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Do you remember the classic Bon Jovi song “Wanted Dead or Alive”? The music may well be best known now for being the theme song on TV’s “Deadliest Catch.” It was a huge hit back in the 1980s, selling over four million copies globally. The song compares the life of a rock star to that of the outlaws of the Old West, hence the name.
It’s hard not to imagine this famous song playing as you load up the new Dead or Alive slot from NetEnt. Based on the same Wild West theme, this is a somewhat unusual new slot. It takes a step back from the industry’s race to include more and more paylines or ways to win. Instead, this slot offers just 9 paylines across the reels. Yet, it isn’t a retro slot. Does this approach work? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
Overview: Dead or Alive
Dead or Alive is a 5×3 reel slot that has a total of just 9 paylines in play. You cannot select the paylines, but you can adjust the Coin Value and Level to select the size of your wager. That can be as little as $0.09 per spin or as much as $18.00 per spin.
The game is set in the Wild West. The backdrop of the slot is particularly impressive with a foreboding thunderstorm in the horizon, the distant bark of coyotes, and a swinging lantern adding atmosphere.
Although this is a slot with fewer paylines, it is most definitely not a retro-style game. The graphics and design are top notch, as you would expect from NetEnt. Dead or Alive also has a couple of Wild features, with one of these available only during the free spins bonus round.
What you essentially have here is a modern slot that has been simplified down to 9 paylines. It seems targeted at the newer or smaller stakes slot player.
Who will the Dead or Alive slot appeal to?
If NetEnt aimed this slot at smaller stakes players, or newer slot fans, then they have hit their target market on the head. Given the relatively low stakes available and the fact that there are just nine paylines (which simplifies the gameplay considerably), this is a very good slot for a novice player to cut their eye teeth on and gain a good understanding of the slot basics.
However, Dead or Alive is also more than that. It may not be imbued with some of the myriad of features of other slots and it’s essentially a 5×3 reel slot with a Free Spins bonus and a Wild, but the way the game is presented and the clever use of the Sticky Wild in the Free Spins round, does give the slot appeal to all gamers. Also, the fact that this is a medium to lower variance game means that it offers decent play value for players who like to preserve their bankroll.
Gameplay: Dead or Alive
The first thing to note about the Dead or Alive slot is that the atmosphere isn’t traditionally Wild West. If you were expecting jaunty saloon piano music, a baking sun over the plains, and the general hubbub of day-to-day life in the West, you’ll be in for a surprise. Instead what you have are a series of barks and whistles from wild creatures, the wooden creak of the building and the ominous rumblings of thunder in the distance. It’s very atmospheric and fits the game well.
These sounds are aided by vivid graphics which bring this desolate Wild West town to life. In addition, the high-quality graphics continue onto the symbols on the reels themselves.
There are five lower value symbols, which are the playing card low symbols. For once these fit in nicely with the theme. The higher value symbols include a shot glass, cowboy boots and spurs, ten-gallon hat, gun and holster and a sheriff badge. This last symbol is the highest paying, offering 1,000x your stake for five on a payline.
Alongside these symbols there are two others on the reels. The first is a Wanted Dead or Alive Poster with the silhouette of a Wild West outlaw on it. This is the in-game Wild. It can substitute for any of the high or low value symbols listed above to create winning paylines. Land five Wilds on a payline and you trigger the biggest prize in the game of 1,500x your stake.
The other symbol to watch out for is the Scatter symbol. This features two guns with their barrels crossed and bullets underneath. The Scatter serves two purposes: firstly, land two or more and you receive a cash prize of 2x, 4x, 25x or 2,500x your stake (depending whether you land, 2, 3, 4 or 5 scatters across the reel).
In addition, land three or more Scatters and as well as the cash prize you’ll also trigger the Free Spins bonus round. This gives you 12 free spins and during free spins any Wild symbol landed on the reel turns into an outlaw and becomes a Sticky Wild, remaining in place for the remainder of the free spins. The more symbols on the reels you can land a Sticky Wild on during this bonus round, then the greater the potential rewards from this feature will be.
