Chi (ELK Studios): Review
The games released by ELK Studios during the first quarter of 2019 have been somewhat inconsistent in quality. The first release, The Wiz, was a rather mediocre title that failed to make a lasting impression, whilst Ecuador Gold turned out to be a smash hit and even one of the best titles ever released by the company. It was followed up by the much weaker Hit It Big slot, so going by this order, Chi should be a strong game. But we'll see about that.
If you've read our recent reviews, you have probably seen us rant about how sick we are of all the generic Chinese-themed slots that we're continually being forced fed. It's lazy, annoying as hell and shows a total lack of creativity, which goes against everything gaming should be about. Some might not care as long as lady luck smiles at them, but a good portion of players are looking for an escape in their stressful lives to a world that tickles their imagination. Some find it in movies, others in video games, and then we have the degenerates who love to play slots. Anyway, the point we were going to make is this. Although Chi is indeed an Asian-themed slot, it's far from generic. Chi has a narrative, characters with names and most importantly, unique design.
Central to the story are two fox-like creatures (spirits) known as Chi and Mow that represent fire and wind (and we're not talking about the kind of symptoms you get from eating at Taco Bell). The action takes place on an unconventional looking reel set with cylindrical wheels that spin laterally. The actual setup is not that far out, however. Chi is a 5-reel, 3-row slot with 27 paylines paying from left to right and right to left, giving you 54 paylines in total. You can play it on all devices from 20 cents to 20 Euros per spin.
Set in the Himalayan highlands with beautiful natural scenery in the backdrop, you join the two spirits, Chi and Mow, on their journey to find the lost city of treasures. The game has a soft Asian touch that is backed by tranquil background music to set the mood. On the reels you'll see lower value carp fish, cups, fans, flutes, golden gourds, jade stones, fire lanterns and lotus flowers. There's a wild symbol included as well that replaces all symbols except the scatter.
Chi (ELK Studios): Features
On either side of the reel set you'll see totems. If a totem symbol lines up, it activates the respective spirit. The red totem to the left will awaken Chi - when he appears, he'll shoot fireballs onto the reels which can result in 1 to 6 wilds being added to the reels. The blue totem to the right summons Mow who will hit the gong-gong, subsequently boosting your payouts with a multiplier from 2x up to 5x.
There are two bonus features included in the game. Firstly, you have the Free Spins feature which is played when you land 3, 4 or 5 free spins symbols anywhere on the reels, giving you 10, 15 or 20 free spins respectively. When it comes to retriggers, you can get plenty of those here as there's no limit to how many times you can retrigger the feature. Now, in the free spins game, all wilds generated by Chi stick throughout the round. In addition, a first hit on Mow activates a progressive multip0lier that starts off at x2 but can go up to x5.
The most lucrative feature is the Stairway to Fortune bonus which is triggered by landing 3 bonus symbols. Here, Chi and Mow will work together to reach all the way to the Fortune Reels. As Chi draws a random number between 1 and 6, Mow moves the corresponding number of steps along the cloud path of ever-increasing multipliers. This goes on until Chi draws collect, in which case the multiplier held by Mow is paid out in accordance with your bet level.
There's an even better outcome, however, the one where you reach all the way to the heavenly Fortune Reels. Here, a spin on each of the 5 reels is awarded with all the multipliers collected now added on top. The top award comes from hitting the arrow on the uppermost reel which will add the final 10,000x multiplier to your winnings. In total, you can pocket up to 12,500 times your stake in this feature.
Chi (ELK Studios): Verdict
There is a lot to like about Chi. Not only is it a gorgeous tale loaded with charm that has restored our faith in the genre, it also offers innovative gameplay, unique and well-designed visuals as well as outstanding potential. Although the game mechanic at play here won't be to everyone's liking, ELK Studios has established a decent foundational system when it comes to the features which are sufficiently engaging to absorb us and fall into the world of Chi and Mow.
Chi is a slot that some will love and others will hate. If you ask us, it's a slot that is absolutely worth playing. It's a volatile game, however, so tread carefully. May the spirits be with you in your quest to find the lost city of treasures.
Chi (ELK Studios)
● Reels: 5
● Rows: 3
● Paylines: 27 x 2
● RTP: 96.0%
● Hit Freq: 18.4%
● Bonus Freq: 1/322 Spins
● Max Payout: 12,500x (250 000 EUR)
● Variance: H (9/10)
● Bets: 0.20 - 20 EUR
● Features: Random Wilds, Multipliers, Stairway to Fortune Bonus Game, Free Spins
● Release Date: May 7, 2019
Bigwinboard Rating - 72%