The Incredible Balloon Machine: Overview
Crazy Tooth Studio is a Microgaming partner that has a bunch of unusual projects in the pipeline. Not satisfied with designing conventional slots, several of the titles possess some very unusual reel and row combinations. The Incredible Balloon Machine takes this concept to its minimalist limit by shunning grids altogether. That's right; this game has no reels, rows, or paylines to speak of, none. Is it still technically a slot? Well, each 'spin', or round comes with a cost, and an RNG runs the show with a fairly decent top prize on offer. Other than that, not much else is familiar.
Without reels and rows dominating the show, the screen feels a little sparse. Clouds drift along lazily in the distance, while some bronze latticework frames the play area. At the centre of the screen is the Balloon Machine ready for action. The atmosphere has a touch of Steampunk to it, but is unlike many, if any, other slots you might have come across. A spin consists of activating the machine to blow up one balloon at a time. This is the new WiNCREASE system and costs between 20 p/c and £/€40 each time.
How it works is that players hold down the spin button rather than press it once to start a round. As you hold it, the needle below the balloon starts to move around a coloured meter. When the needle hits the yellow zone, the wager is placed, and a credit amount appears on the balloon and starts to increase. The longer you press the spin button, the higher the prize gets from 5% - 7,303% extra.
However, balloons pop at random moments. So, you need to hit the collect button before the balloon pops to bank the prize. If the balloon pops before you cash out, then you miss out. You might be thinking, well, I'll just hit collect early on every spin for guaranteed wins. The game is prepared for this, and balloons can pop before hitting the yellow zone and activating the wager. There are plenty of these dead spins to contend with if you are contemplating forming a strategy.
How players approach the game has a direct bearing on the hit frequency. This varies from 9% to 41% depending on whether players cash out early with any credit, or hold on for dear life. Overall, the game is capable of reaching some fairly decent returns though it might not seem like it in the beginning. What helps is a solid RTP rating of 96.75%, but a medium volatility makes it drag. In fact, it can get a little tedious constantly inflating balloons and not feeling like you are getting anywhere.
The Incredible Balloon Machine: Features
Fortunately, there are a couple of extras built in which add some interest. The most frequent extra is a Multiplier feature. If a credit amount appears on the balloon and the wager is on, then it can randomly trigger. A bunch of light bulbs appear on the screen displaying values of x2, x3, x4, x5, x7, and x10. Each bulb lights up in turn until one is chosen and the multiplier is applied to the win amount.
At times during the game a golden/black balloon will appear at random. It will either pop or blow up to full size and trigger the Pick Bonus game. This extra game involves rounds of balloons on the screen that players choose one at a time. When chosen, balloons reveal prizes of credits or a x2 multiplier that is applied to the cumulated win amount. Balloons can also reveal Advance icons which move the game to the next round. The last thing they contain is the Complete icon. Pick one of these and it brings the Pick Bonus to an end.
The Incredible Balloon Machine: Verdict
You kind of have to tip your hat to Crazy Tooth Studios. Like most other developers out there they claim to 'bring unique, innovative concepts to life.' In this case, it happens to be true; there isn’t much like TIBM out there. When creating original games, it is natural that there will be some successful slots, and some that are not. For our money, TIBM is a little more miss than hit. But, other players may enjoy the unique gameplay. Make sure to have a careful read-through of the rules to grasp what is going on. If you leap right in, there will be a few confusing spins before it becomes clear.
The Incredible Balloon Machine is unique, there is no denying that. Is it too different? It is definitely one of those games that you will either love or hate, there is little middle ground. What makes it compelling can also make it just as frustrating. That is, the pace of the game, and the WiNCREASE mechanism which gives it a ‘just one more spin factor’. But, the endless no prize popping or low value wins that defy a betting system can get boring. Yet, despite what initially feels like a low potential game is capable of wins up to 3,082 times the bet.
In terms of gameplay, TIBM shares many common traits to these Bitcoin Crash games that are popping up all over the internet at the moment. Because there is a modicum of player input it is tempting to think that a well-planned strategy will outperform the cold steel of mathematics. It is extremely irritating when a system doesn't work out how it is expected to though. Better to treat TIBM like a traditional slot in that sense and give yourself up to the whims of fortune. All told, TIBM offers something you won’t know you’ll like unless you try it. To that end, demoing in free play mode is recommended to avoid wasting coins finding out.
Those intrigued by the bizarre premise of The Incredible Balloon Machine will likely be disappointed by the shallow and repetitive scratch card type gameplay.