In the many years I’ve been writing about oddball video gaming stuff, I thought I covered it all. The unofficial expansion packs, the weird cross-promotions, the mostly forgotten cheap games that came out during the 2000s. But it wasn’t until recently did I realize there was one genre I never talked much about: The hidden object game.
A genre I haven’t really covered on here, the hidden object game involves usually finding a bunch of items inside a room to make progress. For a good long while, the hidden object genre was the go-to game for super casual gamers everywhere. I assume it’s still modestly popular, but I figure most people have since moved on to Candy Crush Saga and similar easy-to-understand mobile game offerings.
Normally, I wouldn’t cover these, but then I found an interesting hidden object game. One mashed up with a classic online game I remember from my teen years. When I spotted this game at a thrift store, I had wondered how they decided to bring back a mostly dormant franchise and combine it with one of the most popular casual gamer genres out there. Turns out it’s quite a journey.
Slingo Mystery: Who’s Gold? is a game developed and published by Funkitron Games – no relation to Toejam & Earl – that combines the popular hidden object game with Slingo, a game show-like game that mixes slot machines with bingo. Released around 2007 for PC platforms, this game seemed to slip through the cracks, as I didn’t realize this existed until I picked it up last year at a thrift store.
But before we get into the game itself, a small primer on what Slingo is. You have a bingo card and every spin of the reels gives you five numbers to fill the card with. Alongside the numbers are jokers – a wild card that can be used to mark any number on the column its on, gold coins – gives you extra score, and the devil, which cuts your score in half. You have up to 20 spins to fill the card, and the first to do so wins the game.
Slingo is a game I fondly remember from my days of playing it on America Online. For people of my generation, Slingo was one of those classic games people played in the early 2000s, web 1.0-era internet. That, Yahoo Games, You Don’t Know Jack: The NetShow and Acrophobia are many of these online games I fondly remember. Sadly, most of these are gone now, or live on through fanmade clones.
I’ve talked about Slingo once before: Way back in 2012, covering the time Zynga licensed the game for a Facebook mobile game that was fairly short-lived. It was perfectly fine, but filled with microtransactions and nagging your Facebook friends for help, which was pretty common at the time. Thank god we kinda moved past that.
But I’ve waxed enough nostalgia. Let’s get into the hybrid Slingo meets hidden object game that is Slingo Mystery: Who’s Gold?
You play as Maggie Gold, a divorced, destitute woman who finds out from her friend Kyle Sparks that her ex-husband Freddy has passed, and decided to give his massive Las Vegas casino, “The Gold Casino,” to his current wife Gloria. Throughout the various areas of the casino, Maggie tries to find out the secrets of the casino, which involves a bunch of unusual item hunting and puzzle-solving.
Now, normally I wouldn’t talk too much about hidden object games. They always seemed to be the kind of genre that would flood the bargain bins of office supplies and department stores, sitting alongside a rack of cheap PC releases of games past like Braid or Far Cry 2. To me, these kind of games peaked when books like I Spy and Where’s Waldo came out. I couldn’t imagine these kind of games were anywhere near my wheelhouse.
Thankfully the genre is made for the type of person who doesn’t play games very often, thus it’s fairly easy to play: Each room has a set of items thatMaggie has to find to continue: Usually items that could be hiding keys, notes and whatnot. After completing a set, another set will unlock that will progress until all the items in that room are found, allowing Maggie to move onto the next room.
In some rooms, Maggie has to not only find items and press buttons to make it to the next area, but sometimes solve puzzles. Some are fairly simple, such as using items to mask security cameras; while others are borderline comical and complex, such as looking for five cooking pots with numbers on them to find the combination to a keypad that’s in the same room. Or finding a pot of coffee that will plug up a drain to unlock something. One room had Maggie build a makeshift pulley, MacGyver style, to open up a security door that was booby trapped.
Yeah, this game gets wild. Never mind the fact that a divorcee searching the derelict casino of his ex-husband for Slingo machines is already weird in and of itself, but each room gets crazier and crazier in a way I genuinely did not expect the genre to go.
Every few rooms, there will be a Slingo machine to find. Once all the objectives in a room are completed, Maggie must play a game Slingo and complete the machine’s predetermined goal to unlock the next item. Usually it’s a score-based goal, but sometimes it’s something like completing a pattern, filling out the card completely – usually called a Blackout in Bingo parlance – that sort of thing. Thankfully, you’re not on a time limit and can try as many times to nail the goal.
