Reef Raider combines the excitement of a slot with the thrills of a boardgame while still making a pirate theme seem fresh. I must admit that I felt a little lost at first when I was testing the game out for this review, but NetEnt won me over little by little until I was convinced that this is probably their best game of 2021.
In a nutshell, Reef Raider is a cluster pay slot, which has its pros and cons (more later), but here there’s an added twist. The frame of the game serves as a path for our pirate crab to follow, and each corner of the frame has its own reward.
It looks like Sebastian from The Little Mermaid has replaced a claw for a hook and put on an eyepatch and a swashbuckler hat. I kind of like the new look and for some reason I’m craving a crab salad. But before I enjoy some crustation, let me tell you what you need to know to be successful at this slot.
Reef Raider is more of a slow-and-steady wins the raise rather than waiting for a massive win, but that’s not to say that the free spins in this game can’t pay handsomely. Because they can! They can pay REALLY big! But as always, I want to go over some pros and cons before diving into the gameplay and the many features of this slot, including free spins:
I already mentioned Sebastian from The Little Mermaid so the best way to describe the theme and background in Reef Raider would go something like this: Just look at the world around you; Right here on the ocean floor; Such wonderful things surround you; What more is your looking for? Under the sea, under the sea… but with a pirate theme.
Watch closely and you will see the x that marks the spot. That’s where the free spins are buried. Make your way around the board to get there and you will find a fine booty. Not like Beyoncé, but damn close. Don’t tell my wife!
This is where it gets really tough. I will try to describe the gameplay in Reef Raider as simple as possible, but you might want to read this section more than once. Seriously, this is not a slot for beginners. Even I had difficulties figuring everything out, and I’ve been playing online slots for years.
Let’s start with the basic: Cluster pay means that you have to have at least 5 of the same symbols connecting. Every winning cluster will produce a wild symbol somewhere in the winning area. New symbols fall down to replace the ones that were in winning clusters.
I hope you’re with me so far because now it gets a bit more complicated, but I feel you should know this, or you might end up screaming at the screen. This is where I have to get into what I consider to be a disconnect between the cluster pay mechanic and the boardgame feature. Here’s the key issue, only cluster wins with a wild will make “Sebastian” advance on the frame around the play area and this can be massively frustrating.
Here’s how it breaks down for winning clusters:
Then there are multiplier symbols in the mix. To benefit from these, they must be part of a winning cluster of at least 5 symbols. The multipliers aren’t wild so they can actually break up a cluster, but when they help they can boost the cluster’s pay by 2x, 3x, 5x, or 50x.
If you think you understand how it works from these bullet points, I urge to go and play the game for fun. Then come back here and see if I got it right. It feels like a bit of a mess at times to be honest.
But this is not all. Now that you know what it takes for Sebastian to move, it’s time to go into the different features he will trigger on the way to the free spins. As Sebastian moves around the play area, he will trigger bonus features on every corner in this order:
Once you make it to the Cannon Blast you’re only three steps away from the free spins feature (15 moves or more). If you manage to move Sebastian all the way there, and you’re still hitting winning clusters with wilds, those wins are converted to extra free spins.
Any bonus feature that you have reached will be triggered in order once you’ve run out of winning clusters, including if you make it all the way to the free spins feature.
Congratulations! You managed to hit enough winning clusters WITH wilds to make it all away around the play area. The first thing that happens is that the background will go darker and you will see an overlay cross sign in the middle of the screen. It’s time to complicate things further…
At the beginning of every free spin, the overlay area will be covered with the same Mystery Chest symbol I mentioned in the base game. They will turn over to reveal the same symbol, guaranteeing you a winning cluster, but there are also more random Mystery Chests and if these connect with the cross area, the area will grow to include more guaranteed Mystery Chests on following spins until you run out of spins.
Now, add all the rules from the base game to the free spins round and you can imagine that this gets a bit insane after a while. The way to win big in this game is to hit enough connecting Mystery Chests during free spins to build up a massive area and then hope that they will reveal a high paying symbol AND connect with a 50x win multiplier. That’s the trick!
I’m so torn over this slot. There are just so many things going on. At its core it should be really simple, but then they went and complicated things with only winning clusters that have wilds will make the crab move around the play area to trigger extra bonus features.
NetEnt could have made it a lot easier by simply making it so that “Sebastian” would move one step for every winning cluster and drop the whole must contain a wild requirement. At times it’s seriously frustrating, BUT when the symbols start falling your way, the game goes nuts and your total winnings explode, and you breeze your way to free spins without the aid of any bonus feature.
You see the payoff for getting to the free spins feature is two-fold: First, you hit enough wins on a single spin to move Sebastian all around the game area, and second, free spins can pay some crazy winnings if the overlay area grows big.
In the end, I must say that I like this slot, even though I still think it has some flaws. I like it because of the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you get to the free spins feature. But you definitely have to play this for fun until you’re comfortable with how it all works..
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