No real money, but still real fun

Like Janet Van Dyne or Ray Palmer, Zynga has been shrinking furiously as of late. But amid office closings and layoffs, the company did snag Spooky Cool Labs during the summer. Even as Zynga has backed away from pursuing real money gaming, its new acquisition has been working on Hit It Rich! Casino Slots for Facebook. So naturally, the result is an online slots experience good enough that people would probably play it for real money. Ironic, no?

Hit It Rich! gives you the ability to play a variety of five-reel slots in one place, right away, with no unlocking required. The themes are a nice mix of licensed slots like “Beetle Bailey” and “Blondie,” and generic games like “What’s Cookin’?” and “Splendor of Rome.” The only issue is figuring out exactly how many choices you have, as the game’s main lobby doesn’t serve up the whole selection in an organized fashion.

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The games vary by bet size and number of lines, but they have some common features too. Bonus rounds are activated by finding three “Bonus” symbols on valid lines, launching either a single bonus game or giving the player the chance to choose randomly between multiple options. Big wins can be posted directly to Facebook, and a special challenge feature can land you some extra coins if you outscore friends in specific bonus games.

Every coin wagered adds experience points to a bar at the top of the screen, advancing you to the next level when you fill it up. Gaining a level gets you some bonus coins and unlocks new max bets on all machines. Perhaps most intriguingly, leveling up earns you points in the game’s High Roller loyalty program, which can eventually lead to perks like bonuses on coin purchases (as you can buy more coins with real money), exclusive content, enhanced customer service, and reduced time between free bonus coins. It’s got five tiers ranging from Pewter to Platinum, and feels like a great approximation of a physical casino player’s card program – though sadly, there are no free adult beverages involved.

However you choose to chase down High Roller status, you’re going to be enjoying some excellent production values. The graphics on all machines are top notch, especially when expanded to the full screen view. The music and sound rate highly too, save for the repetitive lobby music. But the crown jewel is the “Oz – Over the Rainbow” game, which incorporates dialogue clips, music, and even short video clips that lead into the bonus rounds. It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise since Spooky Cool has previous experience with Oz games, but the developers really hit a home run with this particular slot machine. That gives me high hopes that “The Terminator” will be equally impressive when it becomes the next theme added to the mix.

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Maybe it will arrive alongside the additional gameplay modes and features that are all listed as “Coming Soon.” Tournament play, a high limit lobby, and achievements all sound great, and lots of other slot games have them. Hit It Rich! feels a tad incomplete without them, and while you can add friends in order to exchange gifts, it would be more of the social slots experience it claims to be if there were more ways to actually be social.

That’s an issue that is easily fixable with future updates though, and shouldn’t detract from the fact that Zynga and Spooky Cool Labs have built themselves a fun slots game that’s easy to lose yourself in for a spin or two. Hit It Rich! Casino Slots will probably never be played with real money at stake, but it could make its creators a bit of real money, and to Zynga, that’s going to be a welcome turn of events.