When I think of social games, Bingo is one of the last things that comes to mind. With the exception of the caller bellowing out the numbers, bingo halls are usually as silent as a library. People are so focussed on their own cards and their own numbers that they won't let even the simplest moment break their concentration. And yet Bingo has come to Facebook – the internet's home for everything social. Not only does Bingo embrace this social phenomenon, it does so with a tremendous degree of success.
The social aspects of Bingo on Facebook seem to harken back to the earlier days of multiplayer casual gaming. I remember playing chess on MSN and poker on Yahoo nearly a decade ago, and using a very basic group-chat interface to keep the game interesting. Even if you were talking to a room full of people rather than just your opponents, games like those helped to merge the worlds of browser-based gaming and chat clients to help form the building blocks of modern social gaming. That's why it's both a surprise and a delight to see Bingo revert back to such a simple design for chat.
In Bingo you'll join a “room” where other people are playing and jump right into their game. You'll be able to chat with everyone else in a big group chat window located to the left of the actual bingo action. The chatting isn't essential, but it certainly adds another level of fun to an otherwise slow game. That's not the developers fault mind you – bingo is slow by its very nature. It's not a game that requires any sort of skill – just the ability to pay attention to the numbers called. Thankfully the team behind Facebook Bingo realized this and did everything in their power to keep the game from ever feeling stale.
Once you've left the beginner room, you'll find yourself in rooms that change the game type after every round. One game you'll play the standard “make a line of 5” type bingo. The next game might be full card bingo. The game after that could be “Elevator” where you'll need to make arrows going up and down. There are dozens of bingo variations presented in a variety of rooms, with new ones being introduced regularly.
The pace of the game is fairly tight as well. New numbers are called every 10 seconds or so. If you choose to play multiple cards (you can play up to 4) this is just enough time to check all your cards and keep an eye out for the next number. My only complaint with the number calling is that they're not actually called, but displayed. Bingo for Facebook has no audio. Providing a simple, digitized “B 5” would have gone a long way towards recreating that true bingo hall experience. Instead you're forced to keep your eye on the ball (quite literally) to see if a new number has popped up yet. Get too involved in the chat and you may find yourself a few numbers behind and rushing to play catch up, thanks to the lack of audio cue.
Because the game takes place with real people in real time, you'll almost never sit down to a game before it begins. Once you join a room, you can either sit out a round and wait for a fresh game (which could take a while depending on the game type) or jump in and try to get caught up. Getting caught up is almost always the most appealing option – especially since it might only take a few minutes to cross-check your numbers against the caller's card.
It may lack the neon lights and smoke-filled rooms of a real bingo hall, but Bingo for Facebook embraces some old social concepts and offers some great variety of play for those looking for a dabber-free bingo experience. If you're looking for a laid-back casual experience that will let you make some new friends with a love for Bingo, this is a game that'd be well worth checking out.