Desert Shark Slot (Fantasma Games): Overview
Some have posited that if the universe is finite then the ideas that humans can come up with are finite as well. Oddball notions like plonking a boat and a school of sharks in the desert ensures that humanity isn’t out of new concepts just yet. The creative types at Fantasma Games are to thank for the singularly themed slot Desert Shark. Where did that idea come from? A quick google pulled up a book with a similar title about the modern-day gambling kings of Las Vegas. Was the desert aspect chosen as a nod to Vegas? Perhaps it was used to draw attention away from the similarities with Push Gaming's smash hit slot Razor Shark? Only one way to find out.
Desert Shark is played over 5 reels, with 4 rows and 40 fixed paylines. Graphically it's fine without being amazing, and displays an old-time galleon facing off with a huge shark in the desert. If like us you are scratching your head wondering what the heck is going on, a bit of background might clear up the confusion. So, in the game world, an ocean of sand exists in the far East full of ships and creatures – including sharks. The hero, a heartbroken poet/prince, was scorned by the woman he loved and went to the wastelands to forget about her. We've all been in that position, right? So the game should make perfect sense now… Joining the prince on his exploits costs between 20 p/c and £/€100 per spin. For that, players get a game with an RTP of 96.33% and a high volatility rated 5 out of 5 by Fantasma. Hits come at a moderate frequency of 19.58% and wins are helped along by a bunch of wilds and features.
The paytable reveals a selection of symbols to peruse, and which undoubtedly have a hint of Razor Shark to them. Low pays include 4 coins with different patterns printed on them – a purple star, gold skull, silver snake, and a red palace. The high pay symbols include an Arabic water jug, a flask, compass, and a smiling camel. The poetical prince is the highest paying premium at 5 times the stake for five of a kind. He's not quite the most valuable symbol in the game though. That honour goes to the golden 'W' wild at 7.5 times the stake for five of a kind. This one, like all the wilds, can substitute for any other regular pay symbol. Other wilds come with additional roles and ways of modifying the game.
Desert Shark Slot (Fantasma Games): Features
The shark of the title is the Swim Wild symbol which comes into play in several ways. First is during the Swim Swim feature which comes into play when two or more Swim Wilds appear during the base game or 1 during free spins. In both cases, the Swim Wilds move horizontally from right to left across the row and can randomly change symbols. Swim Wilds can turn regular symbols into wilds, or upgrade current wilds into wild multipliers - wild multipliers start at x2 and can be upgraded in increments of +1 to x9.
Desert Shark reaches full power during its Free Spins bonus round. The sandstorm icon is the scatter which can land on reels 2, 3 and 4. When 3 scatters are in view they award 8 free spins. At the start of each free spin, 1-6 Dynamite Wilds are added at random to the reels. If a Shark Wild activates a Dynamite Wild via the Swim Swim feature, it explodes and upgrades 2-6 symbols into wilds or Wild multipliers. Hopefully that was clear - there are a lot of wilds going on here.
Desert Shark Slot (Fantasma Games): Verdict
At a quick glance, Desert Shark might give off the impression of being one of those cute and friendly games. In reality the opposite is the case. Desert Shark has no interest in making friends. It is highly volatile and suits a harder gambling approach. The back story provides a modicum of depth, but dries up quickly when you're battling the relentless quicksand of its brutal math model. Not quite Razor Shark level perhaps, but one for more dedicated gamblers regardless. Rewards match the algorithm though - the team at Fantasma have recorded wins of 16,794 times the stake during simulations. Big sessions are theoretically possible. Just make sure to slap on plenty of sunscreen because it might take a fair amount of time in the desert sun to crack that amount.
While waiting for the good parts to come together, the game isn't the most exciting. You might think a game with so many wilds and multipliers would be more rousing. Of course, when it does come together, it's solid, but epic moments are rare. The elements that provide bigger wins, and inject excitement are features like wild multipliers, and dynamite wilds. Bigger wins require an exceptional number of upgraded wild multipliers during free spins. The tricky part is that wilds/wild multipliers seldomly upgrade, and getting Dynamite Wilds and Shark Wilds on the same row is frustratingly rare. Still, the ingredients are there if you can get them to do their thing.
One of the last Fantasma slots we reviewed was Riviera Star which was an utterly different kettle of sharks. Desert Shark makes a cursory effort to build a game world like that one did, but is less worried with the trimmings. It’s more concerned with the business side of playing slots than frivolous things like being nice and charming. The result is a much more hardcore experience. A session with Desert Shark is a lot like a trip to the desert itself. You either manage to walk out safely with a story to tell. Or, the sun sucks the moisture from your body like a piece of beef jerky while buzzards peck at your eyes.
Desert Shark is a decent but rather mediocre video slot that fails to impress much.