When games developers create new slots inspired by their earlier hits, it can be tricky to get the right balance between originality, proven mechanics and the practical RTPs that result. Elk Studios may just have slipped on the ice on the last front. Elk Studios has used its highly successful Gold franchise for inspiration while crafting Ice Wolf, a Nordic adventure, which takes you deep into the arctic. The playing experience can be almost as rough as a real Viking voyage.
The game begins grandly enough, with design and crisp graphics that effectively complement the theme. You find 6 reels with 7 rows. Three entire rows beginning from the second are covered with a thin ice sheet. The three bottom rows are ‘glittered’ with eagles, reindeers, wolves, Viking hammers, shields and axes, apart from the royal card symbols. Initially, you play with 729 ways to win and you can only make winning combinations on the bottom three reels.
The game play is not unlike crossing the Baltic in the Dark Ages, where ice covered ships and you had to break it is order to progress. Winning combos on the bottom reels break the ice sheet on the row above to reveal an equal number of symbols as those in the win combo, and also increases the win ways. Every win gives you a free re-spin, and another win clears more ice from above. This process can clear away all the ice from the reels and give you the maximum 74,088 win ways. However, the ice sheet drops back in place once the wins stop.
For volatility that goes as high as 8/10, it is surprising that the maximum that Ice Wolf will pay out is 2,500 times your bet, which translates to $250,000 at maximum bet. For the same reason, it seems almost cruel that the slot does not feature bonus games, which can make up for the low wins in the base game.
Winning combinations are made by landing identical symbols on adjacent reels starting the first reel on the left. You can bet from $0.20 and go up to a maximum of $100.00 per spin. The card royals pay out from $10 to $60 for variously landing on 3, 4, 5, and 6 reels. The shield is the lowest paying premium symbol with $40 and $70 payouts for landing on 3 to 5.
The highest paying symbol is of course, the wolf that rewards you with $200, $250, $400, and $500 for appearing on reels 3, 4, 5, and 6 respectively. These payouts are based on the highest bet of $100. Despite the theoretical return to player rate of 96.1, it can be a struggle to get decent wins on a regular basis.
Though you are playing with a maximum potential of 74,088 win ways, you’re playing near to the minimum of 729 ways for the most part of the game, unless you’re lucky enough to remove the entire sheet of ice on the first three rows early on in the game. Or you’re a dogged player, determined to play on ice-free reels at the expense of a substantial bankroll.
The first row only collects multipliers, wilds, and the re-spin symbols. The multipliers are 1x, 2x, 5x, 10x, and 50x. The win multiplier will be applied to all the wins irrespective of the number of winning reels, or the reel it lands on. All these symbols stick on the reel when there is a win and a re-spin. The +1 re-spin will give you an extra spin if there is no win.
Then there is the Ice Wolf, the hero of the game, which tears through a reel with a roar that summons other members of the pack, who then proceed to leave a track of wilds on the entire reel beginning upwards of the row the beast appeared on. These wilds even appear on the rows beneath the ice sheet; in case the ice on that row disappears, the wild could help form a winning recipe.
Elk Studio is one of those developers who create games first for mobile devices and then makes PC versions. Ice Wolf is fully optimized for all mobile devices that run on Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry and similar platforms. Hence you can play Ice Wolf on virtually all Smartphones and tablets.
HTML5 programming allows the mobile interface to automatically adjust to the dynamics of the small screen. You can enjoy the slot in original audio-visual quality. We suggest you play Ice Wolf in portrait mode as the number of rows in the game gives it a vertical layout. However, what’s mandatory is stable internet connectivity at all times.
Ice Wolf is another stylish offering from Elk Studios with high quality graphics that we’ve come to expect from the developer. The slot is a new twist on familiar reel mechanics, which does make this a rare game, especially since the creators have given it no bonus features prevalent in conventional slot machines. This is disappointing, since the highly volatile game does not have the monetary attraction to complement its technical offerings.
In this regard, the game can get repetitive and monotonous. Triggering re-spins and unlocking hundred and thousand of paylines may sound exciting. However, this is more theoretical than practical. The returning ice sheet over rows 2, 3, and 4 after a couple of minor wins can be a dampener. After several failed attempts, there could be no incentive to start from the bottom all over again.