What are the most common bonus features to find on a Microgaming slot?
It's somewhat strange to think that for a long time, slot games didn't have any bonus features at all. For many years, the original 'one-armed bandits' simply displayed their symbols, paid out wins and made their chosen casino, sports hall or public house a bit of extra cash from the money they made. That all changed with the introduction of electrical slot games and the incorporation of features such as the old 'hold' and 'nudge' buttons.
Over time, these features grew and expanded until we reach the modern electronic slot era, dominated by land-based and online slots, which can come packed to the brim with a wide number of different slot bonus features, many of which could only be developed in the modern age with new technology.
So with that in mind, if you are a novice slot player, what are the most common types of bonus feature you will encounter on a slot game and how do they generally tend to work? Let's take a closer look and find out.
- Wild Symbols
Without doubt the most common bonus is the Wild symbol. This can come in a variety of forms (as we shall explore in the other bonuses outlined below) but the standard Wild is a single symbol which can be used to replace any of the other standard symbols in the game, but usually not the Scatter symbol (though on a few slots, it can also replace the Scatter too).
The more Wild symbols you land on the reels the more chances you have of triggering one or more winning lines on a spin. In addition, some games offer top jackpot prizes for landing five Wilds across the reels on a winning line. Almost every Microgaming slot has some form of Wild symbol in play, though they are less prevalent on three-reel games.
- Scatter Symbol
The Scatter symbol is used in many early Microgaming slots simply to offer a payout based on your total stake. This ranges from 1x your bet up to many times more for an increasing number of Scatters landed.
In more recent slots, if you land three or more Scatters, you not only win a cash amount but can also trigger one of the bonus features of the slot, usually Free Spins, but in some cases it may be a different bonus feature. Almost every Microgaming 5-reel slot has a Scatter symbol in play on the reels.
- Free Spins
Almost every top Microgaming slot has a Free Spins bonus round and most often they are triggered when you land three or more of the Scatter symbols outlined above anywhere across the reels (though on a small number of slots, you may have to land the Scatters in a specific order across the reels, or on the middle three reels or similar).
Often, the amount of Free Spins you receive is decided by the number of Scatters landed to trigger the bonus, the more Scatters landed, the more Free Spins you receive, but that is not by any means universal across slot games. Furthermore, sometimes, you may play a small bonus game to decide your Free Spins and any other bonuses, such as a Multiplier Bonus) before the Free Spins actually starts.
Some games also have different Free Spins rounds available (such as the Game of Thrones slot) which you can select from. Others, such as on the Immortal Romance and Thunderstruck II slots, have Free Spins which you need to unlock by triggering an increasing number of Free Spins bonus rounds over time.
- Multiplier Bonus
One of the more common bonuses is a multiplier bonus which can be applied to wins in the base game or during Free Spins. Multiplier bonuses can be applied at random in the base game, or when you complete a winning line using a certain symbol (such as a Wild). Multiplier bonuses can vary in size from 1x the standard amount to considerably more, depending on the game.
Free Spins round often come with a Multiplier Bonus attached, such as in the Phantom of the Opera slot where the Music of the Night Free Spins feature offers a number of bonus features including a win multiplier of between 2x and 4x the standard amount.
- Pick'Em Bonus
These bonus games also come under several names but essentially they are bonuses where players have to select from a number of icons on the screen to reveal something. Usually this is a cash prize but it does depend on the bonus game in question as to what bonuses are available.
Some Pick'em bonuses allow players just one pick, but others allow them to continue to pick until they hit a symbol that ends the game. This allows players to build bonuses. Some slot games with these features also allow players to pick multipliers or additional picks or even Free Spins. Bridesmaids is a fine example of slot that has a couple of Pick'em bonuses, alongside a couple of more regular Free Spins games.
- Stacked Symbols/Wilds
There are a number of slots that offer Stacked Symbols on the reels. These are beneficial to players as if you can turn several reels (especially the first three reels) all to the same symbol in full, you trigger multiple wins across multiple lines, which drastically increases the value of the win. A good example of this is in the Black Knight II slot.
In some games, such as the Dragonz slot and Microgaming series of sporting slots (including Cricket Star, Football Star, Basketball Star etc) these games also have large stacks of Wild symbols on the reels, which offer players an even better chance of landing multiple wins across multiple lines, especially when several of these stacks are landed on the reels at once.
- Expanding Wilds
Expanding Wilds are Wilds that when landed on the reels expand either upwards (to cover the reel completely) or more rarely, sideways across multiple reels, in order to turn more symbols Wild and offer the player a chance of a better value win.
Games like the Dream Date slot offer Expanding Wilds as part of their Free Spins bonus round and other slots with the feature also have it as part of their bonus, though some games also have Expanding Wilds available in their base game too either separately to the standard Wild or in place of it.
