When NetEnt first released footage of their The Legend of Shangri-La slot, we immediately noticed it had acquired a name extension to read Cluster Pays. While it’s been well over a year since this innovative new casino game mechanic was first introduced, anyone who’s been following the iGaming scene closely of late will have noticed its increased inclusion within new titles.
Whether this is a passing phase or a new trend remains to be seen, but the influx of new Cluster Pays games by NetEnt got us thinking that a thorough guide on this topic was due a release.
To get the full breakdown of Cluster Pays – where it’s found, and why it was created – we’ll be harking back to the end of March 2016 when the rather exciting Hawaii-inspired Aloha! slot creation was released. But first, for anyone who’s been away from their favourite NetEnt online casinos for the summer, we’ll be walking you through exactly what Cluster Pays is.
What is Cluster Pays by NetEnt and How Does it Work?
While the Cluster Pays concept’s birth can’t quite be pinpointed, the 22nd March 2016 drop date of Aloha! suggests that it was circa mid-to-late 2015. NetEnt haven’t got to where they are today by resting on their laurels, not taking bold steps etc, and switching up the way their slot’s payout mechanic works is one of the most daring avenues a casino games provider can take.
Certain online gamers don’t appreciate the norms being messed with, so NetEnt needed to think of a simple yet considerably different way to calculate winning combinations.
The result was Cluster Pays – a feature that NetEnt CPO Simon Hammon described as “a unique cluster mechanic, which gives users the chance to win big”. We have evidence for that very claim below.
It, essentially, rids slots of paylines from either side in favour of groups of symbols. For most titles, a spin that sees a minimum of 9 of the same symbol land either horizontally or vertically next to each other, forming a connected group, is deemed a winner in a Cluster Pays slot casino game (except Emojiplanet, where a cluster of 5 is enough).
Cluster Pays still employs paytables which can be viewed within the game itself, with certain symbols and larger clusters scoring higher totals as you’d expect.
One of the clearest indications that a NetEnt slot is Cluster Pays powered, aside from being named, is the grid size. To accommodate the 9-symbol minimum requirement, the number of reels usually expand to 6 while rows are often boosted up to 5.
All Cluster Pays Slots Ever Created by NetEnt… So Far!
If you’re concerned about the classic NetEnt slot features being removed within Cluster Pays creations, don’t be. Your usual free spins rounds, Wild substitutions and the rest are often included, and there are generally plenty of casino bonuses and deposit boosts for these slots to boot.
Let’s take you through the complete list of Cluster Pays games released by NetEnt.
Aloha! Cluster Pays
The first slot to debut this feature also included it as part of the name. Gamers were eagerly anticipating Aloha!’s release so they could sample NetEnt’s new function, and few were disappointed as the slot was widely praised.
The game is based on a typical Hawaiian setting – as a laid back, relaxing environment is met with the region’s flowers, pineapples and coconuts for symbols.
There are even special Tiki Mask Symbols which count as two, with a Tiki character to the side of the screen reacting in various ways to your spins.
A free spins round and Sticky Win Re-Spins are your friendly helpers here, and NetEnt Casino readers can try Aloha! for free if they desire.
If you prefer to start playing with real money immediately, we’ve got a tasty €1,000 welcome package from Voodoo Dreams below that’ll really settle you in to Cluster Pays’ first appearance.
Although Aloha! Cluster Pays went down a storm, NetEnt surprisingly shelved this newfound payout method for 17 months.
The announcement that they would be making a branded emoji casino game meant something special was required, so up stepped Cluster Pays after a long hiatus.
Despite not being part of the Emojiplanet (or Emoji Planet) title, it’s very much a critical part aspect. It’s also the only Cluster Pays game to require just 5 symbols per winning group!
We expected many of you to either have never heard of Cluster Pays or have completely forgotten what it entailed around the August 2017 release. Our Emojiplanet slot review helped to get those cogs turning.
Mr Green were the first to get the Emojiplanet ball rolling with exclusive access 3-weeks ahead of the official release, and they’re our chosen Emoji Planet internet casino here with a double your first deposit starter package.
It hadn’t been much more than week since Emojiplanet dropped when another Cluster Pays NetEnt game came out of nowhere. The highly anticipated follow-up to Twin Spin, branded Twin Spin Deluxe, was made available to play at a few exclusive NetEnt platforms – including Unibet and Maria Casino – at the beginning of September 2017.
Twin Spin Deluxe (or Twin Spin Cluster Pays) manages to keep the feel of the original while receiving a modern-day slot makeover.
Twin Spin fans will be delighted to hear that the Twin Reel Feature has been retained, no matter the change of reward function. Every single spin you have on Twin Spin Deluxe will see a minimum of two adjacent reels locked together to produce the same result – and this can expand to more reels, including the entire board if you’re lucky!
It also holds the highest Cluster Pays slot RTP at 96.61%, so go and grab a fantastic Twin Spin Deluxe play package at Unibet – 200% up to £200!
Finally, the 21st September release of The Legend of Shangri-La signalled the number of Cluster Pays games having quadrupled in the space of a month – almost a year and a half after its solitary effort. We’ve prepared the above review of this Shangri-La video slot so you can get accustomed to its feature before playing.
The Legend of Shangri-La’s free spins bonus round is a to-and-fro affair, with your loyal monk companion battling it out with the evil dragon spirit to grant you Random Substitutions.
Just to get you even more hyped for The Legend of Shangri-La slot by NetEnt, the maximum default win equates to 100,000 coins – or up to €200,000!
Give your The Legend of Shangri-La game time a boost with Casimba’s huge €6,500 starter kit below.
Cluster Pays Games Can and Have Paid Out Big Time!
On that note, many of you will surely be wondering whether NetEnt’s Cluster Pays slots series is as potentially lucrative as the Swedish games provider’s other hits.
Well, all the above titles have a similar return-to-player (RTP) percentage range of around 96.5%, which is comparable to your standard payout mechanic slots. Also, there have been some fairly high profile cases of big Cluster Pays wins.
A 24-year-old Polish gamer at Royal Panda hit the big time on Aloha! Cluster Pays after she managed to net $117,000 from a couple of high wager wins.
Just to clarify, that’s around the same total as an average local NetEnt jackpot, so it categorically puts to bed the idea that Cluster Pays is purely a mug’s game.