I’ve always found games produced in the west but inspired by the east to be a rather pathetic attempts to maintain any sort of authenticity. The theme, style and sound effects always seem to come down to the lowest common denominator, usually age old stereotypes of cultures that have long since progressed forward. You can visualise the creative brainstorming sessions now:-
<Creative Director>: “Let’s do a game inspired by the far East!”
<Producer>: “Okay, great, perfect timing. CCGs are all the rage now and I’ve been watching a really cool anime called ‘Psycho Pass’ of late and think we can do a rea-…”
<Creative Director>: “Whoa, whoa, whoa… CC What? Psycho who? No, none of that, what we need in this title is dragon statutes; and Chinese lanterns; and those coins with the squares in the middle; and, er, a Samurai warrior from the Three Kingdoms era.”
<Producer>: “Three Kingdoms was a period from Chinese history, not Japanese.”
<Creative Director>: “Yeah stick some Japanese warriors in. Now you’re thinking.”
<Producer>: “No, I’m saying that Three Kingdoms di-..”
<Creative Director>: “It’s all ‘East’ right?? C’mon work with me here. Oh oh oh, what about those fish they have in those little gardens…”
<Producer>: “‘Little gardens???’ you mean Koi Carp?”
<Creative Director>: “Yeah, Koi Carp. Can we make a ‘bonsai tree bonus game’ y’think?”
<Creative Director>: “Did I mention dragon statues?”
Okay so this probably isn’t Aristocrat’s creative process but it does serve as a simplified example of the issue at hand. <A stereotype of people stereotyping, oh the irony – ED 🙂 >. The more you think about this, the more you realise that these games aren’t built for the players whose cultures are being sterotyped. For instance if someone built a slot game looking at British culture, they would probably end up with symbols featuring a glass of snakebite black, fish and chips, Nigel Farage, the Queen, a cricketer and a football hooligan bonus game, where you have to chase opposing supporters down a street and hit them with bottles for added multipliers. Now it’s unlikely that you or I would play that game, but perhaps Asian slot players would? And maybe that is the point? Maybe these sorts of games are made specifically to take advantage of cultural stereotypes? If so, then Aristocrat’s Choy Sun Doa ticks many boxes 🙂
If someone built a slot game looking at British culture, they would probably end up with symbols featuring a glass of snakebite black, fish and chips, Nigel Farage, the Queen, a cricketer and a football hooligan bonus game, where you have to chase opposing supporters down a street and hit them with bottles for added multipliers
Choy Sun Doa is a slot game with a far East theme. The symbols are elegant, and consistent with a good luck theme. The symbols are a golden dragon, a Chinese coin, a jade ring, a koi fish, good luck cards, and the scatter symbol is a golden hat. The wild symbol is an emperor symbol. The standard royal symbols look ordinary, with the Ace, King, Queen, and Jack having a little bit more ornamentation (As in a flower, or a fan). The play windows is 3 rows by 5 columns, and it is a way game up to 243 ways to win. The backdrop is a winter landscape with a mountain in the centre as seen from afar, and trees on each side of the mountain as seen from up close.
During my session, here’s what I saw. I played 500 games, of which, only 165 paid anything. Of the 165 games that paid something, 108 paid less than my bet.
I triggered free spins 3 times, and 2 of the three times, the free spins paid a generous award, but the third time, I walked away having won a paltry 50 cents during the entire free game session. Keeping in mind that the bet level I was playing was 2.5 Euros per game, and the line win going into the bonus was 12.50 that second session was a real downer.
|Choy Sun Doa Bonus Results|
|Bonus Trigger||Selector||Triggering Line Win||Total Bonus Win|
|Bonus 1||15 Freespins with x3, x5, x8, substitution||12.50||42.50|
|Bonus 2||8 Freespins with x8, x10, x15, substitution||12.50||13.00|
|Bonus 3||10 Freespins with x5, x8, x10, substitution||12.50||37.50|
The other two were what I expect from free games and the bonus happened just enough times to keep my interest during the 500 spins, given it is a very simple bonus. Given the sparse feel of the wins personally would opt for the larger number of freespins going into the bonus.
My largest award seen was 100 euros, and it came during a regular spin. The game advertises a 94% return, but my observed RTP was only 66%. That, and the size of the highest awards leads me to believe that the game is highly volatile. That is to say, expect long dry spells when playing it, but when you win big, you will be very happy.
The UI is basic but functional and clearly pays homage to the land based version of the game. As with most Aristocrat titles the online versions are as much as possible, designed with the VLT versions in mind. This is great for US casinos lucky enough to provide online gaming, but in Europe where land based casino is very small compared to regulated online, I feel they are missing an opportunity to bring new players to their slots.
The game has only one bonus, which is a free spin bonus. However, when triggered, the player is offered a choice to play either lots of free games with a low average multiplier, or higher volatility free games, where the player gets fewer spins, but with a higher average multiplier. It is worth noting that not all wins get multiplied by the multiplier. Only wins with a wild receive a multiplier.
During the free spins, the player gets another bonus. If lucky card symbols appear on the first and fifth reels, the player is awarded a random prize.
The feel of the game is very much like a run of the mill slot. I found myself just waiting for the free games. Also, keep in mind that the scatter symbols don’t behave like normal scatters. You have to get them on consecutive reels starting with the leftmost reel. Due to my expectation that when three or more scatters lie anywhere on the window I get a bonus, I was disappointed on more than one occasion where I saw several scatter symbols on the screen, but got awarded no free games, or any kind of award for the scatters. It happened all too frequently and as I touch on below, is why I feel Aristocrat need to differentiate online from the classic land based variants.
Eventually, I did trigger free games. I triggered free games 3 times, in fact, so the frequency of the trigger is about the same as the frequency of free games for other games where scatter symbols behave as expected.
For my free games session, I selected the number of free games on the medium volatility side. That is to say, I selected middle number of free games with an average multiplier that wasn’t very aggressive, nor too conservative either. For the number of free games I played during my trial run, I saw the multiplier only twice, and both times, it was the 5x. The game states that the expected return for the bonus, regardless of which selection you make, is the same. So, if you prefer to play the game for long stretches, select the most free games. If volatility is your thing, then play for a high multiplier.
Overall I do like the strategy selector. I think any feature that gives players choice is generally a good thing. It makes you feel more engaged with the slot and creates those famous ‘what if’ choices in your mind. The maths Aristocrat through and through, punchy and volatile with some big wins waiting for those with the patience to put the time in. Unfortunately I just think Aristocrat need to up their game and produce some more contemporary looking slots. There is a place for these classic video slots, and I’m sure their figures will show that even today in the online space it’s attracting some big players, but to get to mass market appeal they almost need two divisions internally (classic and contemporary) working from the same game design and maths asset.