The word “iconic” is often overused, but if there was ever a video slot that deserved the label, it would be NetEnt’s timeless classic, Starburst. Although it was only introduced in 2013, Starburst quickly became a fan favorite. It’s been around for a while, but the overall trend towards riskier, more rewarding games means it now feels a bit antiquated. NetEnt has gone back to the original with their 2021 release Starburst XXXtreme, keeping certain aspects to preserve a bond but pulling out the innards and throwing in a drastically new set of arithmetic, maybe in an effort to keep the brand current or to excite players who have moved on to larger slots.
Visually, the reproduction is a near exact copy of the original Starburst, making its inspiration obvious from afar. Action unfolds on a 5-reel, 3-row gaming grid with 9 rather than 10 fixed paylines, and it’s all inspired by the cosmos. The removal of a single payline is the least of the changes in Starburst XXXtreme, which is good news for players seeking significant novelty. Fans of the original will feel right at home with the XXXtreme version, and there isn’t much more to notice in terms of audio and visuals, however Starburst XXXtreme does display a travelling at light speed effect behind the reels at various moments.
It’s now possible to wager anywhere from 10 pence to £/€50 every spin, and the underlying mathematical model has been overhauled as well, with volatility placed squarely in the ‘high’ category. As a result of the elimination of pay-both-ways, players may now only form winning combinations when three or more similar symbols appear in sequential order, beginning with the leftmost reel. This is less noticeable in the game’s usual betting mode than it is on XXXtreme Spins (more on that below), because the fireworks are constantly going off in XXXtreme Spins.
For the paytable, the game goes back to old ground by using the same 7 pay symbols as before. This translates to a lower value set of symbols consisting of 5 glittering jewels, followed by 7s and Bars. Five of a kind with either of the later two can return anywhere from 20x to 50x the original wager. As previously, wilds are essential for currency farming, so let’s take a closer look at them now.
Slot Functions, Starburst XXXtreme
Something must be quite powerful for NetEnt to remove a bet line and have the remaining ones pay only in one direction, thus the ‘XXX’ in the title. Fortunately, NetEnt has compensated by including multipliers in the mix. This may sound overly straightforward, but at the heart of the Starburst experience is the realization that sometimes the simplest things have the most profound consequences.
The first thing you’ll notice while starting XXXtreme Spins is that there are two different betting options:
Every spin has a one in ten chance of yielding a wild Starburst symbol, multiplying your bet by ten.
The other is a 95x base-bet increase for a guarantee of two Starburst Wilds each spin.
If you’re shocked by such sums, be assured that you can get just as many wilds on standard spins; they simply won’t appear as often. Return to Player (RTP) is quite stable between 96.26 and 96.45% regardless of betting method.
As previously, the Starburst Wilds on reels 2, 3, or 4 are crucial to the action. When they do, they grow to fill the entire reel and grant another spin. When a respin is awarded, any Wilds present remain locked until the next respin is awarded.
The latest addition is a multiplier of either x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or x150 for each Starburst Wild that appears. The multipliers for any winnings on a bet line during the current spin and any subsequent respins are added together if several wilds appear.
Finally, there’s the optional Random Wilds addition. After a spin or respin, this feature can randomly be triggered, expanding the center three reels with anywhere from one to three Starburst Wild symbols.
The Final Say on Starburst XXXtreme Slots
The difference between the two Starburst games is like comparing night and day. NetEnt has left the visuals and the audio somewhat same, so from first glance, you might not notice the changes. There was an update, but it wasn’t made to look like Starburst. The goal was to create a game that will appeal to a new type of gambler, serving as a rebuttal to those who would argue that NetEnt has become too tame. NetEnt has succeeded brilliantly in these respects. It’s as if they gutted a Lada and installed an engine that would make a Koenigsegg green with envy. If you spend the minimum, you may relax and take in the starry sky, but the XXXtreme Spins are a game changer that will dramatically increase the stakes on every spin.
Starburst XXXtreme caters to high-rollers with more than just massive wagering potential. Some readers have correctly predicted that adding multipliers will drastically alter the game. Starburst Wild respins are even more exciting when you consider that a maximum multiplier of 450x is achievable. Not only are there more exciting possibilities now, but that number can go through the ceiling. With maximum multipliers, stacked Bars, and respins, a player might theoretically win up to 200,000x their wager, the maximum amount set by NetEnt.
The triple ‘X’ may not be the best choice of letters for a video game’s title, but at least it’s not a case of misleading advertising. In many ways, Starburst XXXtreme lives up to its name. While the original’s vibe remains, players with a more experienced gambling disposition will enjoy this one more than those looking for a low-volatility introduction to online slots. Starburst XXXtreme is a challenging new take on a classic favorite, but it will cost you to see everything it has to offer.