Mermaid Reef: Slot Overview
If there are two things the great country of Australia is blessed with, it's rugged coastlines and slot developers. Off the Queensland coast lays one of the world’s natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef. Thousands of kilometres of coral, fish, and of course, sharks. The thing took thousands of years to grow, yet humankind is in the process of wiping it all out in a couple of centuries. Ah, progress. Anyway, the subject of this review sees the Antipodean developer ReelPlay capture the mystery of the underwater world in their slot Mermaid Reef.
We’re used to seeing ReelPlay experiment with Infinity Reels, or Megaways, or mashing them both up, so Mermaid Reef comes across as pretty standard. However, it is actually a world-first of its own. Apparently, Mermaid Reef is the first slot to offer both a bonus buy option and a gamble feature. Could be a match for players who like to push their luck to the limit when having a session perhaps.
The somewhat revolutionary dynamics have been bolted to an un-revolutionary looking game. As you’d expect, Mermaid Reef’s 5-reel, 10-payline grid is located on the ocean floor, surrounded by sea life that has a sort of classic animated cartoon quality. The soundtrack is nice, not exactly amping though. It’s a kind of Brain Eno track you put on at 6am to ease through the comedown after a massive night out.
Players can experience the dual gamble feature/bonus buy option on any device by selecting bets from 10 p/c to £/€150 per spin. The rest of the stats make for poor reading if you like big numbers, the potential at least, is pretty dismal. The rest aren’t so bad, for example, the RTP is around average on 95.92%, rising to 96.06% when buying the bonus. It’s not a bad idea either since this particular feature triggers organically every 208 spins. Capping off the math model is a medium-high volatility, which feels a little steep compared to everything else that’s going on.
Mermaid Reef is a far cry from the masses of reels or pay-ways we are used to seeing from these guys. There are few surprises when it comes to the paytable’s ten pay symbols as well. Half are 9-A royals, while the rest are jellyfish, starfish, clownfish, and dolphins. Hit a line of five premiums to pick up wins of 30 to 100 times the stake.
The last symbol here before coming up for a breath of air is the wild mermaid symbol, which is kind of cute in an Ariel type way. It appears in 1x3 size, fully or partially in view on reels 2-4. The wild replaces all symbols except the Pearl or Clam.
Mermaid Reef: Slot Features
Keeping players company in the deep are two different bonus games and a couple of additional features. First are free spins, triggered when 3, 4, or 5 pearls are in view to award 10, 15, or 20 free spins respectively. The difference between a regular spin and a free one is that all win values are doubled. Pearls remain on the reels, so free spins can be retriggered. Players can theoretically expect to trigger this bonus once every 205 spins, or so.
Next is the Pearl bonus, triggered when 3 clam symbols are simultaneously in view. Here, players are presented with 15 closed clams, of which they pick & click one at a time. In any bonus round, there are 1-3 black pearls, 1 gold pearl, while the rest are white. Now, white peals reveal a win of 1-10x the bet, black pearls 2-25x, or gold pearls are worth 50-1000x the bet. Picking a black pearl ends the feature, or, if all white + gold pearls are picked, the remaining black pearls are also awarded to the player.
The game comes shipped with a feature buy which corresponds to the Pearl Bonus. Instead of waiting for clam symbols to trigger it, players in certain locations can buy it instead. The cost is 55x the bet for 3 clams to land on the next spin.
Finally, the gamble option. This is standard stuff, available after a win where players can collect or gamble. Choosing the right suit of a downturned card gets you 4x the win, while guessing the correct suit doubles the prize. Winnings may be gambled five times, or until the displayed wager limit is reached.
Mermaid Reef: Slot Verdict
Mermaid Reef might claim to be the first slot with a bonus buy and a gamble feature all in one place, but it doesn’t feel very game-changing. Sure, players who like to push their luck at every turn might be curious, yet the rest of the slot prevents Mermaid Reef from being a particularly intense gambling machine.
Several things hold it back. The first being the basic gameplay/low potential setup – this is no Infinity Reels, and not a whole lot happens during the base game. The problem with the straight forward gameplay is that when combined with the ambient soundtrack and weak payouts, it becomes sleep-inducing.
The low rewards don’t help, where the most you can expect in the base game is 342.5x, or in free spins 700x the bet. Things perk up slightly during the Pearl Bonus where wins of up to 1,295 times the stake are possible. Okay, you can buy your way to the best bits, but shelling out for this type of bonus game won’t be to everyone’s taste.
All up, Mermaid Reef feels a bit out of character for ReelPlay. They’ve been pushing hard on the slot envelope recently, so to get such a low key release was a surprise. If you like the idea of buying a pick & click feature Mermaid Reef might alright, otherwise there’s not much reason to play.
It claims to be a world first, but there is little wholly innovative about Mermaid Reef, or all that entertaining either.