At first, slot machines were as simplistic as you can imagine, with only three reels and one paying line, not leaving enough room for any meaningful additions besides obligatory winning combos and its respective payouts. You had your fruits, bells and bars, and that was enough until the mechanics became obsolete and was replaced by electronics and video. Soon enough online casinos embraced the one-armed bandits and slot machines became a must for every online casino website. That’s when it all took a turn for the better that we couldn’t foresee and now online slot machines are so diverse in terms of themes and game features; it’s hard to even keep track of it all. It is whole new universe, an expanded universe where 3D graphics and stunning animated effects take form of various symbols that proceed to demonstrate different behaviours across the reels. Same as game appearance, slot features have evolved immensely as well. Here’s an overview of some of the most engaging and gratifying gameplay features you can encounter in today’s slot world.
Some might say there are more bombastic features than the Win Both Ways system, and even though we agree on that one, we still consider it to be most deserving of special attention. Usually, this feature comes as a worthy companion to other features, like the Free Spins rounds. It is an added feature that accomplishes its positive effect in a very simple, yet fantastic way. How does it work? Well, as we all know, winnings are created by forming winning combinations of symbols in a left-to-right fashion. This is a traditional way of constructing payouts and still a valid one, but what happens when the idea occurs to issue payouts not only from left to right, but also from right to left? Win Both Ways happens – or otherwise known as Two Way Pay feature. Simple, but effective, Win Both Ways is a widely popular slot feature. Some games can follow the two-way payout system from the very first spin of the reels, but mostly it is only when you trigger a specific bonus round can you make your winning combinations count both ways. You can enjoy this feature in such titles like Starburst and Dragon Island from NetEnt, Highway King from Playtech and Crazy Chameleons from Microgaming.
This feature will strongly appeal to lovers of classic slot games known as fruit machines and more traditional slots. As we’ve already said, old-school slots don’t have much to offer apart from the use of three reels and a single pay line, but some features do make an appearance across these settings as well. The best known of them all is the Nudge feature. This option is usually awarded randomly, and can be later used on one of the following spins. When you have it available, the purpose of it is to use it at the end of a spin that had potential of creating a winning combination but fell one movement short. In this case you can use your Nudge to move one of the reels down one position and try and complete the combo. If the machine lets you see which symbol you’ll be sliding down, than the Nudge feature is most effective. Try it out with Playtech’s Tropic Reels or Goblins Cave, Slot-o-pool from Novomatic and Pub Fruity from Microgaming, to name a few.
Game formats are something not many companies have experimented with. Ever since the layout of a slot jumped from ‘three reels/single line’ into the pattern of five reels and three rows very little has been done in that area and a standard 5×3 formation became somewhat of a recurring template. It was about time somebody came up with something more original, and with the release of NetEnt’s Dazzle Me slot we were given a refined look of an online slot that software developers are starting to explore now in a greater extent. Reel are now presented in an irregular 3x3x4x4x5 format which completely refreshes the gameplay and provides the spinner with interesting ways of forming winning combos. Classical paying lines are put aside as you can now only receive payouts through ways to win. In the Eye of Ra slot, for example, which is an Amatic Games slot with a 3x4x5x4x3 layout, you can count on 720 ways to play.
Maybe the most revolutionary feature so far, the Avalanche feature or Cascading Reels feature, is one of the public’s favourites, ever since NetEnt’s famous Gonzo’s Quest slot hit online casinos. In many aspects ahead of its time, Gonzo’s Quest introduced a spectacular special feature where you don’t have a classic ‘spinning reels’ style of play. Instead, the symbols in the reels fall from above into their positions. The real fun and profit lies in the feature’s ability to continue play even after the main spin has ended. Let’s say you’ve hit the Play button and used your opportunity of a spin, in the classic sense of the term; you’ve landed a winning combination. The winning symbols will explode and when they are smashed and gone new symbols fill immediately fall into their places – something you’ve surely seen in games like Tetris. The winning combo then has the chance to continue in a potential chain reaction of big wins. You can take pleasure in the effects of this slot feature in games like Planet Moolah and Mojo Rising from WMS or IGT’s Pixies of the Forest and The Big Bad Wolf from Quickspin.
Not as often can you see the Split Symbols feature, but when you do stumble across it the results are almost always favourable. It tends to appear in five-reel online slots and it was conceived by IGT Interactive, featuring in dozens of their games. The concept defies classical five-of-a-kind winning combination by dividing one of the symbols on the reels into two, or more, separate icons. If the double icon forms a part of a winning line the winnings will increase according to the paytable payout scheme. All of a sudden five matching symbols become six, and so on. More than one symbol can carry the Split mark; therefore it is possible to form even a ten-of-a-kind winning combination on a single pay line. It is an immensely lucrative concept applied in such titles like Blade from Playtech, Noah’s Ark from IGT Interactive and the So Much Candy slot from Microgaming. Being awarded with X times the standard payout is a great way to boost your slot experience!