A Dark Matter (Slingshot Studios): Overview
Slingshot Studio's A Dark Matter slot bears no relation to the book by Peter Straub of the same name. What it does share with that twisted tale is its place in the horror genre. However, the horror of A Dark Matter slot comes in a more subtle form, what Freud called the uncanny. The uncanny is an event or occurrence that is seemingly ordinary until something unnatural happens to send a shiver up your spine. The Victorians were obsessed with the uncanny and the supernatural, and explored it through mediums, séances, and spiritualism. This is exactly the era that Slingshot Studios has recreated in their latest slot A Dark Matter, set in sinister Wraith Manor where all sorts of odd things can occur.
Yes, the house has a name and Slingshot have developed an extensive back story to give the game more depth. Apparently, the town of Stonehurst has been afflicted by troubles at Wraith Manor which is ruled by Lady Eleanor Wraith. Her deceased husband amassed a fortune through shipping and dealt with strange and unusual artifacts. Now, after a series of mysterious disappearances, the town has called in help. It has arrived in the enigmatic Nathan Highmore who is here to get to the bottom of the trouble.
With all that going on behind the scenes, Wraith Manor and its plain 5-reel, 3-row setup is a little underwhelming when it first loads. Surprises can happen though, and begin with a trip to the paytable. The first thing that stands out is the fact that the game is limited to 5 paylines, which is a bit odd for a 5-reel slot. Winning combinations can be formed both ways however which, in a way, doubles the paylines.
Then there are the combination values which are surprisingly good. Even the 10 - A card suit symbols return a high 0.6x to 14x the stake. From there, it just skyrockets further. The five high pay symbols, in ascending order, are represented by the main characters in the narrative of the Wraith Manor drama, namely Silas Brewer, Molly Perkins, Bertram Lynch, Eleanor Wraith, and Nathan Highmore. The last character is worth a whopping 600 times your stake for five a kind. High variance and with a solid 96.18% RTP, you can play A Dark Matter on all devices from only 0.05 up to €/£50 per spin.
A Dark Matter (Slingshot Studios): Features
A Dark Matter is a little light on features as you will discover. At the core of it all are the wilds which come in three different forms. First there's the standard wild which only appears on the three central reels. Like all wilds in this game, it substitutes for all symbols except scatters. Then you have the Stacked Wilds which can land on reels 2 and 4 in the base game. Finally, you also get Microgaming's trademarked Invading Wilds - a full wild stack on reels 2 or 4 will duplicate itself to an adjacent reel and turn it wild. Moreover, a full wild stack on reels 2 and 4 will turn reel 3 wild.
During the Free Spins you get all the above mentioned wild features, but with some extra benefits. To trigger it, you have to land 3 scatter symbols on reels 2, 3 and 4 - this will award 12 free spins. You can extend that number, however. Each scatter that lands in view will add 1 extra free spin to your total. What about those benefits then? Well, during the free spins game, the wild stacks are now Super Stacked. It's not actually explained what Super Stacked means, but a qualified guess is that there are probably more of them and that it can appear on any reel. Moreover, a full wild stack on reels 2 and 4 will not only turn reel 3 wild, it will also double your wins.
A Dark Matter (Slingshot Studios): Verdict
A lot of thought has gone into creating A Dark Matter - not just building a slot but a whole world to go with it. The whole venture feels like it could be an executive’s passion project because a lot of thought has been poured into crafting a holistic experience. Slingshot has even set up a website dedicated to telling the story of A Dark Matter and its five main characters. The danger with focusing too much on the outer layers of a slot is that sometimes it can smother the actual game itself. This isn’t entirely the case with A Dark Matter, but it walks a fine line.
It's not only Wraith Manor that is haunted by strange events, the paytable reveals some odd things too. The symbol value may seem great at first glance, but as you start to play the game you become painfully aware of how useless they are. While the five of a kind payouts are excellent, the three and four symbol combinations are significantly lower almost to the point that it becomes a bit ridiculous. Take the top four premiums for example - four of a kind of these will pay 7x, 8x, 12x, 16x, and 20x respectively while a five of a kind combination will give you 60x, 80x, 120x, 160x, and 600x. That is Slingshot Studio's idea of designing volatility it seems. Now, three and even four of a kind combinations are abundant, but too see five premiums appear on a payline is extremely rare. Ultimately, the payouts experienced here are for most part disappointingly low. What's even worse is that the max win seems capped at 2,400 times the stake.
Putting wins aside, where A Dark Matter missed an opportunity is ironically with its story. A lot of interest and tension is built via the website, the characters, and the atmosphere. It’s just a shame that there is no real climax. What would have been exciting is if the scatters also launched a showdown between good and evil. Maybe some Cthulhu-esque creature all winged tendrils and slime came bursting Alien style out of Lady Wraith’s chest for an epic battle with Nathan in the basement, perhaps? As it is, A Dark Matter is an oddly unique game, worthy of a test run. Will dedicated players stick around long term? Probably not, but it could quite well be a hit with the casual crowd.
A Dark Matter is a Victorian-era whodunit full of atmospheric drama conveyed with superb craftsmanship, but is a little light on content.