Special features: Dead or Alive
The Wanted Dead or Alive Poster is the in-game Wild. It can be substituted for any of the high or low value symbols on the reels to create winning paylines. Five Wilds on a payline offers the in game jackpot of 1,500x your stake.
Hit three or more of the Scatter symbols (two guns with barrels crossed above some bullets) on the reels and you will trigger the Free Spins bonus round. Here you receive 12 free spins on a slightly different reel set.
Sticky Wilds & Frees Spins retrigger
During Free Spins any Wilds landed on the reels will turn into a Wanted character. They will remain in place until the end of the round. You can land more Wilds to increase your chances of a bigger win. Land five Wilds across each of the reels and you trigger an additional 5 free spins. These extra spins can be triggered once.
The presentation of the Dead or Alive slot is outstanding. Although it’s not your typical Wild West setting, the more ominous feel to the slot really adds a great deal of atmosphere and tension to the game as you play.
The Dead or Alive slot is a medium to lower variance game. Wins tend to come relatively frequently. Additionally, there’s are lower value wins mixed in with the higher value wins. The best value wins tend to come in the free spins round, which unlike some games, isn’t the most difficult to trigger.
The Sticky Wild symbols in the free spins round really helps players land some of the better value wins on the slot as you can accumulate more of them across the reels and even trigger five extra free spins if you can land one Wild on each of the five reels.
Where Dead or Alive does fall down is that it doesn’t utilize multipliers at any point in the game. This does detract from its value somewhat as even a 2x multiplier, say for a Wild win or during the free spins round, would have given the slot added value.
Depth for more experience slot gamers
Dead or Alive is unashamedly aimed at the more novice slot gamer, offering 9 paylines and just four levels. In this respect the slot works well however there isn’t enough depth beyond the Free Spins bonus and the Wild symbol to attract more experienced players, other than simply enjoying the game itself.
Few bigger wins
While small- and medium-sized wins are not too difficult to come by on the Dead or Alive slot, triggering some of those bigger value wins is very tough, especially with a total of 12 symbols on the reels and 9 paylines in play. Hitting those 1,000x your stake prizes are a very rare occurrence indeed.
Graphics & soundtrack 4/5
I think the Dead or Alive slot takes a novel approach to the Wild West and gives it an unusual and interesting setting, which is very atmospheric and which certainly draws you into the slot and keeps you playing. I like the originality of this and it certainly avoids the slot being a cliché quite nicely.
Originality & creativity 2/5
Dead or Alive isn’t going to win any awards for originality as it is essentially a 5×3 slot with a Wild and a Free Spins round. The addition of the Sticky Wilds lifts this above a single mark but in truth this game has been kept simple to appeal to lower stakes and novice slot gamers, so it is never going to push the boat out in terms of originality.
Play value 4/5
In terms of value, I think Dead or Alive hits the balance between risk and reward nicely. Wins are not uncommon, but the lower value wins are not punitively low while you top these wins up with the occasional mid size wins. The big 500x your stake wins are very rare though but you can make a decent profit winning regular smaller amounts.
Jackpot potential 2/5
The jackpot potential on the Dead or Alive slot isn’t massive as it is just 1,500x your wager in the base game. You could win more in free spins with Sticky Wilds across the reels offering the chance of multiple wins and a bigger cumulative payout.
Repeat play 4/5
For novice gamers and those wanting value on a simple slot, Dead or Alive ticks all the right boxes and does so very well indeed. If you’re seeking a more involved game you won’t find too much to stick around, but for the audience this slot was intended for, it does the job very well.
Total score: 16/25
Dead or Alive is very pleasing on the senses, offering simple gameplay, easy to understand bonus features and a very fair reward system. (That’s not something I’ve said about NetEnt slots often, I have to say.) It isn’t the most innovative or deep slot, and it’s not overburdened with features, but it does offer a hugely enjoyable few spins.