Dead or Alive Review

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8.2

Good

7.5

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"Water? You want water, you better go dunk ya head in the horse trough out there. In here, we pour whiskey."

When reviewing slot games a lot of people who are not involved in the gaming industry struggle to appreciate the depths of casino games. For a lot of new or novice players a slot game appears, prima facie, like a very shallow game compared to the offerings of say, Playstation VR or even King’s latest iOS releases. Yet a slot game is an extremely complicated game when you start to peel away the layers. This is mostly due to the underlying maths which dictates the average ‘feel’ of the game for most players. To make sense of this Dead or Alive slot review I’ll talk a little bit about principles of game maths here and volatility but you can also see our article on the Anatomy of a Slot).

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A completely stable game would be so boring that no one would ever play it, and those who did, would not play more than one session, and here’s why. Imagine a game that pays 90% that has no volatility whatsoever.  Then every time you wager a Euro, you get back 90 cents.  This would be the case for every single game.  Not much fun there.  By adding a little volatility to the game, the game becomes more appealing.  Now imagine a game where a fair coin is tossed, and if the coin lands on heads, you win.  Suppose you win the same amount you wager, and if it lands on tails, you lose.  This game is more fun for the player, because after a game, the player could have more than what s/he started with. However, this game is no fun for the house, because it can’t get any revenue from it, as there is no ‘house edge’.

With just a small change, the game can still be fun for both.  If when you win, rather than getting 2 times your bet you get 1.80 times your bet, you can still have the chance to walk away with more than you started with, but in the long run, just like in the first game, you have been paying to play 10 cents per game.  To lure players in, games want to offer larger, and larger jackpots, which means that the chances of coming out ahead are smaller, and smaller.

The presentation was very well done overall, and really encapsulates the feel that most of us would have of the wild west

In my opinion these huge jackpots make the game less fun, because in order to fund them, the house needs there to be a lot of losing games.  And sure, when you are THE lucky winner, you walk away happy, but the chances of being That Guy are really remote. Lucky for me, on this session of Dead or Alive I was ‘that guy’ (see The RTP Challenge for more information here.)

  • Presentation

A little bit ago, I reviewed the game “Montezuma“, which was an Aztec theme game where I think the manufacturer threw all loyalty to the theme out the window when it came to the royal symbols.  In fact the Royal symbols fit so poorly into the theme that I think the manufacturer took the symbols from another game, and tacked them on to Montezuma.  This game’s presentation was done as presentations should be done.  Everything stayed true to the theme through and through.The symbols are a Wanted poster as the wild, and also one of the two symbols with an animation.  Also, during free spins, the poster transforms into a sticky wild.  The sticky wild has an outlaw on the poster.  The other symbol that animates when you get a winning combination is the scatter symbol, which is two guns crossing their barrels to form an X.  The remaining symbols are a Sheriff badge, a holster belt, a ten gallon hat, cowboy boots, and lastly, shot glasses.  The Royal symbols are all saloon letters, which I think is a nice touch.  The foreground where all the betting information is presented is shown in the form of placards riveted on to cantina doors.  The backdrop includes a spinning windmill that spins up, and stops. A swinging oil lamp, and some lightning in some clouds. Even the character models are well thought out, they look fun yet rough in appearance which is perfect for the theme. The sound effects complimented the theme well especially the win chime which occurs every 5 spins or so. I thought the presentation was very well done overall, and really encapsulates the feel that most of us would have of the wild west; although it take me a long time to find the paytable as it blended in so well with the UI.

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Speaking of which, the paytable was well designed. The symbols increased in value as you would expect with no real wasted ‘clusters’ in the mid tier. The top paying symbols also looked the part. They stood out and jumped off the reels as they dropped into place. These are big plus points for the game and for the enjoyment of the game.

  • Game Play

The game plays on a 3 x 5 window.  The “Wanted” poster is wild, and 3 or more scattered guns trigger free games.  The free games are a lot of fun.  You get 12 free spins, at 2x pay each.  Additionally, if you get a “Wanted” poster during the free games, the poster sticks, and remains in that position for the duration of the free games.  I don’t believe that the free spin reels have any scatter symbols in them, so there is no way to retrigger by way of scatters, but, if you get each of the 5 outlaws, you get 5 additional free games.

