Pop Slot Review (Big Time Gaming)
Big Time Gaming returns to their 4×4 series with a walk along the seafront in the form of Pop!
Pop comes on the back of two decent attempts from BTG to master the smaller grid games. Donuts and Chocolates were the two that were initially released, although both (oddly) left a sour taste after what should have been a sweet affair. Following up on both games was not something many anticipated BTG to head down. Whilst neither were terrible, they just lacked a little depth, which is maybe why BTG wanted to give the series one last push with an all-new Dual Reel mechanic?
For players looking for a simplified Ways format yet equally impressive win potential of up to 65,536x bet in this case, Pop will not disappoint. The setting is Santa Monica Boulevard where you’re greeted with the sights and sounds of arcades, slot machine and of course, the main theme of the game, balloons! Whilst the game can seem visually appealing and a little too “nice” it packs quite the punch. It’s rated as high in volatility and comes with a mid-to-high-range RTP of 96.54%, combining to offer a well-balanced slot.
Pop is available for play at licensed slot sites like SlotsMillion from 29 March 2021.
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As soon as I got wind that Pop was to launch on the 4×4 grid platform, I immediately jumped back on to both Donuts and Chocolates to see how it compared. For a lot of the game, things are quite similar. However, for the first time, they have swapped the ExtraWays with a new Dual Reel mechanic. That is if we don’t count the Slot Vegas MegaQuads.
Pop includes the 256 payline engine, along with a max win of 66,960x your bet, making it the highest of the three. Min bets start at 0.10 and max bets at 20 units per spin. Mid-level bankrolls are going to be best suited given the high volatility that comes with this.
The main game is centred around a series of face cards and balloons. The face cards are fixed for winning paylines, but the balloons will pop and then get replaced with other balloons, Scatters or Wilds, creating reactions and additional paylines. Be prepared for the reels to spin down for the face card symbols and up for the balloons. At first, it’s a little confusing what’s going on as all I knew that it all looked a little dizzy. Obviously, you won’t get dizzy, but it takes a few spins as they work against each other.
The balloons are the higher paying symbols in the line-up. The face cards just get in the way more than anything and even though they do provide winning combinations, you want the combinations to get rid of them for the better symbols.
When testing new games, I like to try and get away from the numbers (RTP, volatility, max wins, etc) as much as I can and just see how games flow. But I couldn’t help and notice that it has a hit frequency of 32.98%, which is something that I felt whilst testing.
I did mention earlier that Pop’s volatility rating was high, and you notice this throughout. The game is quite clever in covering this up as symbols are regularly removed (popped), but, more often than not, this will not equate to winning combinations.
Reactions and Dual Reel
Reactions are what the whole game is about. As you connect winning symbols throughout the game, they react and then are replaced to create new combinations.
The new Dual Reel mechanic means that the game will spin down and float up at the same time. More specifically, it’s the face cards that will spin down and balloons that float up in the background. So essentially there are two reels spinning at the same time, which adds an additional dimension to the game. When reactions happen, however, only the better, balloon reel will be re-activated. For example, when regular symbols (9 through Ace) will react, they will be replaced by balloons, Scatters or Wilds, only. Think of them as blockers like in Templar Tumble.
The rainbow balloon is your wild in the game and like most slots, this is an incredibly important and lucrative symbol. Not only will the wild substitute for every symbol except a scatter, but it will also offer multipliers of up to 4x within the bonus game. As is the case with the other slots from the series, Wilds only appear on reels 2 to 4.
The backbone of Pop is that of the free spins round. It’s not all that easy to get access here and there is no feature buy that is usually very popular with these types of grid games. They don’t always offer the best value, but it would have been nice to have them included.
Entry into the free spins round is done by hitting three of the BTG scatter symbols in the form of big gold coins. They can appear anywhere on the grid and usually drop after a series of reactions, which keeps the game feeling exciting, even if you’ve not got winning combinations.
Once into the bonus game, you are awarded 12 free spins. You’re able to claim a multiplier for winning combos within any of the 16 squares in the grid. These stay with you throughout the free spins should you trigger them, and they can even increase as well. Multipliers can be applied to any of the balloons and the wilds on the free spins board. These generally range from 2x to 4x for the most part.
You can also retrigger more free spins with an additional 3 spins for 3 or more scatters.
I’m happy to report that Pop is a great addition to both Donuts and Chocolates, albeit played slightly differently. They’ve nailed the theme: it’s basic in its looks, but I like that and the colours are superb. The soundtrack I can take or leave and after a while, it grinds a little.
The only other negative is the use of the static symbols in the game (face cards). They offer very little and you find yourself just working around them as the balloons are the main symbols that cause the reactions within the game. If they have to be included, then make them a little more exciting, BTG! Or you could simply get rid of them altogether, keep the balloons and increase the number of reactions to make it even more interesting. Invoice for Royalties on the release of Pop 2 already in the post!
Aside from that, it’s a nice change and even as a standalone slot, it’s one that I’ve enjoyed playing. You’re getting a nice-looking game, solid usability, a good free spins round, some strong features such as reactions and the Dual Reel, plus a fine balance between RTP and volatility. You can’t ask for much more than that, which is why Pop is going to go off in a bang…
Reviewed by Jonathan Askew.
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