A few days before my thirty-second birthday, I took stock of myself in the mirror, counting the number of gray hairs–both atop my head and in my beard–demanding attention. I won’t give you the actual total, but let’s just say that there were a few more than last year, and a few more than the year prior, and I guess I should consider myself lucky, considering that my father started losing hair color in his later twenties. What does all this have to do with Bingo, you ask, having zero patience? Well–old people. Old people love the Bingo, and I’m beginning to accept my future fate, as quickly as it draws near, that I’ll be amidst them sooner than later, stamping a bunch of cards and listening for that sweet, sweet call of O-69.
I mean, when I saw that Microsoft Bingo was available for my crappy, but loveable Windows 8 phone and that it was free, I got excited. Genuinely, honestly, truly. I don’t yet own any daubers, but if I did, one could probably imagine me dusting them off at that exact moment, eyes open, throat thirsty for numbers. I remember fondly playing “math Bingo” back in grade school, thinking that this was one addicting way to spend some time, as well as learn, and I was like seven or eight then. I guess another twenty-five years doesn’t make much of a difference.
To start, it’s Bingo. Don’t go in expecting something that is not, as its roots, Bingo. It’s that same ol’ game of chance invented in 1929 and played with different randomly drawn numbers, which players match against numbers that have been pre-printed on 5×5 cards. In real life, you use a dauber, but here you can simply touch the spot on the screen with your finger to mark it. If you mark five in a row (or all four corners), you can count yourself a star, as that’s a Bingo!
That said, it’s a videogame version of Bingo, which means you can also use power-ups, gather collectibles, and earn XP to advance in level, which opens up new locations to play at; so far, of the total ten, I can daub with old ladies and men in France and the United Kingdom. Some of the power-ups range from helpful, like knowing the next five numbers to be called out before anyone else, to lazy, where the board will highlight the number in a lit box if it is ready to be daubed. Of course, you always have the option to purchase more power-ups–both with in-game coins or real-life dollars–after you run out, but I don’t think I’ll ever get to that point. For me, it’s not about the power-ups; it’s about hearing a man or woman say B-4, finding it on my various boards, and tapping it in.
You’re also playing Bingo live with other players, though, early on, it really doesn’t feel like it. It’s only when you begin to see the Bingo count, which starts at 30, begin to deplete that you realize you’re wasting time while others are calling their shots and earning points and coins. It is rare that I finish a match with a single Bingo, though I have on occasion gotten lucky and hit a bunch; it really depends on your board and the numbers called, as it is all random. What’s nice is you can pay a small amount of coins–it increases in each new location–to continue playing solo after the match is over, drawing five more numbers, to see if you can hit any Bingo lines you were setting up over the course of the game.
Currently, I jump between playing two cards at once to four cards, though four cards requires a bit more concentration and flickering from the eyes. With just two cards, you can see both on the one screen, which allows you to quickly daub a number after it’s called. If you have more than two cards in play, you have to scroll them up or down to see, and the going back and forth takes a bit to manage. Still, there’s better rewards and a greater chance to yell Bingo at your cell phone with more cards, but you have to be ready to juggle multiple actions.
All in all, it’s a new twist on a classic, and thankfully, all the new twist dressings, such as experience points, power-ups, and collectibles, don’t get too in the way of what makes Bingo a ton of fun. So long as the numbers keep getting called out, I’ll continue daubing, but don’t expect to see me paying for the removal of ads or purchasing additional luggage keys. This is one free-to-play game where the in-game purchases really don’t make any sense.