Hellcatraz is an 8-bit version of the infamous San Francisco Bay prison, Alcatraz. At first glance, this appears to be a world full with bad guys, lockups, and great whites. The slot’s location is clearly marked by a suspension bridge depicted in the background. A little more unclear is why developer Relax Gaming added the word ‘Hell’ to the moniker considering Hellcatraz looks really cute with a retro gaming flavor about it. Alternately, it could be a reference to the evilly unattractive mathematical model at the show’s helm. There is zero underworld theme to this game despite the name. Instead, Hellcatraz is an homage to classic video games played by kids and teenagers on systems like the Atari and Amiga. This slot was inspired by Thunderkick’s Flame Busters.
Its pixelated visual style calls to mind classic Sierra pick-and-click adventures like Police Quest 1 and Leisure Suit Larry, in which players had to use a computer keyboard to direct the actions of their protagonist by entering commands like “unlock door,” “open door,” “talk to man,” and so on. The toughest part was transitioning to a new screen and having to frantically type something before being swarmed by monsters. Sure, games back then could eat up a lot of time, but on the bright side, they probably helped kids pick up the keyboard earlier in life.
While Hellcatraz doesn’t require any typing on the player’s part, it does require them to select a gameplay mode. When it comes to volatility, Mixed Mode is the’softer’ choice. Alternatively, Lockdown Mode offers a “very high” degree of volatility for the brave. Bets can be as low as 10 p/c and as much as $/€20 every spin, so it’s important to choose carefully before you get started. Similar to how volatility can swing from mode to mode, so can the RTP. The return to player (RTP) rises to 96.88% when the bonus buy feature is used. The hit rate ranges from 19.92% in Normal mode to 23.22% in Hard mode. This gives you the option of playing aggressively or more cautiously. It’s still a high-stakes game either way.
Symbols for the game fall into place on a grid of 6 reels and 6 columns in front of a metropolitan skyline as the reels spin. Any three or more identical symbols in a row from left to right will win you a reward. As soon as it occurs, the winning symbols vanish, and replacements fall into place. This indicates that there are several possible outcomes from every given spin.
When you open up the paytable, you’ll be treated to a visual feast in the form of the game’s 9 normal pay symbols. Diamonds, Hearts, Clubs, and Diamonds are the first four suits they play with, and they are all low paying. In addition to the handcuffs, a guard’s badge, a shark, and two characters are more desirable. One is an Al Capone lookalike and the other is a correctional officer who is the most expensive at 2 times the stake for six of a kind. The large ‘W’ is the wild symbol, and it can show up on reels 2 through 6. It can be used as a replacement for other pay symbols.
Highlights of Hell’s Kitchen
Even though the makers didn’t go overboard with the game’s features, there are a lot of moving components and choices to make, so it might feel hectic at times. Mystery Symbols appear randomly throughout each spin of the base game. A counter for each hidden icon is decremented by one with each successive cascade. When it reaches zero, the mystery symbols change to show the same pay sign. All mystery symbols in Lockdown Mode have the same number, however in Mixed Mode they can have two different values.
Slot fans who prefer to hoard and gather prizes will like Hellcatraz. A little key icon emerges on top of standard symbols at random. Each one of these key symbols awards 1-10 keys which zoom off the reels to be placed in the Key Collector meter. Once you’ve collected 2,000 keys, you’ll unlock Super Free Spins. You’ll get 5 free spins with hidden symbols exposed at the start, with no cascades necessary. In addition, golden mystery symbols have been added to the game; whenever 2 of these symbols appear anywhere on the reels, a bonus spin is awarded.
If you don’t want to wait around for 2,000 keys, you can skip right to the Super Free Spins by clicking the Buy Feature button. If no keys have been found, the stake will increase by 200 times. The cost can be lessened, however, if players trade in the keys they have already obtained.
Judgment on Hellcatraz
Hellcatraz is a slot machine with a lot of personality, fresh ideas, and exciting gameplay. Hellcatraz’s pixelated retro graphics were made to appeal to gamers who came of age in the ’80s and ’90s, and they do it brilliantly. Every spin is a return to a simpler time, and the game is practically brimming with nostalgia and a strong recognition factor. However, Hellcatraz conceals more than it shows.
The addition of a mission-based mechanic—collecting all of the keys—increases the overall gaming vibe. Of course, it can also function in reverse. The game’s pace and length may feel excessive if you’re not a fan of pursuit mechanics or “collecting” games. However, fans of the game will not mind this at all because it is fundamental to the experience. On that point, skipping the key collecting could be quick and straightforward, but the cost for doing so is rather hefty at 200 times the bet. It’s especially frustrating to have a low return when there are just 5 spins to play and the bonus round seems to be gone before it ever began.
The mystery symbols feature can be a minor annoyance in the main game, but it is by no means a deal breaker. They have potential when used, but spend the vast majority of their time doing little more than taking up space. When they remain inactive, they take up valuable real estate on the screen and reduce the likelihood of making a profit. However, during the super free spins, they have the potential to go absolutely bonkers, yielding payouts of up to 51,840 times the initial wager.
Hellcatraz is similar to the real Alcatraz in that many people tried to enter but few succeeded. What it means is a highly unpredictable, winner take all type of slot. Not everyone will enjoy Hellcatraz, but for those who lived through the glory days of floppy disks, it will feel like going home.