- Sticky Wilds
Sticky Wilds are Wild symbols that when landed on the reels, either in the base game or through triggering a particular bonus in the slot, remain in place on the reels until a certain number of spins have been played through. For some Sticky Wild bonuses, they will stay in place for a certain number of standard spins, on others, the Sticky Wilds may remain in place for the duration of a bonus (such as in the Free Spins round in the Hellboy slot).
- Rolling Reels/ Cascading Reels (with Multiplier Trail)
One of the bonus features that has grown in popularity in recent times is the Rolling Reels feature (although it can be known by several different names, depending on the slots you play). In games like the Jungle Jim El Dorado slot, you will see symbols fall onto the reels and when a winning line is made, the symbols will flash and disappear.
This creates a gap on the reels which is filled in by the symbols above dropping down into the spaces and new symbols being added to the reels. This change in position and addition of symbols can trigger another win from the same spin and of course, as winning lines are triggered, they disappear and new symbols appear in their place.
On some games (including Jungle Jim El Dorado) successive Rolling Reels wins trigger an increased multiplier applied to those wins through a Multiplier Trail, which increases with every successive win up to the largest amount. However not all slots that have Rolling Reels also have a multiplier trail.
- Theme-Linked Bonus Features
Occasionally, usually on officially licensed slots that pertain to film or television shows, Microgaming may develop a specific bonus that links in with the theme of the slot. How the bonus is played out, can take many forms, it can offer the user Free Spins or re-spins, add extra symbols or Wilds to the reels, turn reels Wild, add expanding Wilds or Sticky Wilds to the reels etc.
The bonus offered is usually based within the context of the slot and some of the games that offer these specific bonus games tied in with the theme of the slot include Jurassic Park (in particular it's T-Rex Mode) and Terminator 2 (which has a T-800 mode).
- Win Both Ways
This is a bonus feature that is frequently underused by slot development companies in my view and it is simply that the slot offers players the chance to win both ways across the reels.
In a standard slot, winning lines pay out from the leftmost reel (usually labelled reel 1) from left to right. However on win both ways reels, you can also win from the rightmost reel (reel 5) reading from right to left. This is available on the new Microgaming slot Temple of Tut (and is well worth a closer look).
Some games also even offer you the chance to win with three symbols across the middle three reels (reels, 2, 3 and 4), which further enhances your chances of a win on every spin.
- Expanding Numbers of Win Lines
When you load up a slot game to play then one of the first things you will notice is that the slot will have a stated number of win lines available. Some slots have a fixed number which you must play on every spin and others have a selectable number of winning lines you can elect to play (although conventional slot strategy suggests you should always play the maximum number of lines available to maximise your chances of a win).
However some slots, such as the Terminator 2 slot from Microgaming, has a special feature whereby you have a certain number of winning lines available in one aspect of the game, but then when you trigger a bonus feature, the reels change and you have a larger number of lines or ways to win available to you.
In Terminator 2 for example, the base game has 243-ways to win in play, but when you trigger the Free Spins bonus, the reel set changes from a 5x3 set to a 5x4 and the number of ways to win then increases from 243-ways to 1024-ways.
- Quest-type bonus features
These features run in parallel with the slot game itself and are usually triggered when you land one of the bonus features of the slot in question. In a quest-type bonus, players progress within the slot is usually tracked by the machine (it, in effect, saves your progress when you play, so when you come back to play a little while later, you can continue where you left off).
Quest type slots usually see a player needing to complete additional tasks alongside playing the base game to unlock bonus features and prizes. How this is portrayed depends on the slot and can be in a variety of ways, such as a board game, movement across a map, or even just playing through the required number of Free Spins on one particular bonus, to open access to the next (as on the Immortal Romance slot).
- Random base game bonuses
An increasingly popular bonus feature (and one that I personally feel adds a lot to a slot) is when the game features a randomly triggered base game bonus. A good example of this is the Thunderstruck II slot, a massively popular game with Microgaming customers which features the Wildstorm Bonus.
In this bonus, which occurs on any random spin and which awards you one extra free spin, but during that free spin between one and five of the reels will turn completely Wild. Obviously the more reels that turn Wild, the better your chances of landing a bigger value win.
Not all bonuses awarded in random base game are the same. Some will alter symbols to guarantee you a win, others will offer you a free re-spin, perhaps with additional Wilds on the reels. What the feature does, is dependent on the game in which it is used.
- Random progressive jackpot bonuses
Finally, one other bonus you may come across if you play progressive jackpot games, are those bonuses that are triggered at random when you play the game but which then offer you a chance to win the progressive jackpot prize.
The best example of this is the Mega Moolah slot, which for just 0.25 per spin, means that on every spin you have a chance of triggering the Jackpot Bonus Game. This is the wheel that you then spin in order to win one of the four progressive jackpot prizes - Mini, Minor (which are both smaller amounts of money) and Major and Mega (which are both larger, the Mega progressive jackpot being a minimum of 1,000,000.00 pounds sterling). These bonuses tend to offer the biggest cash prizes available on any Microgaming slot that you can find today.
Byline: This article was published by Mega Moolah expert Henry. Media and other enquiries.