Say goodbye to your significant other, drop the dog off at the kennel and prepare to kiss your free time goodbye... Slingo Quest Hawaii, latest in the multimillion-selling series - and the first and best to successfully fuse the two all-consuming pastimes of slots and bingo - is finally here, and it's about to rearrange your entire life. Just one caveat: Much as newcomers can't help but be charmed by the outing, series veterans should expect simply incremental, not revolutionary, gains over past iterations, making it a welcome, albeit hardly earth-shattering upgrade.
The reason we put forth such caveats? Both much and little have changed since the last installment, depending entirely how you look at it. Core gameplay remains largely the same, as the action essentially still consists of several randomized spheres that appear beneath a grid-shaped, bingo-style card filled with numbers lurking above. Your chief goal once again: Given just 20 spins, pair as many of these digits with figures contained in the column directly atop them in hopes of creating horizontal, vertical, diagonal or patterned matches (slingos) that stretch across the entire board.
The main differences here since prior romps simply being as follows: A sizable number of new settings (e.g. coral reefs, sunken ships, and islands ranging from Maui to Oahu); fresh bonuses (which let you see power-up-containing tiles or instantly fill entire rows); and original play elements (i.e. collectible tricks and added game modes), which definitely add to, but don't tremendously boost enhance overall enjoyment factor.
As always, production values remain sky-high, from brilliantly animated and brightly-colored boys, girls, turtles, talking Tiki-men and other catchy background elements to point-thieving devils who cackle with glee and the chubby-cheeked cherubs who chase them away. The learning curve couldn't be simpler for all ages either, and the game slowly but steadily adds new twists and turns (such as spins you must pay for, score-boosting/-halving treasures, hyper-fast Speed Slingo or challenging head-to-head Slingo Volcano variants) as it progresses.
The designers are even kind enough to provide you with hanging tags that let you constantly keep track of how long power-ups will last or when special extras are in play. And, of course, every level yet again comes complete with a slew of hidden goodies. Think bonus stage-unlocking keys, stars (awarded for meeting preset point, time or butterfly-/starfish-collecting goals) and collectible postcards gained by grabbing a certain number of coins or being especially unlucky.
Classic Plus mode, which incorporates traditional play mechanics with new features native to the current edition, is engaging and all. But really, Quest options - which send you trotting across a nifty campaign map - is where you'll spend the bulk of your time. Among the fresh and original twists it presents? Try bags of tricks, or special tokens, that you can play before spins on-command to ensure a certain number of guaranteed matches, coins or joker wildcard tiles; 7x7 grids with holes in the middle that are more difficult to complete; and, naturally, a full spate of never-before-seen stages set in lava-drenched caverns or beautifully-submerged undersea environs. The kicker being that while still perfectly catchy and addictive in a "must... have... one... more... spin" sort of way, fans of the title's predecessor will find that the proceedings all feel a mite too comfortable and familiar.
Playing it safe's not necessarily a bad thing - the adventure's underlying formula is far from broken, and heaven knows you'll have a blast whether a franchise neophyte or longtime fan. But likewise, few conceptual risks have been taken with the title, meaning that if the game's largely randomized, frequently repetitive nature was a turn-off in the past, well... Don't expect to suddenly find you've become a newfound believer. Certainly, the creators are working with a proven recipe for success: Some fans of the franchise have apparently played for up to 36 hours straight. Whether you'll be up for that kind of marathon effort personally is entirely subjective though, depending on if the promise of a slight repositioning of previous Slingo outings' approach tickles your fancy.
Buy with confidence - there's more than enough here in terms of overall fun factor and replay value to keep you near-endlessly watching the same old balls tumble. Nonetheless, there's no reason an even more expansive tweaking of past play mechanics, power-ups and extras couldn't take the series even further (e.g. to the proverbial moon) than just a set of sun-dappled beachside island environs.
- Superb graphics and sound effects. Fun for all ages/interests. New bonuses, extras and backgrounds. Adds fresh tricks, play modes. Still the same core concept you know and love.
- Offers only incremental gains on prior outings. Gets repetitive over long-term play. Randomized action may drive you up the wall.