An Overview of Elk Studios
Founded in 2013, Elk Studios are one of a number of top notch gaming software design companies based in the Sweden’s capital city of Stockholm. However, unlike so many of its industry rivals, the company has yet to open any international offices, and remains rooted in its Scandinavian homeland. At the time of writing, the company has less than one hundred employees, all of whom live and work in Sweden.
The company are focused entirely on the production of slots. Again, the Elk Studios approach to software design differs from the industry standard. It’s very much a case of quality vs quantity for the Swedes. They are far from prolific. Even today, they have a portfolio of barely fifty games in their portfolio – an average release rate of around half a dozen titles per year. But what is lost in quantity is gained in attention to detail and sheer quality. There simply isn’t a turkey in the Elk Studios canon at all.
It’s not just about the calibre of their games either. Elk Studios have a very distinctive style. Their game designs are always contemporary, with no traditional or classic pastiches. There are no fruit machine favourites for example, and players looking for standard slot genre fayre like pharaohs, pyramids, leprechauns or pots o’ gold are likely to be disappointed.
A typical Elk Studios game contains graphics with an almost movie quality about them. It would be easy to believe that Pixar or Disney were behind their designs. The featured characters and backgrounds are so delightfully drawn that you almost expect Tom Hanks or Jeremy Irons to be doing the narration.
Each game is also likely to contain a unique storyline. This is another indication that the company’s talented games designers are reluctant to stick to the familiar slot tropes. They are creative and innovative enough to think up their own unique concepts and not simply content to rehash other people’s ideas or find an alternative angle on a traditional theme.
I think you can probably tell by now that Elk Studios are one of my favourite games developers, so that’s probably enough of the praise and homage. It’s time to back up my entirely positive appraisal with some real life examples. Let’s delve into the company’s back catalogue and take a look at some actual games.
Elk Studios Games
With so many excellent games to choose from and no filler or fodder to ignore, the only logical place to start is the very beginning. Elk Studios’ very first title instantly demonstrated that this company offered something new, shining a spotlight on their potential. The Lab was a simple and not an especially memorable name for a debut, but it was ground breaking nonetheless given the prevailing standards of slot design back in 2014, when it was released.
The Lab features a kind of chemistry laboratory, where mysterious crystals are synthesised with four basic chemical elements: gold, platinum, oxygen and water (OK, water is not actually an element, but this is supposed to be an entertaining slot, not chemistry GCSE). The colourful graphics, transparent reels and electronic soundtrack gave the game a real atmosphere, while the bonus features and free spins kept the entertainment levels high.
The Lab may have been a relatively basic idea, but subsequent releases really stepped up the complexity levels. They demonstrate the sheer variety and ingenuity of the company’s games designers raising the level of graphics previously thought possible for online slots.
Taco Brothers is a fine example of this sea change in standards. This enthralling game remains a favourite to this day. It features a trio of siblings called Paso, Pepe and Pico attempting to save their village from the evil Captain Diaz. This involves a great deal of Mexican mayhem as the villainous Captain steals the villagers’ tacos and pesos. The brothers’ attempt to rescue the situation involves a possible bonus feature entailing robbing the village bank.
But it’s Bloopers which really raised the bar to stratospheric levels. This cartoon style game spoofs the Hollywood movie business itself. Glamourous diva-like actors are pampered while hapless backstage workers attempt to complete their movie. The sound technician, cutter, stuntman, make-up artist and more clamour to do the best they can, but inevitably the Bloopers keep coming. The backgrounds are stunning, the soundtrack sounds epic, the bonus features seem never ending and the attention to detail is unsurpassed. Even the games reels are designed to look like real movie reels.
This game was so good it has been rewarded in true Hollywood style with a sequel. Platooners features the set of an action movie, so this slot is more about explosives and gunfire than make-up and music, but the basic Hollywood satirising spirit is sustained, making it is a suitable sequel.
Wild Toro is another example of the Elk Studios’ talent for the original. There aren’t many slots which feature Spanish bullfighting, and even fewer where the bull is the hero and victor as the hapless toreador is eventually vanquished (with your help of course.
More recent releases have maintained the momentum. Tahiti Gold features a Pacific island full of local natives who tell of a volcano with lava made of pure gold. Can this be true? There is only one way to find out as you join explorer hero Kane on a journey of discovery.
Volcanism is also features in a completely different Elk Studios concept. In Io, your casino space station is marooned in the solar system, banned from Earth (perhaps they’ve tightened the gambling regulations). You are therefore sent to the fourth largest moon of Jupiter to discover a fiery, volcanic world with an immense amount of valuable minerals.
The designers take advantage of the strangeness of space by designing some truly awesome special features. Time and gravity play strange tricks as reel symbols drift left and right as they spin. Extra rows can also magically appear as if from another dimension, up to a maximum of eight. These extra bonus reels mean that it is possible to experience up to 262,144 ways to win on a single spin.
The company is also renowned for its exclusive ‘Betting Strategies’ option. These enable players to alter their stakes for each spin according to predefined betting patterns according to personal risk styles. You can opt out of these pre-sets, or revert to your own ‘manual’ preferences before any spin.
There are four alternatives. ‘Jumper’ increases your bet level if you win, but resets if you lose. ‘Booster’ on the other hand, takes the opposing strategy, raising your stake if you lose, but resetting if you win. ‘Leveller’ takes another angle, raising your stake after five successive losses, but resetting after a win. Meanwhile, Optimizer offers a completely different strategy. This more cautious approach automatically alters your bet level according to your remaining balance.
Elk Studios’ slots are always available to casino operators on the Nektan platform, so look out for them at your chosen casino.