Okay, I confess: I play Facebook social games. Not stuff like FarmVille though, that game involves too much micromanaging for my tastes. For a long time I vowed against these kind of games, because of a long-standing view to not play games meant for the “casual crowd” like my mother. Eventually once I got a Wii a few years ago, I caved in and enjoyed the goofy stuff like Wii Sports Resort. This “relaxing” of playing casual games extended to Facebook and the social games there, thus my really stupid stigma of not playing “casual games” had disappeared, and I was a better man because of it.

Anyway, onto the Facebook games. My first taste of Facebook games was Wheel of Fortune. I have a bunch of big game show fans on my Facebook friends list, many of whom I’ve known for years, and it makes sense they’d jump on board to the game show games. After getting hounded for requests on Wheel of Fortune, I hopped on and started doing the daily puzzle thing like the rest of my friends. After a while we all kinda got burnt out and moved on from Wheel. It didn’t help that Wheel was a single player game on Facebook, thus not as exciting to play as the actual TV show. That was the end of that era for a while, I stopped playing Facebook games with the exception of contests — I won the Def Leppard track pack for Rock Band 3 thanks to a contest program once. Cut to months later, where I started getting requests for The Price Is Right Slots and Zynga Slingo. At that point, I had not played any Facebook games for several months, and decided that now was the time to scratch that itch again. First with TPIR Slots, then with Zynga Slingo. Now here’s my rough opinions of both.

I’ll get TPIR Slots out of the way: It’s a slot machine based off many pricing games from the long-standing American TV game show The Price Is Right. You start out with a low maximum bet and one slot machine, based off the “Cliff Hangers” pricing game, and level up your way to unlock new slots also based on other pricing games. Every few hours you can redeem some free chips, and you can send and receive free spins to your friends. Each slot machine has icons based on the TV show or the Pricing Game in question, plus a Wildcard and special tokens. Get a line with 3 pricing game icons, and you receive a token. Get three tokens and play the pricing game for extra chips. There’s also Contestants’ Row (or as it’s called sometimes, “Contestant Row”) tags, getting three of those will get you into a special version of the Contestants’ Row game for more chips. Originally you could request friends to join you in these Contestants’ Row but none of my friends ever bothered, so they changed it to picking three sets of boxes for a big combo bonus instead.

That’s basically TPIR Slots, but I do have a fair share of complaints. First, this is made by Ludia, they’re that game developer who’s done basically all the modern game show video game adaptions not titled Jeopardy! or Wheel of Fortune. In most cases, the quality of their games tend to vary, from decent (most of their Price is Right output) to mediocre (Family FeudPress Your Luck) to the absolutely atrocious (Who Wants to be a Millionaire? is pretty bad, as is The $1,000,000 Pyramid, in which a fellow game show fan rightfully savaged the game in a review). TPIR Slots is firmly in the “mediocre” category. While it’s sometimes faithful to the pricing games, it feels like the graphics barely have to do with the show. Most of the sounds and music aren’t anything to write home about either, save for the obvious music cues from the show.

There is one thing that really bothers me about this game: When choosing a slot machine, you’ll hear the dulcet tones of Rich Fields announce the game. Uh, Ludia? Rich Fields hasn’t been the announcer on The Price is Right for a year and a half now. Not only that, Terry McGovern, better known as NFL2K’s “Dan Stevens” announces some of the pricing games. If you’re that fucking lazy to not get George Gray (the current announcer of Price) or Drew fuckin’ Carey in a recording booth for a weekend to record lines for your dinky Facebook game, then why even bother? Put some effort into your game show adaptions, for god’s sake! Even the guys who did Wheel of Fortune on the Wii had put the effort to get Pat and Vanna, and Sajak had never done a Wheel video game before then! This isn’t a rare occurrence for Ludia, the recent Family Feud game doesn’t even feature Steve Harvey, but a fictitious British character named Sparky Whitmore. If that doesn’t tell you the quality of their products, I don’t know what is.

But that’s enough bitching about Ludia. Let’s move on to the better game in the package: Zynga Slingo. I remember Slingo way back in the late ’90s, during the days when AOL was actually considered a competent ISP. Back then, Slingo was a multiplayer online game where the goal was to fill the card before your opponents, and get on the high score leaderboards for the day. I was obsessed with it so much that I even had the Tiger Electronics handheld of it. Well, apparently Slingo is still around and decided to partner up with casual games giant Zynga to make a new version for the modern generation. Since I remember Slingo fondly from my youth, I decided to give it a try and see if the nostalgia would flow right back in.

Well, first, it’s not multiplayer like the previous Slingo. Instead of playing competitively, the goal is to fill the 25-square board (later 49-square board). Slingo is a portmanteau of Slots and Bingo, and the rules work like this: five numbers appear below the card, each with their own number adjacent to numbers on a Bingo card. If a number is on the card, you mark it off. Five-in-a-row in any direction nets you a “Slingo” and some bonus points. Occasionally Jokers appear on the slots, which worked as a wildcard in the column it appears in. Zynga Slingo added various other items like Super Jokers, which can be used to fill any number on the board, a coin with a devil and a cherub, which replaces the random devil and cherubs from the original games (devils subtract a percentage of your score while cherubs add to it, with the option to bet 25%-75% or skip it entirely), free balls, gold bars and multipliers. Each card has five requirements that will give you aSlingo medal: three high scores, completing the predetermined pattern on the board, and filling the whole card. You’re given about 16 balls to work with, and four additional balls that use 2 energy every time you use it. Energy regenerates at a slow rate (about 1 energy every 4 minutes), so you can do about 2-3 boards, run out of energy, and either ask for more energy from your friends or come back when it’s fully recharged. You also use energy every time you attempt a board, which varies from 10 to 25 energy, and probably higher as you get to later boards.

Zynga Slingo feels like a faithful adaption. It even has most of the sounds from the 1997 classic I fondly remember. The major downside is the loss of competitive play. The thrill of going against random players online and climbing to the top, only to get a Devil and lose your points, causing you to respond “dd” (damn/darn devil) in the chatbox. To nail the full card even before you got to the last four balls. To just meet a bunch of random people you may never speak to again. Oh well, at least I can have my aunt from Wisconsin send me random coins as compensation when I help them out. (Your Facebook friends who are playing can randomly slow up in the slots, and work identically to regular Jokers.) If there’s one other thing that bothers me is the new designs for the characters. The cherub is a lady now, the devil looks less like a reject from The Pink Panther, and the joker just can’t stop smiling.

He. Can’t. Stop. Smiling.

He creeps me out. I fear if I stop playing the game that he will come to my house and stare outside, smiling all the while and tempting me with 100 more coins. That face… it’s the stuff of nightmares. I’m gonna go play something else so he can stop staring at me with that mischievous smile…

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