HippoPop PopWins: Slot Overview
Editor’s note: This review evaluates HippoPop based on its early access state and may be an unfinished product. We plan on revisiting this review once it gets a full release.
Avatar UX know when they are on to a good thing, adding another slot to their burgeoning PopWins range. Available via Yggdrasil‘s Masters YGS Program, HippoPop PopWins uses the popular reel expansion device for the sixth time to date. This time around, the team hasn’t pulled out the stops to get all innovative with the features, which are pretty standard PopWins extras. Instead, more energy was spent polishing the game and coming up with an unusual theme to give it personality.
Barring CherryPop, all of the PopWins games so far have used pretty creative themes to flavour the action. HippoPop PopWins is no different and includes influences as far-reaching as Oaxacan art and Alebrijes inspired visions. The latter being spirit guides in Aztec culture that are essentially animals with human characteristics. Instead of Central American animals, we get a bunch of African beasts. The studio has taken all of these disparate ideas and presented them in a bright, neon way, like an Ayahuasca trip through the Amazon basin, though with different wildlife. An odd mix, to be sure, but it works in its way and is a bit unique.
Tripping through the bush can take place on any device, where bets from 20 p/c to £/€40 may be set. HippoPop PopWins favours the bold due to a highly volatile math model, producing a return value of 96.1%. It’s a game offering big potential wins, and one that is all about the free spins, triggering on average once every 240 spins. Regular wins drop much more frequently, at a theoretical rate of 20.50% of the time.
Every base game spin starts on a 5-reel, 3-row grid, providing 243 ways to win. Wins are awarded left to right from the first reel, or right to left from the last reel, and trigger a cascade sort of feature. If you’ve played a PopWins slot before, you’ll know it won’t stay that way for long. When wins hit, each winning symbol is removed and replaced by two new ones, thereby increasing the size of the reel – up to 6 at the most in the base game. The PopWins process carries until new wins land, then the grid resets.
Symbols have been split into 4 groups as they often are with Avatar UX. First are low-pay J to A symbols, then fish, birds, and frogs as the medium pays. Premiums consist of zebras, cats, and flamingos, while a lone hippo makes up the super high category. Payouts from the latter two groups are worth 2-4 times the stake. Values aren’t extraordinary, yet they are doubled when 5 symbols in length land due to the pay-both-ways mechanic. So concludes symbols, Avatar UX has done away with wilds or scatters, relying on the PopWins feature to deliver bigger results.
HippoPop PopWins: Slot Features
When all reels reach 6 rows high in the base game, each following win increments a win multiplier displayed to the left of the screen. Unlocking 6 rows on all reels also triggers the bonus game.
5 free spins are initially awarded, but you can gamble these on a bonus wheel to win up to 12 spins in total – or lose them all if your luck runs dry. It should also be mentioned the win multiplier from the triggering spin is carried over to free spins.
Free spins start on a 5×3 grid which, during the bonus, can expand up to 8 rows high. Each win increases the win multiplier by +1, which does not reset between spins. Rows don’t necessarily reset back to 3 either, only down to the shortest reel height currently active on the grid. This means if all rows reach 8 in height, giving you 65,536 ways to win, they remain so for the rest of the feature. Moreover, unlocking the reels rewards +2 free spins. Lastly, when all rows reach 6, 7, or 8 high, hippos payout x2, x3, or x4 times their base amount.
Where permitted, the bonus buy costs 85x the total stake. This gets you 5 free spins and a starting multiplier of x2-x4. Or, you can spin the gamble wheel to start with up to 9 free spins and a starting multiplier of up to x10.
HippoPop PopWins: Slot Verdict
HippoPop PopWins doesn’t do much that its predecessors don’t, though the theme is a bit different. It might come across as a slight mismatch of cultures, but it makes a nice break from Egyptian or Irish. Avatar UX has largely avoided using the most obvious themes so far, though, at the rate they are churning these PopWins games out, how long will it be before they run out of original ideas and fall back on the clichés?
Moving on to the topic of gameplay, Avatar UX hasn’t really pushed to evolve their PopWins mechanic. There are no real surprises or major innovations to speak of. Previous games have introduced minor features like special wilds to spice up the action. Not so HippoPop PopWins, which is one of the more straightforward entries in the range. It is also one of the more polished PopWins slots, Avatar UX tightening up peripheral things like animations, and so on.
Like its siblings, HippoPop is a case of waiting for one almighty spin to trigger the bonus game, then building rows and multipliers in tandem. Adding value to the super high pay symbol when reels are maxed out is about the only twist the game has to offer. It can pay off too, as potential can reach as high as 48,150 times the bet.
HippoPop PopWins is a case of more of the same in a new, bright location. There’s nothing here to put a fan of PopWins off, nor are there any unmissable drawcards to pull in those who are less enchanted either. HippoPop’s reliability makes it feel like Avatar UX has honed their craft to the point they could design these sorts of games in their sleep now.
Technically, not much is new, but players who enjoy PopWins will no doubt get a kick out of the exotic design.