Gambling is an expensive real life hobby, unless you’re great at it. Gambling games take away the risk and cost (for the most part) and just let you focus on the fun of the game and the rush of winning.
You’ll find plenty of card games on mobile Windows platforms, and even some lighter fare like Bingo. Now we have a full-fledged game devoted to scratch-off tickets (also known as scratch cards): Jet-Set Scratch-Off Gold. It comes from Chicago-based developer Babaroga, maker of Shuffle Party, Zombies!!!, and Lucky Lanes Bowling. You might not expect it, but scratch off tickets adapt surprisingly well to videogame form.
Scratch, err tap off tickets
Jet-Set Scratch-Off features 15 different scratch-off ticket games, plus a few minigames for good measure. Each ticket’s rules vary, but they generally involve finding three of the same symbol or number or finding a specific winning symbol or number in order to win. The payouts vary by card, so two wins of the same game will usually award different quantities of currency.
To scratch off part of a ticket, you simply tap the desired area (or click it with a mouse on Windows 8). A brief animation plays and then the value behind the scratched area is revealed. You don’t get the tactile sensation of scratching a silvery coating off with your nail or a coin, but the motion of tapping and the reveal of information are close enough to the real thing.
Once the card’s results are fully revealed, players can cash it in by pressing the Redeem button at the bottom of the screen. Sometimes you’ll win much more than the card cost, other times you’ll take in less than its cost – if you win at all.
One benefit of videogames based on real-life activities like this is that they often streamline the process of playing. Card games shuffle for you, Scrabble clones calculate point values, etc. Jet-Set Scratch-Off allows players to fully reveal the whole card with a single button press if they so desire. You lose the anticipation and part of the fun by doing so, but it certainly speeds the game along.
Visit exotic locales and buy tickets from them
Scratching off tickets is all well and good, but a videogame needs stakes and goals in order to maintain player interest. The overall goal is to level up. Each card you play adds a little to your experience. Acquire enough EXP and you’ll reach the next level. This gets you a little currency, and also goes towards unlocking new locations and scratch-off games.
The game starts out with only Jamaica and its three games unlocked. Play long enough and you’ll unlock Spain, Greece, India, and Japan. Each place has an attractive line-art background and unique background music to sell the idea that you’re visiting a new location. The music is actually pretty catchy, which you wouldn’t generally expect from a game in this genre. The buy-ins and payouts also increase in subsequent locations.
The various locations also have 12 hidden souvenirs to find. The souvenirs pop up randomly as prizes when fully scratching off cards. Not only does this add a collectible aspect to the game, but also a reward. Getting all 12 souvenirs from one place increases the chance of encountering Bonus Rounds in that location.
Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Both the Windows Phone and Windows 8 version have the same bug: the game doesn’t save souvenirs found. Every time you launch the game, all of your prized trinkets will be gone – presumably stolen by local ne’er-do-wells. Souvenirs should be a cool feature that encourage players to spend time in a location; it’s a shame that they’re broken.
Scratching tickets over and over again can get a little tiresome, to say nothing of the silver stuff that gets stuck under your fingernails. Jet-Set Scratch-Off interrupts the tedium with the occasional bonus round. These pop up randomly between normal scratch cards.
Bonus rounds cost nothing to play. They come in several varieties, with varying set-ups like every card being a winner, or Blackjack-style rules in which you try not to go over a certain point total. Whatever happens, you’ll get some free money before moving back to the regular game.
Very Important Players
Windows 8 version
A gambling game wouldn’t be much fun without money to win or lose. Players start with 600 coins and the hopes of winning big. You often will win more than you spend on the scratch cards, but you’ll also lose as well. It’s all random, since you can’t control what lies beneath your ticket.
When the money inevitably runs out, you could choose to buy more via In-App Purchase. But the IAP prices for currency are too high for them to be an attractive option. The $2 pack gets you just 200 coins, which is good for 8 cheap tickets or like two decent ones.
Luckily the game also has a VIP system by which players earn free currency over time. Play regularly to maintain VIP status. You’ll get 100 free coins every four hours, which should keep you in tickets if you remember to check back in.
As a more eye-catching IAP, you can also buy premium VIP levels. These are permanent purchases, so you won’t have to worry about their expiration. The more costly the VIP level, the higher the free coin payout every four hours. The $2 VIP level gets you 200 coins per four hours. If you like what Jet-Set Scratch-Off brings to the table, it’s a fair purchase.
Room for improvement
Babaroga’s scratch-off game does a lot right, but it also has some areas in need of more polish – such as the broken souvenir system I mentioned earlier. Another big one is the frame rate on Windows Phone. The animations for scratching off parts of a ticket are quite jerky and seem to be missing frames of animation. It’s like the developer ported the game’s code without remembering to optimize it.
Another aesthetic blemish: the on-screen text. On Windows Phone, the numbers you reveal when scratching off a card are way too small and difficult to read. I’d have thought the text a result of porting a tablet game to phone without considering the difference in screen sizes, but perhaps not. Even on Windows 8, they appear much smaller than necessary and with pixelated edges instead of smooth ones.
Jet-Set Scratch-Off lacks one big feature that most quality free to play gambling games boast: online competition! A game like this would be so much better with online leaderboards. I mean, you can’t buy anything with your winnings, so the least they could give us is a way to compete against other players.
This game does not support cloud saves, so no sharing progress between Windows Phone and Windows 8. The Settings menu does have an option to recover purchases, though. Presumably you can get your premium VIP status back if you ever have to reinstall.
Before Jet-Set Scratch-Off, I had never played a lottery ticket videogame. I don’t buy them anymore, but I have enjoyed real-life scratch off cards in the past. This game does a fine job of capturing the fun of scratching those tickets. It even creates a fairly cohesive experience thanks to the leveling system and unlockable locations.
The poor frame rate, tiny text, and souvenir bug will probably rub some players the wrong way. But look past those issues (as I’m sure many casual players would) and this game might just scratch your gambling itch.
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