J-POP

(ELK Studios) Slot Review

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J-POP: Slot Overview

J-pop might be widely recognised as Japanese popular music or jeipoppu, but in the online gambling space, J-POP is the name of a slot from developer ELK Studios. It's got a pretty bizarre backstory, too. Here's how it goes: apparently, for centuries, the denizens of Jellon (not to be confused with Jellyton, which appeared in Cluster Slide) have used Porta-loos to gain entry to Earth, where they grab important items for use in rituals. Yeah, not sure what sort of media ELK Studios team was consuming when they dreamt up this one, but it's pretty far out there. The gameplay side is not quite so mind-bending, but still possesses a long list of features with one or two familiar mechanics from a certain popular series dropped in for good measure.

While there may or may not be a connection between Jellon and Jellyton, one title from ELK Studios, which also sprang to mind after a few preliminary J-POP spins, was the just as trippy, if not more so, online slot Dream Diver. J-POP has a bouncy soundtrack, a vividly presented world where everything is brightly lit and maybe just edible. Not sure what the inhabitants of Jellon do during their rituals, but it may well involve a lot of loud music, evidenced by the stacks of speakers and musical instruments about the place. Really, J-POP is all quite bizarre, and it might be best to just go with it for a while until forming a strong opinion either way.

J-POP slot
J-POP slot - base game

It might be best to look the other way regarding RTP until an overall opinion has formed as well since J-POP has a return value of 94%. It's also medium-high volatile (7 out of 10) and has a hit frequency of 22%, or roughly 1 in 5 spins is a winner. The gaming occurs on a dynamic grid, starting each base game spin by dropping symbols in a 6x4 formation, providing 4,096 ways to win. The grid grows, as you will see when winning ways line up or big symbols hit in certain spots. When choosing how to take on Jellon, bets of 20 p/c to $/€100 may be selected, plus there are five optional bonus modes available from the X-iter feautre buy menu.

Winning ways are formed by landing matching symbols on at least 3 consecutive reels from the leftmost reel onwards. Winning symbols are removed and replaced by symbols dropping in from above (walking wilds are not removed by avalanches). An extra row of symbols is also added to the grid, up to 8 rows in height at the most, where there are 262,144 ways to win. In the base game, at the end of an avalanche sequence, new spins start at the normal 6x4 alignment. Avalanches continue until no new win appears.

J-POP's symbols are J-A as the lows, four candies as the mids and 4 character symbols as the highs. Hitting a 6-symbol low pay win awards 0.2x the bet, 6 matching mids pay 0.25-0.5x, while 6 of the same highs award 1 to 5 times the bet. Three types of wilds appear in J-POP, and all are able to substitute for regular pay symbols. These are the regular wild, the Wild Box, which places a random number of wild symbols on the grid when contributing to a win (only replacing empty spaces or pay symbols), and the walking wild, that randomly walks 1 step to an adjacent position while increasing its multiplier value by +1 when used in a win, taking the size of the symbol it walks to.

J-POP: Slot Features

J-POP slot
J-POP slot - free spins

J-POP's remaining features are big symbols, Grid Flip symbols, Big Drop symbols, free spins, and X-iter.

Big Symbols

Wild symbols and pay symbols may also land in Super 2x2, Mega 3x3, or Epic 4x4 sizes – counting as the number of 1x1 symbols making them up. Empty spaces below big symbols are filled with 1x1 symbols of the same type, except walking wilds. Any symbols extending above the current achieved number of rows award a refill to the highest row they reached, up to 8.

Grid Flip Symbols

When the Grid Flip symbol hits, the grid literally flips, so columns 1 and 6, 2 and 5, plus 3 and 4 switch positions. Grid Flip symbols transform into wilds once this has occurred. The Grid Flip executes when no more wins appear.

Big Drop Symbols

The Big Drop symbol triggers a drop of big symbols that crush any 1x1 pay symbols as they fall, and then it becomes a wild symbol. Big Drops execute when no more wins appear. If the Grid Flip and Big Drop are both on the reels, then the Grid Flip will trigger first.

Free Spins

Hitting 3, 4, 5, or 6 scatter symbols awards 10, 12, 15, or 20 free spins, respectively. Walking wilds are persistent when entering the round and in between free spins. Free spins start with a safety level set to 4 rows, which is where the following spins drop symbols up to. Each winning spin advances the safety level by one row (up to 8), and walking wilds may advance the safety level by several rows. Free spins may be retriggered in the same way as they are triggered in the base game.

X-iter

X-iter features can be accessed from the base game with their costs displayed:

  • Bonus Hunt – 3x the bet for a game round with an increased chance of triggering a bonus.
  • Big Drop – 10x the bet for a game round with a guaranteed Big Drop symbol.
  • Walkin Wild – 25x the bet for a game round with a guaranteed walking wild.
  • Bonus – 100x the bet to buy the free spins game.
  • Super Bonus – 500x the bet to buy free spins with a guaranteed walking wild.
J-POP slot
J-POP slot - free spins

J-POP: Slot Verdict

If you were wondering what ELK Studios was going to do with its expanding reel mechanics after retiring Kane in Valhall Gold, we now have the answer. The question now is how many players would have predicted the structure would have been revived for a game like J-POP? Jellon is a far cry from wading through swamps, climbing windswept peaks, or ducking for cover from volcanoes. Or maybe not, since the creatures here are using Porta-loos to explore Earth. Those things can be nasty. If ELK Studios was looking for a breath of fresh air after the long, successful Kane series, they have certainly achieved it by injecting candy and unusual yet friendly-looking creatures into J-POP.

The gameplay is much more familiar, and any Kane fan should feel right at home here; even the dog mess of an RTP, which dragged down later entries in the Gold series, feels pretty standard by now. It all works like a charm, too - hit wins, grow the board, pop a few special symbols, trigger free spins, and collect, hopefully, with luck. It's a format that has flowed well in the past and flows well here, as well. Plus, there's some new-ish stuff to take a look at. Good stuff, too, like the Grid Flip and the walking wild, for example. Walking wilds conveniently grow if they walk onto a big symbol, but the opposite occurs, too. So if a big walking wild walks onto a 1x1 symbol, it'll shrink down. One thing which hasn't shrunk is J-POP's 25,000x win cap, matching pretty much everything Kane had to offer.

Whether J-POP is a way of weaning off a successful set of mechanics that ELK Studios is struggling to say goodbye to or the start of a brand new series, only time will tell. At this point in time, J-POP provided an entertaining session, part new and part familiar, which should give fans of the Gold range something to chuckle over.

Good

Gold fans may be intrigued by the way J-POP takes a popular set of mechanics and repackages everything in a completely different outer casing.

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