Wednesday, September 8, 2010

App O' The Mornin': Monoply Review

I wasn’t sure about reviewing the Monopoly app, since Monopoly itself is pretty much review-proof. You either love or hate the original board game. Perhaps you merely tolerate it. But everyone has some history with it.

I’d managed to avoid playing actual Monopoly for years. Let’s face it: most game hobbyists faced with choice of playing Monopoly or nothing will usually choose nothing. A vigorous session of sock matching is usually higher on my list of things to do of an evening.

So imagine my surprise when I sat down with the app and found myself unable to put it down until I’d completed a full game, about an hour later: four hours less than an average Monopoly session.

It’s a remarkably sprightly adaptation, with unobtrusive animations that actually add to the flavor of the experience rather than just taking up time. All of those niggling little banking bits that usually drag on Monopoly like an anchor caught in the mud are handily automated for your convenience and protection. This has the pleasant side effect of speeding play and keeping the focus on the interesting bits.

The problem with Monopoly is not the game, per se, but the way most people play it (ie: all wrong). They keep finding new ways to flush money into the system by placing fines on Free Parking, and almost always forget to play the bidding element that gives the game a large jolt of energy.

Did you realize that when someone lands on an unowned property and declines the purchase, that property goes up for auction? Well, for years I didn’t. Like most people, I’d never read the rules: I’d just kind of absorbed them osmotically. (Please note: this is a metaphor: no osmosis actually took place.)

The Monopoly app models all these rules handily. Or not: it’s your choice. There are plenty of house rule options, which serve to either slow down a session, or speed it up. So, if you want to play the game all wrong, you can.

The game can handle up to four players, via AI (with three levels of difficulty) or pass-and-play. There are even four five different backgrounds, including a nerd-tastic faux-Enterprise bridge.

Look, this is Monopoly. If you already like the game, you should know that the app is an excellent version. If you don’t like the game, you should try it anyway. As with Life and Yahtzee, I found myself enjoying the app version more than the original game. Maybe I just needed to see it from a free perspective.


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