A simple slot based around the Roman city of Pompeii. While solidly designed, Pompeii’s RTP isn’t high enough nor the game fun enough to overcome our many reservations about the design and designers.
"You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices." – Pliny the Younger, describing refugees from the eruption of Vesuvius.
Around early November in the year 79 CE, the town of Pompeii was buried in volcanic ash from the fires of Mount Vesuvius. The event happened so fast that people were entombed almost where they stood. Their bodies encased in ash and their city preserved almost perfectly for the next 1700 years.
The slot machine Pompeii takes you back to the city that stood just before Vesuvius blew its top. The game from Aristocrat comes with with Roman characters, Latin inscriptions and a backdrop of lava and smoke.
The graphics are alright. They are not flashy or impressive, but the animations are smooth and the images crisp and clear.
The artwork is a bit limited, it lacks much in the way of atmosphere and the Ace to Nine symbols are so prevalent as to almost bury the Roman flavour in their dusty, grey, mundanity.
The sound is also very stripped back, no music and a very strange voice sample which announces one word of Caesar’s famous quotation: "Veni, Vidi, Vici" whenever a coin symbol hits.
Above all the design is inoffensive, but much less exciting and engaging than many of the modern slots out there.
The gameplay is what you’d expect from a 5-reel slot using the 243-ways pay-line system. This system means that rather than hitting specific pay lines you simply need to hit a symbol in adjacent reels starting from the left.
There’s not much variety – there’s rarely even an interesting animation to break the gameplay up – apart from the option to gamble which is offered. The gamble game is a simple red or black game where the player must call the colour of the next card off the virtual deck.
That coin symbol mentioned earlier also acts as the trigger for the free spin bonus rounds.
Hit three, four or five of these Bonus symbols and you get paid an absolute amount: 125, 500 or 1250 coins or "credits" respectively. You also get 10, 15 or 20 free spins, with the possibility of retriggering the spins if you hit the Bonus symbols again.
There is also a multiplier bonus for hitting a combo using the Wild symbol (with a picture of the erupting volcano on it). If you hit it on reel two you treble your win, on reel four the win is multiplied by 5. Hit both and the multipliers stack making for a 15x multiplier.
The minimum bet is 25 "credits" (which are equivalent to coins on most other slots) which confusingly are treated like a bet per line when calculating payouts.
You can bet 25, 50, 75, or 100 "credits". As a result, the main way to determine bet size is by choosing the value per "credit" you choose. The maximum bet on the site we tested was £/$/€150.
The RTP on these bets is just 95.45%, with most of that return coming when, or rather if, you hit a bonus. The variance in this game is pretty high, with payouts coming few and far between.
There are a number of other problems with the software that don’t quite fit in elsewhere in this review but do have an impact.
For example, the Help Menu is riddled with spelling errors in a way that makes one rather suspicious of how the company running the app operates. And the way in which "credits" is used as a multiplier can make it hard to work out exactly how your winnings relate to your bet.
But beyond these issues, Pompeii’s biggest downfall is its lack of imagination. That and the ash cloud.