BountyPop: Slot Overview
Yggdrasil Gaming partners Avatar UX sure know when they are onto a good thing. Their PopWins range reaches number four with the release of BountyPop, and the series seems to be humming along nicely. The mix of PopWins mechanic plus snowball features and big potential appears to have hit a note with a growing number of players. Where the last one, CherryPop, pushed the franchise closer to the mainstream due to its fruit styling, BountyPop returns to Avatar UX's Asian heritage for inspiration.
At first, it will be hard to see what all the PopWins fuss is about. Upon firing the slot up, a basic 5-reel, 3-row grid sitting against a Northern Lights type image meets the eye, while a fantasy soundtrack drifts about in the background. It's functional, but pretty plain compared to what Avatar UX has done in the past.
Playable from 20 p/c to £/€20 per spin, like others in the range, expect a highly volatile gaming experience which can go from nothing to prolonged sequences of pops with huge potential on offer. When spinning for the big one, wins come on average at a rate of 1 every 5 spins, while an RTP rating of 96% is right on average. The game uses a win-all-ways, pay-both-ways system meaning combinations from left to right as well as right to left are possible. This effectively doubles the 243 win ways possible in the default 5x3 mode. As the reels expand from the PopWins feature (covered below), so do the number of ways to win up to a maximum of 59,049.
The paytable begins with four florescent card royals (J-A) designed in a flowing Gothic script, followed by a bunch of cartoon characters. Seven characters make up the high pays, capped by a mysterious masked man in white as the lone super high - five of him on a payline yields 10 times the stake. There are no wild symbols, not even from pops, as they were in previous PopWins incarnations. Surprisingly, their exclusion doesn't seem to have much impact on the way the game operates.
BountyPop: Slot Features
As you'd expect, the PopWins mechanic is the showpiece, and all features are built around what it does. The extras in BountyPop include free spins, and Mystery Wheel Multipliers.
When a winning combination lands, each winning symbol pops to be replaced with two new symbols. This increases the size of the respective reels while boosting the number of ways to win. During the base game, reels max out at 6 positions high. When no more wins land, reels reset to their normal size.
If all reels hit 6 rows high in the base game at the end of the win sequence, the Mystery Wheel feature is triggered. On the wheel's outer part, x2-x3, or x5 multipliers and arrows are present. Landing on an arrow spins the inner wheel which awards multipliers of x3-x5, or x10. Multipliers are then applied once to the current win.
Landing 3 or more scatter symbols in view trigger the bonus game. Specifically, 3, 4, 5 scatters award 6, 9, or 12 free spins respectively. In the bonus game, reels can now expand to 9 rows in height producing up to 59,049 ways to win. Expanded rows do not reset to the base level between free spins either, but drop down to the lowest reel height.
If all 5 reels reach 7 rows or higher a multiplier wheel is unlocked. This wheel spins when free spins are complete, applying a multiplier to the total round win:
- Bronze wheel (all reels 7 symbols tall): outer ring has Arrow, x2-3, x5. Inner ring has x3-5, x10.
- Silver wheel (all reels 8 symbols tall): outer ring has Arrow, x2-5, x7. Inner ring has x3-5, x7, x10.
- Gold wheel (all reels 9 symbols tall): outer ring has Arrow, x3-5, x7, x10. Inner ring has x3-5, x7, x10, x100.
For the record, it takes 300 spins on average to trigger free spins. Where available, players can avoid the struggle by activating the bonus buy option, costing 100 times the bet to do so. Before the bonus starts players have the option of spinning a wheel to either win more free spins or lose the lot.
BountyPop: Slot Verdict
After reaching four deep in the PopWins range, players will have a sound idea of what to expect. Namely, getting winning symbols to pop, expand reels, and trigger multipliers. So far, each PopWins slot has used variations of these same components while playing around with the peripheral functions. BountyPop is the same, not doing anything out of the ordinary to put off fans or win over those not enamoured by the mechanic.
After the slick styling of CherryPop, slightly more was expected from the follow-up. In fact, BountyPop comes across as less sophisticated too, as if less creativity went into the design than its predecessors. There just doesn't seem to be much new this time around. Unlocking reels on extended runs of pops is fun, yet the impact is watered down on the fourth run through. PopWins is a clever feature, but to keep using it requires pairing it with ever better themes, and features.
BountyPop kind of misses the mark in that regard. The theme isn't very engaging, and the game boils down to hitting max rows to pull in a multiplier - fun when it happens, but it feels more repetitive than before. The bonus buy has never been quite so tempting, especially considering you need 300 spins on average to trigger free spins organically. Free spins can be quite a trip where everything gets bigger – reels, win ways and multipliers. It's here the game's eye-watering potential of 55,000 times the bet has a chance to be cracked. A big number, though none have trumped the 70,000x found in the original PopRocks slot yet.
There was a feeling of progression in the last three PopWins slots, or they at least made sense from a business perspective. BountyPop, on the other hand, is neither as mainstream as CherryPop, nor does it push the series far along. BountyPop ends up being one for hardcore PopWins fans to enjoy, but it might not be the best entry point if you are new to the mechanic.
Fans of the format might be satisfied by another PopWins option even if BountyPop’s lack of innovation doesn’t really do much to drive the series forward.