‘The greatest casino game ever’, ‘A masterpiece of slot design’… these are just some of the phrases used to describe NetEnt’s stellar 2012 release. One casino manager who I spoke to about Starburst’s performance did mention that if every game released generated as much gross win in its lifetime as Starburst does in 3 months, there would be a lot of millionaire game developers out there. I’m also pretty sure that 9 out of every 10 casinos you would visit would either offer Starburst as their primary player acquisition game front of house or offer some big bonuses on the game even today. Those sorts of references demand a Return to Player review.
First things first, Starburst is a simple game. It doesn’t have multiple deep bonuses, it doesn’t have a free spins feature, it doesn’t have a variety of line wilds. Starburst features some of the most simplistic feature design you’ll see in modern day casino which is surprising given its continued success even today. When providers like Yggdrasil, Blueprint, Inspired et al are working towards multiple bonuses (see Inspired’s Centurion for a good recent example), games like Starburst remind you that maybe, just maybe, there is brilliance in that simplicity.
Starburst is a 5 x 3, 10 payline ‘any ways’ slot game, which means that the win lines work from left or right of the game board. The 10 win lines are oddly selected as my belief would be you’d want lines that represent adjacent wins (like a 243 game) to make things easier for the first time player; A few times I had reel drops that ‘looked’ like they should have been wins. The main reservation I have with ‘any ways’ games is that you can not build anticipation as easily on one side of the board. You follow left to right looking for 3OAK or 4OAK and then just wait for the right side of the window to finish before reviewing the results.
Equally the opening single page tutorial isn’t overly descriptive and if you didn’t know the game, you would not be starting a spin with full understanding of the game mechanics. These however are small niggles and the symbol design manages to overcome these problems; plus Starburst typically comes hand-in-hand with freespin bonus offers which at least means most players who find themselves in the game wont struggle to make sense of it. The base game feels nice. It’s quick, snappy and uncomplicated in that there are no line features other than the main bonus game. This makes it accessible and any slot players.
Being the only bonus feature in the game it is important to ensure the bonus drops enough to keep players interested. During the 500 spin play through the Starburst reel was triggered 43 times giving an average of 1/11.63 bonus trigger.
|Starburst Bonus Types|
|Bonus Type||Number Of Triggers|
|1 Wild Reel||43|
|2 Wild Reels||1|
|3 Wild Reels||0|
|Bonus Wins As Bet Multiple|
|Bet Multiple||Number Of Wins||Percentage|
Obviously with a bonus trigger of 1/11 it was anticipated that few of those bonuses would result in any significant win. However having over 30% of the bonuses resulting in no wins feels a little too much for my tastes. Increasing the bonus ratio and reducing the ‘stinker pays’ (even slightly) would probably be a good revision. Likewise pushing more of the bonus win into wins greater than 10x bet multiple would have been preferred. But in saying that, I, personally, prefer more volatile games.
Following that same train of thought, I also prefer games with multiple bonuses, so having 43 instances of the same experience did become tiresome, especially when only 1 instance triggered the dual Starburst wilds.
The long dry spells did also show in the starting and ending balance. From 500 £1 spins, the playtest ended with a loss of £174.50, giving a RTP Test of 65.1%.
The bonus itself is a single multi-coloured star symbol that expands to turns the whole reel wild. That wild reel stays in place for a subsequent ‘free’ spin and then disappears thereafter. If on that single freespin a further star symbols drops on one of the other 4 reels, then the cycle continues and all wild reels stay in place up to a maximum of 3 wild reels. There are 7 symbols and the paytable is pretty flat in the bottom 5 symbols, but the top two symbols have 2x and 5x for 3OAK, and then 12x and 25x bet multiple for 5OAK. Thus having 2 or 3 wild reels can make for some pretty decent pays if you’re lucky enough for either the 7 or Bar symbols in the game windows (see RTP Test).
Speaking of the symbols and the presentation of the game, if it’s not obvious by now, the game centres around a space-based gem theme. The backdrops are softly displayed and inviting and contrast well to the glitz and sparkle of the symbols. Each gem is very clear with a distinct colour and instantly jumps off the reels. The music is again, low key and subtle to the game play which makes the game instantly alluring. In the opposite, the sound effects are exciting and electrifying and break up the balance perfectly. Each win really resounds and feels good to the player with pitch perfect balance and timing as the sound fades back into the music score.
…Once you’re in the Appstore charts, it guarantees an increased organic acquisition that keeps the game at the top. However you have to acknowledge that it takes a great, if not fantastic, game to attain that position in the first place.
This game has been clearly designed as the perfect ‘gateway’ game. A game that can appeal to new slot players with a simplicity and ease not to put off interested and inquisitive players. All these simple ingredients have clearly been Starburst’s winning recipe as the game is still the most heavily used bonus acquisition tool and from all accounts, one of the most successful. This of course could be a self fulfilling prophecy, much in the way that once you’re in the Appstore charts, it guarantees an increased organic acquisition that keeps the game at the top. However you have to acknowledge that it takes a great, if not fantastic, game to attain that position in the first place.