When Charles Darrow presented Monopoly to Park Bros. in 1935, who knew it was destined to become one of the most popular and successful board games of all time. Mr. Money Bags has made several leaps onto the video game scene since then. Straight conversions for the PC, NES, PlayStation and PDAs all come to mind, but there’s also been a surprise or two along the way in the form of Monopoly Casino and Monopoly Tycoon. Monopoly Party! is the latest twist on the storied franchise; a buying, trading, building and deal-making frenzy for the next-generation of… impatient gamers. So without further ado, let’s roll the dice and see if we can’t win a beauty contest!
There are two ways to play Monopoly Party! – Classic mode and the aptly named Party mode. Classic mode is your traditional Monopoly game, where players take turns rolling the dice, moving, buying properties, and so forth. On the other hand, in the new Party mode, all players roll the dice and move simultaneously. Basic rules still apply, but the fiesta results in much faster games. Gamers not fleet of mind fret not though (say that ten times fast), a player can’t start their next turn until each player has finished their last turn. In other words, you won’t be left behind while trying to figure out how many houses you can afford to buy on your newly-acquired set of properties. The same goes for auctions; while computer-controlled opponents bid furiously, the sale isn’t final until each player says so. If anything, the Party mode eliminates the advantage, or disadvantage as it may be, of rolling ahead or behind a particular player.
While there’s no online support, up to four players, human or computer-controlled, can play each game type, but each human player must have their own controller. That’s right, it’s BYOB and BYOC for this shindig. Feel free to invite your foreign buddies too; not only does the Monopoly board come in five different languages, you can also switch the currency from dollars to euros or pounds (there’s even U.S. and U.K. versions of the Chance and Community Chest cards). Tres bien mon ami! You can customize the rules to your liking as well. For example, if you’d rather the Free Parking mean exactly that, a safety square, you can turn off the Jackpot option. And if you feel the crime should fit the punishment, you can set it so inmates can’t receive rental income and are unable to partake in auctions, trades and the like.
In addition, you can also select a theme for your game. If the time-honored Monopoly board isn’t to your liking, you can choose a Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Pre-Historic or Ancient Monuments theme. In the later theme, for example, buildings from the Roman, Egyptian, Ancient England and Babylon civilizations, such as the Great Pyramids and the Roman Coliseum, occupy the center of the board. The original tokens are replaced with such knick-knacks as an Egyptian Chariot, a Roman warship, and a Camel. Similarly, the properties are modified to reflect the theme; railroads are replaced with ports, and you can purchase the likes of Jupiter’s Place and Nero Avenue (yuk, yuk).
The themes are basically the highlight of the visual department. Monopoly Party! isn’t out to woo you. The 3D board is well designed, but the camera angles are a bit of an enigma. The Classic mode offers three camera views, including a free-camera mode, which allows you to use the right thumbstick to rotate the board and zoom in and out. The Party mode, on the other hand, only offers four slightly different overhead views. What happened to the free-camera mode? Considering the action is faster in the Party mode, it’d be nice to be able to rotate the board and get a better view of the opposite side from time to time. Aurally, Monopoly Party! is full of bells and whistles; environmental effects, Mr. Money Bags providing a little play-by-play, and the proverbial bling bling. All in all, a basic but effective presentation.
It’s difficult to rate a game like Monopoly Party! On the one hand, aside from the camera issue, it’s a solid adaptation of the board game with a unique twist. On the other hand, I still prefer to play the actual board game, and the lack of online support makes this an exclusive party. I suppose Monopoly Party! works best for families with younger gamers, and at $29.99 USD on Xbox and PlayStation 2 ($39.99 USD on GameCube), it’s cheaper than most games on the market. The timing is right for the holiday season, but you might want to rent before you buy.