Online slots are amongst the most popular types of casino games you can find at almost any internet betting portal. Of course, even without any prior experience, most players know that to win on a slot, they need to line up matching icons on reels and paylines. However, if you haven’t played slots before, you may not be aware that there are special features in the games which make it a touch easier for you to do that. These slot special features come in many shapes and forms. If you were thinking of starting to play online slots for the very first time, this slot guide will help you get to grips with what you can expect from slot special features.
What are Slot Special Features?
Special features are in-game bonuses that aren’t guaranteed to appear in every slot, and they vary from release to release. Some slots contain strikingly similar features, but others have gaming engines, which deliver one-of-a-kind, original goodies to players.
Any simple one-armed bandit (also known as 3-reel, fruit machine or classic slots) seldom contain special features. Instead, they tend to appear in video slots. This means slots, which have at least 5 reels and many different paylines to win on.
The more advanced slot gaming technology gets, the more video slots evolve. Players tend to want bigger and better features with each passing year. As a result, there are many different slot special features you can come across. Let’s look at them in a little more depth.
A wild symbol is the base standard special feature in any modern video slot. Most games contain them. These symbols can substitute themselves for any a player may need to win a payline, save for other special icons. Wild symbols may or may not pay out prizes, and they come in many different formats. Amongst the most popular are:
- Standard Wilds: A generic substitute symbol, used as a stand-in for any standard paying icon, to help players land a win.
- Stacked Wilds: These are best described as two or more wild symbols stacked on top of each other. They can occupy more than one spot on a reel and potentially lead to multiple winning combinations.
- Expanding Wilds: When stacked or individual wilds can feature in any kind of win at all, they may grow to cover an entire reel, potentially creating new winning combos. These are known as expanding wilds.
- Wild Reels: Wild reels are like expanding wilds. They cover an entire reel whether a winning combination can be achieved or not.
- Multiplier Wilds: Often displayed as single icons, but they can appear as stacked or expanding wilds, too; multiplier wilds can raise the value of any win, provided they play a part in it.
- Sticky Wilds: These wild symbols are guaranteed to remain in the same spot on the reels for the next subsequent spin or several following turns.
- Frozen Wilds: Frozen wilds are like sticky wilds. However, these tend to remain in place for a more extended period. If they are landed in a free spin bonus (for instance), they can stay there for the duration of the feature.
- Spreading Wilds: A spreading wild won’t just stay in one spot. It will spread out to adjacent positions on the reels, potentially creating new winning combinations on the reels.
- Walking Wilds: When a walking wild appears, it will gradually make its way across the reels, either to the leftmost or rightmost reel from its starting point. Re-spins are typically offered when these wilds appear and end once the wild has disappeared from the reels.
- Random Wilds: Random wilds are substitute symbols, which appear at any point in the game at random.
- Overlaying Wilds: Like random wilds, these can often appear at random, and will generally sit on top of other standard paying icons.
- Cloning Wilds: If a slot has two sets of reels, cloning wilds will transfer themselves from one set of reels to the other.
- Split Wilds: Split wilds are symbols that can count for more than one icon. For instance, if a split wild appears in a three-of-a-kind combination, it can turn that combination into a four-of-a-kind win as it essentially acts as two wilds.
Wilds aren’t the only special symbols players will come across in slots, though. Scatter symbols are also prominently found in games.
Scatter and Bonus Symbols
Scatter symbols get their name because they can count no matter where they fall on the reels of a slot, even if they “scattered” across the reels and not on winning paylines. Players will almost always pocket cash prizes when they land two or more scatters but landing three of them can often trigger bonus rounds, too.
By contrast, bonus symbols do not pay out cash prizes, and often need to land on specific reels at the same time to trigger features. Sometimes just two symbols are required, and at other times, three bonus symbols need to appear.
Both scatter and bonus icons can be capable of triggering features, but only scatter icons pay out instant cash prizes. At the same time, it is entirely possible that a slot will just use bonus icons to trigger features, and not scatters. Some games allow both symbols to trigger somewhat different features.
The most common type of special bonus round in a slot is the free spin bonus, so let’s look at that next.
Free Spin Bonuses
You may have heard of free spins. A free spin bonus is often triggered by landing scatter/bonus icons on the reels. It offers players a predetermined handful of free spins on the slot, or they may even provide unlimited free gameplay until an event is triggered, such as an undesirable symbol landing on the reels.
Free spin bonuses cost players nothing. They may be preceded by a bonus that allows players to win additional spins or goodies, or extra special features may automatically be worked into the free spin bonus. These can include wilds and multipliers, amongst other things.
