If you play slots regularly, I want to ask you something: Have you ever played a Christmas themed slot that you thought was good? I really want you to think about it, without any Christmas concessions. What I mean by that is you shouldn’t be saying you like a slot just because it has a Christmas theme but because it would stack up well against other, non-Yuletide themed slots.
You see, I have a theory and before anyone shouts me down, I want to state right now, for the record that it is just that, a theory. I believe that there are no truly great Christmas slots. I believe that most developers have at least one Christmas slot and some will even bring a new one out every year, but despite this huge volume of games I am yet to find one that was much better than average.
Why is that? Why are there stunning Viking and Egyptian themed slots but nothing Christmassy to get excited about? Why does Halloween offer up regular slices of slot excellence but Christmas never does?
Maybe developers are too busy all year coming up with their big hitters and leave themselves little time to put the effort in at this time of year? Maybe it is the short shelf life? I mean, you can play certain Halloween slots all year round but you’re not going to want to go near any tinsel outside of December and early January, so ultimately, why bother putting the effort in?
The flipside to that argument could quite easily be that having a good Christmas themed slot could be enough to draw in the crowds for at least one out of the twelve months of the year. It could be rolled for 4 weeks at the start of December then placed back into storage until the following year, or until a better game comes along and replaces it.
For those who do tip the cap to the Christmas theme there are a few things you can expect: Firstly, there are going to be some jingling bells. My advice on this is to soak it in for a few minutes, embrace the sound of sonic mince pies and then once your ears have had their fill Christmas filling hit the mute button and put an end to the torture.
In terms of the slot’s appearance, developers tend to go one of two different ways. Some will take the traditional route, which can be anything from a Bing Crosby inspired White Christmas to Kevin Mccallister’s big Christmassy kitted out house in the suburbs Christmas, to a Dickensian Christmas Carol. Expect something warm and fuzzy, like a shot of eggnog after a large bowl of Christmas pudding and brandy cream. If tradition has been dispensed with then you are likely to be having a fun-filled, mad-capped sort of Christmas slot, with cartoon characters and something a little off the beaten track.
But something you can expect to find in abundance at Christmas is the re-skinned slot game. What I mean by this is a slot that has all the inner mechanics of a different game, but with a different design. In other words, old games that have been given a face lift. In some instances everything that would allow you to identify the old game by looks alone will be gone and in others you will have an existing game with some Christmas decorations added in order to meet the brief.
Essentially, it is the re-skinned slot that underwhelms the most at this time of year. The obvious lack of effort grates quite significantly because you know there will be slots enthusiasts out there who like to play for the occasion. This regenerated slot means that you almost never find a Christmas themed slot with bonus features that have been designed specifically for the theme. Free Spins, Wilds and a random feature recur time and time again, when what we really want is something that holds that special holiday to the fore.
There are a few games that do so, with 2018’s Jingle Spin Slot being the perfect example. Part of the reason it springs to mind is because I hadn’t reviewed too many Christmas slots at this point and I scored it down because it only really had the one feature. In hindsight, that one feature set the Jingle Spin slot apart from just about every other Christmas themed slot that I have played and if I could, I would go back and change the 7 I gave it at the time to a 9 or even a 10, if I was feeling particularly generous.
That slot, for anyone who doesn’t know or has forgotten was set in Santa’s Workshop. Instead of elves you had dwarves and the game was set up like a conveyer belt in a factory, with the dwarves as the workers. A wheel sits to the right-hand-side of the reels and is spun by a dwarf who it with a large wooden lever. If a bauble lands in the space where the arrow is pointing, that bauble is thrown up to the dwarf on the top right reel and is passed down the reels, one space to the left with each subsequent spin before falling off the reels on the left-hand side. However, if you can land certain symbols on the reels where the baubles are being held you will trigger certain features.
You might not get a lot of features in Net Entertainment’s Jingle Spin Slot but that one idea, central to the entire slot has been designed with the theme in mind (a prerequisite for any slot to get the magical 10 out of 10 from us). In a rare twist on convention you have a Christmas themed slot that time, energy and effort have been put into.
But the truth is that, I get it. I understand why developers might not want to put lots of time and effort into a slot that is barely going to be played. This isn’t the same as writing a Christmas song, as your audience is a much smaller one. Of the top 100 most popular slots in the UK at the time of writing, only 3 of them are Christmas themed and I’m writing at a time when even the most miserly has caved and got the tinsel out of the attic. Two are from 2019 and one is from last year.
Sitting at number 101 in the UK’s most popular slots at the time of writing is Jingle Spin. The one that Net Entertainment spent time, money and imagination in the hope that year on year slots players would spin those particular reels at this particular time of the year.
For slots designers the Christmas period is a tick in the box and for gamers it’s a novelty distraction. That distraction is unlikely to ever be the next Starburst, Rich Wilde or Rainbow Riches and if that’s the case then most developers won’t see the point in trying too hard.
Best Christmas Slots of 2019
The title to this feature is a little misleading as I will be including all of the Christmas slots released in 2019 that have been reviewed by us at ThePogg. Even at that there are only 8 for us to look at, so I thought, why put them in order of worst to best, with a massive dollop of Christmas Meh chucked in the middle of things?
