Aruze gives the video slot machine a new look with “Tower Stack Feature Panda”
By Frank Legato
Spotting the Tower Stack on a casino floor is easy.
The games in Aruze’s Tower Stack series of video slots don’t look like a lot of other games on the slot floor. An eye-grabbing 42-inch vertical video screen is chock full of reels and symbols— 12 rows of symbols that you can see, but others above and below peeking through what look like green bamboo shoots.
There’s a purpose to those bamboo shoots. It’s to show you the sets of reels you did not pay to play. More on that later.
At its core, the Tower Stack series—and its newest game, Tower Stack Feature Panda—is all about paying to play. The more you pay, the more chances to win you get. The main screen is made of of three separate four-row, five-reel sets, called “frames” in the game. Each frame offers 50 paylines. A 50-credit minimum bet buys one four-by-five frame, which you can move to any 20-space location on the screen to create a customized play area.
But trust us—you’ll want to bet more than 50 cents a spin. In fact, you’ll want to bet at least 200. It’s a penny game, so that’s $2 a spin. What you get is well worth the extra buck and a half. The 150-credit bet activates all three frames, and the other 50 credits constitute the “Plus Factor” bet, an ante wager that essentially adds a fourth play area in an angled reel set. That’s 150 paylines across what is now 16 rows of symbols.
“You can play up to 150 lines, and you can go to 16 vertical reel positions,” explains Michael Maley, product specialist for Aruze Gaming America. “Playing all three frames, you can adjust the reel angle lower or higher, and when you play the Plus Factor, it opens up that extra play area as well.”
But that’s not the best part. The Plus Factor bet transforms the entire fifth reel into wild symbols and scatter bonus symbols, up and down all the frames that you’ve played. Also, in this mode, scatter symbols that trigger the free-game round are valid anywhere in the play area—in normal play, the free-spin round is triggered only by scatter symbols on the first three reels.
Maley says players have so far grasped the benefits of the Plus Factor bet, most hovering around the “200-credit sweet spot.”
The free-game round in Tower Stack Feature Panda can be long and lucrative. When the bonus is triggered by three yin-yang symbols, numbers appear on two of the symbols. The first is random number of free games, which can be as high as 500. (Aruze games allow you to opt for a straight credit award if you don’t want to sit through 500 free spins.)
The second number indicates a random number of panda symbols—the top-paying symbol on the board—to be added to the reel set for the free spins. According to Maley, the number of added top symbols is higher depending on how many of the frames are active.
Potentially dozens of extra top-paying symbols mean that extensive free-spin round typically features a lot of high-paying winning combinations.
“Feature Panda uses our proven feature math, which has really put our games on the map as far as video goes,” Maley Says. “But what’s unique about this is the nature of the free-spin round. With (Tower Stack) Dragon and (Tower Stack) Lion, you get eight free games with the bonus trigger. With Panda free games you can move up higher— maybe win up to 50 free games with additional panda symbols. You’re not just awarded free games; you’re awarded extra top symbols as well.”
Maley notes that players who wager 50 or 100 credits are still shown the winning combinations on the frame that was not played. Viewing what you could have won through those bamboo shoots “will give you incentive to bet those extra lines, and maybe win more,” he says.
Feature Panda is the fifth title released since last fall in the Tower Stack series, which Maley says has been a hit with players everywhere it has been installed. Beginning with the casinos of Carnival Cruise Lines, the games have spread through Las Vegas and are on their way to all of Aruze’s markets in the U.S.
According to Maley, players are enjoying extended sessions on this game, and the big wins possible—particularly in the generous free-spin rounds, which are marked by frequent top-paying wins—means a lot of players have been walking away winners.
“The cabinet draws the player’s attention,” Maley says. “But when they start to put money in to take a chance at this game, they find a new level of entertainment for slot machines in casinos. The player interaction creates a level of control, and a new level of slot play.”
A bunch of new levels, actually.