Star Clusters Megaclusters: Overview
It's always a huge deal when Aussie developer Big Time Gaming pull back the curtain on a new release. You may want to pay extra attention, for this release might very well be the biggest thing since the introduction of Megaways. Most would probably agree, Big Time Gaming have built a reputation for innovative brilliance, and players have come to expect (if not demand) something special each time.
Big Time Gaming get respect for not being one to coast on prior success. Heck, the team could probably sit back and let the royalty cheques from Megaways licenses roll in. Instead, the team has been busy in their studio cooking up new ways to entertain a gambling crowd voracious for novelty. Well, hold on folks, because not only do we get the first-ever cluster pays slot from Big Time Gaming, but a brand new game engine called Megaclusters driving the action.
The first view of the game reveals a new, yet familiar design full of jewels along with a classic menu area to set options. The simple background gives the game a cosmic flying-through-the-warp-at light-speed effect. If you've ever seen the old sci-fi comedy Spaceballs, it's a lot like when the baddies pass from light speed to hit ludicrous speed.
The audio requires a special shout out too as it was something of a passion project for CEO Nik Robinson who busted out the Moog synth to create the music whilst layering a bunch of fun samples over the top. Keep an ear out for references to Street Fighter, Pac Man, Metal Gear, Bonanza, and a couple of casino streamers, among others. Make sure your headphones or speakers can handle bass to get the most out of the house/psytrance track that assists the visuals in creating quite a sensory feast.
Booting up the game brings on a 4x4 grid that appears to be set within some sort of classy looking retro device. This is purely a cluster pays slot (albeit with a twist as you will see), which means there are no paylines to keep track of. Instead, winners occur when 5 matching symbols connect either vertically or horizontally.
Taking a look at the paytable reveals an assortment of gems of various hues – aqua, yellow, orange, green, blue, red, and purple. Values range from 10x to 50x when 25+ symbols are involved in a cluster. Helping pull clusters together are two wild symbols; a regular wild and a special Gold Wild.
Both of these wilds can substitute for any regular pay symbol. The difference is that when a Gold Wild is part of a cluster, a multiplier is applied to the win. The multiplier starts at x1, rising by +1 whenever a Gold Wild is used in a cluster - with no limit. The multiplier resets again on each new spin, unless free spins are triggered.
Playable from 20 p/c up to £/€20 per spin, Star Clusters Megaclusters is undoubtedly a volatile game, but not quite as volatile as some of the other offerings in the Big Time Gaming portfolio. Those stung by previous highly volatile Big Time Gaming slots will be pleased to see they have aimed for a slightly more lenient math model. RTP, meanwhile, remains consistent at 96.54%, which is a figure most players can get behind.
Star Clusters Megaclusters: Features
When a winner hits, that's when the Megaclusters mechanic kicks in, and it's as simple as it is genius. Each symbol that forms part of a winning combo will split into 4 smaller symbols to create even more Megaclusters.
When wins occur with these smaller symbols, they are removed to let new ones fall into the spaces until no more winning combinations appear. All of this means that in the base game, each of the 16 tiles on the 4x4 grid can break up into 4 smaller tiles when part of a win, subsequently bringing the total number of Megacluster up to a maximum of 64.
The show piece is a round of Free Spins which are triggered when 5 or more consecutive reactions occur in the base game - 2 free spins are awarded +1 spin for any extra reaction past the 5th. Moreover, any Gold Wild Multiplier attained in the base game is carried over from the triggering spins to the free spins.
The free spins round is played on an expanded 8x8 grid. As in the base game, should a cluster form, each of the winning symbols splits into 4 smaller ones. This means that the grid can technically reach 16x16 in size, filling with 256 Megaclusters should it max out. Gold Wilds act as they do in the base game, and when the Gold Wild Multiplier reaches a multiplier of x10, +2 free spins are awarded - with no limits.
Star Clusters Megaclusters: Verdict
As with any Big Time Gaming release, the magnifying glass comes out for some close inspection. Let's deal to the outer wrapper before dissecting the brand new mechanic. The game may come across as a little basic at first, but Star Clusters is one of those slots that grows on you.
After a few sessions, it can even become a bit of a sport trying to quickly identify any winning clusters before highlighted by the game. It's stupid, but quite entertaining, and particularly challenging when you have what looks like a million tiny symbols in front of you breaking up into even smaller symbols. It can be quite a sight.
Big Time Gaming has carved out a unique world that is easy, and fun, to lose yourself in. At the same time, the minimalist approach can feel like one of those Sensation raves where everyone comes dressed in white. Fun for sure, but lacking a little personality.
But then again, with something as ingenious as Megaclusters, you don't need all the extra bells and whistles. The game engine carries the game just fine. The game is well balanced too, and can keep you occupied for long stretches of time whilst hovering around your starting balance. The base game can be quite lucrative with potential for wins of up to 1,300x, but the biggest payouts will occur in the free spins game where there is a chance to pocket wins of up to 23,000 times your stake.
Fans who might be wary of another eye-wateringly volatile slot, or a tough collection system, will appreciate the different dynamic at play here. Overall, Star Clusters might not be perfect, but it's hard to fault. The Aussie team has burst out of the woodwork with another innovative title, putting a clever twist on their Megaways mechanic. Whether Megaclusters blows up like its sibling remains to be seen, but there is a good chance that we'll never look at cluster pays slots the way we have in the past.
Game title: Star Clusters Megaclusters
● Reels: 4 | 8
● Rows: 4 | 8
● Paylines: Cluster Pays
● RTP: 96.54%
● Max Payout: 23,000x
● Volatility: Medium/High
● Min/Max Bet: 0.20/20
● Features: Reactions, Gold Wild Multiplier, Free Spins
● Release Date: June 24, 2020 (Global Release)