So-called “U.K. Fruit Machines” are a category of slot machines that get their name from the symbols appearing on their reels: plums, cherries, lemons, grapes, and watermelon. They also include bars and colored sevens, so they closely resemble some of the earliest American classic slots, but with one very big difference. Fruit Machines allow players to “hold” some of the symbols on the reels in place for a follow-up spin.
They also have “nudge” bonuses, which allow a one-off symbol to be moved onto the payline. This brings an entirely different level of strategy and skill into play, which has made U.K. Fruit Machines an enduring part of British life—especially in pubs.
More than One Variety
U.K. Fruit Machines are not the domain of a single manufacturer, and plenty of variations are offered by each maker. Barcrest is among the most popular. It has branched out from traditional fruit themes to machines tied to Austin Powers, Monty Python, and TV shows such as Big Brother and Britain’s Got Talent. Another leader in the industry is Bell Fruit with games like Public Enemy that have multiple bonus features. Others include Ace, Club, Impulse, Mazooma, Maygay, BMB, and JPM. The latter makes Pinball Wizard and the Flintstones themed Viva Rock Vegas.
The machines themselves are usually stand-up units that fit neatly into the corners of pubs. Their consoles feature numerous buttons used for controlling the symbols, and what once were mechanical reels are now high-definition video displays. Common features are a “hold” button for each reel and a “cancel” button to undo an action.
A good position when playing U.K. Fruit Machines is to have two matching symbols show up on the “winline” on the initial spin, which provides the opportunity to hold both of them and attempt to complete the set on the next spin. Depending on the symbols held, the machine may allow up to three extra spins. In cases where a third extra spin is given, a matching third symbols is guaranteed to line up on the final spin if it hasn’t hit on the previous two.
Nudges, on the other hand, are special bonuses that come up randomly from time to time. Although it is rare, the best case is when a nudge brings a symbol down to the winline to match two symbols already in place. If there is no win available, the player will try to nudge two identical fruit symbols onto the winline, hold them, and go for a match on an extra spin. Quite often a symbol may be nudged only once, but other times several nudges are allowed. It is the uncertainly factor that helps keep U.K. Fruit Machines so interesting.
Lots of Bonuses, Too
Bonus features on U.K. Fruit Machines fall into two categories—in-play and post-play. The bonuses offered in-play include 1, 2, 3 Nudges and Stoppers that flash fruit on the reels. Some machines have “hidden features” such as Hold after Nudge and Hold after Win to catch the same winner twice in a row.
The most common post-play bonus is Hi/Lo, which offers the opportunity to double up on a win—an all or nothing proposition. Many Fruit Machines have a “game board” mounted above the slot window, which is activated by any win. The winners attempt to move a playing piece around the board collecting bonus cash or multipliers without hitting a square that loses everything gained.
The top prizes on U.K. Fruit Machines are in the range of £10~£15, which is a very good return on investment when playing for only a few pennies. The games are installed in the pubs more as a recreational activity than a form of serious gambling. A few drinks, some fortunate nudges, and a run around the bonus board can make a fun night out.
These differ from the Fixed Online Betting Terminals that caused such controversy in 2015 and 2016 (and could well be banned towards the latter half of 2017 if the government continues on the path they are on). These games are bigger, and they have bigger jackpots. But it’s also easy to lose a lot of money playing them and they are very addictive.