Let’s start with a quick review of NetEnt’s Starburst online slot machine:
Pros – What I Like about Starburst Slots
- attractive, modern design is easy on the eyes
- relatively high RTP
- wide max bet range
- expanding wilds and re-spins make the gameplay exciting
- easy to learn and easy to play
Cons – Where Starburst Slots is Lacking
- simplistic symbols and design elements
- boring soundtrack
- no bonus round or side games
- low top payout relative to other online slots
- big difference between RTP for large and small bet sizes
Bottom Line – Where I Stand on Starburst Slots
This is a fun game that’s representative of the best of online slot play – it’s not going to have a lot of replay value, but the wide range of available bets and ease of play make it a great session starter.
Released in 2012, Starburst is still pretty much the same 5 reel and 3 row game it’s always been, with 10 pay lines and a relatively low volatility rating. NetEnt reports a 96.09% RTP for the base game, though it isn’t always clear which version of the game an online casino is hosting.
The theme of the game, such as it is, is jewels. Most of the game symbols are brightly animated gemstones, shining in traditional gem tone colors. At the time of its release, the fact that Starburst is a two-way game, with pay lines paying out in two directions on the screen, was noteworthy. These days, that feature is more common.
How to Play Starburst Slots
Starburst accepts a wide range of bets. Obviously, most online slot players prefer to play at the max bet rate, since that unlocks the best payouts. A max bet on Starburst is ten coins on each of the game’s ten lines. Those coins can be worth $0.01, $0.02, $0.05, $0.10, $0.20, $0.50, or $1, depending on the player’s preference. That gives a total max bet range of between $1 and $100 per spin. That makes Starburst adaptable for a variety of different budgets.
All jackpots on NetEnt’s Starburst slots are fixed. For this game, the largest payout is fixed at 2,500 coins (presuming you’ve made a max bet), which has a total value of between $25 and $2,500 depending on the denomination you’ve chosen. You win that top prize by lining up five golden bar symbols on any active pay line. The next three most valuable payouts are worth 2,000 coins, 1,200 coins, and 600 coins, and they require some combination of golden bar or lucky 7 symbols to pay out.
The game doesn’t include any win multiplier options, so those fixed top prizes are truly fixed.
Other Payouts in NetEnt’s Starburst Slots
Let’s look at the lowest-paying combination in the game:
That dubious honor goes to the purple and blue gems. Lining up 3 of either symbol will earn you 5 coins, the game’s lowest payout. Lining up 4 of these symbols pays out twice that amount, and the payout for 5 of them is 5x the size of the 3-symbol jackpot, for an almost-decent 25-coin reward.
I think the real value in the game comes from the relatively frequent midrange wins. Here’s what they look like:
In my playthrough, I won way more combinations of red, green, and yellow gems than any other color. Lining up 5 red gems leads to a 40-coin payout. That goes up to 50 coins for the green gems, and 60 coins for the yellow gems. These are the kind of payouts that sustain your bankroll, and I had pretty frequent hits in this color range.
Starburst Slots Wild Symbol
Starburst’s wild symbol is a gorgeous multi-colored starburst in a sort of cosmic color scheme. These symbols substitute for any other symbol to form winning combinations. I played for about five minutes on my first test run, and I saw two wild symbols during that time. I have to assume this feature pops up pretty regularly, which would help explain why the game has remained so popular over time.
As an added bonus, the game uses expanding wilds, meaning that when they appear (only on reels 2, 3, and 4) they expand across the entire reel and trigger a random number of re-spins, most commonly just one. These re-spins can be re-triggered up to 3 times. Both of the two expanding wilds I saw re-triggered one time each, and I got a decent amount of cash out of it. Plus, the animation of the starburst bursting and expanding across the reel is visually appealing and got my heart pumping.
Starburst Slots – a Demo Playthrough Report
You can play demo versions of Starburst all over the Internet. That’s a good way to test out a game without risking any of your real cash.
Here’s a report of two quick demo sessions I had while preparing this review:
Demo Session #1: +$245 at a rate of $100 per spin
I decided to start with a session playing at the max bet and the max coin size.
I started with $5,000, which is 50 spins at $100 per spin.
At first, I went back and forth between little wins and little losses. That’s usually my experience with online slots – a series of small wins and small losses that leads to an overall balanced feeling. I guess I’m trying to say that I’ve never really been as lucky with online slots as land-based ones.
After eleven spins I was down just about $400 when I hit my first big win, with multiple wilds expanding, involving the lucky 7 symbol. My total win for that one spin was $1,750. I was up to $6,350.
I had just one win in my next ten spins, and that was for just $250.
I got bored with $100 per spin after about five minutes, and I was pretty close to my original $5,000.
Demo Session #2: -$40 and bored to death at a rate of $1 per spin
I wanted to go the opposite route for session 2, so I bet at a rate of $1 per spin. That’s still a max bet, but at a much cheaper per-spin rate than session 1.
This was dreadfully boring. I went back and forth, winning $3 then losing $2, and then winning $5 before giving it right back. I think the RTP was obviously a lot different at $1 per spin than at $100 per spin, and I just plain wasn’t enjoying the game because of the less frequent wins and total lack of wilds during this part of my demo.
By the time I snapped back to reality, I was down about $40 and still hadn’t seen a single expanding wild at the $1 per spin rate.
Anecdotally, if you’re looking for lots of wilds to keep play interesting, you’re not going to get there at this max bet size. There’s a real incentive with this game to bet larger and larger amounts. Not every slots player is as driven by wilds as I am, but without any other bonus rounds or real special features to speak of, seeing fewer wilds on Starburst pretty much means having less fun.
NetEnt says on their website that Starburst is their “most popular online slot of all time.” That’s saying something, considering NetEnt was at one time a major plank of the online slot industry, and is still a big player in that space.
Why has Starburst hung around so long, even in the face of new design styles and licensed content? It has all the appeal of a classic slot, in that the rules are easy to understand, and the game doesn’t require a lot of brain power to play.
But it has the denomination and per-spin variety of a more modern game, plus a clean and efficient design that reminds me all too much of an Apple product or fancy retail store. The wilds appear frequently, and though there’s no bonus round or side game, it just seems like you win more frequently. That’s probably an effect of this game’s relatively low volatility.
To be sure, Starburst’s popularity is starting to fade. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the designer release a new version, maybe one with a few new slot game features, an additional wild or scatter symbol, and maybe some new animations and sound effects.
That updated Starburst game would be yet another NetEnt blockbuster and would expand the mythology of Starburst slots further into the stratosphere.