Skulls UP (Quickspin): Overview
A pirates life was the very definition of volatility, especially when it came to glory. Either you took it all, or you got nothing. In spite of the hardships and the violence, and being chased by foreign government forces, pirating was an attractive proposition to certain types of (mainly) men. Instant wealth and instant glory, you just had to go out and get it. Men of that era could languish at home, or head out on the high seas, travel to exotic lands, and grab loot! Is it too much of a stretch to draw parallels between that life and playing slots? Nah, let’s run with it. The two must share common traits because pirate-themed slots pop up all the time. The latest is Skulls UP from Quickspin.
Like the recent Golden Glyph, Skulls UP sees Quickspin tinkering with a conventional layout. Whereas Golden Glyph used a 7x7 setup, Skulls UP utilises reels that are expandable when certain symbols appear. The look is classic Quickspin with the familiar orange interface and 5x3 reel setup. Thanks to the extra features, this can quickly change, and we will detail how in the features section. When it comes to the pirate theme, developers tend to go down one of two routes – friendly cartoon-like, or grim baddie pirates. Quickspin have chosen the former, and the result is a cheerful mix of smiling pirates and cute animals.
Don’t let the friendly vibe fool you though. This is one highly volatile game (4.5/5), so you can expect lulls or glory depending on how luck wants to play it. Just how much glory you will receive is slightly controversial, and we will go over that point when we wrap things up. As always with Quickspin, RTP is on the respectable side at 96.26% so no complaints there. Players pick bet levels that start at 10 p/c per spin and can be set as high as £/€100, and away they go. During the base game, the default 5x3 set up provides 243 win ways. Wins are formed by landing at least three adjacent matching symbols on any row from reel 1. Due to expanding rows, win ways can go as high as 1,944 at full power.
When it comes to symbols, Quickspin has stayed more or less in theme, aside from the ubiquitous 10 – A card royals at the low end of things. On the high side, Quickspin has gone full swashbuckler, and we get parrots, monkeys, a pirate with an eye patch, and a lady pirate captain. This buccaneer-ess is worth the most at 20 times the stake for a five of a kind combo. Overall, symbols offer middle of the road value, nothing amazing or off-putting there. The paytable is rounded off by two different wilds which can land on reels 2, 3, and 4. There is also a scatter symbol that works together with the wilds to unlock the game’s best moments.
Skulls UP (Quickspin): Features
Pyromaniacs will be right at home with Skulls UP because the features all revolve around the burning stuff. Let’s start with the Flaming Respins which incorporates the Flaming Skull Wilds. The non-flaming Skull Wild performs the duties of a standard wild by substituting for any of the base pay symbols. When a Flaming Skull Wild lands, however, it triggers the Flaming Respins feature.
Before the reels respin, any Flaming Skull Wild or Skull Wild will add an additional symbol to the grid above their position. The three middle reels can max out at 6 rows high, and if there is no more room above, then wilds stay in place. During a respin, if players score a win that includes a Flaming Skull Wild, the flame is extinguished, and it turns into a standard Skull Wild. As long as Flaming Skull Wilds remain on the reels, then the respins will continue to do their thing. All wins are tallied up, and the reels returned to normal height when no more respins occur.
The scatter symbol is the treasure chest symbol. Land three of these to be awarded 8 Flaming Free Spins. The rules of the base game, including Flaming Respins, transfer over to the free spins round with two additions. The first is that if a reel reaches 6 symbols in height, then 2 additional free spins are added. Also, when Flaming Respins occur on a free spin, any increase in reel height will stay in place. That is, reels do not drop back to the normal height when a Flaming Respin is finished.
Skulls UP (Quickspin): Verdict
Skulls UP is a decent offering from Quickspin and has its entertaining moments. It’s good to see a developer trying new thing, though even with the nautical theme it doesn’t push the boat out as far as Golden Glyph did. What makes it work is the fact that features are kicked off every time a Flaming Wild Skull symbol lands, which helps maintain the flow. The expanding row feature is hardly new, but Quickspin has integrated it well with the pirating nature of the game. As you would expect the most exciting moments come when the features are working in tandem – especially during Flaming Free Spins where the rows stay in place after a Flaming Respin.
The key drawback is the game’s potential, which at 3,650 times the bet isn’t exactly the Spanish Silver Train coming to town. It isn’t bad, but with the theme, the expanding reels mechanic and high volatility, we would have expected something higher. Still, fans of pirates or expanding reels will appreciate what Quickspin has produced. Get Skulls UP on a good roll, and it is capable of some satisfying gaming.
Skulls Up (Quickspin)
● Reels: 5
● Rows: 3 - 6
● Paylines: 243 - 1,944
● RTP: 96.26%
● Max Payout: 3,650x
● Variance: H (4.5/5)
● Bets: 0.10 - 100 EUR
● Features: Flaming Respins, Flaming Free Spins
● Release Date: January 14, 2020
Bigwinboard Rating - 70%