EA claimed recently that videogames could never replace board games, and they’ve successfully proven this point by releasing Monopoly: so inferior to its cardboardy cousin it could well be a practical joke. The game consists largely of pressing a single button, once every five minutes, and then making a cup of tea while you wait for your turn. As if to taunt you, or perhaps as a sarcastic acknowledgement of the game’s dullness, Hasbro mascot Mr. Monopoly will randomly dance onto the screen and declare how ‘exciting’ everything is. It really, really isn’t.
The standard mode is exactly like Monopoly of yore, except the system handles die rolls and movement automatically, leaving players the fun ‘choice’ of confirming decisions that have no other options. The real fun of Monopoly lies in the relationships between players; in little Jimmy getting one-up on Dad by putting him out of business; in Uncle Eric making desperate, pleading deals, before stomping off to find the gin. A family crowding around a console and pressing a button every once in a while isn’t the same.
To compensate, EA have included a host of console-only extras. Chief among them is Richest Edition, a mode that strips the classic board game, and injects a series of tedious minigames in their place. A number of seemingly random factors determine the eventual winner, ensuring plenty of arguments, but also a definite detriment to fun. One feature absent, however, is online play. The only justifiable reason for the game’s existence – the only benefit it would have had over the board game – and it’s nowhere to be found. A decision astonishing in its stupidity. There’s nothing here to suggest the game needed a boxed release: it’s the kind of title that Xbox Live Arcade, PS3 Network, and WiiWare was built for. At five or ten bucks, it would have been a fun novelty. At full price, however, it’s practically theft. Still, you’ve got to admire their tycoon spirit.
Nov 13, 2008