Jingle Balls: Slot Overview
Early/mid-2022, developer Nolimit City dropped the historical slot Remember Gulag, a game which underwent a name change due to world events at the time. It was a grim, grey showing, full of sobering imagery, but a cracking online slot all the same. So, when it comes time to perform what is tantamount to a Christmas reskin, who but Nolimit City would take a slot about a cruel system of labour camps in the Soviet Union where an estimated 1.5-1.7 million people died from 1930 to 1953 and turn it into a jolly festive affair?
We say reskin, but while the gameplay is basically the same, mathematical adjustments have been made, so the two slots do have differences. Quite significant differences for the sorts of gamblers who like to heavily drill down on numbers. One thing that has remained the same is the 3-3-4-4-5-5 gaming grid, though this time, the reels are surrounded by mistletoe, decorations, and bows instead of barbed wire, snow, and misery. Well, in the base game, at least. Jingle Balls is far from being all sugar and spice, though, and actually makes a pertinent point – 'has anyone stopped to think whether Santa himself has been behaving this year?'
To answer that question, players are invited to 'sit down on Santa's lap and find out.' To do so means picking a stake of 20 c to $/€200 per spin and deciding whether or not to use the optional Wish Upon a Star xBet. One thing to note is at the start of each base game spin, reels 5 and 6 are locked. Landing a scatter unlocks reel 5, and landing a further scatter unlocks reel 6. This means with xBet on, the stake increases by 50%, guaranteeing a scatter lands on the second reel, so reel 5 is unlocked. When all reels are opened, it is possible to have up to 614,656 ways to win in play. Volatility has been rated as extreme, and the RTP comes in at 96.1% with xBet off or 96.22% when activated.
Winning combinations of the same matching symbols pay left to right, starting from the leftmost reel. The symbols are 5 gift-wrapped objects as the 5 low pays, then Rudolf, the Grinch, an Elf, a granny with a handful of balls, and Santa looking like a deranged character from the pages of Viz magazine. Payouts of 2 to 3 times the base bet are made for landing 6 matching low pays or 4 to 6 times the bet for 6 matching highs. Wilds appear on all reels as well, able to substitute any regular pay symbol.
Jingle Balls: Slot Features
Jingle Balls' features are made up of xWays, xNudge Wilds, xSplit Wilds, three types of free spins rounds, and the feature buys.
xWays symbols land on reels 1-2 in the main game and reels 5-6 in free spins. When xWays hit, they reveal 2-3 instances of a random pay symbol. If more than one xWays symbol lands, they all show the same symbol. If an xWays ends up being split by an xSplit Wild, the xWays multiplier is doubled for each split.
xNudge Wild symbols land on reels 3-4 in the base game or free spins. They create a stacked wild symbol that is always nudged to cover the entire reel. Each nudge increases the wild multiplier by +1. Several wild multipliers add their values together, and if an xNudge is split by an xSplit, one more wild is added to the reel.
xSplit Wilds are present on reels 5-6 in the base game and reels 1-2 in free spins. When xSplits land, they split all symbols to the left and right, doubling them. If the split happens more than once, the symbol will show a multiplier. In addition, if scatters do not trigger free spins and an xSplit splits them, they are transformed into a full reel of wild symbols. xSplit Wilds turn into two wilds after landing, which can be split by another xSplit Wild.
Free spins are triggered when 3 scatters land to activate Spirit Spins, 4 scatters for Spirit Spins: All Aboard, or 5 scatters for Spirit Spins: Double Joy. In all rounds, the grid is switched into a 5-5-4-4-3-3 pattern, and all reels remain unlocked for the full duration. Next, a set-up spin occurs to determine how many spins are awarded and what win multiplier the premium symbols get. In Spirit Spins, one premium symbol gets a multiplier; in the other two bonuses, all symbols get a multiplier. Multipliers are doubled in Spirit Spins: Double Joy. During free spins, a reel at the top of the grid may randomly increase the active premium symbols' multipliers:
- Spirit Spins – randomly increases the multiplier by +1, +2, or double the value.
- Spirit Spins: Double Joy – randomly increases the multiplier by +2, +4, or double the value.
Collecting scatter symbols also occurs during the round, awarding one free spin each. Collecting 3 scatters in Spirit Spins upgrades them to Spirit Spins: All Aboard, activating multipliers on all character symbols.
From the Nolimit Bonus, players can select four bonus buys. Spirit Spins cost 60x the bet (RTP 96.18%), Spirit Spins: All Aboard costs 270x the bet (RTP 96.27%), Spirit Spins: Double Joy are 486x the bet (RTP 96.36%), or the Lucky Draw option costs 187.2x the bet where you win one of the previous three options (RTP 96.33%).
Jingle Balls: Slot Verdict
There can't have been many players ploughing through Remember Gulag and thought, shoot, this'd make a pretty sweet Christmas game if NLC changed a few of the pictures around. Oddly enough, the transformation makes a certain amount of sense when you see it in action. The rolling pictures behind the reels in the base game have an emotional quality; some of the audio has connections, and the grey, snowy, barbed wire environment of the free spins section has a strangely similar vibe. However, instead of being a communist wonderland/nightmare, Jingle Balls is a winter wonderland, or maybe it's a nightmare as well? Like Ugliest Catch, Nolimit City has taken on something in a popular, bloated, overdone slot category and stamped its 'couldn't give a hoot what you think' personality all over it - this time in an Xmas rather than a fish money symbol game.
The gameplay has more or less remained the same, which may warm the hearts of gamblers who fell for Gulag. So what's different? Aside from the skin, it's mainly the numbers. For starters, triggering the Time For Vacation In… feature means you've hit the max win of 12,250x the bet. Yes, this is nearly a third of Gulag, but the chances of it occurring are more optimistic at 1 in 2.5 million rounds. The RTP is down in some parts (the general value is up a titch), depending on how you play the game, which is less cheerful, while the xBet cost has been increased. Jingle Balls is like a set of scales. Take a bit here, give a bit here, see if it all balances out, and then coat it in a dysfunctional set of Christmas characters.
Pull each end of Jingle Balls to a bursting point like a cracker, and you've got an unusual redo that sits in the surreal section of the Christmas slot category. It's lighter than the original in some ways, stranger in others, yet it means business, too, so if you're down with the oddball, some may say questionable Christmas hilarity and liked Remember Gulag, this one may cause some a-jingling of its own. Can't say it's a better experience than the original, though.
Whether you like it or not, Jingle Balls is a Christmas slot to remember.