As I was walking toward the exhibit hall on the first day of the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, I was accosted by a horde of the undead. There were eight, maybe 10, staring blankly and growling. I was outflanked, with nowhere to go, but they parted slightly and let me pass through their midst.
Once into the hall, who should I find patrolling a bank of new slot games but Beetlejuice, attracting ghost-free crowds.
Unnatural? Not at all. Appealing to the pop culture tastes of the betting public is what slot machine manufacturers do. And Global Gaming Expo is the big, annual casino industry extravaganza at the Sands Expo Center. Seminars cover all aspects of casino operation, and on the display floor suppliers show off wares including games, bill validators, surveillance systems, analytic software, furniture, employee uniforms --- everything it takes to run a casino.
The biggest, glitziest booths belong to the major slot manufacturers as they tout their games for the coming year.
The zombie horde was there to draw attention to The Walking Dead slots, based on the hit TV show under Aristocrat Technologies’ license with AMC.
WMS Gaming, meanwhile, went the supernaturally comic route with its Beetlejuice slots, filled with images and clips from the popular comedy-horror film starring Michael Keaton.
And if generic zombies are your thing, Multimedia Games had its own undead theme in Zombie Outbreak --- though Multimedia restrained its zombies to the video screen rather than have the dead walk among us.
The Walking Dead is rich in features, including a Reel Growth format that adds extra spaces to create more potential winners. During normal play, there are six video reels that are each four symbols deep. The middle four reels can grow to five, six or seven symbols deep.
When the reels grow and the zombies start walking, you can anticipate a little gore that’s good for the players. In The Horde Bonus, the horde invades the screen and leaves wild symbols behind. During a demo, one zombie took a shot in the head, splattering blood --- and wild symbols --- across the reels. When the blood starts flowing, so do the wins.
With plenty of video clips and imagery from the TV show, Aristocrat anticipates this to be the start of a series of slots. A new game based on season three, which aired on AMC through March 2013, is in the development with release expected late in 2014.
Under its Beetlejuice license, WMS developed a game as quirky as the film, with both free spin and pick’em-style bonuses. The playing field is six symbols across and 10 deep. Film character symbols are oversized, taking up two spaces acress, with most also being four symbols deep. Beetlejuice himself is six symbols deep With a 2-by-6 Beetlejuice taking up 60 percent of an oversized two-reel set, the look is striking.
The bonus package is where the film elements really come to the fore. One event that starts with a spin of a wheel on the screen has a giant fly leading the way to the graveyard. There, you pick from funeral cards marked “Deceased” to collect bonuses. Watch out for Beetlejuice, thought. He’s hiding under some of the cards, and if you pick him three times --- Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice --- the bonus round is over.
When three “Betelgeuse”[cq] marquee signs appear on the screen, it can trigger one of three events. One free-spin event is the Day-O bonus. Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song” plays, just as in a classic movie scene. This time, you want Beetlejuice symbols. Collecting three brings an extra bonus, and brings another award worth twice the first.
At the Multimedia Games booth, Zombie Outbreak isn’t the extravaganza that the WMS and Aristocrat games are. The main event is the Zombie Escape Bonus. A laboratory door bursts open and seven zombies enter, the beginning of a seemingly endless stream, with more zombies continually appearing at the back of the mob.
As the player, I had to hold them off after retreating into a warehouse. In the warehouse, there were two stacks of 10 crates, each concealing a weapon. I touched a crate to reveal a weapon, and got a shotgun. That killed the first three zombies, both those lined up behind each advanced a step. Next was a pistol, and that killed only one. The front wave was another step closer to me.
A machine gun felled five, and I had a little breathing space. The grand hope was that I could find the flamethrower that would wipe them all out. No such luck. A pistol killed one, and the rest advanced. Another pistol, and another, and that was it. I’d collected a nice bonus, but its time was past.
It was fun to play, and along with The Living Dead and Beetlejuice, figures to give the players plenty of grave situations and good times.
Look for John Grochowski at www.casinoanswerman.com, on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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