Slingo here plays like the game I knew and loved, but with more powerups and additions. Nudge will shift the wheels in case you get no matches, Slingo vision makes hidden powerups on the card visible, Bouncing Slingo will allow you to get a slingo – a five in a row, just like Bingo – with any diagonal line of five, that sort of thing. These additions must be ones that Funkitron might’ve added from their previous Slingo games like Slingo Supreme, as I don’t really remember most of these in the original game. Hell, they even have the Super Joker, and the Cherub to protect from the Devil, which I do remember from Zynga Slingo.
As for the core gameplay itself, it’s fine. Item hunting can be a bit annoying in spots. A fair share of “pixelbitching” is prevalent here: Fully expect to hunt around for the item in question, which is mostly obstructed by other items. Granted, this might be easier if you’re playing in full screen at 640×480. (I was playing it in a window for this whole playthrough, as you might’ve noticed.) Some of the items are really hidden, and since you need to find all the items to progress, it can be annoying to have to look around dozens of times to find it, especially since clicking in the wrong place a few times will cause the cursor to shake, slightly hindering progress.
Though, this game isn’t that particularly hard, even for someone like me who’s not well-versed in this genre. Slingo Mystery will automatically change the cursor to a hand and point things out if you hover near them, plus there’s an “Ahah!” hint system that will point out where something is if you’re really scratching your head on where that goddamn humongous wrench is. You can turn most of these off if you want a real challenge, but I kept it on in my entire playthrough.
You may have noticed the environments and the cutscenes inbetween rooms look kinda fake and plastic-y. There’s little-to-no movement of the characters between cutscenes, which looks really awkward. I swear the models came from Poser or similar cheap modeling software, it looks that rough. The voice acting is equally clunky in its delivery, which 90% of it comes from Maggie. I expect the voiceovers were likely done in-house, as the people credited don’t seem to be any professional voice actors. I wasn’t going into this expecting Crysis levels of graphic design for a hidden object game, but I think there’s a reason most hidden object games tend to use a more cel-shaded, cartoony style.
You may have noticed that I’ve also refrained from talking more about this game’s story. That isn’t to say this is a hidden gem or anything, I genuinely think this game is average. I don’t know if hidden object games usually get this weird, but this game goes places. Usually I try to avoid spoilers unless it’s a game that I think is so average or bad, but the story of this goes so off the rails that it wraps around to be something amazing, and it has to be seen to be believed.
Surprisingly, there was a sequel released: Slingo Mystery 2: The Golden Escape, which is more hidden objects and Slingo minigames. I’m not expecting them to reinvent the wheel, but I’m intrigued just to see who the bonkers storyline plays out in that one.
You can replay certain rooms or the various Slingo games unlocked in the main menu, which is probably the main draw for me, personally. The hidden object stuff is something I could live without, but being able to play variations on Slingo is my jam. Plus once you’ve played through the story once, there’s little incentive to replay it unless you wanna speedrun through it. (Wait, is there a speedrunning community for hidden object games? This warrants further investigation.)
Funkitron still exists as a studio as of 2023, still making casual games for mobile devices. Some are knockoffs like CandyPrize, a brazen Candy Crush Saga clone; with licensees like Hard Rock Cafe, to even a weed-themed Bejeweled clone called Bud Farm: Munchie Match. Sadly, no modern Slingo games for them.
The Slingo IP got bought by Gaming Realms around 2015, and is now basically used for cheapo gambling games that milk the Slingo brand into something nigh-unrecognizable. Honestly, I wish it stayed dead, because it doesn’t deserve a fate like this, of being used to a gateway to shady gambling sites. At least they were able to make a crossover with the UK game show Deal or No Deal, I guess?
Slingo Mystery: Who’s Gold? is a fascinating game. Two genres that hit the casual gamer markets: Slingo and hidden object games, and meshes them together into a bizarre, yet fascinating mess. It’s worth looking out for just for the bonkers story alone.
Second-hand physical copies can be found on Amazon or similar outlets, and it’s available digitally at many storefronts for a few bucks. Though, I won’t fault you if you opt for more… illicit methods. I mean, if it worked for Maggie Gold, it can certainly work for you.
Honestly, now I wanna dig into the other Slingo games that have been released over the years, as there’s a myriad of them released around the 2000s. My copy of Slingo Mystery also came with Slingo Supreme, a more straightforward Slingo game without the hidden object stuff. I bet this is an interesting rabbit hole to fall down…
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