When a new online casino software provider hits the scene, it’s always interesting to check out what they’re offering to players. That’s why we were very excited to take a look at what Nucleus Gaming is bringing to the table. This company recently sprung up (we believe in early 2016) and has started to deliver games to a small number of Internet gambling sites, providing everything from slots to table games and video poker.
However, the most interesting aspect of this company might be what we don’t know about them. Little is available about this time of their origins and associations, which is often the case for new developers. What’s particularly curious to us, however, is their incredible similarity to another more prominent developer – which could speak to a bit of plagiarism on the part of this newcomer, or perhaps some connection to that other studio.
Slots Like You Have Seen Before
Nucleus Gaming offers up a pretty well-rounded library of games for such a new provider, but the anchor is clearly their slots selection. They offer up more than 25 machines that cover a wide variety of different themes and gameplay styles. However, they’re all fairly similar in their graphical approach, which is to say they use a 3D perspective with plenty of animations designed to really engross the player in what’s happening on screen.
That quick description might sound very familiar to you, and for good reason: these games are extremely reminiscent of the titles put out by Betsoft, the pioneers in this style of gaming. In fact, even that might be an understatement, so we’ll be a bit blunt: many of the Nucleus slots titles are clearly designed to be almost exactly like their Betsoft counterparts.
Now, that’s not to say that this is a nefarious scheme of actually ripping off assets or stealing games wholesale from the other companies, because these games are clearly built from the ground up by the Nucleus Gaming team. The art and music are different, and they use a completely different interface on which their games are based. It’s just that the themes are copied to such a clear extent that it is hard to ignore the similarities, which often go right down to the number of paylines on a machine or the special features in a particular game. Some of the more egregious examples include (with the Betsoft original in parentheses):
- Spin to Ride (Slots Angels)
- CocoBongo (At the Copa)
- Matinee (At the Movies)
- Vegas Road Trip (Weekend in Vegas)
- Totem Tumble (Rook’s Revenge)
Okay, so the games may be a bit derivative, to say the least. But that doesn’t mean that they are bad. In fact, as we already noted, the graphics and other presentation work is actually very strong on these machines, with many of them looking like they would be natural fits in the lineup of Betsoft or another top-tier provider.
Take, for instance, the aforementioned Spin to Ride. This is a 30-line, five-reel slot that’s all about biker culture. The game is presented with the outside of a dive bar serving as the backdrop, and some hard rocking music setting the tone for players. On the reels, players match symbols like dart board, pool balls, alcohol, lighters and more, along with bigger money hits like various members of the biker gang itself.
There are a number of interesting features players can take advantage of during gameplay. For instance, every time you win, you’ll respin the third reel (after being paid) for free. If you win again, your new prizes will pay out at an increased multiplier, which can be seen on a bar in the upper left corner of the screen. This can get as high as 5x, potentially leading to some enormous wins if the right symbols can come into alignment at the right times. Hitting three Helen symbols will give you the chance to click one to collect an instant prize, while three Prospect Pete icons will trigger a free spins game in which the center reel is always wild.
Another excellent game is Hyper Galactic, a space-themed creation that features 243 ways to win on every single spin. Unlike many of the titles from Nucleus, this game is rather light on the animations, though that doesn’t mean it isn’t attractive: an intergalactic mix of colors add a lot of atmosphere to the game, with purple and blue hues providing a stark contrast to the gold, silver, and bronze colors that are prevalent on the reels themselves. Players are tasked with matching a surprisingly conventional set up icons, ranging from poker ranks ranging from tens through aces to cherries, bars, bells, and sevens, all historical classics in the world of slots.
At first glance, the only special feature is a wild symbol, which of course substitutes for anything else on the reels. But there’s one other feature that really takes this game to a new level. Cloned reels (also known as “sync reels”) can happen on every spin, and result in two or more adjacent reels becoming identical to each other. This can quickly lead to some massive matches and associated big winnings, especially on the rare occasions when all five columns sync up to be identical.
We were also excited to try Big Boss, though this is once again a direct copy of a popular Betsoft title: The Slotfather. You’ll be matching a series of underworld mafia types over this 30-payling machine, as well as many other symbols associated with the mafia: rings, Italian food, guns, maps of Italy – you know, all of your favorite Italian stereotypes.
While there are no real major animated sequences to delight players, there are smaller cues that are triggered every time you score a win, all of which serve to further push the mafia theme. Like in The Slotfather, matching gangsters with some other symbols can earn instant rewards: a sneaky gangster and a briefcase of gold bars, for instance, will get you an instant win of bonus credits, while the older gang member and a gun combine to earn you a series of free spins. The most exciting feature, however, comes when you hit three or more Big Boss symbols, after which you’ll have to choose a few businesses to put his illicit slot machines in. Yes, it’s a direct clone of what happens in Slotfather, but the formula works just as well here.
As you can see, the similarities between these games are more than cosmetic – in many cases, even the special features are almost identical to those found in Betsoft games. It’s a bit odd and a little disconcerting, and we’ll come back to that topic a little later in this review. However, for now, we’d like to point out a few more of the better slots in this collection:
- Kitty Cutie
- Fruit Serenity
- High Noon
- Mermaid’s Treasure
- Geppetto’s Toy Shop
- Sweet Treats
- Seer’s Crystal
The similarities go beyond the slots area as well, as most of the table games appear to be copies of the Betsoft lineup as well. The upside of this is that Nucleus has a rather large collection of table options for players to enjoy, including not only classics that every casino site should feature, but also some less common offerings that do a great job of adding variety to any iGaming website. Some of the highlights include:
- American Roulette
- European Roulette
- Pai Gow Poker
- Three Card Rummy
- Oasis Poker
The company has also produced a series of ten video poker machines. Once again, these might seem a bit familiar if you’ve already played the games of another popular gaming developer. Games like Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Joker Poker and Bonus Poker and joined by more exotic options like Split Way Royal and Five Draw Poker. Both single-handed and multi-handed variants are offered for about 10 different variants, and several are also available in a Pyramid Poker format.
Software Yet to Find Much Reach
One of the reasons why we we’ve struggled to find out much about this software outside of the information on the Nucleus Gaming website is the fact that they simply haven’t found their way into many casinos yet. Amusingly, we know of at least one site where their games are spread right next to those of Betsoft, which seems just a tad awkward to us – but, hey, whatever works.
There are a few things that this provider does have going for them that might attract more attention in the future. For one, all of their games come ready to be played on mobile devices. This means that players can immediately jump in on their tablets and smartphones, important in an era where mobile play is the quickest growing segment of the iGaming market.
Uncertain Origins Are a Cause of Concern
There are two possible stories we’ve been able to come up with for Nucleus Gaming, and which one is accurate could say a lot about whether or not you want to play with them. First, there’s the possibility that this is some sort of budget brand that is actually controlled or otherwise authorized by Betsoft. In this scenario, the similarities aren’t problematic in the slightest.
On the other hand, there’s the other scenario: basically, anything that isn’t what we described in the last paragraph. In this case, we’re not sure if what is going on here is strictly illegal, but it certainly seems unethical, as these games are pretty blatant knockoffs of games that have already proven popular for Betsoft, the company that actually put all the work into developing the original versions. It’s certainly not rare for companies to be inspired by other software providers, but copies that are this close are virtually unheard of. Given that we both think that the originals are slightly better, and that we’re inclined to support the developers who first came up with these ideas, we’d recommend that players interested in these games simply check out a Betsoft casino instead.