The wilds on each reel have a corresponding outlaw.  So, if you have at least one wild on each reel, you get 5 additional free spins, and then there are no more retriggers. I played 500 spins with all 9 lines active.  I saw quite a few losing games before getting any wins, but I saw a few very nice wins of 5 of a kind.  I didn’t get any major 5 of a kinds, but one of my free game triggers was a 4 scatter combination.  As my session progressed, I started getting tired of waiting for the free spin bonus to trigger.  It took more than 300 spins to trigger it the first time, and then the first time I triggered the bonus, I didn’t get a single sticky wild.  My trigger win was 225 (On a bet of 9), and my final win was 245.  So in 12 free games with double pays, I managed to rack up a whole 20 credits, which is just over twice my bet of 9 credits. So, my first trigger was only fun because the trigger win was so high.  The second time I triggered the bonus, my trigger win was a much more humble 36 credits.   However, during the bonus, I got lots of sticky wilds, and even though I never caught the last outlaw, I ended the bonus with a 584 credit win.  That was a lot of fun.  The third, and last trigger started out with a 36 credit trigger win, and a final win of 238 credits.  On my last trigger, I managed to collect only 4 wilds, but only 2 outlaws.  That is to say, I had 2 wilds on each of the last 2 reels.

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So, it seems that the RTP of the game is heavily weighted towards the bonus.  This would not be unusual at all.  If the three times I triggered the bonus is any indication of the trigger frequency you can expect for this game, then that bodes well for the game.  Adding to the fact that 2 of my three triggers paid handsomely, I’d say the game designers balanced jackpots with chance well.

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RTP Challenge

I throw the term “high volatility” around rather loosely, and have not taken the time to explain what it is. I feel that the game “Dead Or Alive” forces my hand in having to explain what I mean when I say “high volatility”. The games I have reviewed in the past have had an observed RTP of somewhere around 66% after playing 500 games. Considering that most games have returns above 90%, seeing such a low return leads me to the conclusion that 500 games was not enough for me to see where more than 24% of the return comes from. For Dead Or Alive, I had an observed RTP of 112%. This is by no means a sign of stability, but rather still a sign of volatility, just that my session happened to lie on the lucky side of the RTP this time. If you are reading this following the main prose, it follows that this time, I was “That Guy”. The game is likely very volatile,  in fact, after playing about 300 games, I was convinced I was going to write a completely negative review, because the bonus description reads as though the bonus is a lot of fun, and I hadn’t triggered the bonus a single time. So, I was feeling like I was going to have to enjoy the bonus strictly by way of its description. As it turned out, in the last 200 spins, I triggered the bonus 3 times, but more on that later.

Dead or Alive Bonus Results
Bonus TriggerFreespinsTriggering Line WinWild BanditsTotal Bonus Win
Bonus 112 Freespins at 2x with no retriggers22.50024.50
Bonus 212 Freespins at 2x with no retriggers3.60558.40
Bonus 312 Freespins at 2x with no retriggers3.60323.80

I will reiterate what I mentioned in the Game Play section. The balance between jackpots and their respective frequencies appears to be well done, judging from my session. For the purposes of this section, I will decouple the trigger win from the bonus win, which is not what the game does. I triggered the bonus 3 times. The first time, I won 20 credits, or just over twice my bet. The second time, I won 548 credits, or about 61 times my bet, and finally, for my last free games session, I won 202 credits, or, about 22 times my bet. The trigger frequency I observed was 1 in 167 games, I got a trigger. I never collected all the outlaws, so I did not get any retriggers.

This game is just like any ordinary slot until you trigger the free spins.  For me, it took so long to even trigger them the first time that had I been using my money to play, I would have given up on the game before ever having seen the bonus.  However, when I did trigger the bonus, it made the game worth playing.  12 free games is a good number of free games to receive so as to not get long drawn out sessions where nothing happens for most of the games, but also long enough that you want to see the wilds land on the reels, and you get a decent chance of seeing that happen, although I didn’t see that happen at all in my first trigger session.

Again this is known as one of NetEnt’s casino’ stables’… a must have for any casino manager who integrates the NetEnt suite; even though the game is getting on a bit now, it’s not hard to understand why. The presentation is spot on, the feel of the game ended up in the player’s favour if they are willing to invest the time and the features, although they are relatively basic have a nice balance between frequency and size of the award.

Good

  • Good looking slot
  • Highly volatile with decent bonus awards
  • Sticky wilds are well implemented
  • Easy to understand and play

Bad

  • Base game wins were limited
  • Volatility and long dry spells may put a lot of players off
  • Basic features in today's slot world
8.2

Good

Presentation - 10
Accessibility - 10
Features - 6
Uniqueness - 6
Enjoyment - 9

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