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Shoji Slots

It seems these days that almost every other game release is an updated addition to an existing genre, this isn't always a bad thing, modern graphics, new gameplay features and technology can all revitalise the most popular slot game themes. The danger is, you have to actually raise the bar in the field or the game simply becomes another also ran in the long history of slot titles.

WMS's new slot Shoji is a prime example of this, aiming to appeal to the historic love of Asian themed slots, specifically the Samurai style of ancient Japanese culture. This new casino slot features an any way wins structure with an interesting 6x3 main reel and additional 5x2 reel above, with 1215 ways to win in the base game and 2025+ ways to win in the bonus spins round, all the ingredients seem to be here. Does Shoji deliver a solid Samurai warriors contribution to the Asian slots field, or does it become a masterless Ronin, destined to wander in the hinterland of forgotten one armed bandits?

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Shoji

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Theme

I'm a huge fan of the Samurai legends and Shoji, visually, at least, nails its theme. Traditional Japanese symbolism is plentiful, the artwork is beautifully rendered and colourful without straying too far towards the modern anime trend which no games designers seems able to resist when given a Japanese title. You get a female geisha character and a male Samurai as the main payout symbols, with a bonsai tree Mr Miyagi would be proud of, a classic temple and a lucky Koi rounding up the reel icon offering. Low pay icons are represented by the traditional playing card symbols, ten through to Ace.

The reel layout is nicely integrated too, with the dark red traditional wood frames of a Dojo and sliding bamboo screens forming the activation of the upper reel set, the bonus triggering scatter is a huge oriental style golden gong and the wild is a paper screen door. The music and sound effects let the theme down a little sadly, as the bells and whistles scream classic fruit machine slot rather than ancient Japanese culture.

Features

The structure of the game is complex in how it works but visually easy to follow. With the any ways structure traditional pay-lines are eschewed, instead, any 3x or more symbols from left to right or right to left will form a paying combination. Adding to the base game 6x3 reels are an additional set of 5x2 reels above. These are covered by a sliding bamboo and paper screen which will randomly open with each spin, ideally, you need it to open from the front or the rear to help combine with the lower reels, as you will rarely combine a pay-line if it opens only partially in the middle. This is a nice touch to the game and I haven't seen an expanded reel system like this integrate with the game theme so well before.

Bet structure is essentially 50c to play all ways, any multiplication of the bet, becomes a win multiplier as with many of WMS's titles, you also get the common wager saver mechanism and a bonus guarantee based on your original bet. The amount of the guarantee is the number of spins (Always 8 on this game) multiplied by your original game bet.

The bonus game on Shoji is a simple free spin round where the ways to win increases from 1215 ways to win, up to 2025, three or more bonus scatters trigger 8 spins. It may seem like an overly generous spins allowance, but you can (Theoretically at least) endlessly retrigger them.

Summary

I got to play Shoji recently, whilst this new casino game is wonderful to look at and has a structure which seems to offer massive potential, it didn't play that well. The variance seems spectacularly high, I found myself hitting the guarantee repetitively in the bonus round and without the thrill of an occasional big win the base game round lacked character. It may have been a one-off bad play and with such a high variance the game is clearly capable of offering massive payouts, it remains to be seen what this game can do in a competitive genre in the long haul.

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