Slots get a big boost from new themes, bonuses, music and video

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New animation should ads a new dimension to the excitement the “traditional” video poker games that gamers are familiar with and so comfortable playing. | FILE PHOTO

Every new slot machine has three missions. It must have a way to shout out “Play me!” to any passing players. Once it grabs you, it must keep you in your seat. And it has to provide the fun that will keep you coming back for more.

Exciting game themes, sometimes licensed from pop culture icons, progressive jackpots, free spins, interactive bonus events, music and video all are part of the package in modern slots.

Now add the slot designers’ imagination. Here are some of their hottest ideas for 2013.

Pirate’s Quest, Bally Technologies: We’ve seen Bally turn touchscreens into fully interactive fun with U-Spin in wheel-spinning games such as Vegas Hits, and in U-Race in its NASCAR game, In Pirate’s Quest it’s U-Aim, and you touch to aim and fire your cannons at the enemy. It’s a 40-line video slot that figures to be perfect for pennies, and it features a free spins bonus as well as the target practice. The big prize — 7,500 times your line bet — comes when you land five skull-and-crossbones symbols on a payline during the free spins feature.

The Amazing Spider-Man, WMS Gaming: From comic books to TV to the movies, the Amazing Spider-Man has kept fans enthralled with its blend of adventure and hero’s angst. Now WMS is rolling out its Spider-Man slot machines, and the result is … well ... amazing. It’s on WMS’ advanced Sensory Immerson 2.0 format with synchronized motion technology, and the CPU-NXT3 operating platform gives it the boost for some pretty incredible effects. During free spin bonuses, the effects chair is synchronized with film clips in an event that can have up to eight reel sets spinning at once, all collecting extra credits. And the highlight battle between superhero and supervillian is breathtaking fun.

Monopoly Legends, WMS Gaming: The “legends” involved are classic WMS video slots. In bonus events, you could find yourself taken to Goldfish, Jackpot Party, Zeus or Reel ’Em In. A spinning wheel tells you just what game you’ll be playing at bonus time. Bonuses from the other WMS favorites are given a Monopoly spin. If the wheel takes you to the Reel ’Em In bonus, it’s Mr. Monopoly out on a boat, dropping a line into the water as he fishes for you prize.

Dolly, International Game Technology: Dolly comes in three themes: Dolly Parton Video Slots, Two Doors Down and Nine to Five Spinning Reels. All feature the country queen talking to you as you play, cheering you on. One fun bonus come in Nine to Five. It’s the Rockin’ Reels respin, triggered when you get stacked wild symbols on the center reel. The wilds are held, but rock and roll to Dolly’s hit “9 to 5” while the other reels respin, opening the possibility of big winners.

Little Green Men: Cosmic Blaster, International Game Technology: The latest take on IGT’s Little Green Men theme that long has been a durable favorite of alien chasers everywhere, Cosmic Blaster features a skill-based bonus events. Instead of merely picking spaceships to shoot down, you use a joystick to maneuver into firing range to blast them out of the sky. It’s fun, and I can only hope to get to the bonus event often enough to get in some practice.

The Munsters Family Portrait, Incredible Technologies: Instead of the standard five reels that we usually see on video slots, there are nine reels full of Munsters characters and icons, including the actors from the spooky 1960s sitcom. But only five of the nine are used to determine your outcome on each spin. There’s a five-reel frame for this portrait, and it slides back and forth over the full reel set. Wherever it stops, it frames the five reels that are going to count for that spin. Those reels are bright and in full color, while the other four are dimmed. Superman, Aristocrat Technologies: Aristocrat already had brought out a mechanical-reel version of Superman, but the Man of Steel was made for video. Sometimes the Clark Kent symbol turns into Superman, soars up the screen and extends the reel, creating extra symbols and extra paying connections. Superman is really two games in one. You can bet with a row of red buttons to play for pennies, with increments from 50 cents to $2.50. Or, just above, there’s a row of green (for kryptonite) buttons to play the Lex Luthor game instead. That’s a high-denom game, with increments from $5 to $25. Play for 50 cents, and the top jackpot starts at $50,000. Play for $25, and it’s $2.5 million.