We’re all used to the HD graphics and surround sound experience offered by the PS4 and XBox One from the current generation of games consoles. For me, these systems, the games they are capable of running and the technology at the heart of them wasn’t even thought possible when I started out. A black and white display with solid lines and limited pixels with one of the early Pong clones in the seventies was my introduction to the world of video games, before getting my first colour computer in 1981 with Commodore’s Vic 20.
Despite being a massive technological leap forward from my first system, the hardware was still fairly limited. We had to use our imagination a lot and most games were still fairly simplistic both in terms of gameplay and aesthetics… they had to focus on gameplay because of technical constraints. Highlights for many were official ports and unofficial arcade clones. For me, especially growing up as a child in the 80s, were the budget games from Mastertronic (and other companies who followed suit). At a pocket-friendly £1.99 it gave me a chance to be able to buy games on a regular basis. It didn’t matter that the games were limited – they were cheap and cheerful and kept us entertained until next week’s pocket money arrived.
As I said, gaming highlights for me were arcade clones. The 80s were a time when the arcades ruled for gamers. Bright lights, loud machines and it was the high point of the family holiday – heading to the arcade with a pocket full of coins ready to play games that simply weren’t possible at home, or at least to the same visual definition. It wasn’t just the likes of Space Invaders, Galaxian, Defender or any of the other classics though. It was a time when slot machines were accessible to all – lower payouts meant that they were seen as fun games where kids enjoyed playing them just as much as adults so it was natural that they’d migrate across to the home formats and the aforementioned Mastertronic unleashed one of their bigger releases, Vegas Jackpot onto the world. I admit, despite there being no cash involved it was strangely addictive and something I found hard to put down regardless of whether it was on the Vic 20 or later when I got the same game for the Commodore 64.
Things have moved along since then though. While we saw similar games in the 16-bit era and even on consoles, gamers wanted more and it wasn’t until technology developed and online gaming became prevalent that the experience we had in the arcades was truly able to be recreated in the home. Love them or loathe them, online casinos have been able to bring the thrill of playing for money to gamers but in a way that we never thought possible. It’s no longer just a case of a few fruits and other symbols on a few reels for the chance of winning a few pounds. The stakes are higher and the games are more advanced, more vibrant and colourful and for us geeks, are tapping into a market that’s appealing to our love of our favourite franchises.
There’s an abundance of games linking in to almost everything. Major blockbuster movies are seeing slots games released all the time but the biggest area I’ve seen so far, looking at the range over at Casino.com, is from Marvel with over 20 games on offer. It’s certainly not something I can recommend to everyone – online gaming of this nature should only be done in situations where you can not only afford to do so, but can control your spending comfortably so it’s something that you have be aware of right from the start and that’s the same for any online gaming, including playing the National Lottery and the online versions of its scratchcards. Not everyone is able to do it and there is something to be said about paying cash when you can see exactly how much you are spending.
Now, all that aside, what about these games for those who do decide to take the plunge? As I said there are a range on offer. Some are based on the movies – both from Marvel Studio and Fox including Avengers, X-Men, Iron Man – as well as others based on various characters taken from Marvel’s vast array of heroes so the chances are that at least one of your favourites will be there. Most of the games are quick to load up and while some will jump straight into the games themselves, others kick off with a short animated intro. The Avengers features a sequence introducing the characters while Spider-Man has a great motion comic.
Importantly for those still unsure about giving the games a try there’s the chance to have a free play on the games which play exactly the same but for virtual cash – pretty much an update of the 8-bit classics. Each game displays five virtual reels, but unlike the old games (and many of their arcade counterparts), there are vastly more winning line combinations open to you, and in most there are 20 chances to win on each spin. On each spin you choose how much to bet per line and then away you go! It’s a bit confusing keeping track of the lines themselves and deciphering whether or not you have won in the early stages of playing, especially with all the combinations of characters, special symbols, wildcards and other images displayed on the reels but you’ll soon get used to it. To help keep track of what you have spent / won, there’s a running total in the corner of the screen so if you do move on to real money you can see not only how well / badly you are doing but it should help you maintain a degree of control.
As for what the games are like on screen, they’re all well presented with bright, bold visuals, animated characters on screen for many of the tables and great character artwork and – in the case of the movie tie-ins – superb likenesses of the actors and actresses from the films. Sound can be a little repetitive across the games, but it’s functional and certainly does what it needs to.
During play, I did find that apart from the visuals and some of the bonus modes that most of the Marvel games did seem to feel the same so when choosing which one(s) to play it’s really down to personal choice and who your favourite Marvel characters are as they don’t vary too greatly from one to the other, but collectively they’re certainly fun to play and that’s what counts. What’s even better is that they’re no longer as dubious to play as the machines of old… they’re now truly randomised so literally anyone can win on these instead of the old physical slots machines that could be limited by the owners in terms of how much and how often they paid out to players. As games themselves they’ve certainly come a long way since the days of the Vic 20 and the old 1p and 2p arcade slots I remember from my childhood and that’s definitely a good thing.