As we edge closer to the Christmas season, it's a guarantee that we'll start to see more and more festive releases popping up – even from studios that already have a few under their belt. Maybe the statistics show that players love to dive deep into the festivities even in their gambling habits, or maybe the teams themselves revel in creating something to joyous, but either way seasonal releases are coming thick and fast, and today it's Stakelogic‘s turn, with Santa Express. With a default RTP of 96.27%, this highly (5/5) volatile release can produce wins up to 20,000x bet.
Visually, it's about as much as you'd expect. The team at Stakelogic have placed us in a Christmas village – potentially the North Pole as Santa prepares to head off on his annual adventure, or potentially some other village that he's already made his way to. In any case, things are mostly made up of snow topped homes, and white skies with a pretty blue aurora. The reels, which I guess are the train itself, are encased in a metal embellishment, and warmly lit garlands to make it even more festive. It's nothing too ‘out there', but it all paints quite a nice picture, with some jolly music to top it all off.
Santa Express Base Features
Taking place across 5 reels, wins are formed on Santa Express by matching at least 3 symbols on adjacent reels, beginning with the leftmost reel, across 1 of 20 fixed win lines. Symbols available begin with non premiums, with 10s, Js, Ks, Qs, and As, awarding wins between 0.20 and 0.30x bet for 3 of a kind matches, increasing to values between 0.50 and 1x bet for 5 of a kind. In the mid range, we have Christmas baubles, gingerbread men, and mugs of hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and candy canes. Land 3 of a kind matches of any of these symbols to see wins between 0.40 and 0.50x bet, increasing to values between 1.50 and 5x bet for 5 of a kind. At the premium end, we have two character symbols – a female elf, and Rudolph, awarding wins of 0.75 and 1.50x bet respectively for 3 of a kind matches, increasing to 10 and 25x bet respectively for 5 of a kind.
The final symbol to look at is the Wild symbol, which substitutes for all symbols except Santa Scatter symbols, but also makes up the bulk of the base game entertainment with the Collapsing Wild Symbols Feature. On every spin, any symbols involved in a win will be removed from the reels through cascades. When winning symbols are removed, a Wild symbol is added into one of the empty positions – this position is chosen at random, and is similar to Yggdrasil Gaming's Raptor DoubleMax.
After the Wild symbol is added, all other symbols will drop down the bottommost available position on their respective reels, with new symbols then dropping in from above to fill any remaining gaps. For each consecutive cascade that happens as a result of winning combinations, the Wild will be removed with winning symbols and reappear in an empty position. Each time this happens, its multiplier will increment by +1, up to a maximum of x10.
If a Wild symbol is not used in a win but other symbols are removed, it is possible to then have more than one Wild symbol on the reels. If multiple Wilds are then used in a winning combination, their multipliers are multiplied together. Wild symbols will pay 1.50, 2.50, or 25x bet for 3, 4, or 5 of a kind, respectively.
The final thing to cover in Santa Express is the Super Stake. By doubling the bet, players can double the chance of triggering Free Spins naturally. Whilst activating Super Stake doubles the bet, symbol payouts remain unaffected.
Santa Express Bonus
Land 3 or more Santa Scatter symbols to trigger Free Spins. Before Free Spins begin, a random number of spins are awarded – either 8, 10, 12, or 15. Additionally, a win multiplier is awarded of x2, x3, x5, or x10, which is active for the duration of spins. Finally, one symbol is chosen to act as a special symbol – paying twice as much as it normally would during Free Spins.
The Collapsing Wild Symbols Feature continues to be available during Free Spins, with any values including Wild multipliers having the overall win multiplier applied after the Wild multiplier. Free Spins can also retrigger:
- 3 Santa Scatter symbols: +5 spins and 2x bet win.
- 4 Santa Scatter symbols: +8 spins and 10x bet win.
- 5 Santa Scatter symbols: +10 spins and 20x bet win.
Finally, players in appropriate regions can skip straight to the action with the option to Buy Bonus, with the following options:
- 8-15 Free Spins – 100x bet
- 15 Free Spins – 200x bet
- Random (50/50 chance of options 1 and 2) – 175x bet
The maximum win available in Santa Express 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.
Santa Express pretty much encapsulates everything you'd want to see in a seasonal release – Santa Clause, a festive jingle, a nice landscape, and win potential. There's nothing groundbreaking about the game play, and in fact it's all pretty simple – match winning combinations to see Wilds appear, and continue to form new wins to multiply Wilds up to x10. When multiple Wilds appear across one win line, their values multiply together. Everything is easy to wrap your head around, which is what you want – we don't have weeks to understand this one, as soon it won't be Christmas anymore.
Free Spins ramp up the excitement by adding an additional win multiplier up to x10, and a chosen symbol to double its payout value. Realistically you want 15 spins with the most premium symbol and a x10 win multiplier, at which point you start to see the potential of this release. When the right combinations hit, wins are possible up to 20,000x bet.
RTP is 96.27% at its default, although as always be sure to check this. And then finally, maths is highly volatile. There isn't much more than that to say on this one – it's a friendly release, suitable for fans of simple mechanics, multiplying wilds, and Santa Clause himself.
*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.