Developers Ateam Inc have seen a gap in the download game market: bingo. For those who thought this pastime was restricted to bingo halls and retirement homes, think again. Bingo Party Deluxe is now available on WiiWare; does it succeed and scream ‘house’ at the top of its voice, or frustratingly bemoan the drawing of all the wrong numbers?
Bingo Party Deluxe appears to have been developed with two main target audiences in mind; young children and the families who will play with them. Every gameplay option in this title can be played with up to four players locally, or if you’re playing on your own the game will provide three AI controlled opponents. Control is as simple as pointing with the Remote to aim a reticule and pressing A; it's extremely simple and works well. The pointer moves smoothly, and it is perfectly possible for gamers of absolutely any age or familiarity with the Wii to jump in and play.
There are three different modes to tickle your bingo fancy; ‘75-Ball Bingo’, ‘90-Ball Bingo’ and ‘Bingo Party’. ’75-Ball Bingo’ is the simplest option in the game, in which you and three opponents manage two cards each. This mode is simplified as ‘Bingo’ is spelled out as column headers on each card, and the bingo ball will direct you by saying ‘B16’, rather than just ’16’. You have some control over victory conditions in that you can either aim to match numbers in rows or from a variety of shapes, such as hats etc. ’90 Ball Bingo’ works differently, as your two cards are now split into three longer lines and the numbers called do not hint at location. Once you familiarise yourself with the layout of the cards you will be able to find numbers quickly and easily.
The final play mode is ‘Bingo Party’. This is more of a free-for-all, as four players all try to fill in the same cards as multiple numbers are called at once. This is easily the most enjoyable mode, especially when playing with others, as you frantically look for the numbers across the cards while racing your opponents to get as many as possible. The numbers keep coming in quick succession and as a result this is a hectic and fun mode to play with the family.
If you’re playing with others, difficulty modes don’t have any impact. If you’re facing the computer AI, then the three difficulty options in each mode determine the level of challenge from your opponents. In order to compensate for the fact that winning bingo is conventionally a matter of luck and chance, the developers have included a scoring system. You receive points if you click a number quicker than your opponents, and lose points for selecting incorrect numbers. This does mean that even if all of your numbers aren’t drawn for you to win the conventional way, you may still win the round if you are consistently quicker and more accurate than your opponents.
The developers have also included achievement based unlockables as a reward for both persistence and high-scoring performances. Some of these extras aren’t particularly interesting, such as new card backgrounds, though some are worth the effort. The ‘Bingo Party’ mode, for example, starts with two card play, yet with patience you will unlock extra cards. Playing this unlocked mode with three others where you’re all fighting over numbers on six cards is chaotic and perfect for entertaining children. You do get some of these achievement points whether you win or not, so the game doesn’t penalise weaker players.
In terms of presentation, Bingo Party Deluxe gets a pass. The visuals are basic, but bright and colourful, very much in line with a target audience of young players and the more casual gaming demographic in general. The sound effects are reasonable, including a Smurf-like voice that calls out the numbers as the balls come into play. The music, however, is a weak point. There are a few different tracks as you play, but they can become relentlessly irritating unless you turn the volume down.
This is a difficult title to summarise and score, simply because the subject matter for the title is so limited in options. There isn’t much variety possible with a pastime as straightforward as bingo, yet Ateam has done its best to provide a fun experience. This title is best played with a group, as playing on your own quickly becomes repetitive. However, if you have young children or casual gamers in the family who enjoy this past-time then you will get some enjoyment, in short bursts, from the different modes on offer.