San Quentin xWays: Slot Overview
When a creative team has a fantastic year, the pressure is on to see how they’ll follow up. Greater infamy equates to greater expectations, and it’s not always positive attention either. The public is quick to turn on anyone who betrays even an inkling they can no longer hack it. After a stellar 2020, Nolimit City has faced this situation head-on by dropping a challenge of their own named San Quentin xWays. The studio has been popping teasers for a while, hinting at something special. The beast has finally been let loose, and it’s even possible we won't be looking at slots the same way.
San Quentin is a name you’ve probably heard of in movies since it’s one of the most famous prisons in the USA, full of chaps you really wouldn’t want to bump into in a dark alley. A dangerous theme deserves a dangerous game; here, Nolimit City has delivered. The scenery is certainly heavy when San Quentin xWays appears up on screen. A 5-reel, 243 pay way action area sits before concrete walls, barbed wire, surveillance cameras, and guard towers where the screws can keep watch from a safe distance. Along the top and bottom of the reels are extra positions, caged for now, which open at certain points to add regular or special symbols, boosting ways to win in the process.
Players can attempt a prison break on any device, selecting bets from 20 p/c to £/€32 per spin. Cracking this joint won’t be an easy task due to its extreme volatility, rated 10 out of 10, which can be brutal, or, rewarding like no other, offering wins of up to 150,000x. At the time of writing, this is likely the highest potential ever seen in a non-jackpot slot. San Quentin ships with a default RTP of 96.03%, though it's also available as a 94.11% version depending on operator preference. Hit frequency is surprisingly high at 34.25%, but straight line wins are relatively low, making this a game that relies heavily on its extras to get anywhere. When they do kick in, San Quentin xWays can be breath-taking.
San Quentin xWays stars five inmates named Beefy Dick, Loco Luis, Heinrich 3rd, Biker Bill, and Crazy Joe. These are lads you wouldn’t want to mess with, let alone have to share a tiny cell. As symbols, they are slightly more desirable since the gruesome fivesome make up the higher paying premium symbols, worth 2.5 to 5x the bet for five of a kind. After this lot are various prison items such as bars of soap, lighters, improvised weapons, handcuffs, and toilet paper rolls, each symbol has a Punk Rocker feel about them.
There are 2 wilds helping form winning combinations. The first is a regular replace all symbols type wild. The other is a Split wild. When Split wilds land, they split the pay symbols above and below them, doubling their number on the reel. So far so what, but strap in because San Quentin’s warp drive starts to ignite from here.
San Quentin xWays: Slot Features
San Quentin comes with a bunch of extras to keep the base game moving along, climaxing in Lockdown Free Spins which we’re bound to see blowing up highlight reels. Running along the top and bottom of each reel are locked Enhancer Cell positions. When randomly triggered, they open to reveal a high pay symbol, a wild, Razor Splits, or an xWay symbol. Razor Splits double all of the symbols on its reel - twice if there is are Razor Splits on both Enhancer Cells. xWay symbols all reveal the same pay symbol, stacked four high.
Guard tower icons are the scatter symbols, landing on any reel in the base game, or on reels with unopened Enhancer Cells during free spins. Landing 3, 4, or 5 scatter symbols triggers Lockdown Spins with 1, 2, or 3 starting Jumping Wilds (more on those below). Enhancer Cells on triggering reels are opened for the full duration. As a consolation, if 1 or 2 scatter symbols land, they turn wild while opening their respective Enhancer Cells.
Before the bonus game starts, the number of free spins is determined. Each open Enhancer Cell displays 1, 2, or 3 free spins each which is tallied up. Then, one convict symbol is randomly selected and has a multiplier attached.
Once all that has been sorted, Lockdown Spins commence. They play out in more or less the same way as base game spin, the crucial difference being jumping wilds and the multiplier on the convict symbol. What makes jumping wilds so effective is not only their ability to replace regular symbols and move into random positions on each spin, but the fact they may have multipliers applied to them. How this works is when a wild lands on a reel displaying a Razor Split symbol, its multiplier is doubled - up to a maximum of x512. Like Monkey’s Gold, this does not multiply the win amount, but counts as the number of wild symbols in its position. Landing a bonus symbol during the feature adds another jumping wild (up to 3) and awards extra free spins.
