Yggdrasil’s latest video slot ‘Gem Rocks’ is a 4096 ways game with cascading symbols, large multiple reel symbols and the ‘Gem Rock’ feature. The name itself makes you think of a mashup between Starburst and Guns and Roses [ED: What a game that would be?!] however the reality is actually something to do with a tribe of gem-hearted rock golems or something trying to give you wins. Basically, a lot of expense was spared on trying to build a narrative for this title, or they just decided to skip the storyboard stage of development, and the game suffers for it. None the less, Yggdrasil are known for their quality graphics and sound, and their innovative approach to slots, so I was more than happy to review this video slot.
Offering 4096 different winning combinations, the premise is simple enough – four rows and six columns of exploding block symbols, incorporating further dropdown wins to increase your potential winnings. Get identical symbols in the first three or more reels and you have a winning spin with additional identical symbols in the winning reels acting as multipliers.
Gem Rocks also adds a nice twist for multiple winning streaks in the form of giant Monster Rocks that turn into 2×2, 3×3 or 4×4 blocks and replace existing symbols to maximize winnings. When spinning, some individual symbols can also be up to 4×4 in size (although I never saw one) and these will split into the more regular-sized images in the event of a win of any value or symbol. However, the fun, and I am using this word generously, stops there!
… the first thing you will want to do after loading this game is to turn off the interminable and repetitive drawn out five-note, looping violin background music
Unlike other games that Yggdrasil offer, there is no video introduction, just a simple splash screen informing you that you can receive a Monster Rock (why not a Rock Monster) for 2, 5 or 9 successive wins and that you can potentially win up to 9000 times your bet. Don’t waste your time looking for other elements. Don’t go waiting for wild symbols, don’t start believing in bonuses or searching for sub-games. This slot offers nothing else positive whatsoever, except possibly for the volume slider on the settings options. Because the first thing you will want to do after loading this game is to turn off the interminable and repetitive drawn out five-note, looping violin background music (ironically called ‘Ambience Sound’) that plays incessantly behind the otherwise fun and suitably ‘blocky’ sound effects.
Sure, the cartoon Giant Rock Monsters are fun, but it seems that Yggdrasil have put their hopes into wishing that that these, along with the jumbo symbols, will be enough to keep you playing. Personally, I cannot see that happening beyond 40 or 50 spins. As the RTP Challenge will testify, the Monster Rocks, those Marble Monsters, appear so rarely, that I am left wondering why they were even coded into the game in the first place. The poor animators created a range of Basalt Behemoths that will hardly be seen.
I’ve not really gone into it much, but graphically it’s a beautiful game. The symbols are clean and easily identifiable and the little neat touches applied to the symbol animations are pure brilliance. Oddly they’ve applied an anticipation delay to the second and third reels (once a Rock Monster has dropped on reels 3|4|5) that does nothing other than slow down and pause the symbol dropping into place. This actually annoyed me because the symbols are so well designed that actually, you don’t really need the added anticipation as you can clearly see the opportunity for 3OAKS; If you’re going to introduce an anticipation effect then actually add in an effect as this pause actually had the opposite effect of breaking my concentration with the game.
Following the RTP Challenge rules of 500 spins, with an RTP of 77.14% and a net loss of nearly 52% of my bankroll, Gem Rocks came well below Yggdrasil’s advertised ‘theoretical RTP’ of 96.2%.
Over 79% of my spins resulted in zero wins, 17% returned just a percentage of my stake and only 3.80% of spins made me any kind of profit – that’s just 19 profitable spins out of 500, and most of my return was via the three ‘Big Wins’ and the two ‘Super Wins’, the biggest of which was 3,945 coins.
|Gem Rocks Bonus Results|
|Bonus||Number of Triggers|
|Monster Rock 2||21|
|Monster Rock 3||1|
|Monster Rock 4||0|
With no bonuses other than the Monster Rocks visitations when you received 2, 5, or 9 concurrent wins (initial win, plus dropdowns), I was mistaken in believing that I would see these guys fairly regularly and getting a 3×3 Monster Rock on my 58th spin led me into a false sense of what was to come.I only received 29 winning dropdowns in total, resulting in 21 2×2 Monster Rocks – they were pretty we spaced out – The aforementioned 3×3 Rock was the solitary visit. I never saw the big guy at all!
I appreciate that these bonuses can result in big payouts and wasn’t expecting to see them every other spin, but when one of them, a three-win streak, still resulted in a minus win, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth – possibly from all the granite dust thrown up by the exploding rocks!
The slow drip, drip, drip of coins, the long periods without even a minus win and the rarity of the profitable wins meant that the game did not feel balanced at all. I would have felt happier winning more (even minus wins, of which I received 85) and not clicking my way through 10, 12 and on one occasion 18 straight spins without a single return of any kind.
Slots are becoming increasingly interactive and try to offer an ‘experience’ beyond the basic. Gem Rocks seems to be a regressive step that offers a beautiful, but an unbelievably dull game. Perhaps it is looking for those players that what to play, rather than experience. If this is the target market, then it will have succeeded admirably.
I am a great fan of Yggdrasil’s content and I tried really hard to find some positives in this offering, but this game left me as stony-faced as the Monster Rocks themselves. All the features are in the base game but they just aren’t interesting enough to keep me here. The profile feels pretty volatile in that when the features were hitting the pays weren’t great and it left me with little hope that I (or the average player) would recover any significant part of the house edge. Ultimately, if you’re going to design a volatile game then make it for hardcore players, as they are the ones that will want to play it… Aristocrat do this pretty well. If you’re going to design a game that looks fluffy and accessible, then at least give the maths profile that feels like it gives value back. Lastly, if you’re going to introduce any sort of characterisation, then at least try and draw out the narrative to give some purpose to their inclusion as it wouldn’t have made any difference to this title if, instead of the Rock Monsters, it was just large symbols that popped up during the feature.