Much-loved board games have a way of mutating over the years. New versions modernize and change with the times. Sometimes it’s done to add challenge. If Hasbro didn’t release new “Trivial Pursuit” question decks at the rate of, I don’t know, nine per day, the game would have shriveled up and croaked decades ago. And just in case “Clue” players were getting tired of yet again deducing which of a small handful of characters killed Mr. Body, Parker Bros. has issued new versions from time to time that change the layout of the rooms and add new rules to the gameplay.
The basic concept of Hasbro’s “Monopoly” has inspired hundreds of different versions and copycat games over the decades, licensed and unlicensed alike. The campus bookstore at just about every large American university will carry a special college edition of the game. “Star Wars” fanatics have a version just for them. There’s one for vegans, at least three for Pokemon fans, and one with a prison theme. The locations change, the Community Chest cards become very different (I’d really like to see what they look like in that prison edition — or maybe not), but the same basic gameplay applies.
That’s the case with “Monopoly Here and Now: The World Edition,” which was recently released for the iPad.
The general rules and layout of “Monopoly” are well-known; what makes this version different is that properties are no longer known by their Atlantic City monikers; instead, properties are named after famous cities from around the world — Bangkok, New York, Jerusalem, etc. The Chance and Community Chest scenarios appear to be based on the exploits of a mustachioed, globe-trotting mega-billionaire, rather than those of a mustachioed, pushy real estate broker. For example: “Collect 250K profit from your Parisien Fashion Boutique.”
And of course the money situation is a little more realistic. Instead of dealing with amounts that would have sounded kind of cheap during the Depression, the game starts you off with 15 million Monopoly bucks. Prices on property, rent and other expenses are commensurate.
And that’s basically where the game’s unique factors end. The place that would have been Boardwalk (now Montreal) is still the most expensive spot on the board. The orange tiles right before Free Parking are still the sweet spots. And that damn income tax will still steal your entire Pass Go income. Appearances aside, the game operates just like the classic version of “Monopoly” for iPad, also sold by Electronic Arts.
That’s a good thing. EA has done well in transferring this board game into a digital version, which isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do when you consider how flexible a game “Monopoly” can be.
Perhaps it’s something about the game’s capitalistic nature, but depending on what kind of people you’re playing with, a live game of “Monopoly” (one played on a board, not an iPad) might involve some seriously complicated deals. It gets a lot more complex than “trade me property A for property B.” You might propose handing over two of your railroads plus a utility and a cash sum in return for a key property you need in order to complete a monopoly and start building houses. My counteroffer might add some conditions — a three-turn moratorium on development, a larger cash sum payable in installments, an agreement not to buy an as-yet unpurchased property even if the opportunity is presented, and an embargo on another player.
And maybe you’d tell me that’s all quite ridiculous. But at least we’d be negotiating.
That kind of stuff might be banned in the official rule book. Or maybe not; I never bothered to check. But if it is, why would the inventors of such a rabidly capitalistic game as “Monopoly” actually encourage authoritarian intervention? Just look at the mascot, this guy with his top-hat and his little tuxedo. Does he look like the kind of guy who plays nice and obeys the rules every step of the way?
Point is, the concept of “house rules” comes heavily into play in a game like “Monopoly.” The way I play in my home may be different than the way you play in yours. That’s easy to adjust to in a board game, but when a computer becomes part of the mix, that flexibility has to be deliberately built into the system.
“Monopoly” does this with a feature called “House Rules.” At the start of a game, you can designate various game details: Giving players property from the start, adjusting the number of houses per hotel, hotel and house limits, what rewards are given in Free Parking, the starting cash amount, the Pass Go salary, and whether unsold properties will be auctioned off.
Combined with creative use of the Trade interface, this version of “Monopoly” will mostly let you play your way.
The board itself is presented with some nice animation action, typical of the way in which EA tries to liven up board games when presenting them on an iPad. Each property can be zoomed in on and inspected individually. There you’ll find full pricing figures, its ownership, and information about who’s landed on it.
The game pieces trot around the board as though they’re alive, though there are buttons that will hurry them along. This can make for a very fast-paced game when playing only AI opponents.
If you’d rather play a real person, several options are available. The usual Pass and Play option you might find on an iPhone game is in this case presented as “Tabletop Mode.” WiFi and Bluetooth multiplayer is also offered. Remember, though, that your live opponents will need the exactly same version of “Monopoly” running on their iPads, iPhones or iPods in order to play you. If they have vanilla “Monopoly” and you’re running this version, it won’t work.
“Monopoly Here and Now: The World Edition” doesn’t break a great deal of new ground in the way EA presents the board game on a tablet. It plays very much the same way as standard “Monopoly” for iPad. But EA’s version of the board game is the best I’ve played on an electronic device; this new edition just puts yet another spin on game’s properties and playing pieces.
If you already have “Monopoly” for iPad, this new version probably isn’t going to be worth the $10, unless you’re dying to play a wireless game with another person who uses this version. But for anyone who just wants a good version of the game that’s a little different than the standard board, “Monopoly Here and Now: The World Edition” is a good grab.
Finally, some of the most negative reviews I’ve seen in the App Store for this game have focused on its apparent tendency to crash on some peoples’ iPads. Speaking only for myself, I’ve not experienced a single crash over several hours of play.
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