Developer/Publisher: Cervo Media GmbH || Overall: 9.0/10
Hardware Used: iPhone 5 with iOS 6
Slots are one of your basic casino stereotypes. Old ladies clutching their purses, chasing the 20 dollars they get from their nickel bet… It’s not that exciting to think about. In fact, it’s probably a bit comical.
Video slots are much different, though, and appeal to a new generation that is very technologically and entertainment-focused. Video slots open up a whole new realm of possibilities such as bonus games, screwing the gambler through incorrect math programming, and enchanting the player with even more lights and sounds than mechanical slots typically offered. Themes also work a lot better with video slots. Star Trek slots, anyone? Who wouldn’t want Shatner’s soothing frequencies spurted every time you lost a spin?
Slots – Pharaoh’s Way is basically going to be the best video slots fix you’re going to get for free or otherwise. I personally downloaded this on iOS 6 with an iPhone 5 and have become enamored with the fake gambling experience it provides. If the title of the game wasn’t obvious enough, it is an Ancient Egypt-themed slots game.
The game contains all of the things that make actual video slots fun and exciting to play. Fast plays, smooth animation, high quality art that fits in with the theme, and lots of annoying noises. The first thing I did was turn off the audio, of course.
It should be obvious that if you don’t like the concept of video slots, this game is probably not for you. I would say that slots in general do not appeal to me, at least until I played video slots a couple of years ago. Video slots, to me, provide more “gameplay” opportunities when it comes to bonus games – and boy are they (usually) exciting. Slots – Pharaoh’s Way replicates the exciting feeling of normal video slots by providing unique bonus games (depending on the slot game you are playing) and free spins.
If you break down the goal of the game to its very basic element, you are doing one thing: Earning Diamonds. These Diamonds are used in grinding levels to unlock more slots to play. Diamonds are earned through normal slot play and each progressive level has a substantial percentage more to get to the next level, which promotes playing more/upping your bet to get further along. Playing straight through, the feeling you are grinding out levels doesn’t settle in until about level 13 or so, and depending on how many Credits (the game’s currency) you have, it is fairly influencing to up your bet and earn Diamonds at a faster, even reckless, pace.
Your most reliable source of Diamonds comes from your initial bet at a rate of x2 what your bet is. If you’re betting 10 Credits per slot play, you gain 20 Diamonds, if you bet 100, you get 200, etc. More often than not, at least one of the spaces on your slot board will be bonus Diamonds which also increase at a rate of x20 what you are betting. In this case, you gain 1000 bonus Diamonds for a 50 Credit bet, and so on. That’s only if you hit bonus Diamonds in a space, and that can sometimes prevent you from winning more Credits depending on its placement.
When your next level is about 150,000 diamonds away (at level 21) you’re almost going to be hoping for the bonus Diamonds more than anything else you could get. Essentially, when you are using Credits to win more Credits, what you are actually doing is using Credits to get more Diamonds, and being as efficient as possible in earning Diamonds becomes the real intent. Earning Credits only allows you to have a chance of earning more Diamonds. There are also various rewards and bet amounts unlocked for each progressive level, which can supplement your Credit gain/usage.
What I began to realize is that earning Credits is paltry compared to getting Diamonds, and in the end Credits almost mean nothing as the game forces you to keep parity with your growing Credit pool and level by upping your bet to earn more Diamonds at a higher rate. No matter how many Credits you have, you will practically always have the “same” amount of spins you started out with as the winnings all scale linearly. The only thing that increases exponentially is the barrier to level up.
Sure, you could play for 1 credit each bet while you have 3,000 sitting in your pool, but what the hell is the point when there’s absolutely NOTHING else to do with said Credits other than to earn Diamonds with them? In a sense, it combats the inflation that the developers no doubt predicted would happen with Credits, and unless you want to be stuck at the level 20 range for the rest of your life and never unlock another slot, you’re going to be upping your bet.
My personal strategy for betting with Credits has been to always have “100” spins available to me before I go bankrupt. If I fall below the 1,000 Credit mark, I would lower my bet to 10 Credits so that I could work my way back up to a comfortable level for my currently-comfortable bet of 50 Credits. However, when I get up to 5,000 Credits I’m sure I’ll at least up it to 100 or 250 Credits.
