Some of the best games in the iGaming industry have been produced not by the gigantic, big-name studios that are well-known to players throughout the globe, but by smaller groups that mostly toil in obscurity. These groups are often able to work under larger brands or organizations in order to produce a small number of high-quality creations, rather than having to worry about producing a large quantity of content to power entire casinos.
One great example of this is Iron Dog Studio, a developer that works under the 1X2Network. Headquartered in Hove, England, this firm has recently begun to create games that are distributed through their parent company’s channels, focusing on creating just a handful of slot machines so far. This is an approach that has allowed them to create titles that are fun to play, beautiful to look at, and interesting for even veteran gamblers. While this isn’t a company that can power a whole casino (especially since they don’t work on larger gaming platforms), these early titles have definitely shown that Iron Dog is a serious slots creator that players will want to keep an eye out for.
The First Taste of a Great Studio
Every company has to start somewhere, and in the case of Iron Dog, that place was with a small handful of slot machines that show off the potential for what could come in the future. As of early 2017, there are only four games advertised on the group’s website.
But don’t let the small quantity of titles fool you: these developers take their craft very seriously. Each of these games is a very strong entry, showing off both the presentation and design skills of the team that worked on them as well as the company’s commitment to ensuring that gameplay features are a priority in each game they create.
The best way to show this is to give you a look at the entire collection, something that’s a lot easier to do when there are only four machines in question. The first title is Paint, one of the most colorful and visually interesting machines we’ve ever played. While the backdrop of the machine is a muted canvas, that only serves to contrast the brilliant colors that are used to bring the game to life. Paint can be found all across the screen in bright, bold stretches, with even the reels themselves being displayed in streams of yellow, orange, pink, blue, and green. It’s a striking look that’s both creative and very pleasing to the eye.
Of course, none of this matters unless a slot also have interesting gameplay, and thankfully, Paint delivers on that front as well. This is a five-reel, 20-payling machine that has players matching symbols from left to right. Beyond the low-paying card ranks (tens, jacks, and so on), you can also match thematic symbols like bottles of paint, painter’s tools, and drops of various colors. Wilds also appear on the reels, allowing you to make even more winning combinations.
One of the best part about most Iron Dog machines are the special features, and that’s certainly the case here. We’re big fans of the free spins game, which can be triggered by collecting five gold paint drops throughout your session. That starts you out with five free spins, but it is possible to earn more throughout the feature, as well as collect other multiplier and scatter bonuses. In addition, a Balloon Bonus game will allow you to pop balloons in order to collect multiples of your spin bet, once again offering a shot at some very lucrative rewards.
Next up is Cosmic Crystals, a game that offers up a surprisingly common hybrid theme: that of outer space mixed with a new-age focus on crystals and other mystical objects. In this case, the result of this brainstorm is a rather mysterious space-themed backdrop, featuring a cloud of purples and pinks in front of a galactic setting of planets and stars. The reels also use the same color scheme, giving the whole game a very ethereal look.
For the most part, this is a conventional machine: you’ll match the same old poker ranks along with a number of different crystals that can earn you various prizes over the five reels and 50 paylines the game offers. One nice touch is an expanding wild, which can cover an entire reel – a very valuable symbol to hit given the high number of paylines in play. But what truly makes this machine unique is its automatic respin feature that guarantees wins on every bet you make. That’s right: if you have a losing spin, you’ll automatically see the reels respin for free, and that will continue to happen until you finally hit a spin where there’s at least one winning payline.
Perhaps our personal favorite machine in this collection is Cherry Blast. A first look at the slot may not make it clear why, as in a lot of ways, this looks like just another take on the classic fruit machine concept. Indeed, most of the symbols on display are fruits like strawberries, limes, and watermelons: sure, a little bit more variety than in many games where you’re stuck only matching cherries and lemons, but still nothing to write home about.
Once again, however, our favorite parts of this title are in the special features. First, you’ll want to look out for cherry bombs that can explode to reveal scatters, wilds, or symbols that can take you into a couple of different bonus rounds. There’s the typical free spins feature that can earn you nine free plays, with the addition of even more exploding cherries that can put a lot of scatters and wilds in play. But the real excitement comes from the Bonus Dash, in which players get to watch a game reminiscent of Pac Man play out right in front of their eyes. A cherry version of the classic video game hero will move through a small level collecting pellets and special symbols; players have the option of making the path taken riskier or safer, which impacts both the volatility and the potential rewards in store for them.
Finally, the last title in this library is Gifts of Ostara. We’re not used to seeing many Easter-themed slots, so this one was an interesting game to explore. A five-reel, 20-payline machine, Gifts of Ostara is built on graphics that evoke the feelings of spring, not to mention the holiday it is based on, with sweets and eggs being used for basically all the symbols on the machine.
Eggs play a big part in the special features as well. Special eggs can reveal regular or sticky wilds, along with automatic free respins. The free spins game offers up multipliers on one icon, while Ostara herself can appear at any time in order to provide a sticky, expanding wild that can singlehandedly grant you a winning session.
At the moment, these are the only games in the portfolio, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from trying them. Thanks to their innovative and engaging features, these titles have a lot of replay value, allowing gamers to come back to this small selection time and time again without getting bored.
Part of a Powerful Network
One of the challenges of starting a new development studio is finding a way to get your games seen by operators or players. Sure, many companies find their way to trade shows or use personal contacts to get their first crop of titles into larger collections, but it can still be a long, hard road to really gaining widespread notice.
Thankfully, that’s not an issue for Iron Dog. The group is part of the 1X2Network, a family of companies that includes multiple content creators, platforms, partners, and distribution channels. The result is that Iron Dog’s games have already found their way across the network, meaning many operators automatically got their hands on them as soon as they were released. Similarly, these releases are part of the NYX Open Gaming System (or OGS), a popular platform that casinos can use to gather content from many different developers in one place. What this means is that you may well already be playing on a site that has these games, even if you didn’t realize it until now.
Awesome Games, And More to Come
While Iron Dog Studio may not have a whole lot to offer players just yet, what they have created is extremely impressive. Each of these titles is truly unique, with a style all its own and gameplay features that are more than just a copy of what we’ve seen in other machines before. We love seeing that level of innovation and creativity, as it’s a good sign that a developer is really thinking about what they are doing rather than just rushing out content as fast as possible.
As long as this group keeps that focus in the future, we expect big things from them in the years to come. Even if they only release a couple of slots each year, we imagine these games will be among the ones we most look forward to seeing – and as players become more familiar with this name, we think many in the online gambling community will do the same.