As Newton’s third law states, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. While 2020 served up a stack of great games, there was also a fair share of turkeys. Earning the dubious honour of scoring the lowest reviews of 2020, 6 of the very worst made their way onto the list below. Each did so in their own weirdly wonderful way, but there was one common trait uniting them. Like Arnold said in True Lies: ‘They were all bad.’
6. Wild Joker Stacks (Boomerang Games) – 3.8 Score
Proving that big potential (28,200x) is not the be-all-end-all is Wild Joker Stacks from Boomerang Games. It was full of options for players to tinker around with to find the setting suiting them best. The problem was that, despite a sea of selections, there are only two players were likely to go for – the cheapest, which was statistically pointless, or, the most expensive one, which gave you the best RTP and grid layout.
You could kind of see where they were coming from when they designed the game, so good on Boomerang for daring to be different. Yet, this is slots, not a moon shot. Besides, having a wealth of configurations plus big potential meant nothing when the graphics, animations and gameplay are this depressing, thus resulting in a game as utterly generic and forgettable as its title.
Verdict: Wild Joker Stacks fails to live up to any expectations due to poor graphics, sluggish animation and bland gameplay.
5. Lady Earth (Crazy Tooth) – 3.7 score
Why is it when a Crazy Tooth slot comes out it often feels like that episode of Friends where Joey thought he could speak French? Crazy Tooth is a loveable crew who do things their way and never cease to surprise. The funny thing is, it seems there are two opposing forces at work within the company. On one side is a team proficient at drawing graphics, animations, or coming up with new ideas. On the other is a group intent on ruining the experience any way they can – possibly suits armed with calculators that have never played a slot before?
Their 2020 title Lady Earth is a classic example. At first sight it kind of seemed like an interesting proposal due to some uniquely attractive looks. Problems arose from an overabundance of blocking symbols, in both phases of the game, capped by dismal potential, killing whatever positivity Lady Earth originally appeared to have.
Verdict: Lady Earth is a game that could have been half decent but seems to do everything in its power to put players off spinning its cosmic reels.
4. China River (Bally/SG Digital) – 3.5 score (Cancelled)
SG Digital‘s Mega Drop is a jackpot system wired up to a bunch of slots, giving players a chance to win one of three prizes. The prizes are quite good; it’s just too bad many the games on the network are not. Case in point is Bally‘s insomnia killer China River, an Asian themed slot that felt as if it was designed by someone terrified of being accused of cultural misappropriation.
This meant a game utterly devoid of cultural experience or personality. Unfortunately, the desperation to be as bland as thematically possible spilt over into the gameplay as well. The result was a slot you could barely recall playing two seconds after you were done.
Verdict: Bally’s China River slot relies entirely on tedious, unenthusiastic gameplay that’s way too generic to sustain interest for more than a couple of minutes.
3. Viking’s Ransom (Barcrest/SG Digital) – 2.8 score (Cancelled)
There were moments in Barcrest‘s Viking’s Ransom… Oh what are we saying, there were no moments in this poor 90s looking throwback. Possibly a long lost game retrieved from an old backup drive, it’s a mystery why SG Digital ever thought it would be a good decision to present it to the public. Even worse, for some bizarre reason the game was designed to fleece players who bet at certain levels, penalising those who bet less than £/€2 per spin by dropping the RTP by 2%. Okay, you didn’t have to max bet to get the benefits, but why should lower rollers automatically be excluded?
It was a battle axe in the spine right from the start which Viking’s Ransom failed to recover from. On a more democratic level, its retina violation was less discriminating. Potential was no saviour either, and it came as no surprise to anyone who had demoed Viking’s Ransom that it ended up canned in possibly the best creative decision associated with the game.
Verdict: Viking’s Ransom’s stats, shamelessly low rewards and shoddy production values make it a very hard slot to like.
2. Plataea (WMS/SG Digital) – 2.3 score (Cancelled)
Test-running WMS‘ upgrade of Platea from flash to HTML, a question kept arising – why? As well as possessing a pace which made tectonic plate movements feel like Usain Bolt smashing world records, there were plenty of ‘what the?’ moments. For example, the odd flames along the bottom of the screen, as well as some strange fire guy popping up at points.
Those bits felt like a lazy copy and paste job since both showed up in the equally dire Hearts of Venice. As to the rest, well, there was nothing modern gamblers were missing out on if Platea hadn’t been upgraded. When you think of how many better slots exist in the Ancient Greece category, the question pops up once again, why?
Verdict: Plataea makes the shift from flash to html5 with the result being more of the same insipid gaming.
1. 7s On Fire (Barcrest/SG Digital) – 2.2 score
And finally, we arrive at a game that got absolutely nothing right, Barcrest‘s 7s On Fire. 3 reel classic/fruit slots often come with a ‘retro’ look which can be excused if the twists add something and the gaming is fun. 7s On Fire managed to deliver neither of these things while still looking like a bucket of smashed crabs.
Its ‘twist’ was High Roller Spins. Here, players had the privilege of paying extra for the wild to substitute all symbols – in the base game it substitutes just the seven symbol. That was odd enough on its own, yet High Roller Spins had another kick in the nuts stashed up its sleeve. Pay symbols had their values halved. This is either one of the most poorly conceived features ever, or over 9000 trolling. The same could be said for 7s On Fire as a whole.
Verdict: This dreadfully boring, god-awful fruit slot is an absolute rip-off.
Apologies if you feel the need to bathe after that tour through the dirty half dozen. It’s curious to note how prevalent SG Digital was, bringing their reverse Midas touch to four of the games on this list. Another point of interest is these six represent the tip of an iceberg of slots so despicable we didn’t even waste our time, or yours, reviewing them. But hey, let’s end on a positive note by saying these sorts of games provide a valuable service, in a way. They help us better appreciate the creativity and skill poured into producing the truly greats!