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by Scotch Henderson

The Game of LIFE™— Sigma Game
The Game of LIFE is a nine-line, 45-coin game, with a theo-retical hold of 7.88 percent. Based on the famous “The Game of LIFE” board game, it was introduced with a major national promotion by Harrah’s Entertainment properties. The game has, so far, been enormously popular with players. According to one of the top executives of manufacturer Sigma, early returns from the Native American markets showed this slot to be highly profitable in the nickel denomination. The game is packed with bonus features that draw on the 40-year-old board game dealing with life’s milestones, using fairly simple and familiar artwork and animation. The central feature of the machine is the colorful dial, a huge replica of the dial used in place of dice to determine the number of spaces moved in the board game, imbedded in the top box.

There are two main bonus features, one of which is a ran-dom choice between 10 different games. It’s called “Life’s Little Games,” and is triggered by three or more TV symbols. Ten tiles appear on the screen, and the player chooses one to reveal one of six relatively simple games with titles such as “Treasure Chest,” “Life’s Lottery” and “Skunk Money.”

The main bonus feature is a re-creation of the actual board game. The board game’s spinner dial is the trigger for the event; three or more get you into the bonus. The LIFE game board appears on the screen, folded up as it is in the real game’s box. It unfolds to reveal a replica of the game board. The dial appears on the video screen, and the player is prompted to touch “SPIN” to start it turning. The big dial in the top box spins at the same time, often attracting plenty of attention from passersby. When the dial stops on a number of spaces, the car on the video screen moves from “START” to one of the board spaces, each of which represents a milestone of life such as “Earn Degree” or “Wedding Day.” When the car lands, the spot reveals a bonus credit or multiplier amount. “Stop and collect” symbols are at key locations such as “Early Retirement.”

Survivor™— WMS Gaming
“Survivor,” the slot machine, is a base three-reel stepper slot with a top-box bonus game played out on an oversized color LCD video screen. It is available in the standard WMS theoretical hold percentages (6 percent to 12 percent), adjusted to compensate for the progressive prize. The game is built around the phenomenally popular “reality TV” show, which places groups of people in “tribes” in remote locations such as the Australian Outback or a deserted island, where they vote among themselves on successive people to throw out of the tribe until the last “survivor” remains.

The base stepper game is the strongest feature of this game. The reels light up and flash in sequence as they land, with great sound effects — much like the WMS steppers of the mid 1990s. The unique cosmetic features of WMS reel-spinners help set them apart from the many Bally and IGT steppers on the floors. The striking appearance of the machine, with a waterfall between the Survivor logo and the video screen, topped with a remarkably realistic simulated campfire, attracts plenty of attention.

Lining up three Survivor logo symbols lands the pro-gressive jackpot, which resets at $100,000 and is paid in a lump sum. The base game is available in any of four WMS stepper slots — “Diamonds 4 Ever,” “Island Fortune,” “Wild and Loose,” and “Jungle Cats.” An extra “Bonus” symbol on the third reel triggers the main “Challenge Bonus” game on the LCD video screen, in which the player is treated to one of several “Challenge” bonus games, simulating the physical challenges used to eliminate contestants on the TV show. There is a “Fire Walk Challenge” which depicts a contestant walking across hot coals—the farther he gets, the higher the bonus (top award, 1,000 coins). There is a “Cooking Challenge” that depicts characters throwing various “food” such as insects and roots into a pot, and another challenge that depicts a character climbing across a vine over a “River Crossing Challenge” full of alligators.

Unfortunately, the graphics and animation on all of these “Challenge” rounds are very simplistic and repetitive. After the initial novelty wears off, the bonus rounds become quite predictable. However, the strength of the WMS stepper fea-tures and the big-money progressive top jackpot could make this game a “Survivor.”

Blazing 7s® EVO™— Bally Gaming
Players have long loved the graphics, the multiple “7” com-binations, and relatively high hit frequency (for a reel-spinner) that Blazing 7s offers. There has been an abundance of Blazing 7s spinoffs in the reel-spinning genre, and practically all of them have been successful to some degree. Blazing 7s EVO takes the Blazing 7s name, graphics and traditional paytable combinations into a nine-line, multicoin nickel game on the EVO™ Video platform, with its sharp graphics and fluid ani-mation. It is a 27-coin nickel game, accepting bets of one to three coins per payline, with a reliably low-volatility program offering a hit frequency upwards of 59 percent.

All the popular features of the traditional stepper version are retained — the three “7” wins in the paytable (mixed 7s, single 7s and the marquee Blazing 7s with the fire animating as the symbols land), as well as all of the traditional bar and cherry combinations. The game is instantly familiar to its longtime faithful fans, but the high hit frequency promises to garner new fans among slot players seeking more entertain-ment. They get that frequency even with the highest hold program, 12.82 percent (available programs range to a low theoretical hold of 5 percent), and they get the frequent hits with a minimum 45-cent buy-in to activate all the paylines.

This game also serves the classic stepper fans that don’t mind sacrificing hit frequency for a frequent shot at the big payoff, thanks to a rapid-hit top jackpot of $1,000. That top prize lands an average of once every 1,902 spins, according to the manufacturer, providing a cool grand payoff that’s 20 times more frequent than quarter video poker, as long as max-coin is inserted.

Dragon Treasure™— Konami Gaming
This new video slot takes a program with low volatil-ity and very high hit frequency — 83 percent, according to the manufacturer’s numbers — within a nine-line format and creates a game that is much more interesting than the standard multiline fare. The game mimics a home computer game better than any before it, and is proving quite popular on casino floors.

Dragon Treasure is a 45-coin nickel game that includes one standard pick-one bonus event — three “Magic Box” symbols on an active payline trigger a second screen featuring a wizard character who prompts the player to choose one of five trea-sure chests to reveal a random multiplier amount. But the real star of the show is the main bonus event, “Dragon’s Treasure Bonus,” which simulates a dragon hunt, from the perspective of a knight hunting the dragon. The player and the dragon engage in up to five animated battles, ending when one or the other character is out of “lives” (each has three lives). For each battle, the player chooses one of three weapons to try to slay the dragon. The more times the player wins the match, the higher the bonus. Average bonus awards range from just over 1,000 coins to around 6,800 coins, depending on the number of symbols in the triggering spin. At least three knight symbols on a payline trigger the bonus sequence every 109 spins, on average. The outcome is, of course, determined by the random number generator. However, the progress of the matches suc-cessfully creates the feel of a typical home video game, making it both familiar and popular with younger casino players. Dragon Treasure is available in theoretical hold percentages ranging from 3.84 percent to 11.11 percent.

This story was first published in the October - November 2002 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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