Hot peppers aren't really my thing. I like Mexican food and a bit of spice here and there, but the whole Scoville scale, One Chip Challenge, Carolina Reaper thing just isn't for me – why would you want to be in pain while eating?! Irrespective of my opinion though, people other than me like spicy food, and they search for the hottest food available on many occasions. One studio that seems to like the idea of spice is Pragmatic Play, as evidenced by their new release Hot Pepper – aptly titled. With wins available up to 10,000x bet, this highly (5/5) volatile release comes with RTP options up to 96.45%.
We're in the desert for this one (potentially the Chihuahuan Desert), with clear skies and dry land. A picture isn't tangible, but it feels like just looking at this image the heat would be searing, so they've done a decent job of achieving the setting. Cacti sit in the background in front of large cliffs, with lizards climbing around the area closer to the reels. There's nothing really ‘out there' about it, but it's nice, and it works for the theme at hand. Audios are quite typically Latin-Amerian, a bit like Muertos Multiplier Megaways, another release from Pragmatic. Still, it all fits nicely.
Hot Pepper Base Features
Taking place on a 7×7 grid, wins are formed on Hot Pepper by matching clusters of at least 5 symbols, touching horizontally or vertically. Symbols pay in clusters of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11-12, 13-14, and 15+, and begin with non premiums, with green clubs, orange hearts, purple spades, and limes – awarding wins between 0.10 and 0.20x bet for clusters of 5, increasing to values between 10 and 20x bet for clusters of 15+. At the premium end we have tacos, bull piñatas, and a male character in a sombrero. Land clusters of 5 premiums to see wins between 0.40 and 1x bet, increasing to values between 25 and 50x bet for clusters of 15+. Finally, a Bonus symbol is available, appearing on all reels.
Alright so the first thing to cover in Hot Pepper is the Tumble feature. On every spin, all symbols involved in a win will be removed from the reels. Remaining symbols will then drop down to the bottommost position available on their respective reels, with new symbols dropping in from above to fill any remaining gaps.
Any Bonus symbols that land during spins will be removed through Tumbles, and stored on a wooden sign to the right of the reels. Tumbles continue until no more wins are formed.
So there's one main feature in the Hot Pepper base game, but it can be a pretty exciting one. Each time a winning cluster is formed, it will leave behind a Wild symbol in one of its' empty positions, after being removed from the reels through Tumbles. Wild symbols substitute for all symbols except Bonus symbols, and come with progressive multipliers. First though, a random level from 1-5 is chosen to start things off:
- Level 1 – clusters of 5-6 generate multipliers of x1, clusters of 7-8 generate multipliers of x2, clusters of 9-10 generate multipliers of x4, and clusters of 11+ generate multipliers of x8.
- Level 2 – clusters of 5-6 generate multipliers of x2, clusters of 7-8 generate multipliers of x4, clusters of 9-10 generate multipliers of x8, and clusters of 11+ generate multipliers of x16.
- Level 3 – clusters of 5-6 generate multipliers of x4, clusters of 7-8 generate multipliers of x8, clusters of 9-10 generate multipliers of x16, and clusters of 11+ generate multipliers of x32.
- Level 4 – clusters of 5-6 generate multipliers of x8, clusters of 7-8 generate multipliers of x16, clusters of 9-10 generate multipliers of x32, and clusters of 11+ generate multipliers of x64.
- Level 5 – clusters of 5-6 generate multipliers of x16, clusters of 7-8 generate multipliers of x32, clusters of 9-10 generate multipliers of x64, and clusters of 11+ generate multipliers of x128.
During each Tumble sequence (that is, every spin), every 3 Wilds that are used in a win will enable a level up. Multipliers can continue to level up until level 5 has been reached.
The Wild multiplier will be applied to any cluster wins in which it is used. If more than one Wild symbol is used in a winning cluster, their values will be added together before being applied. If a Wild symbol is used in more than one winning cluster, its' value will be applied to all clusters it is part of.
All progress is reset when Tumbles end.
Hot Pepper Bonus
Land 3 Bonus symbols to trigger 12 Free Spins. During Free Spins, things continue in the same way as the base game except all spins are played with Wild Multipliers at level 5, meaning the following multipliers are possible:
- Clusters of 5-6 – generate multipliers of x16
- Clusters of 7-8 – generate multipliers of x32
- Clusters of 9-10 – generate multipliers of x64
- Clusters of 11+ – generate multipliers of x128
Land 3 more Bonus Symbols during Free Spins to trigger an additional +5 spins.
Players in appropriate regions can opt for the Buy Free Spins option – for a cost of 100x bet, players can guarantee that 12 Free Spins will be awarded. RTP increases slightly when buying Free Spins, from 96.45% to 96.79%.
The maximum win available in Hot Pepper is 10,000x bet. If the sum of a single game round exceeds this, the game round will end and 10,000x bet will be awarded.
Pragmatic have pretty much got all the bases covered across their catalogue – from Megaways, to cluster pays, to fixed lines, to ways to win – they've got it all. Hot Pepper is another in a long line of cluster pays releases from the team, so there isn't a huge deal to say on it – it's just a fairly solid release that fans of this studio should enjoy.
Gameplay is an interesting one – Wild multipliers are fairly standard, especially in Pragmatic cluster releases, but now a progressive element has been added. Kind of like Sugar Rush, but maybe a bit less exciting. Still, with the starting level chosen randomly, there's plenty of room for big hits in the base game. When Free Spins begin things do feel more exciting with all spins played at level 5 for Wild multipliers, but it simultaneously can feel slightly lacklustre. It's like you're waiting on multipliers going from x16 to x32, but then you realise they're just coming back as x16 again. So on that front, it's not similar to the likes of Fruit Party 2, where multipliers increment through wins.
When the right combinations land, wins are possible up to 10,000x bet, but I wouldn't say you'll be in for an easy ride on this one. On the first day of testing, every bonus we bought returned profit. On the second, every bonus was a very grim loss. It is what it is, but there's no doubt that this maths model is highly (5/5) volatile. Finally, RTP options are available up to 96.45%, although a 95.02% option is available, so as always it's worth checking this.
If you're a fan of this studio, Wild multipliers, or cluster pays in general, this one will suit you down to the ground. If you don't like those things, you'll get about as much enjoyment as I would eating a literal hot pepper.
*The screenshots taken of games reviewed on this site are taken from Demo Play, as reviews are often written before games are released for real play.