Solar Nova: Slot Overview
UK based Iron Dog Studio steps out of their comfort zone to dabble in a couple of gaming elements they don’t usually go near. Though they have explored it in the past, the grid slot format isn’t exactly one of the studio’s key areas of expertise, preferring to run things on a regular reel set-up or on Megaways. Space as well is not a common theme running through Iron Dog’s back catalogue, which tends to be earthbound. What holds us back from commending Iron Dog’s pioneering spirit is the fact that Solar Nova resembles Push Gaming‘s hit Jammin’ Jars in many ways whilst also going for that iconic Starburst atmosphere. It’s not exactly the same but you’ll see what we mean.
The first impressions of Solar Nova brought up memories of other ‘Nova’ slots, these being the Hypernova range of games from ReelPlay. Not just because players are transported to outer space, but Solar Nova has a similarly budget kind feel to it, like a built-in Windows game. Fortunately, for players willing to look past the Minesweeper appearance, Solar Nova’s improves the deeper you dive.
Playable on any device, bet selection ranges from 10 p/c to £/€50 per spin, or drop, or however you would like to call the process of filling the 9×9 sized grid with 81 symbols. Actually, to be precise, 80 symbols drop in on each game round since the central symbol is a fixed Solar wild, pulsating like an atom. The RTP comes in at 96%, whether playing organically or buying free spins, with 56% of that allocated to the base game, the rest going into the bonus round. Get the chain reaction going, and impressive wins are on the cards in a game running on a highly volatile math model.
Solar Nova uses a cluster pays system to form wins, occurring when at least 6 matching symbols are adjacent to each other vertically or horizontally. Seven gems are used as the normal pay symbols, where the most valuable clusters consist of 25+ symbols. At this size, payouts vary in value from 10 to 80 times the stake. As well as the Solar wild in the middle of the grid, Rocket wild symbols appear randomly as well. All wild types substitute for any normal paying symbol and may contribute to more than one cluster at the same time.
Solar Nova: Slot Features
Not only is the central symbol wild, but it also triggers a couple of random features of its own called Solar Flare and Solar Nova. Running alongside these are tumbles, rocket multipliers, and free spins.
Whenever a winning cluster hits, the tumble feature removes it from the grid allowing new symbols to fall into the gaps. If new clusters form, the process repeats until no more wins occur.
On any losing spin in the base game, the Solar wild symbol may randomly transform symbols in its row and/or column into the same matching symbol. During free spins, this feature may even trigger on winning spins.
As mentioned, the Rocket symbol is wild; however, when used in a win, it is not removed by the tumble function. Instead, it moves to a random adjacent position before new symbols are added via the tumble feature. Each Rocket symbol possesses a win multiplier that increases by +1 when it is used in a winning tumble with no upper limit. At any time of the game, there is also the chance a Symbol Teleportation feature triggers. When a teleportation happens, the Rocket wild switches place with a normal pay symbol to increase the chances of winning something. If more than one Rocket wild is used in the same win, the multiplier values are multiplied together before being applied.
If 3 Rocket wilds land in the base game, 6 free spins are awarded. Rockets remain on the grid until the end of the feature, moving positions between free spins. As before, Rocket wild multipliers increase by +1 when used in a win and up to 4 Rockets can be present at the same time. Moreover, the Solar wild has a counter placed on top of it. If it is used in 8 winning tumbles, it triggers the Solar Nova feature, increasing in size to 3×3 for one tumble. After the tumble, it returns to its regular size.
If the opportunity to buy free spins is available, players have 3 selections to choose from. Paying 90x the bet gets you a round of free spins with 3 Rockets (x1 starting multipliers), 250x the bet starts free spins with 4 Rocket wilds (x1 starting multipliers), while 300x the bet buys free spins with Rocket wilds starting at x5.
Solar Nova: Slot Verdict
Okay yeah, grid slot players will have seen much of what Solar Nova delivers, but the slot is enjoyable if it get its hooks in. Once you get past the basic looks, the gameplay lurking beneath is pretty cosmic should the afterburners kick in. Plus, Solar Nova does have a few add-ons not necessarily found elsewhere, or at least, not found all in one place, such as the ever-sticky Solar Wild and its associated side features. Do these bits do enough to convince you Solar Nova isn’t trying to cash in others’ success? Maybe not, but they help, and the overall playthrough was a positive one.
As alluded to, there is a definite Jammin’ Jars vibe found throughout Solar Nova, nowhere more so than in free spins. For one, you get 6 when they trigger and 3 or 4 leaping wild multipliers. As such, similar levels of mayhem ensue as Rocket wilds move around the grid, messing up your plans when they scoot away from each other, or making everything seem alright when they’re hovering around the same zone linking wins. Iron Dog has added a pretty nice icing element to the feature in the form of its central wild symbol. It is no easy task to expand the Solar wild within the allotted 6 non-retriggerable free spins. However, having a sticky wild contributes to creating wins and can really ramp up the nail-biting for the 3×3 Sula Nova tumble. Surprisingly good results were produced during testing and wins as high as 10,000x the bet is technically possible.
All up, a fun entry in the grid slot genre, though is it kind of cheating, a little bit, if much of Solar Nova is on loan from elsewhere? Perhaps, but players willing to overlook that and get stuck into a solidly performing slot should be satisfied with what they find. For now, we’re okay overlooking the fact Solar Nova’s foundation was built elsewhere, but it will be nice to see Iron Dog taking what they’ve learnt and pouring it into something even more original next time.
All up, Solar Nova is a solid entry into the grid slot genre, merging Jammin’ Jars style gameplay with Starburst atmosphere.