Review of James Dean Slots
Ask any living person over 40 years old who the original “rebel” was and they will only give you one answer: “James Dean”. After starring in only three movies his popularity soared to astronomical levels, which were pushed even higher after his tragic death.
I absolutely adore him but I do have mixed emotions about this game because I find it a little creepy – maybe it’s due to the 1950s neon design or the numerous haunting photos of Dean that they chose. It all just comes together to create thoughts of haunted diners but maybe that’s what the software designers had actually intended.
We all know that it’s impossible to be unbiased when discussing anything to do with this legend, so let’s just dive into our expert review of James Dean Slots and see what it has to offer.
This title has a beautiful “ghostly glow” to it as you can see from the screenshots below. It’s soft colors are easy on the eyes and help to set a somber mood, and the design on a whole is quite pleasing: NextGen did a great job of making this machine look totally unique.
Like many cultural icons, James Dean came from humble beginnings. After his mother died when he was 9 years old his father shipped him back to Indiana to live with his aunt and her husband. It was in the town of Fairmont where Dean developed a strong bond with his pastor that formed his likes and interests as an adult. Once he had graduated from high school Dean went back to California where he eventually dropped out of university after studying pre-law and drama, and by 1951 he was completely focused on becoming an actor.
Dean then bounced around the entertainment industry working odd jobs in both Los Angeles and New York City until he got his big break with East of Eden, which earned him a posthumous nomination for “Best Actor”. He immediately went on to shoot his most popular film, Rebel Without a Cause, which cemented his place in history as the ultimate symbol of troubled youth in America.
However, the world was forever changed on September 30, 1955 when Dean was speeding down a California highway and swerved to miss a car that was turning in front of him. His Porsche 550 Spyder was totalled and Dean died almost immediately from his injuries. Unfortunately, we will never know what James Dean could have done if he had lived longer, his life ultimately being ended by a moment that took only seconds to occur.
Of course this release cannot follow Dean’s life in vivid detail so the software creators tried to capture his “spirit”, and they certainly succeeded in doing that. The soundtrack and images come together to paint a general picture of his legacy, without focusing on any of his actual achievements or personal life.
Many will feel torn on the quality of the unique symbols and how much imagination was used to create them. Yes, they did a good job of including certain iconic objects that we associate with Dean like his car and motorbike but they absolutely could have used more photos of him. Or perhaps they could have even had some images that would have reminded us of his movies, like the Griffith Observatory from Rebel Without a Cause.
Anyway, we got most of what we needed – here’s what’s on offer:
- J (Jack)
- Q (Queen)
- K (King)
- A (Ace)
- Sun Glasses
- Reel of Film
- Triumph TR5 Trophy Motorcycle
- 1955 Porsche 550 Spider
- James Dean in Sweater (Bonus)
- James Dean (Wild)
- James Dean Hollywood Star (Scatter)
James Dean’s ’55 Porsche revs out 5,000 coins for five in a spin, and tops only his Triumph Motorcycle which pays out 2,000 coins for the same. The Movie Reel and Sunglasses round things out with 500 a piece for 5 of a Kind.
It should be noted that James Dean Wilds are as aloof as their namesake and will only appear on reels #2, #3, and #4.
Just because Dean hit a jackpot with his good looks doesn’t mean that you’re going to get one in his game. Sadly, NextGen did not include any progressive or network jackpots in this one.
Many players will be disappointed that there isn’t a proper bonus round in this machine but it kind of makes sense if you consider the subject matter. There’s no way that NextGen could have secured the rights to one of Dean’s movies and had a special feature that was based on an actual film, so what could it have entailed? The only thing that comes to mind is a racing theme of some kind but that wouldn’t really be appropriate considering how he died.
However, there is a James Dean Pick Em’ Bonus that can award you with a 150x multiplier on your wager or even 300x if you hit it while free-rolling. The feature also offers “Pick Again” and “Win All” prizes but it might slightly annoy some people because it doesn’t show you what was under the other symbols after you’ve picked, so you never know if you made the right choice. That said, it does give you an opportunity to stack up cash since you can win a whopping 750x your bet if you trigger it while in Legend Spins.
