The fruit-themed slot CherryPop is the third from independent developer Avatar UX to use their expansive PopWins mechanic. The first two in the range, PopRocks and WildPops, had a distinctly Eastern feel to them, from noir to full-on Asian. The third version returns to gambling roots in a classic fruity indulgence. Brace for plenty of old-school symbols, on a grid that can seriously expand, packing in free spins, and like the previous two, massive potential.
When it comes to looks, CherryPop is the most commercial of the range so far. A burning pink frame surrounds the slot, which is 5 reels wide and 3 rows high in the default mode, but expandable up the ying-yang when features kick in. Behind the grid is a purple, blue, pinky backdrop, designed in the blurry style Avatar UX seems to favour. The word basic springs to mind, though the design is a pleasantly clean, regardless. The final touch is the soundtrack. No Zoot Suit Riot, unfortunately, but some low key 80s electronica contributing to a positive feel.
Playable from 20 p/c to £/€40 per spin, the stats produced by the game are certainly a standout, such as RTP which isn’t amazing, but above average on 96.2%. The action moves at a fair pace too thanks in part to winners showing up every 1 in 5 spins or so (a hit rate of 22% officially). Yet, don’t expect too many big payouts during the base game when they do. PopWins slots are notorious for being highly volatile and CherryPop is certainly that.
The primary rule is that three or more adjacent matching symbols from the first or fifth reel trigger a payout. Technically there are 243 ways to win in default mode, but in essence, this is doubled to 486 since the game pays both ways. Some designers might have left a fruit slot at that, but Avatar UX isn’t a studio which does things by halves.
Before finding out what CherryPop is capable of when its foot is on the gas, let’s take a quick look at the paytable. There are a lot of pay symbols, 13 to be precise, which can crowd the slot in smaller configurations. At the bottom end of the paytable are 10-A royals, followed by grapes, melons, oranges, horseshoes, clovers, bells, diamonds, and cherries. Non-royal values are worth up to 15 times the stake for five cherries. Keep in mind cherries only appear from pops or free spins.
It might look like quite an average, albeit shiny, classic fruit slot in a screenshot, but the features ensure this is no ordinary fruity game. As you’d expect if you’ve played the previous two, the PopWins function is the central feature, complemented by free spins, and the bonus buy.
Every hit triggers the PopWins feature. When so happens, winning symbols are cleared from the screen, and each empty position is replaced with two new symbols. Since there are more symbols than there was before, reels are expanded to accommodate them – up to 6 rows high in the base game. Consecutive wins are possible using the new symbols, and the process continues until no new winners appear. Then the reels are reset.
If all 5 reels expand to 6 rows in height, 5 free spins are triggered. However, before the bonus game starts, players get the chance to gamble their spins on the Gamble Wheel. Successful gambles award up to 16 free spins, or you can lose the lot – then it’s back to the main game empty-handed.
Free spins up the ante by introducing a progressive win multiplier starting at x2. Each PopWin increases the multiplier by +1, without limit. PopWins also expand the reels like they do in the base game. The difference now is reels can reach 9 rows in height.
When all reels are 9 rows high, the win multiplier gets a +3 boost. Also, each subsequent PopWin from then on increases the multiplier by +4 rather than +1. On a full 9 row grid, there are 59,049 ways to win in play – double when you factor in the pay both ways. When a spin without a PopWin occurs, reels return to the height of the shortest reel, rather than reset completely.
Finally, there is one new feature – a bonus buy option. For the cost of 75 times the stake, you’ll simply get instant access to the bonus.
Of the three PopWins slots released so far, CherryPop sort of sits in the middle of the other two. What do we mean? Well, the first one was very volatile, either going nowhere or blasting into orbit on very lengthy win sequences. It also has the highest potential. The second one, WildPops, is the less brutal, throwing in random wild lifelines to keep the action flowing, yet decreasing the potential.
That brings us to CherryPop, which is more forgiving than the first, yet more brutal than the second. You do miss the random wild feature of WildPops, and to be honest, CherryPop’s base game does get a bit repetitive if you struggle to hit free spins. The generic theme doesn’t help, yet the game has been attractively presented for a fruit slot. What might make CherryPop more appealing than the others is the buy feature, allowing you to avoid the base game battling altogether.
Whether you dig CherryPop comes down to your thoughts on the PopWins mechanic really. Hitting a base game lull can be tiring since there are no other modifiers going on. Yet, get it snowballing and buckle in – the potential for long drawn out sequences is impressive. Expanding reels are as fun as ever, and the inclusion of a pay both ways system only adds to the mayhem. Rewards certainly aren’t an issue if you do manage to wind CherryPop up, where wins of up to 56,386 times the stake are possible.
If anything, Avatar UX shows there are plenty more twists to be made in the classic/fruit slot genre. Players in the mood for this style with an unusual mechanic and solid stats will do well to give CherryPop a spin. Overall there is a compellingly simple nature to CherryPop, making it easy to spin again, or hit the bonus buy button just one more time.
PopWins is an intriguing mechanic with possibilities, and CherryPop comes across as the most mainstream, accessible one so far. Still, despite the enjoyable gaming, it doesn’t feel like Avatar UX has quite achieved their breakout performance with the mechanic just yet.