Pokies have been the favourite game for players since online casinos first burst onto the scene around 25 years ago. Many innovative game mechanics have been introduced since to spice up the experience and change the way we play pokies forever. One of these game-changing innovations is undoubtedly the cluster pays mechanic, also known as grid pokies. First pioneered by NetEnt with its Hawaiian-themed Aloha! Cluster Pays in 2016, this special way of playing pokies does away with the regular paylines and instead focuses the gameplay on landing clusters of the same symbols.
These clusters (usually at least five of them) then create wins anywhere on the grid. That essentially means that this mechanic eliminates the requirement for wins to start on the first reel, bringing a new level of excitement. Genius! Cluster pays games have amassed a large fan base globally, including Aussies. But why exactly is this type of pokie so popular, and, even more importantly, how does it work? Popularity is a good indicator of quality, and we took it upon ourselves to find out everything there is to know about cluster pay pokies.
How Cluster Pay Pokies Work
First things first. The cluster pays mechanic removes the traditional paylines, creating a different way of playing pokies. This is especially cool for our pokie veterans out there but might be a bit intimidating for newcomers. But don’t worry, in this segment of our cluster pay pokies review, we share our experiences and explain exactly how cluster pay pokies work. In general, cluster pay pokies work like their better-known cousins in that a player still must land winning combinations on the reels. The difference is in how exactly that is achieved – that’s where the cluster pay mechanic comes in.
Here, identical symbols must land connected anywhere on the grid, vertically or horizontally.
Your payout corresponds to the value of the matching symbols and the number of them in your winning cluster. You can check the pokie’s pay table to see how much each combination pays. Usually, clusters disappear, and new symbols fall from above, so you can win more than once from the same spin. In addition to the cluster mechanic, most of these pokies do not rely on wilds or scatter symbols to launch bonus rounds. Often, there is some sort of energy meter alongside the grid, which fills up each time a winning combination forms. It’s a nice visual advantage for cluster pay pokies compared to regular casino games, and you’ll love trying to fill the meter. At the same time, this feature isn’t purely cosmetic. Should you fill the feature meter with enough wins, it usually releases either the bonus round or another neat feature to spice up your game even more.
- No paylines: Cluster pay pokies do not rely on traditional paylines, and wins can be claimed anywhere on the grid.
- No traditional reels: The usual 5×4 setup for reels has vanished and makes place for more symbols to match over larger playing grids, therefore creating wins.
- No Left-to-Right gameplay: Because there are no traditional pokie paylines, wins can be claimed anywhere in the game, and they don’t need to start on the first reel.
- Added feature meter: Instead of using scatters or wilds to trigger bonus features, an energy meter is added, which fills itself whenever cluster wins are achieved.
In our extensive cluster pay pokies review, we have tested countless online casino games that followed Aloha! Cluster Pays’ success and all of them follow a similar way of playing. Let’s talk about some of these fascinating releases and the game providers who brought them to us.
The Best Cluster Pay Pokies Themes and Game Providers
Every casino game studio chooses a different – albeit creative – path to bring its vision of the best cluster pay pokies onto your screen.
We’ve tested so many of them, and highlighting our favourites was challenging. Nevertheless, we have found a few great cluster pay pokies themes we thoroughly enjoyed and would like to share with you. One of the newest games we played recently is Crystal Catcher by Push Gaming. As the name implies, the player is tasked with mining clusters of beautifully rendered gemstones, and the similarity with the legendary Starburst is quite evident. Having said that, Crystal Catcher is equipped with more modern features. The maximum payout of 5,000x is also impressive, which is made all the more exciting with the inclusion of features like instant prizes and cascading wins.
Taking a leap into the far future and embracing a slick cyberpunk theme, Cyberslot Megaclusters by Big Time Gaming is decidedly different to online pokies like Crystal Catcher or Aloha! Cluster Pays by its looks alone. This game is also played on a 3×3 grid, which further sets it apart. We could talk about the different features this online casino game brings to the futuristic table forever, but one thing really stuck out even more: The amazing 80s soundtrack! As you can see, the themes are as varied as the features in these casino games, so there’s never a dull moment when playing cluster pay pokies with real money. If you’re looking for a diverse gaming experience, you’re sure to find it within this genre of casino games.
How do Cluster Wins Work?