There’s also has a gamble button that allows you to wager your winnings on the flip of a single card. You can gamble on either red or black and double your money or you can select a specific suit of diamonds, hearts, clubs or spades in the hopes of quadrupling your stake. You can only double up to a maximum of 5 times so make them count. Of course, if you pick wrong at any time you will lose all of your winnings up to that point, including whatever amount you had originally won in the regular mode, so choose wisely!
You’ll be “shooting for the stars” because 3 or more James Dean’s Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame will give you 10 free spins to play with that will double any of your wins for its entire duration.
Scooping up Clapper Boards will trigger the “Legend Spins” feature where all of your bonus money will have a 5x multiplier added to it. The Clapper is a special symbol that only appears on reel #3 during triggered freerolls that will give you extra games afterwards.
You might really get on a roll here because it’s possible to re-trigger both the gratis spins and the Legend ones indefinitely.
In addition to all of the fun action above, you can also win three quick re-spins if you nail 3 James Dean Wilds on the board at the same time. The nice thing about this one is that either reel #2, #3, or #4 will become a James Dean Expanding Wild and all of your extra cash is tripled before it gets added to your balance.
The graphics in this release are quite good, with the reels and player controls all having been beautifully-designed. Your wins are clearly highlighted with a laser-like streak that shoots through the winning paylines and whenever the James Dean Wild is involved in a win you see different images that give him an animated effect.
A fantastic visual that the creators injected into the action is the diamonds that shoot all over the screen for big wins, instead of the traditional gold coins, which are the industry standard. It’s a unique sight that really differentiates it from other new slot games for online casinos that don’t have designers who are as imaginative as NextGen’s.
The only main criticism that someone could have regarding the graphics is the photo of James that they used for his purple Bonus symbol because it could have been much more flattering. He looks quite gaunt and has dark circles around his eyes and it looks like he hasn’t slept in days! They surely could have found a better image, and one that he was actually smiling in.
Audio & Soundtrack
The song in the Info Mode is a 1950s-inspired, saxophone-heavy number that will remind you of the television show Happy Days. It’s a good rocker but maybe it’s almost a little “too happy” considering the subject matter at hand. That said, the production quality of the tune is amazing and it actually sounds like a real song that could have been released sometime over the last 60 years.
There are a few strange notes that are audible in the background during the regular mode that are quite eerie. It’s reminiscent of a horror or space film but somehow it adds to the overall “ghost-like” mood of the whole scene. The tone is lightened up by the swinging ’50s rock n’ roll in the free spins mode and it does a good job of pumping you up to win cash prizes.
Going back to the regular mode, the blaring rock guitars that start playing with every push of the button get annoying. They’re too frantic and fade out too quickly, which makes enjoying this machine with the music on pretty much impossible.
Also, when you’re on auto-play you will definitely want to mute the sounds because the jarring effect is intensified: it’s quite frustrating because the goal of the music should always be to enhance the experience. However, in this case when the quick explosions of music are added to the other audios of motorbikes revving and twinkling payline wins being added to your balance, the accumulative noise is simply out of control.
Most older players will find this game to be a little emotional. Sure it’s a celebration of James Dean’s life and career but should a life that ended too early and so tragically be celebrated in the first place? Most would agree that it can be, but only if it’s done right, and that’s a difficult task to say the least. Thankfully, NextGen was successful in respecting his memory and not going over the top with anything, which could have been quite easy to do with a cultural icon of this size.
Fans may complain that there aren’t any video clips of Dean’s movies but as mentioned, this is probably because securing the rights would have been extremely costly, if not impossible. That said, yes – the inclusion of clips would have made the action a little more robust and increased the fun and nostalgia factor but we have to take what we can get.
To be honest, there’s always a bit of a cloud that hangs over this game whenever I play it because I can’t help but wonder “what could have been” if James Dean had been driving down that highway 5 seconds later than he did. What could one extra person in front of him in line at the gas station have changed? Sadly, we’ll never know.
So anyone who is a fan of him or his work will definitely want to take this machine out for a cruise. Most often it brings me joy but I have to admit that there are rare times when I have to move on to another title because I become too overrun with emotion.
It’s important to stay positive and remember that having James for only a short period of time is better than never having had him at all.
Bonus Video of James Dean
Here is an original documentary about James Dean that was released two years after his death in 1957 and directed by Robert Altman. It’s a great look into Dean’s life because the memories of him were still very fresh.
It goes without saying, but many of you will want to watch this with a big glass of wine at your side.