For many players, visuals are a key part of the appeal of slot games and the digital market has given game developers the opportunity to take art and animation beyond the mechanical restrictions of old-school physical slot machines. So, we're taking a look at some of the best examples of slot games that really stand out from the crowd with art that goes above and beyond, absorbing the player in another world, another time or even just a particular mood for their gaming experience.
Taking the street art aesthetics of every hip inner city neighbourhood around the world and cramming it into a slot game, Chaos Crew manages to embody a freewheeling creative spirit that defies logic and reason and succeeds because it did so.
The main characters are an odd pair, Cranky, a cat, and Sketchy, a Skull, who exist in a dank back alley world of moths, apple cores, 8 balls and tentacles. None of this makes sense of course, but it has the effect of coming off like a flick through the pages of a street artist's sketchbook, the symbols have a rough, hand-drawn quality and glitching free spins icons add to the grimy aesthetic. To top it off, all this is supported by a dynamic soundtrack where music ratchets up in line with the intensity of the gameplay, moving from mellow piano chords to slamming beats and fizzing EDM synths as the wins start rolling in.
Speaking of gameplay, it's high volatility, fitting with the name and edgy look. Cranky is wild and reveals a multiplier of up to x5 in the base game and x20 in the free spins game, of course multiple multipliers can land together and stack, making for some thrilling wins when landing next to high-value symbols like the tentacles.
Charlie Chance in Hell to Pay
Charlie Chance takes us back to the 1930s, incorporating a number of influences from that era: the titular character is more than a little reminiscent of another famous umbrella-wielding Charlie and his name is only two letters away from a popular fictional detective of the time, Charlie Chan.
The main visual inspiration here though, is without a doubt, the classic cartoons of Max Fleischer, creator of Betty Boop. The characters in Charlie Chance share that same limbs-made-of-wet-noodles look that Fleischer Studios made famous with Popeye's arm-flailing girlfriend Olive Oyl. The diabolical theme fits naturally into this jazz-age melting pot, with some of the best-remembered cartoons of that era dealing in darker ideas and imagery than we tend to see in Children's entertainment today, such as Disney's first Silly Symphony, "The Skeleton Dance", and Fleischer's utterly insane "Swing You Sinners!"
The gameplay itself is old-fashioned but with a twist, 3 symbols landing with the flaming demoness head, will transform this simple 3x3 fruit slot into a cartoon slapstick sequence as Charlie hops across stepping stones over a lake of fire to select a bonus. This fun and flavourful bonus game trigger generously often, meaning the excellent work the animators put into Charlie and his devilish pin-up girl tormentor gets plenty of time in the limelight.
Dragon Fortress - Battle of the Castle
A heady nostalgia trip back to the era of 8-bit video games, when SEGA and Atari still made consoles, and when Xbox was a mere glint in Bill Gates' eye. Dragon Fortress - Battle of the Castle follows the innocuously named pixel art character Colin the Conqueror on his quest to claim the castle's treasures.
Above the usual game grid is a miniature video game, in which Colin climbs a series of floors clearly modelled after the world-famous scaffolds Mario scaled in his battle against a barrel-tossing ape in Nintendo's 1981 classic Donkey Kong. Every time a treasure chest lands on the grid and reveals a numbered diamond from within, our intrepid knight moves a corresponding number of spaces through the castle, if he stops at a chest or door, any of a number of bonuses can be revealed, including wilds, multipliers, cash prizes or a spin on the Mini Game Wheel. It's a superb marriage of gameplay and visuals that makes the slot really feel like dusting off and playing a vintage video game.
Like classic video games, Dragon Fortress - Battle of the Castle boasts a tonne of content to keep the player eagerly exploring its dark pixelated halls, including boss fights against dragons for more free spins. Definitely a must-play for any Gen-Xer with an appetite for gaming nostalgia.
1429 Uncharted Seas
While Medieval seafaring and cartography might not make the most obvious theme for a slot game, they certainly make a brilliant one when pulled off as well as they are here with a beautiful art style that recreates the look of Medieval maps with their inscrutable icons and fascinating illustrations of strange beasts.
1429 was over half a century before Christopher Columbus' first history-making voyage to the New World in 1492, so it was a time when the seas remained much more mysterious and dangerous than they seem today. Sail far enough and you really would be going - in the words of William Shatner - "where no man has gone before". The game's lovingly drawn parchment map does a fantastic job of evoking that spirit of adventure and peril, complete with superstitious images of various sea monsters, such as the Kraken, a giant squid, Leviathan, a serpent-like monster, and a serenely sinister mermaid.
The gameplay is simple, a ship symbol landing will be swept up amid a fanfare of trumpets as a Leviathan rears up from the depths beneath it, forming an expanding wild that covers the reel, and enough compass symbols will steer you safely to a free spins bonus round. It's typical stuff but made exceptional by the immersive presentation.