Design-wise, all of this makes sense. When you actually play it, however, you begin to beg for variety. Playing the slots game proper is good enough, and every time you win a bet, you get the option to play a simple card game where you can guess the color or suit of the card and gain twice or four times what you won in the slot game. This bonus game is fun for a while, but ends up being less enticing as the stakes get higher, since it really is not in your favor, and doesn’t even net you any Diamonds directly. You’ll probably not want to waste time playing it at all after a while, regardless of the fact that the card game has better odds than the actual slots game at the end of the day.
New slots open every 10 levels with new artwork, a different bonus game, different payouts, and slightly different rules/spaces. For example, the second slot is only 3 reels, but every consecutive 3-way match is counted. On the 5 reel slots, which are the first and third slots, you have 25 to 50 lines in many different random combinations that are harder to predict when you win. The idea is that the more progressed slot has the best payouts, but you might visit the previous ones to get a change of scenery every now and then.
Each slot has its own bonus game which throws in a little variety every now and then, but they are barely rewarding. One of the bonus games named River of Luck relies on your… “luck” to guess whether or not the next number in a sequence of numbers will be higher or lower. If you know anything about statistics, it might be an easy decision process, but it certainly does take a long time to get through the game, not to mention the payouts are almost laughable for the amount of time you spend on it until you guess about 8 times in a row correctly (which almost never happens). The bonus games don’t typically hit often either, which adds to the disappointment. The monotony of constantly pressing the “spin” button can be subsided with the AutoPlay option, but then it REALLY feels like you’re doing nothing, so I use it sparingly — only when I’m jerking it. Other bonus games are pretty simple, like “finding a match” and clicking cat idols until you click two of the wrong ones. Meh.
I think there is a missed opportunity here with the way the game is made as far as bonuses go. If they made some mechanic for spending a certain amount of Credits and being able to play a bonus game that awarded Credits, Diamonds, or even both outside of the random chance of the Slot games, it would be a lot more fun to play for long sessions. Even if they were rehashed bonus games that you already unlocked for the slots you are playing, it would be a step in the right direction. As it is, you simply plug away and hope that you get to the next level range before the turn (pun!) of the century. But I suppose that’s where buying Credits might alleviate this frustrating aspect of the grind.
Every 4 hours you are able to collect free bonus Credits. When the four hours are up your phone will light up and notify you that you are able to collect bonus Credits, thus allowing for the timer to restart. Your bonus will increase the more levels you gain, but in the end you’ll probably burn through it all in about a couple of spins regardless of how much you actually get, since your normal bet will keep increasing along with the bonus. If you are really enthralled with the experience, you can always buy more Credits. The option to buy Credits isn’t terrible, but you come to think about the philosophy behind a game like this. By no means is Slots – Pharaoh’s Way a major offender of the “Free2Play” format as you can get by just fine without ever paying one red cent to get ahead. At some point, though, you’ll need to up your bets considerably to match the teetering-on-the-insane Diamond grind.
Taking a long, hard look at business practices for one throwaway game might be a waste of energy, but this isn’t the only game with this model. “Free2Play” games create unique products that may not have otherwise been available, and I know that I wouldn’t be playing this game at all if I had to pay anything to play it. With so many options for games nowadays, getting someone to even spend time with your game is particularly valuable when you can make more money than you ever could per player by creating the capability to spend absurd amounts on it on the back end.
At the end of the day, Slots – Pharaoh’s Way is what it is, regardless of the philosophy involved. Having a four page review on what is “simply” a slots game is probably overdoing it but as soon as I started playing I knew I had a lot to say about it. The game sets out to do what it does with almost perfect execution, and the only glaring flaw is that the game lacks variety and more of a meta-game. I don’t only want to progress, but I want to be able to play a random cool game every hundred spins so I can be excited to do another hundred spins to play that quick, fun mini-game without taking too much focus off the slots game itself. It would be a detriment to the point of the game to have a whole suite of mini-games that are always accessible – but there is a happy medium that should be attained. Otherwise, all you’re “doing” is grinding the Diamond counter, and not playing a game. It is “drop-in-a-bucket” gameplay at an extreme.
From what I gather, this game is actually updated every couple of weeks to add more slots and adjust payout balance or math errors. I’m not sure how engaging this is for people who just start out the game, since it appears you have to grind at least 50 levels before you even get to a “new world” which may or may not be available at this point. To know the game is supported is nice, however. But it would do wonders for the game if it had some sort of “news” in the game to keep people up to date with what’s going on.