Aldo’s Journey: Overview
Aldo is a wanderer, but he doesn’t wander for his health. It’s all about money for the little Marco Polo lookalike merchant. Like Polo, this guy can’t stop moving which is good for players because his travels improve the chances of landing winning combinations and can unlock five different free spin rounds. Aldo means either ‘old and wise’ or ‘the tall one’ depending on which dictionary you use. However, the character doesn’t look particularly tall so he must be old and wise. He does bear a striking resemblance to the real life explorer and trader Marco Polo. Aldo even visits some of the same countries on his travels – China, Italy, Mongolia and Persia. Players get to join him as he ventures to these locations, and if they are lucky, there are coins to collect on the way.
Yggdrasil Gaming have turned out some big, epic, mythological themed slots in the past. Aldo’s Journey is the total opposite of that. It's light hearted and cute, and plays a jaunty wee tune in the background while the action takes place. The 5x5 grid spins with what can look like a typical cluster pays system at first, but which actually uses 65 fixed paylines. Three or more similar symbols need to line up on one to form a winner.
It's interesting that a slot based on travel has base game symbols that have nothing to do with the theme. Low pay symbols are the four card suits - hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds worth 0.2x to 1x the stake. The high pay symbols aren’t a whole lot better with 4 gems worth 0.4x - 2x the stake, which is pitifully low. There is no way the real Marco Polo would have set foot outside of his house for loot of such low value. The game possesses a wild in the shape of a solid gold coin and has one job in the base game, which is to substitute for any of the standard pay symbols.
Bets can be set at just 10 c/p per spin or as high as £/€100. The RTP is attractive at 96.5%, but the combination of medium/high volatility and low symbol value can easily lead to a steady stream of unexciting wins. While the game is technically capable of pulling off okay max payouts, it will be tricky to score anything decent without some serious help from the extra features.
Aldo’s Journey: Features
The most conspicuous feature in Aldo’s Journey is Aldo himself as the Journey Wild. He is a cheerful sprite, full of character and is constantly on the move around the reels while they spin. When the reels come to a stop, so does Aldo to help string a few combos together. He can substitute for any symbol in the game except for the free spins symbol.
Aldo’s Journey contains a scatter symbol in the shape of an old-school compass. Land 3 of these to be awarded 7 Free Spins. If you look closely at the gird you will see that it is split into sections. Depending on which sections the scatters land determines which of the 5 free spin modes are triggered. This is what's on offer:
- Italy: this round starts with a x2 multiplier which increases by +1 with each spin.
- Mongolia: on each spin one of the symbols is removed from the game. If there are just 2 left a multiplier is added.
- Persia: on each spin of the reels a Sticky Wild is dropped on the grid.
- China: the round starts with a x2 multiplier and Aldo leaves a trail of wilds behind him as he wanders.
- Journey: a x2 multiplier is applied before launching one of the previous four free spin rounds.
The final feature is Wild Time! Sometimes Aldo comes to a stop on the tile in the very centre of the grid. When he does, 3 to 9 wild symbols are sprinkled on the reels and a multiplier of x2 - x4 applies to any wins from that spin. If this occurs during the China, Italy, Mongolia, or Persia free spins, then the multiplier will stay in play for the remaining spins. If Wild Time! Occurs during the Journey round, 3 more spins are added to the total.
Aldo’s Journey: Verdict
Well, it’s not without its charm. Aldo’s Journey has a light cartoony feel to it which grabs your attention when it first loads. Before long several elements start to grate. The first comes from the volatility and the low symbol values. It feels stingy. Now, some slots sessions go well, and some don’t - that’s just the nature of the game. However, after extensive testing of Aldo’s Journey, the wins that did crop up were not exactly inspirational. Of course, this could have been due to a run of bad luck, but we are talking about a pretty extended run here. In our case, with over 4 hours of constant gameplay we never landed a win of over 200x.
It doesn’t help that the high pay symbols can only manage 2x the stake at best. They struggle to hold interest indeed. Yes there are 5 bonus games to improve the situation, but hardcore gamers will find little to light their fire here. The game is technically capable of paying out max wins of up to around 3,000 times the stake (rough estimate), but it's going to take a lot of perseverance to get anywhere close to that figure.
Yggdrasil Gaming not only knows how to craft excellent slots, but it also understands the people that play them. No doubt there will be a substantial number of gamers who will lap up Aldo’s Journey. For one, it is quite unique, and the travel theme combined with a cute hero who literally travels around the grid spreading wilds is a clever one. And while highly volatile thrills and wins might be missing, players that are happy with a constant stream of smaller wins will be more than satisfied. To sum up, Aldo’s Journey is an okay game but one that is best suited to a causal gaming style.
Aldo’s Journey never really takes full advantage of its unique premise and winds up as a slot that simply isn’t very compelling.