Bingo Heaven is a great solo twist on Bingo
Bingo Heaven is deceptive. I dismissed it almost immediately as simple and dull during my first playthrough, but by the time I had ten rounds under my belt I was reading the numbers out loud, jabbing my thumb at the screen and getting far more entertainment out of it than I ever would have expected from a silly little Bingo game.
I’m going to assume that everyone is familiar with the basic concept of Bingo and move directly on to the ways in which Bingo Heaven is different from the real thing – aside from the fact that you’re not stuck inside a smoky Bingo hall with your grandmother. Because there are no other players, there’s no race to be first to call BINGO! Instead, the number of Bingo balls in each round of Bingo Heaven is fixed, and if you haven’t made the call by the time the last one passes, you lose. You can actually call Bingo at any time, but by continuing to play you maximize your chances to hit squares with coins or treasure chests, which provide access to credits, power-ups, “collection items” and other such virtual goodies.
You will also gain experience as you go, which determines how many Bingo cards you can have on the table at once and where you can play. You’ll start in Florida and work your way up through California, Mexico, Hawaii, Costa Rica and several other locales; the more exotic the Bingo hall – which is to say, the higher the level – the more lucrative the payout when you win.
Bingo Heaven is a free-to-play game, but like all such games there is an option to sink money into it if you so desire. “Credits” are used to acquire coins, which are then used to buy all the other good stuff – keys to unlock treasure chests, vanity daubers and so forth. Credits are earned by playing the game, as are coins, keys and various power-ups, but for those who have more money than patience they can also be purchased with real money through the in-game store in amounts ranging from 50 (for 99 cents) to 3000 (for 50 bucks).
I’m not entirely comfortable saying the game is “fun” in the strictest sense, but it is entertaining and a more-than-passable time-killer, even for gamers with zero interest in Bingo. Playing a single card is a fairly slow and relaxing way to blow a few minutes, while playing with four cards – the maximum allowed – can make for a pretty intense game of seek and daub. The Bingo balls are only separated by a few seconds no matter how many cards you have, and they come inexorably, without any way to pause the action. Need to stop for a second and take care of something else? Too bad! Bingo waits for no man!
The inability to pause the game is annoying but, given its nature, entirely understandable. So is the time limit to call “Bingo” once all the balls have passed, as you have just a few seconds after the final ball to do so and, if you’re playing more than one card, specify which of them have Bingo. Take too long and you’ll miss out on the win, which has the potential to be frustrating, but also goes a long way toward restoring the sense of competitive urgency that’s otherwise lost to the single-player design.
The screen is cluttered and busy, especially with four cards on the go, but the control setup is actually better than it appears at first glance. Each card maximizes when touched in order to help ensure accurate daubing, and then reverts back to quarter-screen size after the daub is done. The “Bingo” and power-up buttons are readily accessible at the bottom of the screen, while the relevant details about credits, coins, keys and experience are on display in a bar at the top. It looks messy, but it works.
If you do happen to happen to daub an incorrect square, however, there’s no way to undo it, which is a baffling omission. There’s also a complete lack of sound, so you’ll be playing in dead silence – but on the upside, that’s a great excuse to ad-lib your own calls in your best Bingo hall drawl. The scoring is a bit confusing, too, and while I’m sure there’s some kind of system in place for determining how coins and experience are awarded, I can’t for the life of me figure out what it is.
Bingo Heaven will not make your life better. It will not be the best videogame you play all year. It probably won’t make you a better Bingo player, although I suppose anything’s possible. What it will do is serve up a surprisingly enjoyable and even challenging way to blow a few minutes in a waiting room or while you’re stuck on hold. That’s bingo, baby!