2011 Global Gaming Expo, part 1

25 October 2011

For three days, I watched the hunters stalking their prey. They'd raise their rifles, fire, lights would flash . . . and bonus credits would appear on the screen.

"We're kind of blurring the line between the slot and the arcade game," said Boris Hallerbach, Megajackpots product manager for International Game Technology.

The line-blurring game is Big Buck Hunter, and it drew solid crowds waiting for their chance to take plastic rifle in hand throughout the three-day October run of the Global Gaming Expo at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.

It's not a game for everyone. The shooting aspect will turn some customers off, something IGT acknowledges in offering a free-spin bonus as an option to the hunt that's the center of this game. But it's one of those games where those who like it will REALLY like it.

A plastic rifle is attached to the side of the game for two different bonuses. In the Shootout Bonus, you take aim at the giant screen overhead as beer mugs slide the bar. As you break a mug, you're randomly assigned a credit award.

Then there's the Big Buck Bonus. You can touch the screen to choose an animal to stalk, or to shoot at targets, or to take free spins instead. If you're playing with a friend, you have the option of saving your bonus round until the friend is also qualified. Then you can go bonus-hunting together.

It's a "perceived skill" game. There's real skill in how many animated beer mugs, deer or targets you hit. But the credit awards will vary on each hit, and even a poor shot won't come up short on the bonus.

Another Megajackpots game with a difference was The Twilight Zone.

"This is the first game we've done that allows the player to choose their volatility on the base game," Hallerbach said.

Players are given a choice of playing a high, low or medium volatility game. With low volatility, you get more frequent small wins, and with high volatility you have a better chance at a large win, but with fewer small ones to keep you in action. The look of the reels changes as you decide to enter the First Dimension for low volatility, the Second for medium and the Third for high.

Iconic Twilight Zone images are used — monsters, dinosaurs, spaceships, the flying window and clock from the TV classic's opening sequence. A Rod Serling-like voice will tell you "The time to press the button is now" to launch a wheel-spinning bonus, or "You are entering the Third Dimension" as you change game volatility. It's rich in special features, a game that could hold the attention of this old "Twilight Zone" fan for a long time.

Elsewhere in the IGT booth, the King of Rock 'n' Roll was back in the latest Elvis slot.

"This is the first time we've really done justice to the Elvis music," Hallerbach said. "We have four Elvis songs in the base game that will loop during play, so it's very immersive. The combination with the sound chair makes for a great sound experience while you're playing."

There are four progressive jackpot levels, all named for Elvis hits — "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Viva Las Vegas." Each is tied to a bonus event. In the "Heartbreak Hotel" bonus, for instance, on onscreen hotel has seven stories and a penthouse. You choose hotel room doors to find bonus credits, and if you find Elvis, he awards you all the credits on that level. You don't want to find broken hearts. They keep you from advancing to the next level.

I liked the Juke Box Bonus, though it doesn't lead to a progressive jackpot. You choose among Elvis songs. In my test, I picked "That's All Right Mama." The song blared out the speakers in the machine and in the special sound chair, and credits rolled up on the screen, which also flashed Elvis video and trivia. And I advanced a level, so I got to rock out to "Blue Suede Shoes" for more credits.

When it was over, a voice announced, "Elvis has left the building."

In the core games category, the workhorse games that make up much of the casino floor, IGT is refreshing a player favorite with Wolf Run 2. It's a gorgeous package with wildlife photography and video.

""We wanted to be sure the integrity of the game was still intact, so those Wolf Run players would come play Wolf Run 2, and say yeah, this feels like my first game," IGT product manager Ryan Griffin said. "But we wanted to give them a deeper, richer experience."

IGT kept the stacked wilds of the original game, along with new activated wilds. The extra wild symbols come up in 3-D, wolves howl, the screen background gives you images of a lake, river or forest. When the aurora borealis signals a bonus event, you can take free spins as in the original Wolf Run, but there's also an option of going to a pick'em bonus. It's Wolf Run, all right, and then some.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2011

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.