A saloon door creaks, a crow calls raucously and a distant dog barks. A spaghetti Western whistle vies with the wind and the tumbleweed. The animations echo the sound FX: raw wood construction, a swinging kerosene lamp opposite a spindly windmill, with a threatening thunderstorm on the horizon. Scandinavian game developers NetEnt have abandoned their more usual bright, insistent themes with the Dead or Alive slots game, giving it the atmosphere of an outlaw card game in a Wild West saloon.
Dead or Alive plays on five reels displaying three icons each, encased in a carved wooden frame. Low win icons are the standard poker ranks A, K, Q, J and 10, which pay between two and 10 times the line bet for three of a kind, and up to 100 times the line bet in the case of five Aces. The medium win icons maintain Dead or Alive’s hat-tip to the more sombre side of the Western legend; in ascending order of value, they are: a whiskey shot, cowboy boots with spurs, a cowboy hat, a gun-belt and six-gun, and a sheriff’s star. Multiples of the line bet on wins range from 10 on three whiskey shots to 1000 on five sheriff’s stars. The Wild icon is a Wanted poster, and substitutes for all icons except Scatter symbols. Players have the option of nine bet lines, and all winning matches must start on the leftmost reel.
Triggering Free Spins
The Dead or Alive slots game’s Scatter icon is two crossed revolvers; if two come up anywhere on the reels, whether sharing a bet line or not, the player wins a bonus. Three Scatter symbols in any position will trigger the Free Spins feature, with a round of 12 free spins. During this round, all wins are doubled, and another three Scatter symbols will trigger a further 12 free spins.
The animations reflect this switch in playing mode; the background changes to a saloon interior and the hubbub of conversation and honky-tonk piano swells for the duration of the Free Spins round. At the end of the round, the player’s winnings are deposited with a congratulatory burst of banjo. The important part of the Free Spins feature, from a player’s perspective, is that it is only in this mode that Dead or Alive delivers the most lucrative possibilities, with the Sticky Wilds feature.
Sticky Wilds Launch Big Wins
During the Free Spins feature, any Wilds that come up are Sticky Wilds: the generic Wanted poster switches to one containing a notorious outlaw, in keeping with Dead or Alive’s dark atmosphere. The Apache Kid, Belle Starr, Jesse James, Della Rose and Billy the Kid feature, and a Sticky Wild remains in position for the rest of the Free Spins round. It is also possible for more than one Sticky Wild to come up on each reel, or for a “full house” of all five bandits to come up as Sticky Wilds across a complete bet line, which means the player will win the maximum multiple of the line bet, doubled, for every spin remaining in the Free Spins round. The longer play goes on, the more frequently Free Spins rounds start to appear, and the more Sticky Wilds come up, which is when the game offers the biggest wins.