To be honest, the term "slot-machine/RPG" was one I never imagined I'd see. As a sucker for the "anything/RPG" hybrid, I was incredibly curious if this particular combination title would work. As it turns out, Phantom EFX's Battle Slots does an admirable job of mashing these seemingly-disparate genres together. While it lacks some of the polish and addictiveness of the best RPG hybrids, Battle Slots nonetheless hits more often than it misses.
The premise is forgivably absurd, even by fantasy standards, as the writers work to shoe-horn an all-powerful magical Battle Slot Machine into a more familiar tale of demon invasion and all-around monster infestation. It seems that the main character has stumbled upon the mysterious artifact about the same time that an upsurge in monster attacks begin. Driven by Fate, and armed with the powerful Slot Machine, players set across the world to track down and defeat the Ultimate Evil befalling the land.
What follows is quite typical fare for these hybrid-type games--players traverse a main-world map, stopping occasionally to do one-on-one battle with the local fauna and flora. As expected, these slot-machine battles are the heart of the game. The slot machine itself consists of a 3x5 set of reels, with about two-dozen pay lines. Various symbols determine the pay-outs. Red symbols generate physical attack points, while blue symbols generate magical ones. Players build up pools of these red and blue points, and spend them on various attacks and abilities. In addition, players can also earn experience and money from the green and gold symbols, respectively.
As the game progresses, players earn bigger and better symbols to install into their slot machines. Additionally, players also earn increasingly-powerful spells and abilities, and soon must tailor their skill selection to fit into the limited skillbook that can be brought into battle. The slot machine is also quite customizable--as players determine their style of play, they can set sliders to change the relative proportion of symbols appearing. Players can choose all blue symbols focusing only on magical attacks and abilities, all red symbols focused on all physical moves, or some mix of the two. Also, a similar slider balances the experience/gold symbol ratio, requiring players to decide whether they'd like faster advancement or additional money for goodies.
Besides direct-damage attacks, spells and skills can also manipulate the slot machine itself. Mostly this involves extra spins, tying up enemy spins, adding wild symbols, or stealing symbols from the opponents. Finding the right balance between damage and manipulation effects is quite enjoyable, but once that "perfect" setup is discovered, the game almost becomes too easy. Toward the end of the game, I found a build that netted me more than 9 wins out of every 10 battles. Unless I happened to hit an extremely harsh string of luck on the spins, I was crushing enemies with almost laughable ease.
This customizability is surprisingly deep, and players can change focus easily in a single playthrough. This is both a blessing and curse--while players won't regret less-than-optimal character layouts in a given game, there is less drive to start a new game to try out a different character design. A large part of what I like most about RPGs of this sort is the character development, and the ability to change everything on the fly detracts from that.
Battle Slots isn't the most impressive-looking game, but it's on par with many of the casual-style titles. Likewise, the music and sound effects are unobtrusive and forgettable. The writing is very tongue-in-cheek, and hits more often than it misses, often being mildly amusing and worth a pause before clicking through. I did grow quickly tired with the battle banter, but since it was only text I could easily ignore it.
The gameplay itself was quite smooth and simple. All the various town, store, and customization screens were easily navigable, and changing out a slot machine layout was a breeze. Battle itself was simply a matter of hitting "spin" until enough mana/attack points had been earned, then clicking one of the available spells. As a slightly-more-than-casual RPG, Battle Slots hits the right note in ease of play.
For those looking for a casual game with an unusual premise, Battle Slots certainly fits that bill. While it neither wowed me with its style, nor sucked me in with a "one more spin" addiction, I did enjoy much of my time spent at the reels. This is one of the more unusual titles I've found lately, and is worth a peek at the demo at the very least.