound chairs. “We’ve put extra space in between the chairs so people don’t have to jam themselves in,” says Moosman.
There are six bonus features in all. One is a quick, on-screen bonus that happens every 34 spins, on average. Called the “T-Bird Wild” feature—randomly, characters will appear on the screen to turn up to wild symbols wild on each of the two game screens.
The other five bonus events are triggered through the “Rydell High Yearbook.” When bonus triggers land on the reels, the screen fills with the yearbook. It’s actually a version of the “U-Spin” feature first seen on the game “Cash Spin,” which senses pressure. You actually touch the screen to flip the pages of the yearbook, and they flip with a speed that matches how much pressure you used. Pages flutter until landing on one of the other five features:
In “The One That I Want Free Games,” the sound system cranks up to blare the film’s signature tune while free games run on both screens. The free games include a feature called “Wild Sweep.” One or two of the reels appear as wild symbols, and the wild reel or reels “sweep” across the game screen—you want them to land on the left-most side to form the most winning combinations.
In “Too Pure To Be Pink,” players are awarded three levels of picks, plus a possible bonus pick. The screen display characters and icons from various scenes in the film, which reveal credit amounts when you touch them.
In “Your Pick,” the player chooses between buttons displayed on the screen—“Pink Lady,” “Rydell High” or “T-Bird.” Picking one reveals a second screen, with video from the film depicting a certain scene—a second pick is made from several characters to reveal the bonus.
The other two events make use of the Bally “iDeck” touch panel. In “How Cool Are You?” the player picks a car from several displayed on the pad, and it takes off up to the main screen, where it will land on a progressive indicating how “cool” they are—the car speeds through up through four credit amounts on the bottom video monitor and four progressive jackpots on top, driving up a ladder-style display, until stopping on a prize, for an average payout of nearly 9,000 credits.
Then there are the “Dance Off Free Games.” Players are awarded 15 free games, and while they are sp0inning, the player “dances” (along with the characters on the screen, of course) by moving fingers around the touch pad to get additional wild symbols, credits and multipliers.
By the way, according to Moosman, there is no bonus you’ll get more than the others. They are weighted equally, which means you don’t get tired of anything in the game. “You definitely cannot get through everything in this game in one sitting,” says Cohn.
Playing this game immerses you in the sound. There’s music while the reels are spinning, and there is a blast of tunes, audio and video throughout each of the bonus events.
The game went live with launch events first at California’s Pechanga Resort & Casino, followed closely by Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, and Four Winds and Firekeepers casinos in Michigan.
The launch event at Pechanga featured a replica hot rod, and look-a-likes of some of the female stars of the film, who were on hand for photo ops.
“The response from players has been amazing,” Cohn says. “It was overwhelming how excited players were before they even played, and their response afterward was just as great. The game really captures the spirit of the film, and fulfills all expectations.”
“With all the great characters from the film, tons of video and music, it all brings in nostalgia,” adds Moosman. “We’ve had people sing out lout when they play the feature. It’s a lot of fun.”
Officials of the first casinos to offer the game tend to agree.
Buddy Frank, vice president of slot operations at Pechanga, says a social media event run by the casino caused the games to be mobbed before they were even unveiled. Once players sat down, he says, they loved the game.
“ This is one of Bally’s really iconic brands,” Frank says. “Playboy was pretty big, but this one hits that demographic sweet spot. Older baby boomers clear down to 30-year-olds—hey know the songs, they know the characters.” Frank also loved that the bonus features are triggered by elements from the film, and he loves the Pro Sound chair. “The chair has a really immersive effect as the sound is directed at you, but the sound doesn’t bother others in the area,” he says, “and I really like the fact that they’ve angled the front so players can actually get in and out. Some real thought went into this game.”
Frank Neborsky, slot operations VP at Mohegan Sun, has similar praise, “We went live on a Monday, and we had people waiting in line—on a Monday afternoon,” he says. “It has a great following so far.”
That following consists of many thousands of people who love the film Grease, and it looks like they’re going to love the slot as well. •
|Grease Bally Technologies
Five-reel, 50-line video slot; two 25-line reel sets; multiple bonus events; multiple progressive jackpots; penny denomination
PAYBACK % RANGE
AVERAGE HIT FREQUENCY
Progressive; $400,000 reset
CA, CT, MI; Others pending at press time