In just about every Target or Walmart store there's a section of the PC gaming section dedicated to casual gambling games; poker, roulette wheels and slot machines. Normally you'd pass these by without blinking. Battle Slots gives you a reason to stop and stare.
Phantom EFX is a name often spied in the budget PC game section of major retail chains around the country, that is if you're looking hard enough. A recent trip to my local Walmart uncovered at least five titles on the shelves from the "leading game developer and publisher of interactive card and casino entertainment titles". They're a prolific developer, but they serve a very specific market.
Phantom EFX does do more than casino games. They teamed with developer 8monkey Labs to release the PC version of time travel first-person shooter Darkest of Days, for instance. It's that same partnership that brings us Battle Slots.
As the phenomenal Puzzle Quest married Bejeweled-style gem matching with role-playing battles and mechanics, Battle Slots is a sublime marriage of role-playing game and slot machine.
Battle Slots casts the player in the role of a young hero that stumbles upon a magical device that allows them to harness the power of chance to do battle with mythical creatures. The device is actually a customizable five-slot slot machine, populated with icons representing battle power, mana, money, and experience points. Both the player and enemies spin the slots each round, using a set of slot pay lines to determine which resources are awarded with each spin.
Matching up money and experience point symbols adds to the reward given the player at the end of the battle. Spinning up battle points and mana, the player can activate various skills and spells earned as they progress through the game. Spells can directly damage opponents, affect their ability to spin the wheel, or up the chances for a favourable spin.
While chance does feature heavily into battling, there are ways the player can even the odds. At the Slot Smith, players can tweak the ratio of combat tiles to mana tiles on their wheel, or shift the focus between experience points and gold pieces as end-of-battle rewards. Summonable creatures can be collected, randomly appearing on the slot machine during battle to bestow special powers, deal damage, or hinder opponents'' abilities. There are powerful runes to collect, helper characters to unlock, and if all else fails, money to spend on rare items, slot tiles and abilities.
But it really is the element of chance that gives Battle Slots its charm. You're always one lucky roll away from total victory or crushing defeat, and you never know when the tide of battle will turn.
While the story is basic fantasy fare, the graphics are nothing to write home about, and the game's sense of humor cheesy at best, Battle Slots' combat is addictive as any one-armed bandit in Vegas, and it won't cost you nearly as much. It's available online right now for Windows PC for $US19.99, with a free demo available for those who'd like a taste before the main event.
Puzzle Quest will always be my first RPG-hybrid love, but Battle Slots definitely gives it a run for its money.