Critter Pop: Slot Overview
Way back in the day before CGI took over, out there entertainment was occasionally provided by puppetry. An eccentric example of this was the television series The Muppet Show. One of the regular sketches on The Muppet Show was Pigs in Space, a parody of Star Trek, which had Captain Link Hogthrob, First Mate Piggy, and Dr Julius Strangepork exploring space aboard the Swinetrek. Maybe, just maybe, Pigs in Space formed some sort of inspiration for developer AvatarUX as they designed their animals in space slot, Critter Pop.
As the name alludes to, Critter Pop is an addition to AvatarUX's PopWins range of online slots. It is set in space, where gases, planets, and stars swirl about a scene of cosmic wonder and… critters. The critters appear as the high pay symbols on an expanding grid, which starts the base game at a 5-reel, 3-row size. Arranged around the grid (jurisdiction dependent) are a host of buttons, including an Ante Bet, Bonus Buy, plus sundry other pieces of information and options. One option is bet selection which drops as low as 20 p/c per spin or as high as £/€100. Or, hitting the Ante Bet button increases the stake by 25% whilst doubling the chance of triggering free spins as a result. Critter Pop is a highly volatile slot and produces a theoretical return to player value of 96.03%.
In the resting 5x3 state, players get 486 ways to win since winning ways pay left to right as well as right to left. So, three or more matching symbols on adjacent reels can start from the left or the right side of the grid. Keeping in mind, five-of-a-kind wins only pay from one side. Card ranks 10-A make up the low pay symbols, worth 1-1.5x the bet for five of a kind; then six animals are used as the highs, worth 2-6x the bet for five of a kind. The two most valuable symbols are the tiger and the mammoth - this is important during the Rewards Reel phase covered below. Wild symbols are able to substitute for any normal pay symbols, but note they only appear during free spins.
Critter Pop: Slot Features
As well as the key PopWins mechanic, other extras players can look forward to in Critter Pop include a free spins bonus round with a bunch of possible reel modifiers, and the Base Game Unlock.
Each symbol in a winning way pops from the board and is replaced by two new symbols, increasing ways and reel height. If a new win is formed by this process, PopWins triggers again and continues to do so as long as wins appear. In the base game, reels can expand up to 6 positions high where there are effectively 15,553 ways to win, or 8 high in free spins where 65,536 ways become active (both ways). When reels are at their maximum height, popped symbols are replaced by one symbol only.
Base Game Unlock
In the base game, when reels are fully expanded to 6 symbols high, players win 2 free spins on the expanded reel-set as part of the Base Game Unlock feature.
Landing 3, 4, or 5 scatter symbols in the base game triggers free spin mode, with 2,048, 6,250, or 15,552 starting ways, on a 5x4, 5x5, or 5x6 grid, respectively. Before free spins begin, a Rewards Reels sequence is played first. One spin takes place where it is possible to win extra free spins, a higher starting win multiplier, greater win multiplier increments, random 2x2 symbols, random 3x3 symbols, random wild symbols, tiger symbol multipliers, and mammoth symbol multipliers. Once this spin has occurred, whatever was won from the Rewards Reels is carried over to free spins.
During the free spins round, reels do not reset to their starting size; instead, they drop down to the lowest reel height achieved on the current spin. For example, if the reels reach 7-7-7-7-8 high, the reels drop to 7-7-7-7-7. Should all reels reach 8 symbols high, then +2 free spins are awarded, and +x2 to the multiplier, plus, the grid stays at that height for the rest of the feature. The win multiplier either begins at x1 or higher depending on what was won from the Rewards Reels spin. It increases after each winning cascade and does not reset between free spins.
If available, hitting the Buy Bonus button gives players three ways of buying free spins. They cost 125x for the Buy Bonus, 250x for the Buy Bonus Plus, or 500x for the Buy Bonus Max, which have starting ways to win of 2,048, 6,260, or 15,552, respectively. Theoretically, the more expensive bonus buys offer better rewards going into free spins.
Critter Pop: Slot Verdict
Critter Pop's animals in space idea might seem odd at first, but when you think about it, animals really helped tee up human space flight. Let's take a moment to honour the bravery of critters like Laika, Belka and Strelka, who paved the way for the Russian Cosmonauts that followed them. And who can forget critters like Ham, the chimpanzee on the American side, who, after viewing some of the footage, doesn't look like he enjoyed his suborbital flight all that much. Lest we forget, these animals had no choice. They were rammed onto rockets and blasted into the sky to see what would happen. RIP, you brave wanderers of the firmament.
Players do have a choice about firing up Critter Pop or not, though, so let's have a look at why they may or may not want to. Following on from the theme, Critter Pop doesn't have the slick harmony recent releases like MonkeyPop, RagingPop, or CherryPop Deluxe had. The strange mix of critters and space is more experimental, which may excite or repel players in equal measure. After playing it for a while, the juxtaposition of character and setting did dwindle in significance, making it easier to concentrate on the gameplay.
Outside the bonus round, this meant standard runs of popping winning symbols, growing reels, and ways, perhaps triggering the two free spins feature when the grid maxes out. The Base Game Unlock is unlikely to happen super frequently, so the main game might come across as a bit cyclical. The bonus round is where the PopWins innovation occurs due to the modifier bestowing ability of the Rewards Reels spin. Get lucky and wins as high as 20,000x the bet are possible.
Critter Pop is a solid PopWins slot with a slightly unusual theme combo. It might not be the nonpareil of PopWins gaming, but fans of this style should be satisfied, and bonus buyers might be tempted by the potential modifiers provided by the Rewards Reel.
The theme might be a little discordant at first but Critter Pop’s potentially modifier-heavy bonus round might make more sense.