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Hot Air pokies are a part of Microgaming’s casino software library.
This poker machine uses a layout that’s fairly standard for Microgaming video bonus pokies – five reels and thirty pay lines.
This game is not a good fit for pokies players that want to place high roller bets; Hot Air is designed for penny-ante gamblers and those that like mid-stakes, though the appeal to mid-stakes players is limited.
Bets of up to ten coins per line are allowed; with up to thirty pay lines to activate with a wager, that means gamblers can bet anywhere from one to 300 credits per spin. Available credit denominations are more limited than on this designer’s other pokies – only three denominations are available. Credits can be worth $0.01, $0.02, or $ 0.05 apiece. That establishes a max bet per line of $0.50, and if a player bets the maximum number of credits the max bet is $15 per spin. Low rollers can wager as little as $0.01 each round.
This poker machine does not have an in-depth plot; in fact there isn’t really a story being told at all. Instead, it is based on the romance of hot air balloon flight, with symbols, animations, and other features based on that theme.
Though there isn’t a video game-style storyline, the game’s layout is attractive and the theme is well incorporated in animations and symbols. The game’s reels are set against a brilliant blue sky which is dotted with hot air balloons, planes, and birds.
The two most important symbols are a hot air balloon pilot which acts as the machine’s wild symbol and a balloon in flight that acts as a scatter symbol. Other symbols that reflect the hot air balloon theme are a man with a telescope, an old-fashioned biplane, the basket of a hot air balloon packed with a picnic lunch and a few tools of the hot air balloon trade, and a soaring blue hawk-like bird. Six playing card images (the standard 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace) round out the symbol collection. All of these images are styled to match the other reel symbols.
Unlike other Microgaming poker machines, only two of this game’s images are animated, and only when they form part of a winning combination. Both the pilot wild symbol and the balloon scatter symbol have short animated movements; in the case of the wild symbol, the pilot image starts out as a deep focus shot, zooming in to get a close-up view of the pilot in action. The scatter symbol balloon image sets in motion by flying low over a hilly landscape, only when it is part of any winning combo.
The other symbols (the playing cards, bird, balloon basket, etc.) are not entirely static. When the player earns a payout involving these symbols they flash and reflect bright sparkles of light, though these effects can’t really be called animations. Another feature strangely missing from this game is background music, though most people who play the game for more than a few rounds probably won’t miss it. The free spins round does have its own audio effects and musical track, so it is a bit odd that the designers didn’t add a musical track to the rest of the game.
Without a progressive jackpot, Hot Air’s payout of 2,000 credits for the appearance of five of the game’s wild pilot symbols is the largest jackpot in the game, without the use of multipliers or other features. However, the pilot wild symbol automatically triples the value of any combo it completes. Without multipliers, that top prize is worth as much as $100.
Don’t forget that two of the game’s larger fixed jackpot prizes are worth 500 credits; if tripled by the appearance of one or more wild pilot symbols that payout turns into 1,500 coins, worth $75 if the bettor has selected the max denomination size of a nickel per coin. Those payouts sound small until you consider the impact of multipliers and other special payouts, which are probably the rewards most pokies players are looking for anyway.
One unique feature on Hot Air is the fact that four symbol combinations require just two images, not the standard three. That means the hit frequency on this low roller Microgaming pokie is higher than most; more frequent payouts (even if they are on the small side) are the kind of feature that keeps penny poker machine fans spinning the reels.
The Pilot wild symbol substitutes for all the game’s other symbols except for the balloon scatter. Keep in mind that any jackpots completed by the pilot wild are tripled, except for the five pilot symbol jackpot which offers the game’s highest static reward.
The scatter symbol is the most complex feature of Hot Air – three or more balloon scatters anywhere on any reel or line (even inactive lines) triggers the game’s free spins round.
During the free spins game (called Hot Spins) the bettor earns ten free rounds of play during which all payouts are automatically doubled. That means the biggest jackpot (for five wild symbols) is worth between $40 and $150. Take note that the free spins game cannot be retriggered.
The free spins game is a little more complex than others in Microgaming’s low stakes pokie collection – any wild pilot or scatter balloon symbols that appear during those ten free spins are added up to enhance the value of payouts and free spins. For every wild symbol that appears during those ten free spins, the bettor earns one additional free round. For every scatter symbol that appears during the free spins game, Hot Air players earn an additional single jackpot multiplier, so two scatter symbols will double any prizes won during the free spins feature, three symbols triple the rewards, four symbols quadruple prizes, and five symbols multiply all free spins payouts by 5x.
The other way bettors can increase their jackpots on Hot Air is to play Microgaming’s special Gamble Game. Every payout, no matter how small or how large, offers the player the option of either collecting that jackpot or using it as the stake for the poker machine’s gamble feature.
The choice between two different multipliers (2x or 4x) also requires a different gamble. To earn a 2x multiplier, the bettor has to try to guess whether a card taken at random from a deck of cards will be black or red. To earn the 4x multiplier, the bettor tries to guess the random card’s suit, either spades, clubs, hearts, or diamonds. Guessing either incorrectly wipes out the jackpot that triggered the game.
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