If you draw comparisons to other non-casino games out there, the one that springs to mind is undoubtedly the popular social media game Candy Crush Saga. This game is also focused on a cluster mechanic, where exploding groups of symbols will clear the playing board, accumulating points, as opposed to winning in a casino game. When spinning a regular pokie, the reels will turn to create wins if symbols land on a winning line. The player can usually alter the setup of these paylines, but this is not available on cluster pays pokies because wins are made whenever a bunch of matching symbols connect anywhere on the reels.
Special Symbols and Features
If the diversity of themes and exciting graphics wasn’t an indicator of the sheer variety you can expect, the features and special symbols will convince you. One such feature is the cascading reels feature. Depending on the provider, this mechanic is also known as the avalanche feature or even tumbling reels. Taking a page out of older video games like Tetris, this mechanic allows symbols to disappear from the reel set, allowing new symbols to fill the empty positions. A key advantage this mechanic has over the regular cluster pays is that it offers tactical players more opportunities to land great wins without placing additional bets.
Free spins are also quite common in cluster pay pokies, although probably not as common as in regular casino pokies. These free rounds can usually be triggered by the sought-after scatter symbol or are filling a feature meter alongside the game grid. What we loved most in our review session is that some symbols within the game can act as multipliers if clustered together. So even without filling the feature meter, these multipliers can dish out some serious wins by themselves, should you be lucky enough to receive them. Speaking of symbols, the variety of special symbols (including scatters, wilds and said multipliers) in some of the cluster pay pokies we tested is absolutely staggering. That really is where the strength of this genre lies, in our opinion. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
Maximising Cluster Pay Wins & Strategies
Live casino games like blackjack and, to a certain extent, roulette benefit from different strategies to maximise your chances of winning. Not many players know, however, that there are certain strategies that you can also apply to cluster pay games. The first strategy tip is to read the pay table carefully and find cluster pay pokies that offer a high RTP (return to player). This rate is the percentage of theoretical money a casino game will return to the player and reflects your chances of winning.
Similarly, try to find slots that offer low volatility since they are much more beginner-friendly. A higher volatility means that the wins will be higher but less frequent. Lower volatility cluster pay pokies pay more often, but the amounts are smaller. Additionally, it is always a good idea to set how much cash you’re willing to gamble per slot machine before you even start playing. Let’s say you limit yourself to $20 AUD, meaning the instant you hit a $20 win, you move on to the next pokie, ideally one with a similar RTP and volatility. That way, you can maximise your winnings bit by bit while still enjoying the gameplay.
Progressive Jackpots in Cluster Pay Pokies
Progressive jackpots are in many casino games, including cluster pay pokies. These jackpots have a social component to them because every time a game is played, a percentage of the bet diverts to the jackpot total. This jackpot keeps rising until one lucky player lands the jackpot combination on a cluster pay pokie. Winning a jackpot is completely down to luck, and no strategy can help you. But we can offer some advice, though: manage your bankroll! We know we’ve said it before, but this is even more important with progressive jackpot games, as you don’t want to get carried away chasing a huge win.
Playing Cluster Pay Pokies Online vs. Offline
We love online casinos as much as the next guy, but there is a certain atmosphere in land-based casinos that just cannot be denied. Having said that, online platforms have advantages. For one, finding cluster pay pokies in a land-based casino is harder. Therefore, we recommend you play in a regular online casino. Other differences are much more practical. Not everyone has a land-based casino in their backyard or even in their own city. So, accessibility plays a huge role since online casino games can be played from pretty much anywhere. Most casino providers we recommend have either an app or their pokies play brilliantly on standard mobile browsers.
Our top 5 Cluster Pay Pokies
It’s not the easiest choice because we love most cluster pay pokies. However, here are our top 5, in no particular order.
Responsible Gambling Practices
As much fun as cluster pay pokies are, it’s important to remember they are a form of entertainment, and you should not spend more than you can afford or play more than is healthy. Every serious online casino with a licence is on the same page, which is why playing responsibly is a big part of their player protection programs. Should you feel a bit overwhelmed, setting limits for yourself is just as important as having a friendly and professional customer support team.
Conclusion and Next Steps – Are Cluster Pay Pokies worth your time?
There you have it, folks. You now know everything there is to know about cluster pay pokies, how to play this fascinating casino game mechanic and what to look out for when playing them for the first time. Cluster pay pokies are a great deal of fun, with a ton of individual features like cascading reels and the feature meter, which fills itself with every consecutive win. Sure, beginners may want to stick to regular pokies, but if you want to change things up a little bit, this genre of casino games is worth a try. The sheer variety of themes and ways to play is staggering, so we’re sure that after reading our comprehensive guide, you’re eager to try it out for yourself.