It's good to try new things. What's that old phrase – it's better to try and fail, than fail to try? Pushing the boundaries of innovation, imagination and creativity should be celebrated, regardless of the final outcome – stepping outside the regular confines of the job at hand to try and create something unique isn't that common. Anyway, don't let the quote we've referenced inform your assumptions about this review today, because we're looking at anything but a failure in Print Studios‘ upcoming release – Reapers. Following on from the success of Huntress Wild Vengeance, the team are turning their hand to the cluster pays mechanic – kind of. Think video game meets video slot and you'll get a clearer understanding of this one, which comes with RTP options up to 96.47%, a highly volatile maths model, and win potential up to 20,000x bet.
Visually, it's all quite nice – at first glance things don't look nearly as complicated as they will turn out to be. Graphics are slick, with pale grey stonework both around the reels and in place of some symbols on the reels – much like Temple Tumble. More than any description we can give about Reapers as a slot though, it's like a video game. So much so, that a tutorial pops up on the screen when you load the game – in the little bubble with the character like you'd see in your favourite game. It's all finished off with an upbeat, bouncing dance track. Really, it's the kind of release you have to play to ‘get', so no use harping on about how things look – let's just get straight into it.
Reapers Base Features
Taking place on an 8×8 grid, wins are formed on Reapers by matching clusters of 5 or more symbols, touching horizontally or vertically, or by landing 1-4 symbols alongside a collector (Reaper). There are only 5 symbols available, which are the 5 Critters – blue, green, purple, yellow, and red. Critters will award individual win values for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10+, 12+, or 15+, with a minimum value of 0.04x bet for each one. At the top end, clusters of 15+ can award win values between 25 and 500x bet.
There's a bit of a background story to help you understand Reapers – “on a distant planet colonised by earth, an extraction facility has been overrun by Critters, and it falls on you to clear them out. Intel says the Critters are holding most of the valuable energy cells inside the main building, but to enter it you must first shut down the protective barriers outside. Luckily, the Reapers at your side were designed for this very purpose”.
So that's the aim of the game – you need to collect energy cells and break down barriers to progress inside the building – where the Bonus Game takes place. The Base Game consists of 5 groups, with barriers of 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 within the groups – this totals 15 barriers across all 5 groups. By breaking down all 15 barriers, the Bonus Game is triggered. Each barrier holds a symbol grid. By breaking through a barrier, the next one is reached. There is a Layer Mechanic in place, which lays symbol grids on top of each other, so you can see upcoming grids.
To break down barriers, you must collect Charges. For every 5 Energy Cells collected, the Reaper will enable 1 Charge. A different number of Charges are required to break down barriers, depending on the group you are in:
- Group 1 – 1 Charge
- Group 2 – 1 Charge
- Group 3 – 2 Charges
- Group 4 – 3 Charges
- Group 5 – 6 Charges
Alright, so you know you need to break down barriers, and you know you do this by collecting Charges through collecting Energy Cells – but how do you get the Energy Cells? There are 5 Reapers in the game – one matching each colour of Critter. When a winning cluster (of 5 or more symbols) is formed, the matching Reaper will be placed adjacent to the cluster.
When a Reaper is present on the grid, any adjacent matching symbols or matching clusters will be collected and paid for. Any winning symbols through a cluster win or collection are what we refer to as Energy Cells. Each time 5 symbols are collected, the Reaper will activate 1 Charge. Reapers will display the number of Charges activated, along with displaying a counter for the number of symbols required before another Charge is activated. Reapers stay in play until the Bonus Game is triggered or the game round ends – when no more wins occur.
Power Core symbols are present on the reels. If a Power Core symbol is adjacent to a Reaper or to a symbol collected by the Reaper, it will be collected, activating a Special Ability – each Reaper has its own Special Ability, although these only exist in the Base Game:
- Energizer (Blue Reaper) – increases each Reapers collected symbol count by +1, once per grid.
- Linker (Green Reaper) – allows itself and other Reapers on the grid to link up and collect matching symbols adjacent to each other.
- Transformer (Purple Reaper) – transforms all remaining purple symbols into another symbol after collection.
- Expander (Orange Reaper) – increases its collection area to 4×4 in size, so all symbols within that area will be considered ‘adjacent'.
- Erupted (Red Reaper) – chooses a random multiplier between x2-10 to be applied to all its collected wins. The multiplier will update with each new grid.