There are two things about San Quentin bound to get people talking. One is potential; the other is its feature buy functionality. There are 3 options for players to choose from if available - Lockdown Spins triggered by 3, 4, or 5 scatter symbols resulting in 1, 2, or 3 jumping wilds. The cost for doing so is 100x, 400x, and wait for it, 2,000x the bet, respectively. RTP increases to 96.26%, 96.26, or 96.95% for the 3, 4, or 5 bonus feature buy. In order to have a shot at the maximum potential you will most likely need a 5 scatter bonus as that's where the max win was achieved during simulation. In the 3-4 scatter bonuses the potential is still high, but significantly lower than 150,000x.
San Quentin xWays: Slot Verdict
It’s hard not to slip Nolimit City releases under the microscope for closer inspection than normal because we have come to expect so much from them. In a critical spirit, let’s get a few niggles out of the way. At first, San Quentin xWays doesn’t have quite the same in your face immediacy as some Nolimit games like Punk Rocker do. Because San Quentin and Punk Rocker share similar layouts, looks and features, the initial impact is less.
Also, the base game isn’t super exciting a lot of the time. Wins are plentiful enough; they just tend to be a tad low. Patience is a must as it took nearly 500 spins in testing to win more than 15x the bet. Enhancer Cells plus Split Wilds mix up the pace, yet San Quentin is often surprisingly chilled. The game mirrors prison life in some ways, presumably. As in, there is plenty of day in day out routine, then, in a heartbeat, everything changes. Marked convicts get an improvised shiv in the kidneys, or some riled up inmate smacks a prison guard, causing all heck to break loose.
Having said that, San Quentin xWays takes you places most other slots wouldn’t dare tread. It quickly grows on you, partly because of the way Nolimit has dealt with the theme. Setting a slot in prison could’ve been grim, but the cartoon, humorous meme-like approach infinitely lightens the mood while retaining an edge – especially once you’ve glimpsed what San Quentin can do.
This brings us to free spins where things get real and jumping wilds are the key. Having one jumping wild in action is fun enough, yet three on the board blows San Quentin up - exponentially when their multipliers start to crank. This occurred during testing for example, when three jumping wilds were present - one carrying an x16 multiplier, resulting in a tidy 12,415x win. An outstanding figure in any game, yet in San Quentin 12k is less than a tenth of what it is capable of. Free spins aren’t as volatile as Deadwood or Punk Rocker, but there is far more potential on tap. When all cylinders are firing, wins of up to 150,000x the stake in the 5 scatter bonus are possible, theoretically hitting once every 1.83 billion spins. Should San Quentin hit this level, Lockdown Spins instantly end.
After the riot of free spins its back to the base game to wait for the next flare-up to occur. Unless, of course, you have access to the bonus buy feature. If Deadwood’s 750x bonus buy was a talking point, San Quentin is guaranteed to get people chattering. The four bonus symbol option is nerve-racking enough, but the top level’s 2,000x cost is startling in its audaciousness. Definitely handle this one with care.
This leads to one more critical point about free spins. Each level (3, 4, or 5 bonus symbol triggers) is governed by a different set of numbers such as volatility, average return, and overall potential. Obviously, the higher the number of triggering symbols, the better. One thing to keep in mind is when scatters land in free spins to award extra jumping wilds, the current round is upgraded to the higher stat level, so to speak.
Some say prison populations naturally organise themselves into a hierarchy, from elders down to fresh meat. San Quentin is like a brash new guy coming in and taking down the biggest, nastiest con in the slammer after refusing to give up his cornbread. The game shows scant respect to the rules and is an absolute monster offering some of the biggest non-jackpot rewards out there. Nolimit City has sparked off the new year in a staggering way, and when the dust settles, it will be interesting to see how their rivals respond. Are we on the cusp of a new potential arms race?
For more gangster xWays action from Nolimit City, be sure to have a look at East Coast vs West Coast which uses a lighter theme but is capable to dish out wins of up to 30,000 times the stake. Better yet, check out the San Quentin sequel titled Folsom Prison.
San Quentin xWays is one of those watershed games which splits the timeline into what came before and what came after.