Small wonder Slingo – that ultra-addictive fusion of slots and bingo we all know so well – has prompted over 3.3 billion tries since debuting in 1995. (And, while we’re at it, inspired some fans to literally goof off behind the keyboard for as much as 36 hours straight…)

As is evident in long-awaited sequel Slingo Quest, which not only sports the same great play mechanics, but also remixes familiar challenges by adding all sorts of snazzy upgrades, casual diversions don’t get much better. Topping the average, everyday outing in nearly every department from pure hands-on excitement to adorably animated visuals, developer Funkitron’s latest masterpiece is bound to keep you happily glued to the monitor for another decade.

After entering your name and choosing a corresponding photo – male/female portraits are available or any existing digital image can be selected – the action starts with picking from one of two game variants: Quest or Classic. Classic is essentially the same awesome amusement millions have already enjoyed. Quest, on the other hand, adds adventure mode options, letting you steadily move between exotic islands such as Pirate’s Hideout and Puerto Slingo by completing individual stages spread out across a single-player campaign map.

A quick recap of how things work.

Each level’s inhabited by a bingo-style card, divided into a 5×5 or 7×7 grid of vertical columns containing squares with random numbers. Below each, a spherical, slot machine-style window rests, waiting for you to spin the virtual wheels (accomplished by activating an on-screen indicator or clicking the right mouse button). Every one of the 20 total pulls you’re afforded causes new numbers to appear below each column.

The goal naturally being to pair as many of these digits with ones contained on your card, with each complete horizontal, vertical or diagonal row of matches made resulting in a “Slingo.” Points are scored with every match and Slingo created, with greater amounts awarded for combos that polish off several rows in a single swoop. And, of course, if you want to win a particular scenario and progress forward through the tale, you’ll also have to fill in every single colored square laid out in varyingly-shaped patterns across each card.

However, a huge range of power-ups and extras affect the action. Score multipliers which boost point tallies 10X or more and may be earned in slot windows (making them effective this turn only) or on the card itself (providing stage-long upgrades) are just the beginning. Other similarly-activated bonuses include:

  • Jokers – Act as wild cards.
  • Super Jokers – Let you fill in any square.
  • Slingo Vision – Highlight all possible matches for five spins.
  • Free Spins – Purchase spins free of charge. (On many stages, the last four spins will typically cost you 10-40% of your point total.)
  • Frogs – Collect for a 5000 point bonus.
  • Butterflies – Complete a Slingo on a row they’ve landed on for a score boost.
  • Devils – Subtract a substantial percentage of your entire point total, unless you’ve snagged a Devil Protection power-up, or a cherub randomly appears to scare them off.
Amazingly, things get even deeper the further you progress. Think:
  • Squares that contain point-adding coins.
  • Hidden keys capable of unlocking secret levels.
  • End-level encounters that pit you against trash-talking pirates in point-scoring showdowns.
  • Scenarios in which you’ll play two or three separate cards simultaneously.
  • Secondary objectives such as 100% card completion rates or retrieving a set number of butterflies you may optionally attempt.
Meaning that the further you go, not only the greater that you’ll appreciate gorgeous backgrounds featuring peek-a-boo playing kids, drifting clouds and flying birds. The more base game variables change as well, requiring constantly shifting player strategies, and the bigger the incentive to go back and retry already completed levels in hopes of netting additional rewards and better high-score rankings.

Flush with perky background tunes, hilarious sound effects (e.g. grumbling buccaneers and grouchy demons) and cool collectibles (example: 12 accomplishment-based stamps to unlock), a single week’s worth of sit-downs isn’t even enough to scratch the surface. Though much of the experience comes down to pure serendipity – thanks to automatic help functions, you can’t screw up and accidentally forget to place matching tiles, so success is almost entirely based on luck of the draw – that’s just part of Slingo Quest’s charm.

A few minor points could’ve used touch-ups. (See: Use of Super Jokers, which must be employed before making other matches, and therefore can accidentally be utilized to match a square you could’ve filled in that same round otherwise). Nonetheless, no two games are ever alike. And with options to quit while you’re ahead (assuming patterns have been fully made) by skipping pay-for-play spins, plus the absence of pressing time limits, frustration is seldom an issue.

Perfect for men, women and children of all ages, interests and skill levels alike, it’s one of the finest desktop diversions we’ve yet had the pleasure of playing. Not to mention the sort you’d be flat-out crazy not to add to your collection.