The venerable board game comes to consoles with classic capitalist action and a new family-friendly mode, and we take our top hat out for a spin.
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For the better part of the past century, Monopoly has brought families and friends together with the common goal of acquiring lots of real estate and driving one another out of business. Now this iconic American endeavor is coming to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and PlayStation 2, bringing with it old and new alike. The classic Atlantic City board you know and love is here, along with a bevy of new boards and a new game mode called Richest that aims to capture the fun of Monopoly in a fast, accessible new way. We took a tour around town with Mr. Monopoly (formerly Rich Uncle Pennybags), and got a glimpse of what this latest incarnation has to offer.
Monopoly traditionalists will be happy to know that the classic experience is intact, auctions and all. Along with the familiar Boardwalk and Park Place board, there are a number of new themed boards that replace street names with creative titles befitting their style. There are 10 boards total, including jungle, arctic, future, cheese, and deco themes, along with the new World Edition, in which the property names are world cities. The cities were recently voted on by the online community, and the final board names will be announced next week. As you play these boards in the classic Monopoly mode, you gain stamps for your passport. These stamps (tied to Achievements in the Xbox 360 version) will unlock new boards and earn you other in-game rewards.
Gameplay is quite straightforward, as you might imagine. You roll the dice (with motion controls on the Wii) and your character moves automatically. You're then given the option to let the next player proceed, or to go to the Accounts screen. From there you can propose trades, improve your property, and take a look at the board from a bird's-eye view. Properties owned by other players are clearly highlighted, so you can make a quick strategic assessment of the situation. The presentation is sharp and colorful, especially in some of the more creatively designed boards.
Creative design takes on a whole different meaning with the new mode, Richest. This mode was designed to be accessible to all ages and be fairly quick, so those averse to long, drawn out Monopoly matches will have a new way to enjoy the game. You choose at the outset whether to play on developer, industrialist, or tycoon level, and which one you choose will determine how many rounds you play and how much strategy comes into play. Developer is fast and features a number of leveling events, so large leads will disappear often and keep things competitive across a wide range of skill levels. Tycoon takes a bit longer, and pulling out ahead will require some shrewd strategy, as well as a bit of luck.
The game begins with a roll of four dice. Players then compete in a minigame to determine the order in which they proceed. These games are Monopoly themed, naturally, so you'll see titles like "Take a Ride on the Reading" or "Bank Error in Your Favor." We saw a few of these played on the Wii, and they all involved simple motion controls in the vein of Mario Party. The former challenged us to control a train by using the Remote like a throttle, while the latter has us slinging money bags into our vault by pointing at the screen. These games are quick, and they scale the challenge based on your current standing, so first place players will have a tougher time of it.
Once the minigame is over, players choose which of the previously rolled dice they want. Early on you'll want to choose a large number, as you'll get that number of properties dealt to you outright. In later rounds, you might choose a lower number, because while you'll still be dealt properties, any already-owned property you are dealt will cost you rent. Rent is paid in properties, and increases if you have a monopoly. This mode is all about frantic property swapping and fast-paced minigames. While it definitely ain't your grandma's Monopoly, it looks to be a fun adaptation that is well suited for more lively, or multigenerational, crowds.
Monopoly is a multiplayer game through and through, and as such it will support up to four players simultaneously. There's no online multiplayer, which seems odd on platforms with robust online services like Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. Developer Bright Light is aiming to make Monopoly a game best played in a social environment, and from what we saw, they seem to be succeeding. Monopoly hits consoles this October, so keep an eye here in the meantime for more on this rejuvenated classic.