Black River Gold: Overview
Players, your man Kane is back in a new adventure and is looking more dapper than ever. It seems like the man who previously used to fall backwards into success came upon hard times during the gold rush and didn't quite make his fortune. Now he's tossed legality to the wind in a last-ditch effort (until next time) to secure some riches.
This time it's the Black River where he hopes to get lucky. Though exactly what that entails is not made entirely clear. Salmon farming? Riverboat gambling? A kayak guide? Player's choice this time around as we head off into the wild frontier in the fourth instalment of ELK Studio's popular Gold Series.
Unlike the previous three, Black River Gold is a difficult location to place. You would presume it to be in North America, but there are dozens of Black Rivers in that vast stretch of land. There are some clues, though. The first is a towering mountain range in the background, with metal framing, foregrounding a misty tree-filled valley. As before, 24 symbols drop into the grid in a 6-reel, 4-row arrangement which can expand through the Avalanche mechanic and features.
Winning combinations are formed of three or more matching symbols left to right. There are no paylines as such; instead, winning symbols can land in any position providing 4,096 win ways with the default 4 rows in play. Then, winning symbols are removed to let new ones fall into place, which not only fills the gaps, but adds an extra row to the grid. At maximum, the game can be expanded to 8 rows high, increasing the number of win ways in the process from 5 rows and 15,625 ways to win, all the way up to a maximum of 8 rows and 262,144 ways to win.
Joining the spruced up new Kane Steel requires setting stakes and/or a betting strategy. Bets are available from 20 p/c per spin or all the way up to £/€100 should the need arise. RTP remains the same as before at 96.1% along with high volatility, whilst hit frequency comes in at 24.1%. One stat conspicuous by its absence is the bonus game frequency. So far there has been a tendency to get less frequent as the series has progressed, so what the official rate is in the Black River Gold version is anyone's guess. A qualified guess is that it's likely in the region of 1 in 300-400 spins.
Firing up the paytable makes you wonder whether Kane is playing sheriff with all those badges on screen. Or is he dodging the law? Either way, the symbols are made up of J-A royals that actually look like playing cards, a choker, a badge, a whiskey glass, and a gun make up the low and mid pays. On the higher side, we get an emerald, a gold nugget, a diamond, and Kane as the most valuable.
Due to the mechanics and features, symbol values are relatively low with five of a kinds ranging from 0.3 to 3 times the stake. On their own, they aren't much to get excited over, but as in previous Kane incarnations, things take a turn for the mental when the features take over.
Black River Gold: Features
If it isn't broken don't fix it right? The mark of a great series is often how strongly that maxim holds. It is certainly the case with the Gold series where the features remain more or less the same, along with the odd tweak or two. For one, those jungus big symbols make a return and can appear in 2x2, 3x3, or 4x4 epic size. They might stick out like a sore thumb when they don't line up, but are super helpful when dragged into a winning combo.
A new alteration has also been made to the big symbols. This time around, if a big symbol has an empty space beneath, it turns into a gun cylinder symbol (the part that holds the bullets). Known as the Revolver feature, when the revolver appears, symbols beneath it are loaded up making the revolver a big version of the symbols it holds. If all 6 bullet spaces are filled, then the revolver just turns into a big wild symbol.
The next special symbol is the Compass. When it lands, matching symbols across it become wild. So, if the needle is pointing east-west, then matching symbols on its left and right become wild. Also, if the compass reaches the bottom row, it turns wild too. Wilds can substitute for any other symbol except compasses and scatters.
Finally, what it all comes down to - the Bonus Game. Land 3, 4, 5, or 6 scatter symbols anywhere in view to trigger 10, 15, 20, or 25 free drops respectively. During the bonus game, the Safety Level comes into play, so each win adds another row (up to 8) as during the base game, but now they don't fall back to 4 rows on new drops. Wilds that appear are stored at the bottom of the grid and remain sticky until they are used in a win. Finally, free drops can be retriggered by landing three or more scatters.
Black River Gold: Verdict
So, how does the dressed up Kane Steel fare in Black River Gold? The new setting is a nice choice, less dangerous than before though - Kane has grown up and gone respectable if you will, sort of, The tweaks are there too, so the game isn't a clone, but the impact has lessened since early instalments in the series. It's not as atmospheric or gritty as the earlier ones either. This is older Kane, and life does tend to become less adventurous as people mature.
There are no major complaints though; if you've played the other Gold slots, you will know what to expect. When it comes to potential, the max wins remain in the region of 5,000 times the stake for those keeping score. There have been a few changes, but no major overhauls, so it might feel like more of the same for some players. That will either illicit responses of joy from fans of the series or groans from those who need something brand spanking new to get excited about.
To sum up, there is no doubt Black River Gold is a solid slot with decent gameplay and stats which provide decent gaming. It might be slightly underwhelming for those of us who were hoping for more, but there is undoubtedly still plenty here to enjoy.
Black River Gold offers another dose of what the Gold Series is all about, namely volatile cascade style gaming in an exotic locale with decent potential to boot.