Big Bad Wolf (Playtech)

big_bad_wolfWho’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Thanks to Playtech, the answer should be: “no one!”

With this release, the top-tier design company takes its recent foray into Live Slots to another level. In order to do so, they’ve collaborated with Quickspin to create a series of unique casino gaming experiences like nothing else on today’s market.

What have they built together, what does it mean for players, and (most importantly) where does this title fit in?

Let’s get into it!

Playtech and Quickspin… Together at Last?

It’s a brave new world out there!

Increasingly, today’s best design firms are no longer focusing only on creating new versions of tried-and-true fan favorites – think Roulette variants with subtle shifts in theme or new bonuses added – but instead bringing their best developers and resources to bear in the attempt at building something brand new.

This marks a major paradigm shift for the industry. The result is a notable slew of fresh titles on the market with a truly singular flavor… but there’s more to this than just results!

Process is every bit as important.

The very idea of a collaboration between two major designers would be anathema to a gambling world in which each one built its own traditional games, then set them against each-other. The old model would likely result in two, barely distinguishable versions of Blackjack. Under the new model, the two sides work together to make something that can really knock players’ socks off!

In our opinion, there’s a time and a place for each of these approaches. Still, there’s no denying that the collaborative approach has yielded some very cool results.

(Of course, as their recent excellent release history shows, Playtech is still entirely able to produce winning, original games on its own! One need only look to their excellent Jet Set Racing Roulette to see the proof.)

Now with all of that in mind, let’s roll up our sleeves and see what the Big Bad Wolf has in store.

Straw, Sticks, or Stone?

It’s been said that too many cooks spoil the broth. While that is definitely not the case here, this collab doesn’t always seem to understand exactly which role in the casino gaming landscape it’s trying to fill.

However, there’re can major upsides to that! Namely, players are able to enjoy a little bit of everything here. The slot component rules base play, but that side of things is essentially combined with a small, live dealer game show.

This title isn’t really a live dealer game in the literal sense… at least, not until the bonus feature is activated. Make no mistake! There is a real human present throughout, dressed in farmer’s overalls instead of the usual, bow-tie type of vibe, perhaps to match with one of the three of the little pigs?

Wardrobe choices aside, it would perhaps be most accurate to describe this title as a hybrid between a traditional slot live dealer offering.

Aside from a live chat feature, there’s nothing live about the base game. It’s a simple 3×5 grid populated by the three little pigs, crude agrarian weapons, and of course the lupine protagonist himself (or herself?), who opens the way to bonus play. The reels are set on a lovely, country farmhouse, just waiting to be blown to smithereens by the gusts of this wolf’s tremendous lungs.

There are 25 active paylines, and thanks to the cascade feature, there’s a possibility for things to get interesting whenever a win is achieved. The symbols involved in the win disappear, with new ones tumbling into place – in this way, multiple wins may be achieved with only a single wager.

Still, up until now this resembles just about any standard slot game out there. Things change dramatically when bonus rounds are activated.

Smashing the Piggy Bank

smashing_the_piggy_bankWhen three or more Bonus symbols appear on the reels, everything shifts. The bonus feature shows the best of what modern online casino action can do and look like.

The setting changes completely, to a vibrant, visually impressive studio augmented by AR technology. The 3 Little Pigs theme really rises to another level here: players seem to be transported to within the pig home (sty?) itself, and the live dealer is present – dressed more as a farmer than a pig, per se, but the vibe is right. There are no sticky wilds, but just about every other possible slot feature is present and accounted for!

The feature itself is split into two sections: the Multiplier Collect, and the Wheel Game.

The multiplier collect side of things takes place first. A 6×6 grid is revealed, where random multipliers appear for five turns. Each comes with a number and color: red, green, or blue. Each of these colors accumulate as more numbers are drawn… red grows fastest but appears in the later stage less often; while green grows slowest but occurs most often on the wheel that follows; and blue takes the middle way.

After five turns, when these numbers have built off, the time for the Wheel Game is come. It has 54 segments, divided into colors – all players in the bonus round receive a payout based not he multipliers collected during the previous round. If a yellow segment is chosen, all three collectors are added up.

There are also multipliers added into the mix! 2x and 3x win multipliers appear on various colored wheel segments, which increase payouts further. The top prize comes in the form of a yellow segment with a 7x win multiplier.

Interestingly, the bonus feature isn’t live at all times!

This is almost certainly because it is the only part of the game where a live dealer is actually present. Players who quality for the bonus feature may have to wait for a few minutes before it is activated. That may sound boring, but fear not – the wait will not go to waste.

That’s because, while waiting for the Bonus Round to begin, gamblers can enjoy what’s called the Top Up game.

This is a simple, 1×3 mini-slot features only three gaming symbols. Each spin costs a stake, but win multipliers are present here, too… silver coins earn a 2x or 5x multiplier, while gold coins deliver a handsome 10x or 50x multiplier (depending on how many symbols appear). These are added up to winnings at the end of the Bonus Round.

Porcine Calculations

From a numbers perspective, this game has a bit of a patchwork quality.

RTP in base game is just 95.05%, which is well below average. However, if you Buy Bonus, that figure jumps to 95.52% – still a bit below average, but a noticeable and important bump.

(This is not all that surprising – since the Buy Bonus option requires players to risk 40 times the stake required for a spin in base play, it makes sense for the design team to exchange some small slivers of their house edge in exchange for bigger bets. In fact, from a purely mathematical point of view, the best way to play this game would be to “buy the bonus” every time. but of course… a math-driven approach would suggest that everyone only ever attempt Advantage Blackjack play. Life, and casino play, can have a bit of fun in them, too.)

That RTP figure is the same for Bonus rounds triggered in the traditional way. The Top Up mini game, however, boasts a stellar RTP of 97.35%!

(A word to the wise: with RTP that good, it makes sense to play for Top Up Game for as long as possible. Players do indeed sometimes have a choice in this matter!)

In this context, it’s difficult to express a single, overall RTP. It does seem that the bonus features are mathematically superior to base play… which is good to know, but is hardly actionable information.

Maybe this advice will be more useful: in games like this one, where RTP can vary widely from one area of play to another, bankroll management matters even more than it does in other styles.

It’s simply not sufficient to choose a bet size, then watch the reels spin. Players lucky enough to trigger the bonus feature time after time will enjoy significantly better odds than those who do not, so if things don’t break your way for the first hour or two, players should either be absolutely sure that they’re playing within their means, or think twice about sticking around for a long gaming session. Stay present, stay aware, and make sure that

Whole Lot of Huff and Puff

There’s a lot to like about this release, but it should be said that the developer hasn’t really done anything to advance the ‘live slot’ milieu. While the concept for online slot games with live dealers remains enticing and thought-provoking, it seems as though the industry hasn’t quite figured out how to square that circle just yet.

Still, it can be very interesting – as well as potentially rewarding – to watch the steps taken in the process!

Interestingly enough, Playtech has been an industry leader throughout. Their Buffalo Blitz Live may have marked the first mainstream hit that explored the possibility of the Live Slot!