Review: Pingo Pingo



The penguins on Madagascar always stressed, “Smile and wave.”  And while Skipper, Rico, Kowalski and Private may have pulled their con of “cute and cuddly,” their Sphenisciformic cousins on this mysterious Caribbean island are decidedly more deadly than cuddly!  Nonetheless, you must brave these penguins’ nefarious traps and ferocious animalistic guardians to uncover the richest treasures on the Isle of the Golden Pineapple.

How to Play

Pingo Pingo is a slapjack variant. Yes, a slapjack variant.  As in if slapjack was actually fun and on steroids.  Sure I could label it a real-time, dexterity game if some OCD gamer insisted upon categorizing such things.  But essentially you’ll be slapping cards, shooting up the room with darts, running around, laughing, screaming, moaning, cursing and generally belittling each other for fifteen minutes.  Categorize that!  Simply put, you don’t play many board games like this.  Or if you do, then I want to hang out with you!

Players start out with seven lives, a deck of action cards and a communal dart gun with ten rounds.  The game lasts exactly fifteen minutes.  Every session.  How’s that, you wonder?  Because Pingo Pingo comes with a CD.  When the music starts you begin.  When it ends, then so does the game, in fifteen minutes…

The CD has three pertinent audio cues: daytime music, nighttime music and the chant, “Pingo Pingo!”  The day and night rhythms alternate, while the cries of “Pingo, Pingo” bellow intermittently.  As the music plays, players take turns flipping over a card from their deck.  These cards are either treasures or events.  Treasure cards are indicated by either day or night.  If a daytime treasure is flipped while the drumming day music is playing, the first one to slap it earns the card.  Same with nighttime treasures during the lulling midnight music.  There are also camp cards for either twelve hour period.  The first to whack those at the appropriate horological moment may steal a treasure from someone else.  But beware as the whacking aggressively and forcefully crescendos to fevered pitches!  If you slap a treasure during the wrong time of day, you lose a life!

The Golden Pineapple! This one can only be snagged during the day.
The Golden Pineapple! This one can only be snagged during the day.

Events work differently.  Although there is one card, a sort of monkey healer, which may be claimed by anyone with the same, lightening reflexes – slapping it when it’s flipped.  The first to do so gains one life back.  Be careful though, if you smack the primate witch doctor at full health you lose a life instead.

The others designate an action whereby you perform some dazzling trick or run around like an imbecile or both.  Whatever the job, you must complete it before the next “Pingo Pingo” chant roars on the sound track.  If you fail, you lose a life.  Remember that dart gun?  One card tasks you with shooting a target across the room.  Another bids you to run to one corner, touch a placard, race back to the table and fire at a different target in the opposite direction.  How fast can you cock and load and snipe before the chant announces your demise?  These are the testing grounds.  And did I mention that you’ll also have to scramble and collect errant misspent darts now and then?

Another action requires you to simply dash to two different placards – on opposite ends of the room, of course – and then back to your spot.  Finally, there is an action whereby you must redistribute the discard pile evenly among players.  That sounds easier to accomplish than it actually is as you fumble with and drop cards to the sound of beating drums, screaming opponents and can’t remember for the life of you when the last “Pingo Pingo” was shouted.

After fifteen minutes of this frantic, hectic, stressful chaos the music subsides.  The group collectively takes a breath and checks their pulses.  It is now that you notice your gaming table is in complete shambles, if not broken.  Everyone counts their remaining lives and the treasures they nabbed.  However, you may only keep three treasures per life point remaining.  The player with the most treasure who didn’t pass out wins.


Locked and Loaded?

To be clear, you will not come out of this game looking good.  On the contrary, in more than one way, you’ll illustrate what it means to be a bumbling buffoon.  As added insult, you’ll likely be sweating, too.

