If you spend any length of time playing slots online there is a high probability you will run into NetEnt's iconic Starburst slot. Indeed, players are virtually guaranteed to bump into it sooner or later. The jewel filled, galaxy-themed game is the darling of operators the world over, taking centre stage in countless online welcome bonuses. It' also a highly sought after slot in its own right and has aged gracefully.
Starburst remains something of a paradox. How can such an unassuming, relatively low potential game be the most popular slot of all time? Let's put on out best Neal deGrasse Tyson voice and dive deep to reveal the secrets of the cosmos.
Starburst was a hit practically from the moment it was released in 2012. Part of the reason is the initial sensory effect. Like the gameplay, the visuals are pleasingly uncomplicated, with a gently glowing universe twinkling subtly in the background. Audio effects are just as soothing with a jazzy EDM track overlaid by blasts of sound whenever something exciting happens such as hitting a winner.
The overall presentation is modest, but perfectly adequate for the task at hand. Interestingly, it still looks pretty good a few years down the track, despite the technological advances that have taken place. Okay, you can tell it's not an ultra-modern slot. Even so, Starburst's retro touch has the ability to awaken waves of nostalgia for physical gaming that carries on today.
The action takes place on a 5 reel, 3 row transparent grid with 10 paylines to score winners on. RTP is one aspect players need to be vigilant about. This is because NetEnt has introduced flexible RTP which allows operators to adjust it anywhere from 90.05% - 99.06% depending on the market. The default RTP is 96.09% though which is a nice average figure, but make sure to check the paytable before blasting off.
Volatility is another one of Starbursts selling points for a lot of players. With its low setting, it means bankrolls theoretically won't take major hits due to the frequency of wins. By frequent, players can enjoy a default hit rate of 22.6% which works out to slightly more than one hit in 5 spins on average. The game certainly isn’t a hugely volatile beast, making it ideal for those who like to take it easier while minimising intensity.
Symbols are another factor in Starburst's charm consisting of new as well as classic icons. The low pay symbols sparkle with purple, blue, red, green and yellow gems, while the two premiums are a glistening '7' and a planetoid BAR.
Three or more of the same symbol on a payline results in a reward, with one of the standout features being the pay both ways mechanism. This means winning combinations can occur whether they line up left to right, or right to left, effectively doubling the ways to win. Values aren't bad, but Starburst isn't exactly renowned for being a massive paying slot. BARS are best, paying out 25 times the stake for five of a kind. However, a full line of matching symbols is worth double since lines pay both ways. This means a line of BARS is actually worth 50 times the stake.
If there is one thing you will not find a lot of in Starburst, it is features. The only thing breaking up the flow of play is the Starburst Wild. This rainbow coloured symbol may appear on the middle three reels - 2, 3 or 4.
When it lands, it expands to cover the full reel and triggers a respin while remaining locked in place. Should another expanding Starburst Wild land, both expanding wilds remain locked for another respin, with up to 3 respins in a row possible.
NetEnt struck a magical balance when they crafted Starburst. This is straight forward gaming at its finest and a firm favourite with a huge number of players. The ingredients are simple - low volatility, pay both ways mechanics, soothing graphics, and decent payouts (for what it is). Many developers have tried to cash in on the success of Starburst by firing out their own versions over the years. Yet, despite the multitude of imitators, none have quite managed to emulate the magic of the original.
On paper, Starburst might not sound super exciting since there are so few features to go with the modest potential. It certainly isn't a slot you play for intricate gameplay or life-changing piles of coins. Despite all of that, Starburst has achieved the illustrious position as the most popular online slot of all time.
The best way to experience what all the hype is about is to experience what the game offers at first hand. The good thing for curious players is that Starburst can be demoed for free, and there is no end of free spins offers out there to conduct a test run. Despite the huge number of innovations which have occurred since its release, Starburst has aged well, remaining a firm favourite for new as well as veteran gamblers.
Whilst it's tempting to give in and award Starburst a full 100% rating just for the fact that it's the most played, and probably the most iconic, slot in the history of online gaming, the truth is that it's a rather mediocre game. The popularity is likely more related to the fact that it's the first slot most players are introduced to through the welcome bonus offers and thus develop a bit of an emotional connection.
If you’ve never played Starburst before you might be surprised by its status as the most popular game of all time, but give it a few spins and the compelling nature quickly becomes apparent.