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Xpander [Hacksaw Gaming]


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Title: Xpander
Developer: Hacksaw Gaming
Reels: 7
Rows: 7
Paylines: Cluster Pays
RTP: 96.25% (96.20% Bonus Buy)
Max Win: 10,000x
Volatility: High
Min/Max Bet: 0.20/100
Release Date: July 28, 2021

Now Play: https://k8.io/games/slots/hsg_xpander

Xpander: Slot Overview
Sticking to the template Hacksaw Gaming's Pocketz series of slots are famous for, Xpander is a simplistic looking game that sits right at home on a mobile phone – while still playable on any device. Looks are rarely what they seem with Hacksaw, and Xpander has clever as you like features and packs one of the larger max wins in the series. Like other Pocketz games tend to do, Xpander can lead to moments of delight when the features come together or make you want to toss your phone out the train window on the way home from work when it all conspires against you.

In Xpander, Hacksaw Gaming has gone for a retro-futuristic approach. Depending on how you play the game, you may find a blue, purple background of nondescript high rise buildings standing behind the 7x7 sized panel. Hacksaw isn't necessarily renowned for their detail-heavy artwork, but they are adept at squeezing the most out of what they do. Even so, Xpander isn't their most absorbing slot from an audio-visual standpoint. It might be because the grid is covered in old school fruit and classic slot symbols, which feel a little at odds with the theme. In a way, it comes across almost as a Hop'N'Pop / Cubes 2 fusion. A gentle Synthwave soundtrack entrenches the game even deeper in the 1980s, possessing a wind chime feel that is quite low energy but picks up when things go swimmingly during free spins.

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Looks aren't the main attraction in a Hacksaw game (arguably we should say), as it's their math model/feature combo providing the majority of their playability. Pocketz slots might be Candy Crush alternatives for players who want edgier gaming on their phone with the chance of picking up potential rewards; though they can be brutal. In Xpander, this means a highly volatile game engine, with a theoretical return value of 96.25% - slightly higher than the 96.2% generated when buying the feature.

Using a cluster pays system, wins occur when 5 or more symbols connect horizontally or vertically anywhere on the grid. The symbols used in Xpander are about as sterile as the background image, where, from low to high, are cherries, lemons, grapes, watermelons, bells, horseshoes, 7s, and diamonds. Scoring clusters of 15 matching symbols or more is the optimal result, triggering payouts of 20 to 80 times the stake. A blank hand of cards is the wild, substituting all symbols except the free spin scatter.

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Xpander: Slot Features
Xpander branches off a previous game called Hop'N'Pop, using a similar Hopper feature in both phases of play. The two slots are by no means the same, as Hacksaw has made a couple of changes to the way the Hopper in Xpander functions, though both share a common concept.

The first extra to cover is the tumble feature which removes winning clusters from the grid. This lets new or existing symbols tumble into the empty cells, potentially setting up repeat cluster wins. Tumbles continue to trigger until no new wins appear on the grid, then the next spin may occur.

The Hopper feature consists of an x2 multiplier icon that sits on top of regular symbols. Initially, it is 1x1 in size and moves to a new position between free or paid spins. If it sits on top of a symbol which is part of a winning cluster, the payout of the cluster is multiplied by the Hopper's current value.

Also landing in the game are several symbols that increase the size and value of the Hopper's multiplier. Double Up symbols land anywhere to double the current multiplier up to a maximum of x128. It is possible to land multiple Double Up symbols at the same time.

Keep an eye out for the green arrow which is the Grow Symbol. When it lands, it is collected. Every 3 Grow Symbols collected in a tumble sequence increases the size of the Hopper from 1x1 to 2x2, 3x3 and then 4x4. Every time the multiplier grows in size, players are also awarded a respin. The Hopper symbol resets in size and value in between paid spins.

Landing at least 3 free spin symbols in the base game awards the free spins feature. In this one, the multiplier value or size never reset, though both characteristics have the same limits – x128 and 4x4 dimension. When the round starts, players get 5 free spins, and landing 1UP symbols adds +1 free spin.

Where available, players can choose to buy free spins rather than wait patiently for them to trigger. The cost for doing so is 129x the bet.

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Xpander: Slot Verdict
It didn't take long for Hacksaw Gaming to follow up their hit release Hop'n'Pop with another catchy slot featuring the Hopper concept. While the two are very close, Xpander offers something that neither Hop'n'Pop nor too many other slots offer. Namely, a multiplier symbol that grows in both size and value, as it hops to new positions. The Hopper has the feel of a multiplying Gargantoon Wild as found in Reactoonz 2, but Xpander uses a simpler system, and reaching the upper x128 level would make the coolest cucumber sweaty.

One reason for all the intensity is that like Stack 'Em you get just five short, sharp free spins to make it all work. Hacksaw has jigged the maths, so there were generally a decent number of tumbles during the review to elongate the bonus round. Just don't expect much from them until the multiplier has moved up a few levels. In addition, 1UP symbols were fairly numerous as well. However, Xpander is just as unforgiving when it's not in the mood as anything else Hacksaw has done, with the exception perhaps of Born Wild.

When Xpander is firing, though, the action on the grid is good enough to take your mind off the prosaic visuals and sleepy soundtrack. This isn't one of Hacksaw's mind-blowing potential slots, yet few will be complaining about the 10,000x it has to offer. Factor in footage of other Hacksaw releases going mental like sister slot Hop'n'Pop and there's no doubting Xpander can pop with the best of them on its day. All up, Xpander is a well-made game that typifies everything the Pocketz range is famed for, making it a logical choice for fans of the series.

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