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Sometimes it’s nice to load up a slot that takes you back to the pre-internet days when slot games tended to have the same symbols on the reels. There was usually a mix of different fruits (hence the name ‘fruities’ or ‘fruit machines’) or Bars, Bells and Lucky Number 7. Bars & Bells, as the name suggests, transports you back to the halcyon days of slot gaming.
Although this is a retro-styled slot, there are some interesting and more modern features mixed in bringing the game up to date quite nicely. These give the slot appeal to both the retro slot fan as well as the modern gamer. Let’s take a closer look to see if Amaya Gaming’s offering is a happy marriage of both types of slot, or whether it falls uncomfortably between two stools.
Overview: Bars & Bells
The Bars & Bells slot offers 5×3 reels and a total of 20 non-selectable paylines in play on each spin. You can use the Spin option, or the Auto Spin feature to get the reels going and you can alter the size of your wager by increasing or decreasing the size of the line bet and by selecting the number of coins to wager on each payline, from 1 up to 5 per payline. This gives you a minimum bet of $0.50 per spin up to a maximum of a massive $625.00 per spin.
The jackpot is 5,000x your line bet, which if you are playing at higher stakes can amount to a serious amount of money, but isn’t quite on a par with some of the mega jackpots on offer with other slots. The slot also has a trio of different bonus features, which we’ll look at in more detail later, which give the game a little added extra zip alongside a simple, yet solid and enjoyable base game.
Who will the Bars & Bells slot appeal to?
Without doubt the initial look and feel of the slot will appeal to fans of more retro gaming. This not only includes slot players who can remember these slots from the ’80s and ’90s, but also a new breed of slot gamers seeking something different to the more modern slot games. From the symbols to the sound effects, this plays like an old-style casino classic.
However, what I like about Bars & Bells is that it offers a little twist on the classic slot game by offering a number of features more associated with modern slots, including a Free Spins bonus game, and the exciting Streak Breaker bonus, which guarantees you a win after five non-winning spins. Add to this a Gamble feature for any cash win and there’s enough additional items to cater for the more modern gamer too.
Gameplay: Bars & Bells
As you would expect from a retro-styled slot, the gameplay is nice and simple to understand. There are 20 paylines across the 5×3 reels and the symbols are a mix of famous retro symbols. The lower value symbols start with the fruit symbols, ranging in value from Cherry to Lemon, then Plum, and finally to the Melon.
The higher value symbols on the reels are the single, double and treble bar symbols, with the highest value symbol being the Lucky 7 which offers the largest base game payout for the standard symbols of 750 coins if you land five on a payline.
The base game itself plays rather nicely with some generic slot sound effects being strikingly familiar to anyone who has visited the slot machines at any casino or arcade establishment. Even the noises of the reels spinning are instantly recognizable to older slot players.
In order to help you win some of the better prizes available in the base game, the Bell symbol serves as the in game Wild. This can substitute for any of the fruit, bar or Lucky 7 symbols to create winning paylines for these and the Wild symbol is located on every reel. You can also land the biggest possible win on the slot by landing five of the Bell Wilds across a payline, which will trigger the 5,000 coin jackpot.
The only symbol on the reel that the Bell Wild does not substitute for is the Bars & Bells scatter symbol. This is located on the middle three reels of the slot and when you land the symbol across all three of those reels in any position, you trigger the Free Spins bonus.
The number of free spins you receive is determined by the bonus game you play initially. What you do is pick from a grid until you reveal three matching numbers of free spins and multipliers. This then gives you your total number of free spins and the multiplier applied to any wins in that free spins round. The minimum award is 5 free spins with a 2x multiplier, but you can increase that up to a maximum of 20 free spins and a 3x multiplier.
Once these selections are completed, the Free Spins will start immediately and play through until a conclusion
The Streak Breaker feature is optional, however if you choose to activate it then what happens is that for an additional cost per spin, you are guaranteed to earn a random win if you hit a streak of five non-winning spins in a row. The meter will fill up with each non-winning spin.
