Elk Studios is a young company, even by online casino software design industry standards. It was first established in 2012, in a leafy suburb of Stockholm in Sweden. It relocated into the heart of the city in 2015, but this remains its only worldwide office. In terms of size, it remains a small company, with less than twenty employees in total. But for such a tiny concern, it packs a mighty punch. It is already highly regarded in the gaming industry, with several excellent games already in its compact but top quality portfolio.
The focus of its small but perfectly formed team of developers has always been on quality, not quantity. With a relatively sedate rate of new game development, Elk’s regular releases have created quite a stir simply by concentrating on the player experience and some exceptional design features. The very first slot was The Lab, launched in October 2014. At the time of writing, there are a total of ten games in the range – all top quality with no filler. Each game is different, but with a distinctive, innovative “house” style which has become very popular at online and mobile casino sites.
The company makes a great emphasis on its logical design approach, with a strong emphasis on mathematics and logic. Clearly there is maths involved in the design of the games’ graphics, but as a player, the first thing you are likely to notice is how intuitive and easy to play they are. Today’s players appreciate the stunning looks, exciting game play and innovative features of Elk’s titles. So with typically modest Swedish understatement, the company prides itself on its prowess at programming and coding. Meanwhile, the typical player will be more interested in the excitement of their designs than any Spock-like appreciation of computer design skills.
While the theme and look of each game is very different, the common link is a very modern contemporary look. The graphics are cutting edge; each title is loaded with special features with its own quirky, innovative design. Take DJ Wild for example. Released in December 2015, this great game puts you in the position of the superstar DJ. The impressive intro sees you arriving at a massive stadium event. Judging by the palm trees and skyscrapers, the venue is certainly not in Stockholm. As you begin your set, the booming soundtrack has been created especially for you by one of the hottest Stockholm DJs. It certainly creates a real “big event” atmosphere. The game’s graphics were designed for the mobile player, so the entire screen is filled with the game itself: the controls are superimposed over the reels. The game play, graphics and soundtrack are all synced perfectly, just as smoothly as if everything was being mixed by a real superstar DJ. There are Re-spins, Expanding Wilds, Sticky Wilds and even a Jackpot Wild. The atmospheric mix intensifies as you progress through the game.
But even their very first design, The Lab, shows the same contemporary look and innovative design. Your job is to match the chemical symbols and crystals. It sounds a bit geeky, but it’s a really impressive and hypnotic title. There is a soothing synthesised soundtrack, with the reels and symbols again covering the screen in Elk’s house style. This game’s main innovative feature is the Vortex, which rotates smoothly behind the transparent reels, to the left of your screen. Getting “The Lab” symbol into the eye of this vortex triggers some potentially rewarding free spins. Two extra reels will also arrive on your screen with extra Wilds and prize multipliers.
My favourite Elk title is probably Bloopers: a Hollywood inspired spoof. It’s all about the two star actors and the teams of behind the camera production staff who will produce your “movie”. The special features revolve around these four separate production roles: the Sound Technician, the Editing “Cutter”, the Stunt Man, the Make-Up Artist and also the Fixer. There’s Sticky Wilds, Bonus Stars, Free Spins and features galore, with wobbly game reels which ape the motion of an old school movie projector reel.
The stand out characters for Elk Studio games are Electric Sam and the Taco Brothers. Both have two separate games dedicated to them. Sam was the subject of the second release, back in December 2014. This was followed in 2017 by a new sequel. This time, the location is the Caribbean, as Sam is on the Beach. Meanwhile, perhaps the most popular Elk creations are the Taco Brothers. In this madcap comedy caper, the three sombrero wearing siblings Paso, Pepe and Pico try to protect their village’s Taco supply from the malign intentions of the evil Captain Diaz. Mayhem ensues as you attempt to help the heroic but hapless trio avoid imprisonment in the cunning Captain’s jail. This brilliant game was followed by a Christmas Special Edition sequel, released in time for the 2016 festive season.
Many of these titles also feature their unique “Betting Strategies” facility. This optional extra allows you to pre-set your betting strategy in one of five different ways. The Optimizer varies your bet level automatically, adapting to your pre-determined percentage of the remaining balance. The Leveller automatically raises the bet level after five successive non-winning spins. The Booster raises your bet level after each unsuccessful spin. Meanwhile, the Jumper raises your bet after each winning spin. Leveller and Booster are re-set to base level after each win, while the Jumper is re-set after each losing spin. Finally, you can opt to decline all these strategies and manually decide the value of each spin yourself. This is the default strategy.
All Elk designs feature their distinctive full screen reels. These are an impressive innovation which really do suit play on all devices. Every inch of your mobile’s limited display screen is used to its maximum by this space-efficient feature, while larger screens are filled by the designers’ superb panoramic monitor-filling graphics.
Small but perfectly formed, Elk Studios is one of the best names in the gaming design business. What they lack in heritage, they certainly make up for in sheer youthful energy and innovation. They may not have the most extensive portfolio, but the quality is exceptional. Elk are without doubt one of the most popular design houses amongst discerning gamers. Their games are available on most of today’s casino sites. Many of these allow you to play games in Demo Mode. This means that you can “try before you buy” and make sure you like the game before you commit your own hard earned funds to the cause.