I love playing the Monopoly board game so I was really interested in seeing how Electronic Arts would handle the conversion of such a classic traditional game. It’s already been a big hit on the iPhone, but this version has been specially adapted to the PSP’s controls, so there’s no shaking the dice or touching the screen or anything like that.
It’s usually a given that anything EA does is going to be polished, but would a flashy interface and some pretty graphics be enough to reproduce the magic of playing the board game?
In the event, I think they made a pretty good job of it. Although it’s certainly true that some elements of the Monopoly experience can never be captured in a computer game, this version manages to present enough of a fresh challenge of its own to be almost as much fun as playing the board game, especially when playing against actual human opponents!
The main thing that you lose when playing on your PSP or PS3 rather than with an actual real Monopoly set is the experience of watching over the board, raking in those crisp notes from your opponents, and hoping that they don’t notice when you land on their property.
I used to get so distracted looking at all the pictures on the Simpsons Monopoly game that I must have lost hundreds of pounds in unpaid rent ‘cause I wasn’t paying attention to who was landing where! That’s never going to happen in this version of the game, of course because the AI ensures that you always get paid immediately when someone lands on your property and vice versa.
Once you’ve accepted that you’re never going to get those sorts of experiences out of the minis version, what you find is that you can get just as much satisfaction out of other elements of the gameplay, such as trading properties and buying houses, all of which still involve a lot of strategic decision making. Do you sell your opponent a property that they badly need to complete a set, and pocket the money, or do you keep them waiting? Is it best to spend a lot of money buying property and risk going bankrupt, or should you be more frugal?
Even if you only play against the computer, the AI is uncanny and it feels like you’re having quite a mental battle with an artificial brain. I was playing against a ruthless AI opponent that wasted no time in putting hotels everywhere and shook me down for every penny I had. Have to say, I did laugh when it picked up a card that said it had to pay maintenance on all its properties though.
As ever with EA, all the basics of presentation are covered superbly. For those unfamiliar with the rules of Monopoly, you get a comprehensive Help section that explains everything, and you also have the opportunity to change some of the House Rules if you feel like it, such as how much money you get at the start.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the rules and chosen your token, you then select the number of players (up to four), AI or human, and choose your board from a selection (some of which have never been seen before), including the likes of Sweet, Cheese and Jungle. At the start your only choice is the classic US Monopoly board, the others you have to unlock by winning games.
A lot of the basics are done for you, which initially feels a bit strange if you’re used to playing the board game, but you soon get used to it. After you roll the dice, your token moves on its own, and money is subtracted or added to your account automatically. There’s even a save facility that enables you to stop in the middle of a lengthy game.
The controls are effortless – you only really need to use X most of the time – and the board is very easy to see, with a zoom function that you can toggle by pressing Triangle. There are also some fun little animated moments, such as a siren sounding and a cage crashing down when you get sent to jail, or a shower of gold coins when you collect your $200 on passing GO. Overall, a very enjoyable and polished version of a classic, and definitely something I’ll keep on my PSP, especially for traveling.