Inspired by a Balloon stall on a trip to Santa Monica Pier, and set upon a picturesque background with a sunset just off to the right, players are taken back to their childhood memories of going to the pier and playing the variety of games on offer, with a candy apple cart in the background, and one very notable kiosk in view to the left. Established fans of BTG will immediately recognise this kiosk, with the slot in question responsible for the format of this new slot, a 4×4 grid with 256 ways to win, at first glance recalling Donuts, one of Big Time Gaming’s most popular releases. Of course, BTG have already offered us Chocolates, a late 2020 release dubbed “just another Donuts”. However, Big Time Gaming have told us time and time again, they do not release reskins, and this slot is nothing of the sort, meaning players should not be fooled by the uncomplicated appearance. Pop features something of a reverse cascade mechanic, something we have not been offered from Donuts or Chocolates, along with the multiplying wilds we have come to know and love. These features, combined with incrementing multipliers in the free spins, an RTP of 96.54%, and a maximum win of over 60,000x bet mean Pop is sure to burst on to our screens, exploding into a flurry of huge wins for players of all stakes.
Wins pay left to right on Pop, where the pay table is made up of 12 symbols. Premium symbols continue the theme Big Time Gaming established a long time ago, with 4 coloured symbols – green, blue, red and purple, represented by balloons. Green and blue balloons pay 0.8x bet and 0.9x bet respectively, for 4 of a kind. Red balloons pay 1x bet for 4 of a kind, and the purple balloon remains the highest paying symbol, paying 2x bet for 4 of a kind. Premium symbols on Pop also pay for 3 of a kind, ranging from 0.1x bet to 0.4x bet. Of course, these payouts are just a drop in the bucket, since Pop comes with a host of features to enhance the wins available, using the remaining symbols to do so. The first is the Wild Balloon, substituting for all other symbols except the Scatter. The Wild Balloon can appear on reels 2-4, and can reveal multipliers of up to x4 in the Base Game. Second, and finally, is the Golden BTG Scatter Symbol, reminiscent of golden tokens at the fun fair.
The Base Game on Pop can seem long, but on first glance it seems like it will go into the coveted category of “good for wagering”, much like some other Big Time Gaming classics such as Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, and Bonanza. There is always something to look for on Pop, with the reverse cascade mechanic known as Reactions that we previously mentioned taking place on every spin. Any symbols involved in a win are removed from the grid, and are then replaced. The symbols can be replaced by a Wild Balloon, a multiplying Wild Balloon, any of the premium Balloon symbols, or a Scatter. This does add that extra level of excitement, as we have all experienced those “what if” moments, where we are just missing one symbol for that huge base hit, and now within Pop those “what if” moments are turned into excitement as we eagerly anticipate that extra symbol. These Reactions continue until no more wins remain, and visually, this mechanic is apt, with winning symbols “popping” from the board, and premium Balloons and Wild Balloons floating upwards. Gold Coin Scatters flip onto the board, further adding to the theme. The multiplier attached to the Wild Balloon can be x2, x3, or x4, and landing more than one of these multiplies the values together, to create even bigger wins. When you consider the amount of ways available within this slot, Reactions, and these Multiplying Balloon Wilds, it is easy to see how Pop can really pop off.
Landing 3 or more Scatters awards 12 Free Spins, although be warned – this can happen before you even notice as there is no extended tease on Pop. Although this bonus can take a while to land, the Base Game is forgiving on this slot, and on our first experience we have seen some pretty decent Base wins, upwards of 50-60x+. Once the Free Spins are triggered, the positions in which the Scatters landed are awarded multipliers, which can be x2, x3 or x4. Every other position on the board remains at a x1 multiplier. Any multiplier on the board can increment throughout the Free Spins, and values multiply together when used in a win. At the start of every Free Spin, any win with Balloon symbols or Wilds in play increments at least one of the winning positions. The position(s) will increase by 1, 2 or 3 randomly, and the amount that the multiplier has increased improves by 1 for every retrigger.
Move over Donuts, there’s a new champ in town! On a personal level, Pop is quickly becoming my favourite of the 4×4 slots Big Time Gaming have on offer, but it’s going to take a few weeks to get a varied reception from the audience. The mechanic of Wild Balloons and premium symbols replacing winning symbols is new, and isn’t just a new feature without purpose – it adds to the excitement of this slot in more ways than one, with increased opportunities to land both the Scatter, and the multiplying Wild Balloon. Aesthetically, this slot is pleasing, and it seems to bring back warm memories even just from looking at it. Big Time Gaming always put an extra dose of thought into the sounds on their slots, going as far as to develop their own sound codec, to ensure players get great game sound in premium quality. Sounds on Pop are charming, adding a positive twist on what can sometimes be a longer than expected wait for the Free Spins feature. It seems, though, that players like to have something to move towards when they choose a slot, such as 50 spins on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, the “max-max” options in a variety of Megaways editions, and the x50 multiplier available in Donuts. This could be the reason that Chocolates didn’t develop the same cult following as Donuts, and we’re interested to see if players will approach Pop with the same level of apprehension. For us though, this slot is a winner. Although many of the features are well established, being tried and tested means we know they work, and we know they hold the key to some huge wins.