Monopoly—a classic board game that’s just classically good

Posted: November 22, 2009 in Strategy

Monopoly is the granddaddy of all family board games that not only tests your business prowess, but adds a strong element of luck. Earlier this year, EA released Monopoly Here & Now:World Edition for the iPhone/iPod Touch platform. While this took on a more worldly approach to capitalism, it was also lacking for many when it came to gameplay. EA has done us a favor and released Monopoly in its classic original format that not only provides a bit of nostalgia for its fans, but delivers hours of entertainment.

For those not familiar with the game of Monopoly, the ultimate goal is to be the wealthiest player at the end of the game. The road to accomplishing this involves purchasing and managing properties, buying houses and hotels, trading properties and charging rent.

Monopoly offers some visually appealing 3D graphics along with a good amount of animation in the game. From the roll of the dice to the movement of game pieces, the game runs smoothly and does a terrific job creating that “board game” feel. In addition to the nimble animation, two other areas add significantly to Monopoly—customizable options, and most importantly, intelligent AI.

Among the options include a choice of 5 different rooms to serve as the game’s backdrop, different music soundtracks including the ability to play your own, and variations on house rules to suit your personal playing preferences. House rules enables the customization of initial cash, pass Go salary, and house/hotel limits among others, and overall, the level of personalization is much more than most would expect. Monopoly board game fans will be happy to hear that the iconic game pieces—battleship, race car, boot, wheelbarrow, iron, and of course, the top hat—that we’ve come to know and love are included.

The game can be setup for play with up to 3 human or AI players. Unfortunately, when playing other people, the game only offers hot seat and local wifi play which is disappointing but definitely not a deal breaker. The AI settings offer 3 levels of difficulty, and after putting them through the paces, I can confidently say that the AI is well balanced and intelligent enough to keep you on your toes.

EA seems to have implemented a similar set of controls in Monopoly as it did with the World Edition. The in-game screen features the board that can be rotated by dragging in the appropriate direction and an activity log at the top of the screen that tracks every move and action in the game. Tapping a specific street or property on the board will display an information page showing details such as cost to purchase, hotel/house information, and rent as well as the ability to mortgage or payoff debts.

Along the bottom of the screen is a series of action buttons for rolling dice, managing property, trade property and pause. Once you own all the properties in a color group to create a monopoly, tapping on them will bring up additional buttons to purchase and sell building. Using these buttons, the process of initiating a trade or buying buildings is as intuitive as it gets. Other aspects of the game include auctions and trades. Auctions follow a turn-based format where you take turns bidding on property. Fortunately for the Monopoly purists, auctions can be turned off. On the other hand, trades involving property adds a nice element to the game where offers and counteroffers are easily made.

While the controls are intuitively laid out, the buttons do feel cramped which potentially can be a problem for those with larger fingers. My fingers are average size, and more often than not, I would hit the trade button instead of rolling dice.

The gameplay in Monopoly is significantly better than World Edition because of the more intelligent AI. Well-balanced in strategy and aggressiveness, the AI initiates trades and makes purchasing transactions like a pro. This is apparent in trades where the AI consistently makes solid decisions and counteroffers. In fact, I was quite impressed with the level of decision making at all levels of difficulty.

EA has created a wonderful experience where you can easily lose an hour or two battling other players. From the thrill of purchasing properties to the satisfaction of winning an auction, Monopoly delivers. Overall, Monopoly is a well designed game incorporating a solid AI and a good number of customization options to ensure replayability. For those like me who didn’t find the World Edition satisfying or simply on the fence, Monopoly is definitely worth trying.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (visually appealing game that offers solid animation and graphics; well balanced AI and customization options; controls are intuitive although the layout can be feel cramped; lack of online multiplayer)

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