Fruit Machines

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A familiar sight in pubs across the United Kingdom, so-called “Fruit Machines” are a type of slot game named after symbols appearing on their reels: cherries, lemons, plums, grapes and watermelon. Because they also feature bars and coloured sevens, they often look very much like the earliest classic slots of the United States.

There is, however, one major difference between the two varieties. The U.K. Fruit Machines give players the option to “hold” selected symbols in place on the reels for a follow-up spin. What’s more, they have “nudge” bonuses so that a one-away symbol can be moved to the payline. These factors bring a very different level of skill and strategy to the game.

Over the years, a great many manufacturers have developed their own variations of the basic Fruit Machine. For example, one of the most popular makers is Barcrest, a company that branched out from citrus themes to pop culture machines that feature Monty Python, Austin Powers, and television programmes like Big Brother.

Another industry leader is Bell Fruit. They offer such games as Public Enemy that come with multiple bonus features. Other competing game makers include Impulse, Ace, Mazooma, BMB, Club, Maygay and JPM. The latter is the inventor of Pinball Wizard as well as Viva Rock Vegas, which has a Flintstones cartoon theme.

The machines have been designed as stand-up units to fit easily into the corners of pubs. They have consoles with buttons that allow the player to control the symbols. The traditional mechanical reels have been replaced by video displays with high-resolution graphics. Typically, there will be a “hold” button for each reel along with a “cancel” button that allows the player to undo an unintended action.

When playing Fruit Machines, one of the best reel positions is two matching symbols showing on the “winline” after the initial spin. That creates an opportunity to hold both symbols and release the third reel to complete the set on the following spin.

Some Fruit Machines will allow up to three extra spins, depending on the symbols held. Most often, when a third extra spin is given, a matching third symbol will always line up on the final spin if it does not appear on the preceding two.

On the other hand, nudges are special bonuses that are permitted randomly. The best case is when two matching symbols are already in place on the winline and a nudge moves a third match down to join them.

When no win is possible with a single nudge, the player can try nudging two identical symbols onto the winline, hold them there and then try for the match on an extra spin. Quite often, it is possible to nudge a symbol only once. Other times, several nudges are permitted. The uncertainly factor is one aspect of the game that makes U.K. Fruit Machines so fascinating.

The bonus features available on Fruit Machines can be grouped into two categories—in-play and post-play. Those that are offered in-play include 1, 2, 3 Nudges and “Stoppers” that flash fruit symbols on the reels. There are also machines with “hidden features,” including Hold after Nudge and Hold after Win, which enables the same winner to be caught twice in succession.

By far the most common and popular post-play bonus feature is Hi/Lo. It provides the opportunity to double up on a win by accepting an all-or-nothing proposition. Some Fruit Machines have a “game board” mounted above the slot window, and it is activated by any win. Winners then attempt to move a playing piece around the board, collecting bonus cash or multipliers as it goes, without landing on a spot that loses everything gained.

Unlike slot machines with progressive jackpots, U.K. Fruit Machines have rather low-value top prizes—on the order of £10~£15. When playing for just a few pennies, however, that actually turns out to be an excellent return on investment.

The Fruit Machines installed in the pubs are not considered to be a serious form of gambling. Instead, they are viewed as a recreational convenience. Mixing a few drinks with some lucky nudges and a successful trip around the bonus board is all it takes to create a very enjoyable night out.

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