The final bonus feature is the Shake N Pay bonus, which is a randomly triggered feature in the base game that awards a random amount of money between 20 and 5,000 credits when it occurs on a spin.
Add to this a Gamble feature that allows you to guess the color of the next card drawn from the deck to double any cash win and you have a slot which has a great mix of retro features and modern bonuses.
Special features: Bars & Bells
This is an optional feature which costs five coins to activate. Pay for this and when you have five non-winning spins in a row the Streak Breaker activates, awarding you a randomly sized win as a consolation prize.
Land three of the Bars & Bells scatter symbols across the middle three reels and you’ll trigger the Free Spins bonus. Select from a grid to decide the number of free spins (from 5 to 20) and multiplier (2x or 3x) you will receive in the bonus before the free spins activate.
Shake N Pay Bonus
This is a randomly triggered bonus in the base game which rewards players with a random prize of between 20 to 5000 credits potentially on any spin of the slot.
The retro theme of Bars & Bells really does work well. The sound effects used in the slot capture the retro theme nicely. Additionally, the symbols on the reels are instantly recognizable to anybody who is a fan of the older style of games. Yet there’s enough modernity built in to ensure that it stands up against more modern slots.
There are three great bonus features on the slot. The Streak Breaker is optional and there is a 5-coin fee to activate it, but it can be worth it if you hit a run of non-winning spins. I found that the Free Spins round is volatile and wins can differ. Lastly is the Shake N Pay bonus, a nice additional feature in the base game.
Bell Wild pays
The Bell Wild symbol really does help players land some of the better wins in the base game and during free spins. It is very difficult to hit five Wilds on a payline for the 5,000 coin jackpot, but this symbol is very useful for putting together multiple payline wins on what would other be unsuccessful spins.
Free Spins hard to hit
You do get a lot of ‘heart-stopper’ moments on the Bars & Bells slot where you hit the first two Scatters on reels 2 and 3, but then reel 4 doesn’t land for you. This does make those crucial free spins hard to hit at times and can lead to frustration.
Payouts very variable
Base game payouts are variable and there’s a nice mix of payouts ranging from smaller payouts that don’t match your stake, to bigger wins that are much bigger. However the features also offer the same range of payouts, which means free spins does not necessarily mean a bigger win.
No multipliers in base game
While there are multipliers available during free spins, it would have been nice to have a multiplier available in the base game, perhaps for any wins completed by a Bell Wild.
Graphics & soundtrack 3/5
Bars & Bells is a retro-styled slot but it has been done so to a high degree of quality with some nicely designed symbols, nice animation and very clever use of realistic sound effects. This looks and feels like you are playing a slot plucked from 1986.
Originality & creativity 4/5
Although this is a retro slot, it has been styled well and the number of bonus features on the slot, including the Streak Breaker feature mean that even though this is based on older games, there is still a very high degree of creativity and originality in the slot.
Play value 3/5
This is a medium variance slot and in truth, there’s not a huge amount of difference between triggering the bonuses and playing the base game. You do win relatively frequently and the size of wins is generally a nice mix, which gives this a relatively decent play value, provided you play for sensible stakes for your bankroll size.
Jackpot potential 3/5
The 5,000-coin jackpot in the base game is very hard to hit as all jackpots are and although you can wager larger amounts to increase its relative value, you tend to find that you accumulate profit by winning smaller amounts more often.
Repeat play 4/5
Bars & Bells is a retro slot that works well. It has captured the essence of a retro slot game, while still offering enough bonus features, some of which are rarely seen on slots, to keep the modern slot fan happy too. This is a game that you would certainly load up for additional spins time and time again.
Total score: 17/25
Bars & Bells generally hits the mark very well indeed. It combines all the flavors of a retro-styled slot in a modern, fresh and original game that boasts a number of exciting features and a decent free spins round.