There has not been a good consequence from a well-known service adopting a lesser-known studio under its wing. Microgaming, in particular, has gone too far with this new tactic, having failed miserably on several occasions in its collaboration with Triple Edge while simultaneously smearing the reputation of its own brand. It seems lovely and all for a successful firm to assist the little guy along, but the cynic in us feels it’s just a cheap, sloppy means of cranking out more slots. The new tenet of business is quantity over quality.
This holds true for Lightning Box as well. Since they have failed to release even one passable slot in their combined 14 years of existence, working together makes more sense. Astro Cat was released a few years ago as a collaboration between Lightning Box and Incredible Technologies, a US-based developer of casino and coin-operated video games. As a consequence, we got a bizarre game that no rational person would ever want to play. On the other hand, Lightning Box must have thought it was a good idea, because they’re doing it again with Astro Pug.
A Preface to the Astro Pug
Like NetEnt’s Jumanji, the geometric reels of Astro Pug’s 8-reel, 1296-payline slot machine are stacked 3 symbols high from left to right. It’s available on all platforms for bets as high as €250 a spin, which is ludicrous for such a mediocre game but could put off some low-rollers. The potential return of 95.7% is just below the 96% minimum required to be considered acceptable. Not horribly low, however, since most vintage Novomatic slots are somewhere in the 95.1% region.
In case you didn’t already know, Pugs are a toy dog breed distinguished by their wrinkled faces and curled tails. It was first played in China in the 16th century and then transformed into a slot machine that could be played online. The reels in Astro Pug are situated inside a replica of a classical Chinese temple, establishing the game’s Asian feel. A Chinese restaurant-style music is featured, as is customary for any East Asian themed slot. The doggo makes a hilarious noise whenever you win large (or small, to be honest), which is unfortunately the greatest part of this slot machine.
Zodiac Signs for Dogs
There are 5 standard symbols (the playing card values from 10 to ace) and 5 premium symbols (different Chinese animal artifacts and a child cuddling a golden nugget, the highest paying symbol at 0.8 times the wager) on the reel set. A five of a kind result that ranks among the worst we’ve seen all year. The so-called Bone Multiplier was implemented to make up for the absurd payments. Every time it does, it doubles, triples, or quadruples the value of the combination it’s part of. The Bone Multiplier, alas, is limited to Reel 2.
Payouts are listed in coins on the paytable. It’s ridiculous and designed to mislead players to have to figure out the potential by comparing the value of individual coins to the value of individual bets. The vast majority of service providers routinely employ this sleight of hand, which we would like to see the government agencies eradicate.
Now we’ll discuss the reel configuration and pay lines, both of which require some clarification. The REELFECTA reel, a spinoff of the Trifecta betting system in which the player must choose wins in the right sequence, occupies the center position of the reel set and features 16 separate positions (3 reels with 4 rows each). In summary, it enables for a winning combination even if the identical symbols line up on reel 1, 2 and 5. As long as the matching symbols line up on reels 1 and 2, it can continue to line up with a third sign on reels 3, 4, 5, or 6. Each sign may only be used once in a winning combination, which is a drawback. Though it may be confusing to think of the four reels you see on the box as one large reel until you actually play the game, try to do so.
Pugs from Space: Free Spins!
The bonus games begin after you land 5 or more scatter symbols inside the REELFECTA box. Starting in the upper left corner and working clockwise around the REELFECTA reel’s outer places, a random reel will show either a +1 WILD PUG or BOMB with each free spin. Up to 12 free games can be won if a +1 WILD occurs, and it will stay in place and reward an extra free game.
If the BOMB symbol occurs, the free spins will terminate, and the payout for the bomb will be 2 times the entire amount wagered. One Mega Spin is given if locked wilds occupy each of the outermost 12 spots. The REELFECTA’s Mega Spin feature extends to span all 16 places, turning them all into wilds. Our calculations show that this is the only method to achieve the highest win, which is less than 1000 times the stake because the premiums do not appear stacked and the multiplier only shows on reel 2.
Astro Dog’s Final Thoughts
This slot machine is a sluggish, irritating, ugly monster. Lightning Box has made a simple process much too difficult. During free spins, it’s hard to see what’s happening from one spin to the next. Furthermore, the win ways are unclear, and the REELFECTA appears to be rather fraudulent. Nothing good can be said about this slot machine, which ranks near the bottom of our list of worst experiences of the year.
If anyone from Lightning Box is reading this, take our advice: keep things as basic and straightforward as possible, guarantee a reasonable amount of potential, raise the RTP for heaven’s sake, and polish the gameplay. Slots that pay out too little too slowly are the worst. Makes you want to pull your eyeballs out in frustration.