PopCap Games is well-known for its high-quality, creative takes on games in the social arena, occasional missteps like Pig Up! aside. It’s for this reason that the company’s new release Lucky Gem Casino is such a disappointment — not because it’s a particularly bad game as such, but because its lack of creativity, new ideas and fun just doesn’t seem very “PopCap.”
Lucky Gem Casino marks the EA-owned casual gaming giant’s first steps into the rapidly-growing casino genre on Facebook. The game currently offers seven different video slots machines based on PopCap properties including Bejeweled, Insaniquarium, Zuma, Bookworm, Big Money, Chuzzle and Mystery P.I. London. At the outset of the player’s career, only the Bejeweled-themed machine is unlocked, with the remaining machines locked behind level gates. There is no means to unlock these machines early, whether that is through Facebook Credits, hard currency or soft currency earned in-game.
Each of the machines follows a very conventional video slots format, with the only variation between each machine (besides the obvious aesthetic differences) being the number of pay lines it’s possible to bet on and the minimum bet required along with very rarely-occurring bonus minigames. There’s little in the way of incentive to progress to more advanced machines save the promise of higher payouts — but given that there is nothing for the player to spend their hard-earned virtual currency on besides continued play, this in itself isn’t a particularly strong incentive, either. There are no boosts, nudges, holds or indeed powerups of any kind for players to purchase, meaning that a play session is typically reduced to repeatedly clicking the “spin” button over and over with little in the way of skill or strategy required.
Progression is painfully slow, too, with the unlocking of higher-level machines requiring a considerable time investment due to the number of experience points needed to level up. To make matters worse, after the first machine is unlocked it takes more than one level to unlock the next, meaning that players will be spending a very long time staring at the same virtual slot machine to acquire the experience necessary for a bit of variety to their virtual gambling session.
Social features are somewhat limited at the time of writing. It’s possible to send packs of coins to friends who are playing and compare experience levels, but little else. When running the game in “full screen” mode (which sends the game into a new maximized pop-up window rather than being a “true” full-screen mode) it’s possible to engage in real-time chat with other people who are also playing the game, but at the time of writing the community was both very quiet and very small. The game also features viral promotion through the sharing of in-game achievements and trophies, though since players have no control over the machines besides telling them when to spin, the acquisition of these is entirely down to luck rather than any sort of skill or knowledge of the machines’ quirks.
On the positive side, the game is well-presented, featuring attractive visuals and authentic sound effects from the games the various machines are based on. This isn’t enough to make the game interesting or compelling, however, even for the most dedicated of video slots or PopCap fans. The developer claims that the game will be considerably enhanced in the coming months with community features, more games and a few “surprises” but as yet has remained tight-lipped on what these new features might be. It may be worth checking back in a few months to see if the game has improved, but Lucky Gem Casino as it stands shortly after launch is not worth your time.
An uninspiring video slots game bereft of PopCap’s usual creativity and flair.