The "Day the Music Died" is one of the blackest days in American music history, as it was the day, February 3rd 1959, that a plane carrying three of the biggest music stars in America at the time, crashed in Clear Lake, Iowa, killing all on board.
While many remember that Buddy Holly was on that plane, the other two inhabitants were The Big Bopper and a 17-year old Californian who had just had a huge hit with his fusion of Mexican folk song and American rock and roll. His name was Richard Steven Valenzuela, or better known as Ritchie Valens, and that song was the famous La Bamba.
Following on the heels of the popular Big Bopper slot released last year, Realtime Gaming have gone back to the catalogue of the short-lived but influential career of Ritchie Valens and used both his name and his signature song as the title of their latest 1950s styled Rock 'n' Roll slot, Ritchie Valens La Bamba.
If you have played The Big Bopper slot then the look and style of the Ritchie Valens La Bamba game will be immediately familiar to you. Fans of the singer will also love the playlist of songs you can play through while enjoying a few spins on this tastefully-done salute to a talented young musician who left us all too soon.
Let's take a closer look now at what the slot has to offer.
Where can I play the Ritchie Valens La Bamba slot?
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One of the nicest aspects of the Ritchie Valens La Bamba slot is that it is set in a 1950s diner, complete with black checkerboard floor, red and white tables and furniture and event a jukebox that contains three of Ritchie Valens hits, Come On Let's Go, We Belong Together and Donna.
These songs will play as you spin the reels and you can click between them at any time you like and they provide a fitting backdrop for the slot.
There are six reels on the slot and that does mean that it fills up the screen quite considerably so you do not see as much of the backdrop as you normally would. It is also an All Ways Pays slot which mean that consecutive symbols across the reels in any position are winners.
At the foot of the reels are the main controls for the game including the Spin and Autoplay buttons, plus the buttons used to increase or decrease your bet size. A nice touch is the Speed option which allows you to play through the spins faster.
All in all, Realtime Gaming have got the presentation for the Ritchie Valens La Bamba spot absolutely bang on the money.
What's on the reels?
When it comes to symbols on the reels, there is a lovely selection of different items that would have been commonplace in the 1950s and the Teeny-bop era. Symbols include tickets to see Ritchie Valens, a radio, an autograph book, a signed picture of Ritchie Valens, a record player and a pair of rather snazzy red and white shoes. All of these symbols offer pays for three or more symbols across the first three reels or more and pays range for 3 coins up to 200 coins for 6 across the reels.
Higher value symbols include the television set, the guitar and the Ritchie Valens Number One Fan pin badge, which is the highest paying of all the standard symbols in the game offering up to 1,000 coins for six across the reels.
There are just two more symbols on the reels in the game, the Wild and the Scatter and these both unlock the main features of the slot as we shall explore in more detail below.
The Ritchie Valens symbol is the main Wild in the game and it appears only on the second, third, fourth and fifth reels during the base game. The good news is that the Wild can be used as a substitute for all symbols in the game, including the scatter symbol which is something of a rarity on a modern slot.
The good news is that this is an Expanding Wild and when landed, it will expand across the reel to cover it completely offering you the chance to trigger more wins (for Scatter wins though, the Expanded Wild symbol only counts as one Scatter).
In addition, any win that uses a Ritchie Valens Wild as part of the win will also receive 2x multiplier on their standard win, doubling the prize received.
Free Spins features
The Scatter symbol is the La Bamba record symbol and this awards a prize of 1x your total bet back if you land three on the reels. However, if you land four, five or six of these symbols across the reels then you will trigger the Ritchie Valens Free Games feature, which is enhanced with additional bonus features if triggered with five or six Scatters landed consecutively across the reels.
Hit four Scatters and you receive up to 20 Free Games and you receive a random 1x, 2x or 3x multiplier on each free spin.
Five Scatters also sees you land up to 20 Free Spins and the same 1x, 2x or 3x multiplier but you also get the benefit of additional Expanding Ritchie Valens Wilds being added to the second, third, fourth and fifth reels.
The best bonus comes though if you land six Scatters as here you get all the bonuses outlined above for the four and five scatter wins, plus you also get Expanding Ritchie Valens Wild occurring at random on the first and sixth reels too.
All these bonus features can also be re-triggered during the free spins and if you do, then you will get the maximum 20 Free Games added to your total to play through.
Other bonus features
There are no other bonus features on the Ritchie Valens La Bamba slot.
Best feature of the Ritchie Valens La Bamba slot
I love the presentation of the Ritchie Valens La Bamba slot, it really does take you pack to the 1950s quite superbly and the soundtrack as the game plays is also rather cool. It may appear to be a retro slot, but with 6 reels and the bonus features as they are, this is a game that is based on a retro theme, but has a modern structure and set up and for once, that marriage of styles works well.
In terms of the main bonus features though, I think the Free Spins bonus is the highlight of the slot, although it can be a little tricky to land at times. The fact that you get better bonuses with the more scatters you unlock is a nice touch as is the maximum 20 additional spins you can get when you re-trigger. The amount you can win in free spins also can vary somewhat but most of the time you will earn a decent amount, especially if you can trigger the bonus round with the five or six Scatters.
What does the Ritchie Valens La Bamba slot lack?
Well for one, the theme track isn't available on the jukebox and I think that is a little oversight. I also think that having to land the scatters consecutively isn't great as you don't feel the same sense of excitement when you hit two scatters that are not consecutive as you can no longer trigger the bonus. I also feel an additional bonus feature, perhaps a gamble feature for lower value base game wins, or a pick'em game would have livened the base game up, especially if it was triggered randomly as you played.
The Ritchie Valens La Bamba slot is a nice accompaniment to Realtime Gaming's range of musical-themed slots. It has a great theme, some great songs from one of the most talented teenage performers of the age and it is fun to play. The base game can drag a little at times, but if you are patient and can land the Free Spins bonus then some sizeable wins are possible. A couple more tunes would have helped improve the soundtrack a little too, but with Valens dying so young, he does not have quite as extensive a back catalogue as some other artists, so I'm prepared to let that one go.
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