Pingo Pingo is from the wild mind of Roberto Fraga, designer of other silly games like Dancing Eggs, Ka-Boom and a couple dozen delightful kids’ titles.  In fact, even if you play a lot of games like this, maybe I should be hanging with Fraga, instead?  To be sure he has many creations considered more serious, but many others are light, whimsical and outside-the-gamer’s-box.  Limiting this one – and others like it – to family settings or as a party game is understandable.  Indeed Pingo Pingo is a perfect fit for such occasions.  However, that constraint would unfortunately stifle its potential.


This playful activity especially has the ability to blast through social walls that we as humans often unnecessarily, albeit sometimes naturally, build.  The term “ice-breaker” comes to mind.  Amidst close circles where everyone knows each other extremely well, Pingo Pingo will sure to already be a hit.  However, when people are engaged with less intimate acquaintances, or total strangers, we’re hesitant to let our guards down.  Activities aimed at treating everyone on the same light-hearted, even goofy, levels can facilitate more personal socialization.  This design is well-suited in that regards, too.  I may look a fool, but we’re all equally foolish.  Iello should hold Pingo Pingo tournaments at every convention they attend.

How Pingo Pingo is uniquely able to transcend its kids and family label to reach hobby gamers beyond the home or casual setting is with its pistol.  Seriously.  There are certain toys that adults will eternally play with well beyond their adolescence.  At least I hope I’m not alone in this.  Nerf guns and dart guns are such toys.  Now, that doesn’t mean you’ll shirk all of your real world responsibilities to shoot someone in the middle of their forehead all day long.  But admit it.  Every now and then, you’d really like to shoot someone in the middle of their forehead.  And this pistol does not disappoint.  I knew beforehand that the game included a dart gun, but such foreknowledge did not squelch the visible giddiness upon its reveal when opening the box.

You could shoot your eye out!
You could shoot your eye out!

Now there may be gamers out there more mature than I.  Yeah, so there are.  It could be that their personalities simply wouldn’t stoop as low to run around like a dingus.  Or perhaps they’ll simply pass given its childish bent.  I mean, it is slapjack.  Further, that aspect can even create controversy for some picky competitors.  There may be arguments over the height at which someone has their hand to start, or whether the flipper is getting a peak at the card, for example.  Those not into silly fun or banally insisting upon rules technicalities could suffocate the mood quickly.  Just shoot those gamers in the forehead with your dart gun and soldier on.  Problem solved!

The rest of the components are nice, as well.  The artwork is expressive and cartoony.  The CD works perfectly.  The placards are tent-fold boards.  You’ll need to weigh the two targets down or else continuously re-stand them after every successful hit sends them flying.  And the cards are stiff and will hold up for several plays before evidencing the abuse they’re soon to receive through slapping and redistribution at panicked speeds.  Again, solid stuff, but after the pistol it’s kind of like talking about the community art fair after visiting the Sistine Chapel.  The former may be fine, but it’s hard to follow the latter.


Pingo Pingo exemplifies the hobby’s vast diversity.  Because here’s the thing…it’s not a game in the sense that most people think of that term.  There’s no planning or strategy or really even thinking.  Yet there it stands on the shelf alongside heavy behemoths, brain burners, kids titles, thematic adventures, cube pushers, card games, dexterity activities and puzzle designs.  Now I won’t deny it could wear thin after a while.  But taken in doses and in the appropriate good humor it’s silly, it’s active and it reduces everyone to the lowest common denominator in terms of grace – or lack thereof.  And I challenge you to embrace it beyond the family, kids and social gaming constraints that you’ll be tempted to shoehorn it into.  Instead, engage in this energetic frenzy with gamers of all stripes.  Then you can thank me later.  Once you’re done laughing and have caught your breadth.

iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Iello Games for providing a review copy of Pingo Pingo.

To Pingos Up

  • Rating 8.0
  • User Ratings (0 Votes) 0
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Rip roaring blast
Very definition of accessible
Likely unlike anything you've ever played
Makes a fool out of others


Just don't play it over and over and over...
Might damage your furniture
Makes a fool out of you

8.0 Very Good

I have lots of kids. Board games help me connect with them, while still retaining my sanity...relatively speaking.

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