Asylum Labs – The Low Down and History
Asylum Labs are a small casino and video game company, based in downtown Santa Cruz in California, little more than a stone’s throw from the beach. Founded back in 2013, they remain a relatively tiny outfit, with around a dozen employees, mostly based around the San Francisco Bay area.
Considering that the company is approaching its first decade in business, you may think that this is evidence that it is not exactly a fast developing, go-ahead organisation. And to be honest, if I lived in Santa Cruz I’d probably spend a lot of time at the beach too. But from an online gaming viewpoint, it must be pointed out that casino games are not this outfit’s primary focus.
Its video game exploits are renowned within that industry, and there is also a big emphasis on social gaming and social network activities. Casino game design is more of an added extra for these software designers, but it must be recognised that they sure do have some very transferable skills.
Jason Kaehler is the CEO, and his CV certainly is impressive. With 25 years’ experience in software design, he’s worked for some seriously big names, such as EA, Disney and Sony. Admittedly, there’s not much in the way of casino gaming experience there, but a move to Osiris Studios in the 1990s saw a renewed focus on console gaming. This has helped to give him the excellent all-round expertise necessary to run a varied and flexible operation like Asylum Labs.
Jason’s team includes a selection of other industry veterans, giving the company a very broad range of useful skills and industry know-how. Chief Creative Officer Larry Holland truly is a veteran, with years of experience working for Totally Games, and also responsible for the development of iconic games for the likes of Lucas Arts and Sega. But as someone who began his career when the very first computer games were developed, working on the likes of the Commodore 64 and Apple 2, he surely knows a thing or two.
Also on the team is Albert Mack, who also remembers as far back as the C64, and has worked in the industry ever since, plus Art Director Chris Turner, who’s been a senior artist and animator at Lucas Arts and several other top games companies.
Asylum Labs Slots & Casino Games
With this kind of background, it’s easy to see why the focus of the company leans toward the computer game side of the business. Nevertheless, Asylum Labs is developing quite a reputation in the online casino industry too. Many casino operators have licenced the company’s excellent slots, so it is becoming much easier to find the company’s designs on online casinos all over the world.
And it is easy to see how the team’s experience in console gaming has been very useful in developing their own niche in the casino game arena. Just that little bit of outside influence has enabled them to develop a fresh and innovative approach to slot design that really does bring something different to the table. It is this alternative viewpoint which makes them an ideal proposition for casino operators looking to curate the unique range of games they want to offer their players. Just that little bit of innovation gives Asylum Labs that ‘je ne sais quoi’ factor – great for gamers looking for something a bit different from their usual regular favourites.
And Asylum Labs games certainly are a bit different. They really do take innovation to a higher level. Their speciality is in making imaginative re-creations of traditional casino games. Sometimes it’s just a slight tweak, like their superb subtle re-creation of Texas Hold ‘Em as Texas Hedge ‘Em, but more often its more of a complete re-hash.
Take Blackjack Cats for example. This masterful mash-up mixes a relatively conventional five reel slot with the classic table game to make something really quite special. The graphics are amazing too, although Hanna-Barbera may have raised an eyebrow at the similarity with its Top Cat cartoon character. It’s a great game, and well worth looking out for at any casino offering Asylum Labs games.
Then there’s Poker Dog Slots, which does a similar trick with more traditional Poker. The scene is set in a nostalgic 1930s American Bar, as a friendly Bulldog attempts to help you out with some sneaky extra cards to win you bigger prizes. Again, it’s a five reel slot / card game hybrid with lots of other special features too.
Meanwhile, Wheel of Africa plays around with the conventional Roulette wheel to construct a decent animal game with a kind of ‘wheel of fortune’ mechanic. There are Wheel of Hounds and Wheel of Monsters variants too, so they certainly are having some success with the format.
Beauty and the Beast and Congo Bongo are more conventional five reel slots, but there are still some exciting special bonus games for you to enjoy. Paywire is a more classic design, being just a three reel game, modelled very much on the old school one armed bandit fruit machine, only much updated for the 21st Century of course, in a classic Asylum Labs kind of way.
As you would expect from the heritage of this team, they don’t just stick to traditional casino games. The company are masters at social network gaming, but with a traditional edge of course. Wild Party Bingo enables you to play video Bingo as a team, with loads of online friends. It’s sneaky too, as you can call for extra numbers if you are doing badly, or spoil the run of an opponent if they are doing too well. It’s great fun: Bingo is usually a pretty solitary game in the sense that everyone is concentrating on their own cards, but here, the team element and the ability to disrupt the opposition gives this fun to play game an extra edge.
Asylum Labs may not be the most prolific of gaming software designers, but they are well worth looking out for. They really do produce games that are a bit different. With more new titles in the pipeline and Dragonfish powered casinos already licencing their games, keep an eye out for their titles at your favourite Dragonfish slot site.