If you didn't read all that, or you did and you're still confused, here's our five sentence summary for those who just want a vague understanding:
Land clusters of 5+ symbols to add a Reaper to the grid that matches the cluster colour. Reapers then collect matching coloured symbols or winning clusters, and for every 5 they collect they award a Charge. These Charges break down barriers and move you through stages. Break down all 15 barriers across stages to trigger the Bonus Game – this will require 51 charges, meaning you must collect 255 symbols. Throughout this process, Reapers can collect Power Core symbols to trigger special abilities, like multipliers and larger collection areas.
Once all 15 barriers (5 groups) have been cleared, the Bonus Game begins. There are 5 levels within the Bonus Game, each consisting of 75 symbol grids. As you progress through the levels, all symbols or symbol clusters either wholly or partly within the 4×4 Juggernaut Reaper area in the middle of the grid will be collected and paid for. Symbol clusters of 5 or more will always be paid for. The Juggernaut Reaper will display two pieces of information – on the meter at the top, it will display how many Energy Cells you have collected, which tells you how close you are to collecting enough symbols to progress to the next level, whilst the counter at the bottom tells you how many symbol grids remain within the current level.
As symbols are collected, players can progress through 5 levels. By progressing through levels, gameplay speeds up, and certain Critters are removed from the grid(s):
- Level 1 – Starting Level (blue, green, purple, yellow, and red Critters).
- Level 2 – Collect 430 symbols (green, purple, yellow, and red Critters).
- Level 3 – Collect 520 symbols (purple, yellow, and red Critters).
- Level 4 – Collect 590 symbols (yellow and red Critters).
- Level 5 – Collect 790 symbols (red Critters only).
Finally, players in appropriate regions can buy any of the following Feature Buy options:
- 1 guaranteed Reaper – 3.40x bet (96.58% RTP)
- 2 guaranteed Reapers – 18.40x bet (96.70% RTP)
- 3 guaranteed Reapers – 50x bet (96.88% RTP)
- 4 guaranteed Reapers – 130x bet (97.11% RTP)
- 5 guaranteed Reapers – 425x bet (97.25% RTP)
Activation of any of the above Feature Buy options will guarantee the relevant number of Reapers on the first symbol grid. There is no option to buy straight into the Bonus Game.
The maximum win available in Reapers is 20,000x bet. If the sum of a single game round exceeds this, the game round will end and 20,000x bet will be awarded.
It's a bit hard to judge a release like this one, because what do you really compare it to? The two obvious examples would be Reactoonz from Play'n GO, with the alien-like cluster pays and modifiers, or Joker Troupe from Push Gaming – noticeable in the Bonus Game when things start to speed up as levels progress. Even with these in mind though, Reapers still forges its own path, away from anything we've seen before.
I think I said above that it's the sort of one you have to play to ‘get', but I'm ready to retract that statement. I played it, and I still didn't get it. If anything, it's one of very few games where you really do need the game information to help you along. Okay fine, I skipped the tutorial, but it's an online slot – should I really need a tutorial?! The confusion seems down to two main points – there's a lot happening, and it's happening quickly – almost too quickly. There's a certain amount of excitement in that, but it really is a blink and you miss it kind of affair – even before you reach the warp speed tunnel style Bonus Game.
Gameplay is decent, and there's plenty to keep your interest piqued. Reapers work with their Special Abilities to keep things moving forward, and in a strange twist of events that's really most of what you should expect. The Bonus Game frequency is so rare (1 in 2,604 spins) that Group 5 of the Base Game is kind of the true ‘bonus', with the actual Bonus Game being something beyond that. Kind of like a release with a Super Bonus, but no actual bonus. That said, if you are lucky enough to hit it, it clearly holds value – to buy 5 reapers comes at a cost of 425x bet, and even that doesn't guarantee the Bonus Game. I think on our worst attempt, for a cost of 425x bet we returned 8x bet – ouch. To be expected though, given that maths is highly volatile.
RTP options are available up to 96.47%, so as always it's worth checking this – although the Feature Buy does up this slightly, with options available up to 97.25%. That's pretty much it from us. All in all, Reapers is immersive, fast paced, energised, and capable of a potency that is deceiving at first – when the right combination of Critters hit, wins are possible up to 20,000x bet. When all is said and done though, is it really a ‘slot', or does it push the boat too far, crossing over into a video game territory that takes away from the heart of gambling? We'll let you be the judge of that.
If you do try it, you might not have any idea what's going on – but you're in for one hell of a ride.
*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.