By James Archuleta |
I want you to know that I take bingo seriously. As a child, nothing thrilled me more than singing the song all the way through (_ _ _ G O was my favorite part - 'cause it spelled "GO!"). As I grew older, I became acquainted with the more adult pastime at our annual family reunion, held at a ranch/resort in Santa Barbara, Calif. Every Friday night, all the guests gather in the rec room and guard their dollar cards jealously in the hopes of winning a T-shirt, cap, or $10 cash prize. I've never seen so many Mercedes-driving, fur-coat-wearing people get so excited about winning a baseball cap.
The idea of bingo as a single-player computer game seriously confuses me. Since I believe in my heart of hearts that the entire object of bingo (the game, not the song) is to win money, it's hard to get excited about "winning" on my PC (no crisp big-headed 20s have emerged from my A: drive yet). But Hasbro Interactive makes a compelling case in its promotional material. Slingo isn't just bingo, you see. It's "The Addictive Combination of SLOTS and BINGO!" How, you may ask, is this remarkable feat achieved? Well, the slot machine produces the numbers, much like the perky sailing instructor pulls the multicolored Ping-Pong balls out of the air popper in that excitement-filled rec room.
Let me see if I can explain it a little better. When you start up a game of Classic Slingo, you are presented with a 5X5 bingo card. At the bottom, a row of numbers is generated randomly when you pull the slot-machine arm (called a spin). You match these numbers with your bingo card numbers. The object of the "game" is to cover all 25 squares within 20 spins. You're awarded points instead of money. Each match garners points. Completing rows (called Slingos) gets you extra points. Clearing the entire board gives you a further point bonus.
The most fun part of Slingo is picking your background. You can choose from caveman, space, art deco, laboratory, nature, fantasy, and ocean. The cute dragons in the fantasy background breathe fire when you spin.
Sometimes when you pull the arm, you get coins instead of a number. This gives you more points. In case you find matching the numbers too difficult, most every pull produces one or more jokers. Jokers can cover any square. If you're unlucky, a devil will appear and cut your points in half. In case you think this too harsh, most of the time, an angel will appear and relegate the devil to a puff of smoke, letting you keep your points. Intimidated by the number-matching component? Don't be. You can't go on to the next spin until all your matches are made.
In case you get bored with Slingo and feel tempted to play another game that engages your brain and requires some skill, there are a couple variations. Mixed Matrix Slingo is exactly the same as Classic Slingo except that the numbers generated by the spin can be anywhere on the board. Super Squares Slingo adds randomly placed squares that give you extra points when you match them. Finally, Giant Slingo adds a giant to the items that get generated by each spin. When you get a giant, you get an extra spin.
Hmmm, perhaps a spoiler alert is in order.
After playing for ten minutes, my number-matching skills had been honed razor-sharp. I felt ready to take on the ultimate challenge - Duel Slingo. Before venturing into the scary, cutthroat world of online Slingo, I thought it prudent to practice against the computer. As you might guess, in this "highly competitive version of Classic Slingo, both players play on the same card!" The 20 arm-pulls are divided between the two players. Each player gets points for matches, including Slingos, and coins. Watch out for the pesky devil, though. If you spin him, you lose half your points.
Unlike chess, checkers, mah-jongg, or any number of two-player classic or board games, there is absolutely no skill involved whatsoever. The numbers are already placed on the 5X5 card. The spins produce random numbers. There's no hope of applying a strategy. It's pure luck - and, of course, your ability to match two numbers.
Imagine my surprise when my boss told me that Slingo is the most popular game on America Online. I can certainly see its appeal. It's seriously simple. Each game takes less than five minutes to play. The backgrounds are brightly colored. Umm, did I say it was simple? My forays into the Slingo play area produced nothing more than a zillion proposals of marriage and several compelling business propositions. I won a few games; I lost a few games. And I'm still waiting for those big-heads to start spewing out my A: drive.