GemPops: Slot Overview
How did the Pringles slogan go? 'Once you pop, you can't stop'? The same could be said for slot game maker AvatarUX, which has rolled off so many PopWins or Pop-related slots by now it's hard to keep up. Just for good measure, here's another one that pops, going by the name of GemPops. Its features are subtly and not so subtly new and include things like variable reel heights, reel multipliers, Popscades, Xpops, bomb symbols, free spins, gambles, and bonus buys.
The bottle stoppered 'S' in GemPops' title would suggest potions, and when the game opens, the feeling of magical exploration is reinforced by an arcane pattern inscribed in the background, magically illuminated when free spins are active. Scrolls and a tatty-paged grimoire play on the magical theme even further, though GemPops doesn't leap head-first too deeply into the theme from there. Pleasantly presented with hints of the esoteric side of life best sums up the impression GemPops gave off once the review commenced.
GemPops is played on a gaming grid that does not have a standard 5-reel, 3-row configuration at the beginning of each base game spin. Instead of having a fixed size, reel heights are random. Furthermore, GemPops uses a win-all-ways pay system, which pays both left to right from the leftmost side and right to left from the rightmost side. A dynamic grid is accompanied by a highly volatile math model with an RTP of 96%. Base bets in GemPops are 20 c to $/€100 per spin, and from the Xpress menu, four bonus options are available.
Wins are awarded when matching symbols land on 3 adjacent reels from the leftmost reel or the rightmost reel onwards, and when the gaming grid is expanded to its full size, 59,049 ways are available for lining up wins. Making a 5 OAK win out of the 9 to A card ranks is worth a payout of 0.5 to 0.75x the bet, or 1.25x to 5x the bet is awarded for landing five of the high gem symbols. One thing to know is 5 OAK wins pay only from one side. Several special symbols are present in GemPops to help augment results, but wild symbols are not one of them.
GemPops: Slot Features
Interestingly, GemPops isn't an official PopWins slot in the strictest sense of the world, as it uses a variant system known as Popscade when winning ways appear. Joining Popscade on this esoteric journey are reel multipliers, Xpops, Bomb symbols, free spins, gambles, and Xpress bonus buys.
Popscade & Xpops
When a winning combination appears, the winning symbols are replaced by new symbols and the respective reels extend. However, symbols cascade from the top rather than appear in the cells of the winning symbols. In the base game, the grid can be extended up to 7 rows high or 8 rows high in free spins. The Xpops mechanic, meanwhile, allows symbols to pop by a random amount ranging from 1 to 4.
Each reel has a multiplier assigned to it, which increases every time there is a symbol win (+1 for each symbol win). In the base game, when a reel reaches its maximum height, the multiplier multiplies wins happening on the unlocked reel. In free spins, when a reel reaches its maximum height, the multiplier over the reel is added to the global multiplier, which is applied to any future wins. The reel multiplier is not active unless the reel is fully expanded to its full height.
Landing at least 3 scatter symbols in the base game triggers free spins mode. When 3 scatters are in view, players get 5 free spins with an x1 starting multiplier, 4 scatters award 8 free spins with an x3 starting multiplier, while 5 scatter symbols award 12 free spins with an x5 multiplier. Scatter symbols only appear in the base game. When the Bomb symbol drops (only available in free spins), players can get up to 3 additional free spins. The special free spins Bomb symbol instantly unlocks the reel it landed on to its full height, activating the reel multiplier.
Before free spins start, players have the option of gambling for upgrades on the gamble wheel, though keep in mind that losing the gamble takes you straight back to the main game. When the starting number of free spins is 5, you can gamble to increase it to 8, then gamble again to go to 12 free spins. Or when the wheel lands on a special golden slice, it is possible to get 12 free spins with an x1 multiplier on the first gamble, and 16 free spins with an x3 multiplier on the second gamble.
From the Xpress menu, users may activate the ante bet, which doubles the chance of entering free spins, thereby increasing the stake by 25%. Other options are buying a spin on the gamble wheel for up to 8 free spins for 75x the bet, buying 5 free spins with an x1 multiplier for 75x the bet, or buying 12 free spins with an x5 multiplier for 300x the bet.
GemPops: Slot Verdict
GemPops might not be an official PopWins slot per se, but in operation, players familiar with AvatarUX's work should be able to slide into the game no problem. In the base game, GemPops functions a little bit like Megaways, meaning you never know how many symbols will appear on each reel on each spin or how many ways to win will be available. Not sure if Popscading is an improvement on the way PopWins games usually flow, but it's something different for the cognoscente to swirl around and savour. The abrupt way winning symbols are replaced by new symbols Popscading in wasn't as satisfying as the way PopWins games usually remove winning symbols and replace their cell (and other cells where possible) with new symbols. It's a bit sudden, a bit disorienting and harder to keep track of by comparison.
If there's one thing AvatarUX knows besides popping, it's injecting win multipliers into a game. GemPops is no exception, and this is one game where growing reels to their full height could be critical to how a session unfolds. Also quite critical is how much more effective bonus rounds tend to be the more free spins awarded. Sure, this sounds like a no-brainer that could apply to any slot, but it seems to be especially pertinent in slots from AvatarUX. Perhaps that's why gamble wheel features are so prevalent in its games and may be tempting to boot. Potentially ruthless, though, so don't expect any mercy when tangling with the gamble feature. But yeah, building big multipliers is feasible when GemPops is on a roll, and at 20,000x the bet, eye-opening results are theoretically possible.
To sum up, GemPops didn't seem like it did enough to rank up there with its big-name PopWins cousins, CherryPop, for example, but it is still another neatly put-together slot by a team that knows a thing or two about poppin'.
If Megaways ever mated with PopWins, the love child might look something like GemPops.