Santa's Wonderland: Slot Overview
Pragmatic Play leaps on the seasonal bandwagon with a Christmas themed slot called Santa's Wonderland. In keeping with tradition, the studio has followed the trend of taking an already made game, in this case, Gems Bonanza and giving it a Xmas makeover. It's not a 100% carbon copy of the older slot, as some of the stats and rules have changed slightly, but the bulk remains the same, so if you've played one, you've definitely played the other.
The emphasis in Santa's Wonderland is on gifts, toys specifically and judging by the name, it appears we are in Santa's workshop at some stage in the process. Most probably the final stage, as evidenced by the piles of bow-tied packages ready to squeeze onto Santa's sleigh for their one-night trip around the world. Pragmatic Play has devised a nice enough Christmas image, though most of the screen is taken up by a big 8x8 sized grid, covered in trinkets, and surrounded by a feature clock, a meter, and a bonus buy button. Cluttered, but in a warm Christmas way.
Santa's Wonderland is a cluster paying grid slot, forming wins when 5 matching symbols land adjacent to each other in horizontal or vertical directions. Winning clusters trigger the tumble feature, which removes them, allowing new or existing symbols on the grid to fill the gaps. This can create additional cluster wins from the same spin, ending when no more wins appear. One area where Santa's Wonderland deviates slightly from Gems Bonanza is in an RTP reduction from 96.51% to the current value of 96.23%. It does retain a highly volatile math model, though the max win has also decreased. Not a very Christmassy move, yet there you go. Players who still want to take on the big man can do so on any device by selecting bets of 20 p/c to £/€100 per spin.
Toys and baubles rule the paytable, starting with blue, green, red, and orange decoration low pays worth 5 to 12.5x the bet for a cluster consisting of 20-24 symbols. High pays are toy planes, trains, and teddy bears; these ones are worth 25 to 100x your stake for a 20-24 symbol cluster. The last symbol for this section is the bushy-bearded Santa wild. Wild Santas appear in any position to substitute for all symbols. It does not hit organically, however, but as part of the Wild Santa or Lucky Santa features. Wilds can connect with more than one symbol type at the same time to help compete clusters.
Santa's Wonderland: Slot Features
Working hand in hand with the cluster paying tumble system is a bunch of snowflake features and a Midnight Riches Meter, which sends players on a 5-level bonus round if enough winning symbols are collected.
When each new spin starts, 5 snowflakes appear in random cells on the grid beneath the regular symbols. If a winning cluster forms on top of a snowflake, its respective modifier is triggered once the current tumble sequence ends.
- Blue Snowflake - Awards Refresh. The grid is cleared of all symbols except wilds, and new symbols tumble onto the screen.
- Purple Snowflake – Awards Wild Santa. All instances of the same symbol type are transformed into wilds.
- Yellow Snowflake – Awards Blocks. Random 2x2 sized blocks of the same symbol type are added in random positions on the board.
- Red Snowflake – Awards Supersize. A random block of 3x3, 4x4, or 5x5 of the same symbol is added to the grid.
- Green Snowflake – Awards Lucky Santa. Adds 5 to 15 wild symbols to the screen in random positions.
If more than one snowflake is won on the same spin, they play out in the order they are listed in above.
Midnight Riches Progressive Feature
On every spin, the number of winning symbols is collected in the Midnight Riches meter. When 140 symbols have been collected, the Midnight Riches feature is triggered. The feature begins at level 1 and activates all spin modifiers mentioned above, once per level, and all wins are multiplied by 3. Collecting winning symbols during the Midnight Riches feature progresses players to higher levels, like so:
- Collect 116 winning symbols to activate level 2 which plays with an x6 multiplier.
- Collect 120 winning symbols to activate level 3 which plays with an x9 multiplier.
- Collect 124 winning symbols to activate level 4 which plays with an x12 multiplier.
- Collect 132 winning symbols to activate level 5 which plays with an x15 multiplier.
The feature ends when not enough symbols have been collected to move to the next level, or if all spin features from level 5 have been played.
Buy Midnight Riches
For the cost of 100x the stake, players can buy the Midnight Riches feature from the base game. The same five levels may be progressed through by following the collection requirements laid out above.
Santa's Wonderland: Slot Verdict
If there's one guy who must be concerned with population growth, it's got to be Santa Claus. The first billion people was reached around the year 1800, and it took just 200 more years to hit 7 billion. If the growth rate continues like this, how's the guy going to fit all those presents in his sack, let alone find the time to visit everybody? Maybe he does that thing in movies where a normal-sized sack is actually magical and opens into a limitless space which can hold whatever's thrown in, like Hermione's magic bag in Harry Potter?
Leaving the realms of fiction, Pragmatic Play made a pretty good decision when they chose to base Santa's Wonderland on Gems Bonanza. Studios don't often build Xmas games around cluster paying grid slots, so the additional choice could be a welcome one on Christmas Day. Santa's Wonderland is an entertaining option, too, with a potentially thrilling roller coaster of a bonus game that builds nicely through the levels if enough wins occur.
The main problems with Santa's Wonderland are that the changes don't feel like they were done in a Christmas spirit. Let's see, symbol values are less, more winning symbols are needed to trigger the features, RTP has been reduced, and potential is markedly less. Pragmatic has reeled in the max win from Gem Bonanza's 10,000x to the 7,500x on offer in Santa's Wonderland. Add them all up, and it feels like something Scrooge would pull - before he turned benevolent.
While copying an older game isn't the most original move, Gems Bonanza wasn't a hotbed of originality anyway as it followed the template laid down by the likes of Play'n GO, reliant as it is on collecting winning symbols to trip features. Even still, Santa's Wonderland is a playable grid slot, capable of slinging off some satisfying Santa infused entertainment.
Santa’s Wonderland delivers unoriginal though entertaining grid slot gaming for the holiday season, but reduced stats compared to the original game might come back to bite it.