Return to Player recently posted an article on how the gambling sector can appeal to a younger millennial crowd (which you can read here). Part of that analyse referenced game developers pivoting into game types that have greater appeal to a more casual game player: match 3 mechanics, achievements, level progression, feel of player choice etc. Essentially trying to build a game that looks and feels like Candy Crush but has a strong element of persistent wagering. Play’N Go have certainly adopted this approach with their recent 7×7 cascade/reactor game ‘Gemix’. Before we get into the game mechanics I’ll digress into the theme and visuals as the mechanics take a certain flow in the below prose.
Visually the game looks good. It is colourful, it is nicely displayed and it looks enticing. If you look at the game with a fresh set of eyes without viewing the paytable or tool hints the UI is slightly confusing in parts (particularly the world bonus pot and the stars representing the world level) but these are easily resolved with a few playthroughs or a review of the paytable. The music and sound effects however really annoyed me. I appreciate that the game is focusing on the softer side of gaming, but it went so far that it became overpowering and annoying; Luckily Play’N Go have a quick ‘mute’ button. Likewise the choice of cartoon characters in the game felt a little too cutesy. A casual game like Candy Crush or Plants Versus Zombies definitely has a soft appeal but it has a unique style that is equally quite contemporary. For me, Gemix missed the contemporary aspect and ended up mawkish.
The premise of Gemix is pretty simple, it’s a 7×7 cascade game. Unlike a conventional slot where you have reels and paylines, here a random assortment of gems falls into the top of the grid and you match a combination of 5 or more gems. The combination works as a cluster of horizontal or vertical gems; diagonal matching gems don’t contribute to the cluster. Clusters are paid out based on the value of the gems, so a cluster of 9 hearts will pay more than a cluster of 9 emeralds for example. Once a match occurs, the cluster disappears from the grid and the remaining gems cascade down with more random gems added at the top.
There is enough happening at any one time to keep the player engaged and the pull back factor is nicely applied in the early stages
Over the course of the play through I ended up down 0.17 (meaning an RTP of 99.83). The surprising element is that 49 bonuses were triggered (or rather 49 full Crystal Charges). Of course with a bonus trigger rate of 1:10, you’re not going to find many bonuses paying out any significant win. This was very clear as only 5 of these paid out more than 5x the wager. This is not a very volatile game at all with quite a low variance in the results, which would be expected.
|Gemix Bonus Results|
|Bonus Trigger >5X||Resultant Win|
Really there was little in the bonus to make it exciting and with it happening so frequently the excitement drew away. The other payouts from the level ups and the world changes were again mostly lower than 5x the wager meaning quite a small contribution from the RTP. The feel of the game is similar to Starburst, with exception that the added paying features make the game feel even flatter. A player looking for excitement from the high and lows from the game will probably find no joy playing Gemix once they’ve cleared at least 1 or 2 levels.
In the same way as Candy Crush, you can continue to create more matches and once you have matched 20 gems in one game round you trigger the ‘Crystal Charge’. The Crystal Charge is a meter on the right hand side of the UI.
When this fills up a random modifier is applied to the grid usually changing a number of the gems to 1 single colour but in a variety of different patterns; this allows for additional wins on each game round and is essentially the bonus round of the game. The final game feature is the level progression or ‘new worlds’ in Gemix language. When you look at your 7×7 grid you’ll see patterns in the background. If you match gems over these patterns over the course of the game you’ll complete the world and move onto the next one. Each world has a random wild event that happens where wild gems are placed into the grid in a particular pattern.
All-in-all the game features and the way they tie together across the game flow are really well done. There is enough happening at any one time to keep the player engaged and the pull back factor is nicely applied in the early stages. However that said it’s rally not going to pull in the whales nor the hard-core gamblers due to lack of continuous excitement, especially when 80% of the bonus wins pay very little back to the player. Once you’ve moved through a few levels and at least 1 worlds you notice how shallow this aspect of the game is and, ultimately will be disappointing for those casual social players who are used to layer upon layer of unlockables in their games.
I think Gemix does exactly what Play’N Go probably set out to do, create a nicely presented cross over game to help get new entrants familiar with the real-money gaming sector.. create their Starburst almost. The problem existing that they sacrificed RTP to weaker game features which over time will probably do the exact opposite.