It’s the most successful board game of all time and one of the oldest still in production, so it’s no surprise that Monopoly has been given the video game treatment quite a few times through the years. Now EA are the latest company to offer up a digital version to the gaming masses, but is there ample reason to choose this over the real thing?
The answer to that depends on how much you like Monopoly in the first place, and importantly, whether you have enough people in your family or circle of friends who are willing to play the game. This is Monopoly as it’s always been, i.e. a slow-paced, strategic and very, very drawn out affair. In video game terms it’s the equivalent of an epic game of Advance Wars, as opposed to the quick-fire, Unreal Tournament-like thrills offered by something like Hungry, Hungry Hippos.
This latest version contains some mini-games (well, it is available on Wii after all…) and a brand new ‘Richer’ mode to accompany the main game, which plays out exactly as it does in real life: you roll the dice to travel round the classic board, buying up the iconic property on your way to becoming a property magnate. Buy, swap or steal your favoured locations upon which you can build your highly stylised green houses and blood-red hotels once you have enough moolah. Keeping track of your properties and trading between players can be done at the end of each player’s go which, while handy, can mean long pauses between turns if someone wants to increase their housing options or you have two people haggling over Mayfair.
One of the unique things about Monopoly is that everyone seems to play it in a different way and thankfully EA let you customise nearly every rule in the game, meaning just about every set of ‘house rules’ can be accommodated. So if you want to double your salary for landing on go, or turn off property auctions, you can choose these options before you start a game. Sadly, you can’t customise the property names or the card decks and the option to let you ‘accidentally’ smash a row of your opponent’s houses with the dice is conspicuous by its absence.
The ‘Richer’ mode plays quite differently and can be entertaining with enough players. This spin-off utilises the mini games at the start of every round, after which the winner gets to choose one of four automatically rolled die, followed by second place etc. The number on your chosen dice indicates how many cards from the deck of property deeds and chance cards etc. that you will be dealt; get a property card that no one else owns and it’s yours, get one that someone else has and you owe them a property from your set. The winner is the person with the highest property value after a set number of rounds. Getting a chance or community chest card can give you a chance to steal property and redress the balance if you’re languishing in last place, which gives the same sadistic satisfaction as stealing a star in Mario Party or taking candy from a baby (which isn’t as easy as the term implies). Although the mini games are incredibly dull it is a welcome addition to the package.
Overall, this is a very competent version of the age-old classic and just as fun as the actual board game (plus it’s a bit easier to set up). The presentation is clean and tidy and the number of special edition boards included means you can add a bit of variety to your games once you’ve unlocked them (every time you buy a property you get a stamp in your Monopoly passport – more stamps mean more boards are available). Seeing as most special edition boards cost anything up to forty quid these days, this digital version could be seen as good value for money and makes for a good alternative party game when you have visitors that want something a bit more sedate than Wii Sports. You certainly won’t be board to tears* if you pick this up.
*Disclaimer: GameBrit accept no responsibility for any forehead-slaps incurred as a result of this pun. Please note, the reviewer responsible has been suitably punished and their copy of Robin William’s Big Book of Jokes has been confiscated and burned.