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Billion Dollar Gran is one of Microgaming’s traditional-style pokies that’s designed with a few more bells and whistles than your standard classic poker machine game. This is a machine with three reels and just a single pay line (called the Win Line) running down the centre of the virtual symbol display window.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, few of Microgaming’s traditional-style pokies had as many extra features and player options as Billion Dollar Gran; after this game’s appearance some years ago, its popularity pushed the company further in this direction, and they began producing games in a traditional style that also gave players additional features not commonly found on three reel single-pay line titles.
If that’s not enough to get you interested in this weird pokie, consider that this particular Microgaming machine design does not really base winnings on the standard array of pay lines and reels found on most online pokies.
Before we get into this title’s unique way of paying out prizes, let’s look at some game basics. Billion Dollar Gran has a funny theme – an old wealthy lady that likes nothing more than handing out stacks of her cash. In the game’s animated background, we see our sweet little old Gran sitting on a royal throne / rocking chair knitting away. As you play the game, Gran rocks back and forth and does her knitting as the reels spin. The usual trappings of the old woman – a cat, for example, are juxtaposed with stacks of cash, jewellery, money bags, and other luxurious items. Unless you turn off the volume or the sound effects, Gran will occasionally perk up and say something off-colour or unexpected.
The game’s symbols start with the usual cherries and sevens, but start to include some grandmother-specific items after that, such as a piece of knitting, a cup of tea, a jewellery box, and an image of the Billion Dollar Gran herself. There is also a bowling ball symbol which acts as the video bonus trigger.
So about the unique style of the game – unlike most pokies, you don’t have to worry about pay lines and coins and all that, in part because there is just one winning line and only three reels to wager on. Bettors place a single wager on each spin; Microgaming programmed Billion Dollar Gran to accept a very wide selection of wagers; available bets are as follows: $0.10, $0.20, $0.25, $0.50, $1, $2, $5 or as much as $10 for each spin of the reels. The unique style of the game doesn’t stop there – payouts on winning combinations are not paid in dollar amounts. Instead, lining up winning collections of symbols leads to different numbers of what Microgaming calls WinSpins.
Each time the player lands a winning combination of the game’s symbols, Gran pays them off with a specific number of payout spins. For example, lining up three cherries leads to one WinSpin. When this happens, the screen changes to the Winspins game. These special spins are a combination of jackpots and free spins – each of them leads to at least one win. The different combinations of winning symbols lead to between one and twenty-five of these free spin features. All WinSpins are played out on a separate three reel game with five pay lines; winning combos in the WinSpins game payout between 1X and 500X a given prize.
Yes, this is a three reel game basing all wins on a single pay line, but it was designed with all these extras: a hold option, a nudge option, a feature rewarding free spins, a bonus game, and a unique option called “Shifta!” which knocks the reels into a guaranteed win.
The nudge feature lets players bump different reels to try and knock them into a winning position, a funny nod to the old tilt cheating methods used in land-based casinos in the days of mechanical poker machines. Players can win as many as four nudges at a time.
Billion Dollar Gran’s hold feature is triggered at random and allows the player to select up to three reels to remain locked in the same position for the next spin. The special Shifta! feature is also a randomly triggered event that knocks the game’s reels into a guaranteed-to-win combination of symbols.
By far the funniest aspect of this poker machine is the video bonus game. Players lucky enough to spin three bowling ball symbols on Billion Dollar Gran’s win line trigger a bonus game called Bowling Green that rewards as much as 2,000X your wager size – at the maximum bet size of $10 per spin, the top reward in the Bowling Green game is $20,000.
Playing the bonus game is passive but still cute – you watch Gran throw four bowling balls at a standard set of pins. Where the balls land in relation to the pins determines your various multiplier amounts, between 25x and 2,000x. This is one of those bonus games that pays out a nice reward regardless of Gran’s performance.
The game is unique because of its funny theme and the WinSpin feature which rewards symbol combos with free cash spins rather than credit pay outs. Take note that in the WinSpins games, only the prizes for the largest possible win are paid out, not multiple prizes. WinSpin payouts are in credits, not dollar amounts, which is how Microgaming encourages Billion Dollar Gran players to place the largest possible wager.
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