So here they are, the 8 best Christmas themed slots for 2019 in a very particular order:
Coming in at number 8, our least favourite Christmas slot release of 2019 is the Wild Santa Slot from Spinomenal. We rated this one a disappointing 5 out of 10 when we reviewed it a few weeks ago, a score than can be blamed on this being a re-skin of an already pretty boring slot.
There is very little for you to feast your eyes on but what you do have is a slot that has gone down the traditional route. Looking like a still from an advert for a certain brand of popular fizzy drink, this is a back to basics, box ticking Christmas slot if ever I’ve seen one. Other than Wilds and 100 paylines there is nothing left here to review other than the house edge which is offering OK value for money. Essentially this one comes bottom of the pile because it doesn’t look that great and it has no features we can mention.
The Reel Santa slot probably isn’t much of a step up in terms of design from the previous entry. The slot finds you surrounded by Christmas Trees, resplendent in the snow, adorned with lights and in the start-up screen only there also happens to be a scantily clad Christmas lady. What her purpose is in the slot I don’t know exactly, as she appears to disappear as soon as you get to the game.
Unlike the previous slot you do get some features, in fact you get the perfect 3 of Free Spins, Bonus Game and Wilds. The Bonus Game is an interesting click and reveal game that sees you make your way along a map and the Free Spins are, well they are Free Spin. Reel NRG might not have set the world on fire with this one but they have offered us a bit more than the Spinomenal Christmas slot.
The Festive Indulgence slot was released by Microgaming a few week back and whilst I can’t pin a exact match down there is something of the re-skin about it. Again, this is a traditional slot that is aiming for the warm and fuzzy Christmas, one spent round a fire eating and drinking far too much.
The features here are practically identical to the ones in Reel Santa. You get Wilds, Free Spins not no bonus. However, the Free Spins do re-trigger and there is also a Scatter symbol. There really isn’t much between the two slots but this one just edges its way in front of Reel Santa. However, if anyone wants to make a case for the Reel NRG slot, I won’t stand in your way.
The Raging Reindeer slot is one that walks firmly in the opposite direction of traditional and warm fuzzy, roaring fires, carols and Crosby Christmas and brings us something a little bit fun and interesting. It’s iSoftBet, so it looks the part, an absolutely stunning slot that has plenty of colour and vibrancy to give you the visual treat that many of the other slots on this list fail to deliver.
But, like the slots already mentioned, this one doesn’t get into 7 out of 10 territory and is instead left languishing in with a 6 out of 10 that comes as a result of a lack of features and a house edge that is just that bit too high for us. You do get Wilds and Free Spins and those Free Spins can be re-triggered, which is why it tops the 6 out 10 slots. If the house edge was just that bit lower this would be a 7 out of 10.
We are back on more familiar, more traditional ground with the Xmas Magic slot , to the extent that there is almost nothing for me to say about this one that hasn’t been said about a few already. I am fairly sure that this is a re-skin of a Halloween slot, which should be enough to condemn it but I guess when Christmas slots are involved we need to be a little more lenient and lower the bar a little.
Like the previous slot you get Free Spins that retrigger and you get Wilds but the saving grace, the thing that makes this a 7 instead of a 6 is a very competitive house edge, offering good value for money.
Sweet Bonanza Christmas
The Sweet Bonanza Christmas slot is a re-skin that is not trying to hide the fact that it is a re-skin. The slot looks good, you could even argue that the Christmas magic has made it look that tiny bit better than the original.
You get everything that the previous slots has, with Free Spins, Wilds and a very competitive house edge. A nice little addon, that makes this the best of the re-skinned 7s, has to be the tumbles that give you those extra chances to win with every spin.
Santa Vs Rudolph
The Santa Vs Rudolph slot is a little on the crazy side and, as far as I am aware this Net Ent release is an original. That was enough for it to get the edge on the other 7s and the fact that it is pretty well designed with a central idea that sees Santa duke it out with his favourite trusted reindeer makes this slightly better than the average fair available this year.
In terms of the features that are on offer, you get wilds, free spins and 2 bonus features. You get paylines that pay in both directions and you get a solid house edge. All of which helps to give this original Christmas slot a slight edge on most of the competition released in 2019.
The Polar Paws slot is then, the best Christmas themed slot that I have played in 2019. It has some edge over the other slots because it looks a little bit better, something that you won’t be surprised by if you have played a Quickspin slot before. It is a fun slot with a sense of humour that managed an impressive score of 8 out of 10 from us.
You get Free Spins and 3 different types of Wild symbol. But easily the most impressive fact has to be the low house edge. Polar Paws is not only the best looking Christmas slot on this list but is also the one offering the best value for money, which means it is a worthy winner of the best Christmas slot 2019.
Having complied this list of 8 Christmas themed slots released in 2019 my thoughts on the theme haven’t really changed. I still think the slots you get at Christmas are poorer than the ones you get at other times of the year and so the wait goes on, one that will continue next year, for a an excellent Christmas themed slot.
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