Monopoly Xbox 360
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
Some people can't see the sense in making a videogame based on a board game. They argue that you lose the social aspect of a board game which means you're just not getting the same experience. To a certain extent I can understand this point of view but it's not one I go along with. It can be quite annoying when you want to play a board game but no one else wants to in your house. At times like that it would be great to play against a few AI opponents and if those AI opponents can play in a fairly realistic fashion (with the exception of knocking the board up into the air if they are losing) then it's all the better.
Monopoly on the Xbox 360 takes a solid approach at recreating the board game. There are some limitations but on the whole I'm more than happy with the game and it's one I shall play whenever I get the urge to play the game and no one in my household does. In addition to recreating an authentic Monopoly experience, found in the Monopoly Edition mode, a Richest Edition has been added which combines some mini-games with the Monopoly experience. When choosing the Richest Edition mode you have a choice of playing a Developer, Industrialist or Tycoon game. The Developer game lasts for just six rounds and has no trading. Industrialist lasts for nine rounds and has some Community Chest cards spaces such as Free Parking and Go to Jail. Finally Tycoon has twelve rounds, additional Community Chest cards, special spaces are in effect and every three rounds a trading session occurs.
In any given round in the Richest Edition four dice are rolled and a mini-game is played. The winner of the mini-game gets to choose which dice they want. The number on the dice of their choosing doesn't represent the amount of places you move but the amount of tokens you have automatically placed on the board. The properties you land on are given to you. As the game develops you'll land on properties that belong to others (and vice versa). You'll pay the rent by handing over some of your properties. Essentially there is no cash involved in the game, you can pay three properties to get out of jail for instance, and it plays very quickly indeed. It's also a game where fortunes can change rapidly and it's possible to swing from first to last place constantly throughout the course of a game. The one problem I have with the mode is that the mini-games are dull. For this reason alone I don't expect many will bother with it more than a couple of times.
Whilst I'm not impressed with the Richest Edition mode, I think the Monopoly Edition mode is as good as any other Monopoly videogame I've played to date. There are a total of nine different boards to play on but initially only the Classic Board and The World Edition Board are available. The game keeps track of the properties you've landed on and for each one you get a stamp added to your portfolio. Once you've earned the required amount of stamps a new board will be unlocked. The other seven boards are: Future Board, Sweet Board, Cheese Board, Jungle Board, Ice Board, Deco Board and Cardboard Board. The boards all look good but I do wish that you could choose to play on the standard Monopoly boards from different countries. You can customise the House Rules for a game altering things such as starting cash, salary, landing on Go resulting in a double payout of salary, whether to force auctions, set turn limits, whether to have properties dealt at the start of the game, the amount of turns in jail and so forth. In fact you can really tinker with the rules and make it quite a different Monopoly experience if you want to. The most pleasing aspect of the game is that the AI is actually quite good and actually plays a fairly realistic game. I was pleased to see the AI is prepared to trade (in some earlier Monopoly videogames a reluctance to trade was a real problem with the AI). However if there's any complaint to be made against the AI it's that it's rather too persistent in offering trades to you that you've already refused. This isn't a major problem but it would have been nice if the AI would get the message that you're not interested in doing business on a particular deal.
I've mentioned that the game has some limitations so let's take a look at them. First of all you can't have any more than four players in a game which ever mix of AI and human players you choose. We all know that the board game allows up to six players so why hasn't the game allowed you to have six players? Monopoly is a turn-based game and it's quite possible to pass the controller so even the fact that you can only have four controllers per Xbox 360 console shouldn't prevent the game from allowing six players. There's five people in my household in total and by only allowing four players it means that not all of us can play. Those expecting to be able to play the game over Xbox Live will be disappointed to learn that this isn't possible. Again this seems like a silly omission because being able to play Monopoly with someone on the other side of the world would have definitely made the game more appealing.
One aspect of Monopoly that I am pleased with is the game's presentation. Graphically there's only so much you can do with a videogame representation of a board game and it's difficult to imagine how Monopoly could have looked any better (and still looked like a board game that is). Deaf gamers won't have any problems with Monopoly. The game is subtitled, although the subtitles aren't enabled by default, so you'll be aware of what Mr. Monopoly says during the course of a game. All tutorial messages are shown in text.
For the most part I think Monopoly will satisfy any fan of the board game who is looking for a solid representation of the board game in a videogame. It's certainly the best Monopoly videogame I've played to date even though it could have been better. Support for up to six players should have been included, as should have online play. If you are a fan of the board game and either of the aforementioned problems aren't an issue for you then the game is definitely a recommended purchase. Now if only someone could do a good Cluedo (a.k.a. Clue in the US) or 221b Baker Street videogame.