China River (Bally): Overview
When a slot comes along that is part of a progressive jackpot it raises a question. Does it rely solely on its prize to pull in players, thereby meaning the game itself is just an afterthought? When you see that Barcrest is the developer behind the latest placeholder game for the jackpot network, a cold sweat starts to break out over what might be in store. You never know what to expect. Like ripping off a Band-Aid, the best thing to do is just dive right in and see what we have to contend with.
The original China River slot dates back to around 2014. Why Bally has decided to do try and revive such a bland and generic slot by releasing a remake we will never known. Either way, the first encounter with China River 2.0 elicited a surprisingly mild response. The graphics are okay-ish, nothing ground-breaking of course, but not an insult to the eyes. The 5x3 reel setup is located in a somewhat pleasant looking carnation bush. The music has that Chinese dizi flute, floating down the Yangtze River at dusk admiring the Three Gorges vibe to it. Aesthetically it has a certain level of tastefulness going on; it’s relaxing even. If first impressions are anything to go by, then China River is not going to be one of those high-octane, rip-roaring, slots. Hit spin, and so it proves to be.
Before that though, bets need to be selected, and players can choose from 30 p/c to £/€30. Quick spin would have been a nice option because the reels are slower than Chinese internet download speeds thanks to all those firewalls. There are 30 paylines on which to land winning combinations of three or more of a kind. Perusing the paytable reveals a split between 6 low and 4 high. The low pays are 9-A royals which if you look close have delicate little Asian prints on them. The high pays are comprised of a frog, a golden bowl, a lotus flower, and a Chinese character. The character only needs two to be a winner, and if you land five the game will reward you with 33.33 times the stake.
A couple of extras include a cute wee yellow bird symbol which is the wild. It can land on reels 2, 3, 4, and 5 and substitute for any of the pay symbols. When it does, you are treated to a nice animation of flowers and a boat on a river.
Mathematically, the game has a theoretical RTP of 95.87% which is the new standard and what we've now come to expect following all the regulatory changes that have significantly impacted the industry. In terms of volatility, there is no official word on it but the game appears to run on a medium variance model.
China River (Bally): Features
Most players will probably fire up China River to have a crack at the jackpot so let’s start with that. Mega Drop has 3 progressive jackpots which must be won before they reach set levels, these are Minor, Major, and Epic which are progressive and must drop before they reach 1,500, 20,000, or 200,000 credits respectively.
There is no telling when they will be won, the process happens at random at any moment. When a jackpot has been won, it is reset to a seed amount of around 25% of the amount paid out. 2% of each bet goes to feed the three jackpots, and the process continues again. All three jackpots can be won while betting at any stake level; there is no restriction. But, the higher the stakes, the greater the chance of winning will be.
The paytable mentions a mysterious Mystery Stacked Reels feature. Each reel has stacked mystery symbol positions that are replaced by any random symbol before the spin is initiated. These mystery symbol positions can be replaced by any symbol except the wild. Perhaps this feature was removed or was a typo because it never seemed to appear or have an effect on the game when we tried it.
What did appear though was Free Spins - the red and gold coin symbol is the scatter and 3, 4, or 5 in a winning combination award 8, 10, or 15 free spins respectively. During the bonus round, all symbol values are doubled, and free spins can be triggered.
China River (Bally): Verdict
Oh right, a verdict, sorry nearly nodded off to sleep there. Well, what can you say? It’s a generic Asian themed slot which even a progressive jackpot feature cannot save. Someone in a suit went through a checklist of Asian elements and made sure they were all ticked off. Chinese characters, frogs, gold, lotuses, appropriate soundtrack - check, ship it. There are no dragons though; their omission is probably the most interesting thing about the game.
China River’s claim to fame, and sole purpose for existing, is that fact it is hooked up to the Mega Drop jackpot. Whilst the Epic Jackpot is able to offer a solid, attractive top prize, winning big money on any progressive jackpot is tricky so you want to play something at least half-decent while trying your luck. With so many other games in the Mega Drop network, it isn’t hard to find preferable options to China River from the line-up. It makes arguing the case for spinning China River a tough one. Even excluding the jackpot, a grid of high pays during free spins would net around 1,000 times the stake which isn't all that enticing either.
To be fair, China River far from Bally's worst work, but that’s not exactly saying a whole lot. It's merely average rather than a total train wreck that scorches your eyes. And in a way, that’s kind of sadder. It means China River is merely forgettable rather than a traumatic experience you want to tell other people about.
Bally’s China River slot relies entirely on tedious, unenthusiastic gameplay that’s way too generic to sustain interest for more than a couple of minutes.