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Despite its name, this new 3D slots3 is far from a classic fruit machine. It's set on water's edge, the waves are gently lapping the rocks around you and the horizon is misty. You catch a glimpse of a crab basking in the sun, and then you know you are sitting in front of an ocean. The music is Far East, relaxing, even hypnotic, reminiscent of a spa or oriental massage. And even though we 3D gamblers have come to love the funny characters in the games, Fruit Zen seems just perfect without them.
Suspended over the water is a cherry wood frame containing 3 rows of 5 fruits. Parts of the frame get momentarily submerged as the waves rise and fall. Their matrix arrangement indicates their purpose, yet they’re strangely suspended in mid-air, with the waves gently moving beneath them. There are no apparent reels or any other structure that you would expect from a slot machine. The fruits are shiny, colourful and tangible, not just pictures ‘stuck on’ to reels. The rest of the decor is tastefully designed in Japanese cherry wood, framing the coin selection, lines-to-bet and bet-per-line, buttons and displays.
Coin size is the standard 0.02 to 1.00 but, unusually for this genre, the bet per line goes up to 10 (normally 5) and number of lines doesn’t go beyond 10 (normally 25 or 30).
Betsoft Gaming have matched the individualism of Fruit Zen's look and feel to a unique gaming model. You've got just 7 different fruits, mapping to 6 different win amounts. There are only 10 lines but every line wins left to right or right to left and if you win both ways on a single given line, you get the highest direction win, the lower win being scrapped.
There is something soothingly spiritual about the experience, but at the same time there are striking contrasts. For example, every click with the mouse produces a ‘clunk’ that breaks the serene atmosphere and brings you out of your slumber. It’s a little bizarre but really quite satisfying to make noise in this way. Clunk the Spin button and the fruits turn in their reel-like orbits yet remain detached from anything physical. They come to a halt with a thud and if you turn up a winning combo the lifelike fruits of the win spin on their axes and get shot with a dazzling energy bolt, as your winnings are piled into your credit balance. Multiple line wins are accumulated together.
Fruit Zen is great, different, dazzling and absorbing. But it's the wilds that really bring the house down. The only non-fruit on the invisible reels is the ‘Fruit Zen’ placard that can appear on reels 2, 3 and 4. When one shows up, it initiates a crescendo of activity, starting with stardust swirling and then rapidly growing into a gigantic swell of lotus flowers covering the whole reel. This is where the big money starts rolling in because the next thing that happens is that the Lotus flowers - now covering 3 lines - act as wilds for the current showing. But then you get an automatic free spin where the wilds stay in place to give you the chance of another easy win. If you're playing all 10 bi-directional lines, you have a good chance of things lifting off, as this could initiate a chain reaction of progressive wins. Just imagine getting a wild on reels 2 and 3, on any line - then getting more wilds on the auto spin somewhere on reel 4.