Some free spin bonuses offer a Super Spin at the end, too. With a Super Spin, any wilds, which have been collected during a free spin bonus, will be re-distributed across the reels all at once for one final spin.
Instant Win Rounds
The second dominant type of bonus round which can be unlocked with bonus symbols or scatters is the instant win feature. These can include many kinds of games. Most, though, not all of them will generally involve a simple system, which requires players to click on symbols or icons to win prizes. Amongst the many types of instant win bonuses, which can be triggered in a slot, are:
- Click and Win: A basic game whereby players can click on icons to pocket cash prizes, often until an undesirable symbol appears which terminates the round.
- Races: Players can select a character. The amount they win depends on where their selection finishes in a “race”.
- Money Wheels: Players are taken to a wheel, which will be filled with various numbers of free spins or cash. The wheel is then spun to determine what is won.
- Fights: Like races, players can select a character, who will then engage in a battle. The outcome of the battle determines how much is won. It is possible that “lives” and “powers” may also play a part in these fight-based bonuses.
- Trail Bonus: Players can roll a dice to move their character up a trail, much like a board game. Free spins, cash prizes and more can be won until the bonus ends.
Of course, there are many other types of instant win bonus rounds, too. Not all special features are triggered via scatters and bonus symbols, though. Some are triggered at random.
Randomly Triggered Bonuses
Some slot games will trigger a bonus at random, at any point in the gameplay. These may be free spin bonuses and instant win rounds as mentioned above. However, they may also be cash prizes or even progressive jackpots. It is entirely possible that players will win base game modifiers with such features, too.
Base game modifiers are special features, which enhance your standard spin in some way. These may be many different types of wilds, extra reels, extra paylines, re-spins (which are like free-spins but a part of the base game) or any other manner of goodies. Either way, they are triggered at random and is there absolutely nothing any player can do to make them more likely to occur.
In-game features are not actually bonus rounds at all, although they are indeed still special features, as they vary from slot to slot and do aid players trying to win prizes. There are many different types of in-game features, and some of them may convince you to play one slot over another.
Let’s have a quick look at the more commonly offered ones:
- Ways to Win: The number of lines, which a player can win on, can be a special feature, too. For instance, some slots allow players to win from right to left, as well as the customary left to right. Others feature thousands of lines for cheap stakes, and some have payline structures which mean that symbols count no matter where they land, sort of like scatters. MegaWays slots, for instance, offer a random number of lines (sometimes even as many as tens of thousands of them) on each spin.
- Cascading/Avalanche Reels: Cascading reels (also known as tumbling, avalanche or collapsible reels) are a special feature many players love. With this system, whenever a series of winning icons appear, the symbols are removed from the reels. New ones drop down to replace them, effectively giving players another spin for free. In many cases, a multiplier will increase with each successive win.
- Colossal Symbols: Colossal symbols are icons, which are far larger than your average symbol. They can be 2×2, 3×3 or larger in size. Some even span multiple reels, and they can all aid players in landing a win, particularly if they happen to be colossal wilds.
- Meters: In some slots, players can fill up metres, by either collecting symbols or landing successive wins. Those meters may then dish out prizes, re-spins, free spins or other special features to players once they are full.
- Synced Reels: Some slot machines feature synched reels. This essentially means that two or more reels may link together to display the same symbols, making it easier to win.
- Explain, when part of winning combo – expand
- Multiple Reel Sets: Any slot that has multiple reel sets will essentially allow players to play with and win on two or more sets of reels for the same stake. Symbols may also transfer between these reels.
- Nudges: Any old school feature; nudges permit players to hold specific reels and “nudge” down other reels. This helps them to potentially obtain a missing symbol to trigger a feature or land a win.
- Pay Bonuses: Many newer slots allow players to purchase bonuses such as nudges, or even free spin rounds. Other slots will enable you to buy the right to increase your chances of landing a feature, without giving you the feature from the start. These pre-bought bonuses will generally be rather expensive, but any player who instant access to them may decide to snap them up.
Of course, it is impossible to cover all slot special features in this article. There are simply too many of them. However, the most common ones are listed above, and they should provide a great introduction to the world of online slots.
Keep in mind that the more bonuses a slot has, the more likely it is that it is going to cost more or pay out less. Players are advised to play slot machines for free to find out what types of special features and bonuses they like before wagering real money on them. Fortunately, with so many special features available, every player is guaranteed to be able to find something, which works for them.