This month, Microgaming have exceeded themselves by releasing seven new games, with four that will be available on mobile. With the summer fast approaching, it is no wonder that an underwater themed slot makes its way into good Microgaming casinos out there. Ariana offers some exciting features that we don't often see in casino games, as well as a calm and soothing gameplay atmosphere that provides a hypnotising experience.
Now, click to read whichever section tickles your fancy:
|Release Date||May, 2015|
|Slot type||Video slot|
|Platform||Desktop and mobile|
|Return to Player (RTP)||97%|
|Slot Reels/ Paylines||5 reels/ 25 paylines|
|Min/ Max Bets||0.25 to 125 coins|
|Max Win||30,000 coins|
|Free Spins||15 free spins (can be retriggered)|
|Features||Expanding symbols, wilds|
|Pros||Exciting gameplay and frequent free spin rounds|
|Cons||No ‘proper' feature, fixed number of paylines|
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Released just yesterday (May 6th), Ariana is the most recent offering from Microgaming. It’s an exciting, aquatic themed video slot that has very decent graphics and some exciting features to be taken into consideration, but let’s discuss the gameplay first.
We all know that all new slots aren’t ‘new’, per se. The vast majority are rip-offs of other similar slots, with samey colour palettes, sound effects and features. However, Ariana is different. Underneath the surface of the sea, mermaid Ariana awaits those who are prepared to venture into the deep oceans and trust the reels to bring them wins. Rest assured, that this medium variance slot brings waves of regular wins and there are also many hidden treasures that one can discover.
Set amongst corals, the five reel video slot has 25 fixed paylines that you can hope to score on. We always think that the relative lack of flexibility that fixed paylines has is a con, but some of you might not like to fiddle with the paylines at all, making fixed paylines a good thing. Of course, it means that if you are a penny spinner and want to maximise the number of times you can spin the reels on the same budget, Ariana will most likely not catch your attention.
The wagers and the wins are set up in coins on this slot. The minimum amount of coins that one can bet is 0.25 and the maximum goes up to a whopping 125 coins per spin. This means that you have the potential to win 30,000 coins just from one spin, which we think is amazing indeed.
It is a slight let-down that Ariana doesn’t have more features packed into it, as that would make the slot much more well-rounded. Now, it appears that the developers might have forgotten to implement one or two things when you look at the meagre list of features, one of which is free spins.
First, there are the expanding symbols – this is the most unique feature of the game, and the most exciting one too! In the main game itself (as opposed to the free spins rounds), you better look out for a full symbol stack on the first reel. This will then expand all matching high symbols on the remaining reels and then pay out massively!
Things get even more interesting when you enter the free spins round, because the expanding symbols work there as well. Again, any full symbol stack on the first reel will expand all matching high symbols, as well as wilds, triggering huge wins. It’s worthwhile to keep in mind that the expansion only happens when the matching symbols are part of a winning combination.
Rewinding slightly, one can figure the free spins on Ariana by collecting three, four or five Starfish symbols anywhere on the five reels. It’s great because it doesn’t matter if you get three of the Starfish or five – you will be awarded with 15 free spins anyway, which can be retriggered. Believe it or not, but I spent well over five minutes in a free spins round, because it got retriggered three times in a row, giving me a whopping 45 free spins to enjoy! Needless to say, there is huge winning potential from the free spins on Ariana.
Lastly, there are the Wilds symbol with the word Ariana. These can substitute any symbol to trigger a winning combination, except the Starfish symbol of course. So, you can’t get two Starfish and a Wild, and then expect to be taken into a free spins round, unfortunately. Of course, there is no progressive jackpot on Ariana, but the features that are available on this slot just about make up for it.
Superficially, there is nothing to complain about when it comes to the technicalities and the performance of Ariana. The slot has everything one would need for a most pleasant afternoon gambling on your phone while plopped on your couch. The calming blues and the hazy purples in the colour scheme look appealing and the audio is dreamy and soothing, almost phantasmagorical.
However, upon closer inspection, it isn’t exactly finished to the same standard as some of the most advanced video slots (Dragon’s Myth comes to mind here). The visual quality isn’t 100%, as one can just about make out the fact that it’s slightly pixelated.
Another annoying thing is the frame within which the reels sit. Not only is it very silvery and pearly and otherwise appropriate for the theme of this slot, but it’s also very '10 years ago' in terms of game design. The audio is bearable if you are into siren induced sleep, but it might be too annoying to have it on the entire time. Luckily there is a mute button.
What constitutes a video slot?
Not all video slots are made equal, so I thought I'd share what I think constitutes a video slot. Although technically Ariana is classified as a video slot, comparing it with something much more audiovisually advanced, like the aforementioned Dragon's Myth by Rabcat for example. To me, a genuine video slot has features that rely heavily on actual video intercepts, such as using actual video to take the player to and from game features.
Also, video slots feature some type of a storyline rather than just selecting and sticking to a rather simplistic ‘theme'. For example, instead of just a sea-faring mermaid theme, Microgaming could've gone a step further and invented a story about the mermaid looking for a sacred pearl or anything less cheesy than that, really. This would elevate the slot from being just a simple slot to a proper video slot with snippets of animation that would work beautifully not only as transitions, but also as a storytelling element. Ariana doesn't offer that.
In summary, Ariana is a great, fresh and summery addition to Microgaming’s portfolio of gambling products. It is certainly suitable for both low and high rollers and will please those who like triggering free spins rounds often. However, the biggest reason as to why I’ve given Ariana four, rather than five, stars is because of the lack of (video) features. It is hard to think of reasons as to why they didn’t feel the need to pack a few more features in, such as in Microgaming's Lucky Leprechaun that was released a month ago. Otherwise, it’s a decent game with above-average graphical performance and some exciting wins to keep an eye out for.