’Look to the stars Bowen… to the stars.’ So said Scottish acting legend, Sean Connery, in the mid-90s movie Dragonheart. It’s also to the stars we turn in Dreamzone, another twig on the Starburst family tree of slots from developer ELK Studios. The two space slots share little aside from the interstellar theme since Dreamzone uses cluster pays, a galaxy of Dream features, cascades, and Bonus Drops.
No second prize for guessing the location of Dreamzone. You got it, up there amidst the heavens where stars are born from the oceans of loose particles. It is truly mind-boggling to think of the titanic forces of creation and chance that came together to form the planet we are all walking on at this exact moment in time. Visually, however, the game is rather stripped down and almost looks like something you could have played as a kid on your Atari, yet in a modern package, of course. Anyway, let’s leave aside the mental gymnastics, as intoxicating as they are, to bring the focus back to Dreamzone.
ELK Studios has gone for a 5×5 grid slot where winners appear in the form of clusters. They are quite small clusters too. Just 3 matching symbols connecting side by side are enough to create a paying cluster, which then triggers cascades. We will cover this process below in more detail since cascades are intimately tied to the other features.
Get in the game by selecting bets from 20 p/c to £/€100 per spin, or drops as they are called in Dreamzone. Players enjoy a solid RTP of 96.0% along with medium/high volatility rated by ELK as 7 out of 10. Winning clusters land on a better than 1 in 4 basis, theoretically, due to a hit rate of 27.7% which keeps the game flowing and the features building up. One stat missing from the list is the free spins frequency which ELK often used to provide. Conspicuous by its absence and always nice to have, but that’s the way it goes.
Any astrologers out there, tell us please, is space as littered with gems as developers would have us believe? If so, then ELK Studios has created a realistic paytable chock full of the glittering objects. There are ten regular symbols which is quite a lot, possibly to help offset the small cluster requirements. Half are low pay gems of various colours, while the high pays are pointier, more sophisticated versions of the lows. Premium values range from 0.4x for 3 of the purples to 100x for eleven or more red gems.
ELK Studios is one developer who likes their cascading mechanics, showing up in one form or another in a number of their titles. The Gold series springs immediately to mind where it has been put to great use. In Dreamzone, it is also the way the rest of features come into the game such as Dream Modifiers and Dream Drops.
The first thing to know is how cascades work. When a winning cluster lands, it is cleared to let new symbols drop into the spaces creating more chances to win again. Cascades continue to blast symbols while letting in new ones as long as winning clusters keep appearing.
On top of creating chains of clusters, winning spins also collect modifiers known as Dream features. Up to 4 Dream features can be collected on a winning spin which then get used on non-winning spins in the future. Here are the four Dream features with their various effects:
- Wilds – up to five wild symbols are added to the grid. Wilds substitute for any pay symbol.
- Symbol upgrade – one low pay symbol is picked and turned into its high pay version. For example, the red low pays become the red high pays.
- Symbol explode – removes up to four symbols from the grid.
- Symbol scatter – one symbol pays as if it was a scatter so they do not need to be in a cluster.
Get cascades on a really good roll, and it is possible to completely clear the grid. Doing so triggers the Bonus Drop, which begins with 3 free drops and an x2 win multiplier. If the grid is cleared during this time, players move to the next level which grants 3 more free drops while doubling the win multiplier. Players get a boost from Dream features which remain in play during Bonus Drops to help clear the grid. Players can level up 8 more times ending on a win multiplier of x512, which is mental.
Dreamzone is a competent grid slot which is hard to find major faults in. On the other hand, once you’ve consumed the facts and figures, it is hard to get majorly excited about it too. The headline act is the 512x multiplier which seems outrageous, but it quickly becomes an exercise in tease and deny.
On one side, you get the big multiplier which is capable of some serious damage, yet the damage is mitigated by an overall potential of 2,500 times the stake. One hand giveth, the other hand taketh away, so they say. The gameplay, meanwhile, with its modifiers and all, feels somewhat inspired by Play’n GO’s Moon Princess, but lacks both the personality and intensity of that slot.
Of course, a 2.500x win is a 2.500x win, it’s not even that terrible for a grid slot, but still, it doesn’t prevent a stab of disappointment shivering its way down your spine when you do the maths. It gets a little humorous when you juxtapose the reality with the game’s description which mentions drifting into ‘zones of limitless rewards.’
So Dreamzone might not be quite the dream you were hoping for. It’s surely in a different weight category to heavy-hitting grid slots like Mega Clusters in regards to volatility or huge pay outs. Dreamzone is lighter, in almost all respects, matching a different breed of gambler – those not overly fussed about max potential perhaps. Going all the way to score the 512x win multiplier would be insane, just not as insane as it possibly could have been.