Monopoly Here & Now: The World Edition for iPhone is based on the update to the classic board game in which the usual properties are replaced with various cities from around the world. For example, Marvin Gardens is changed to Jerusalem, and Oriental Avenue becomes Tokyo (see what they did there?). Aside from some updated Chance and Community Chest cards, that is the extent to which this version differs from the original. Oh, and the currency is changed to reflect the modern economy, as touted in the below screenshot from the App Store:
Indeed, apparently in today’s economy, you can buy an airline for a million dollars. I guess that is congruent with being able to buy an entire street for as low as $60 in the original, but the change is unnecessary and not much of a feature. Though when selling a game which is essentially a digitized version of a board game, the formula of which isn’t and shouldn’t be changed, there really isn’t much you can offer aside from functionality and usability. Unfortunately, this game delivers neither.
When I was younger I played Monopoly with my siblings on Saturday afternoons. Each game was a time-intensive affair, and sometimes even carried over to the following Saturday. It was not as bad as Risk, but when sitting down to play Monopoly, you knew you weren’t going to be finishing the game anytime soon. Thus, when designing a version of Monopoly for the iPhone, you’d think that the goal would be to enable a full game of Monopoly to be played as quickly as possible, at least against the computer, as most iPhone gaming sessions are bite-sized, taking place during a commute or standing in line at the bank. It is therefore curious that Monopoly Here & Now: The World Edition seems to do everything in its power to ensure that the game takes as long as possible.
Firstly, upon launching the game, I am bombarded with ads for other EA games on the App Store. A pop-up implores me to try Monopoly Hotels, a freemium Tiny Tower ripoff, because don’t I “love Monopoly?” After choosing “No Thanks”, a banner for The Sims Freeplay, another EA freemium title, pops up on the bottom of the screen, I am urged to sign up for EA’s Origin service, and a ticker running along the top of the screen informs me I can “watch babies grow!” in said Sims title (which just sounds creepy). For a $0.99 game, that’s a heck of a lot of advertising.
After choosing a new game against an AI opponent, Rich Uncle Pennybags (a.k.a the “Monopoly Guy”) explains most of the interface. It is not brief, but it is important to know how to manage properties and roll the dice. Similar explanations arise when the first property goes to auction, the first trade is initiated, etc. This was all well and good, until I played my second game and these explanations repeated themselves. I had to go into the in-game menu to turn off these instructions, unlike most games that present them on the first playthrough and automatically disable them thereafter.
Rolling the dice is accomplished by tapping a button arranged on the bottom of the screen. This button is really tiny, and I have fat fingers, so I was constantly mistakenly zooming in on properties, which occurs when you touch the board. After successfully tapping the button, you are prompted to shake your iPhone, which only adds another useless step and is most likely another attempt at coming up with more of said “features”. Thankfully, this can be turned off in the in-game options menu, though, as with turning off the instructions, Pennybags doesn’t mention this.
After rolling the dice, a visual of your piece moving along the board is displayed. There is a small fast-forward button located on the bottom-right of the screen during these animations. Unfortunately, this only speeds up the animation, and does not skip it entirely. Unbelievably, this button doesn’t even appear during the AI opponent’s turn, so you have to watch its piece crawl along the board each time, which is great fun when it rolls doubles twice in a row.
Simple prompts for buying properties appear when landing on unowned ones, and choosing to pass sends the property to auction. In this interface, you must retype the amount you wish to bid each time, instead of being provided with buttons for increments. Again, this does not enable a game to be finished in a timely fashion. Also, the actual price of the property is not displayed in this screen, so if you forget it or don’t pay attention, the only way to see it again is by tapping the “Manage” button and scrolling through the board till you find it (hitting the “Manage” button automatically starts at the dark purple properties adjacent to Go each time.) If the AI opponent passes on purchasing the property, this is the only way to see the price. You’d think this would be an easily accessible piece of information, considering you don’t want to pay more than the property is worth in an auction.
The rest of the game functions pretty much automatically: paying and collecting rent, picking Chance and Community Chest cards, etc. A “Did You Know” factoid is displayed after the content of the Chance or Community Chest card, the factoid relating to the content of the card and specific to a given geographical location. These would be nice, but often the text of the factoid was unreadable because the content of the card didn’t disappear, and the factoid was instead superimposed over the card. It’s as if no one actually played through the game after developing it. The AI opponent will occasionally interrupt you with nonsensical trade offers, such as $180k for a property that would complete a monopoly, but those are easily dismissed and didn’t slow down the game to the same degree as the above issues.
I finally finished a game, losing all my money after constantly landing on the AI opponent’s hotel-laden properties and utilizing the admittedly handy “automatic mortgage” button too often. Immediately upon watching my piece keel over and die, a pop-up appears asking me if I’d like to play more games, and by clicking yes I am transported to an EA store where I can buy other quality EA titles. The amount of advertising in this game, which costs actual money, is downright despicable. Assuming I spend money on apps willy-nilly, at least make the game I am currently playing have a modicum of quality before shoving other games down my throat. I can only hope the $10 iPad version has a bit less ads.
Many reviews on the App Store point to a “cheating” AI. I am not going to argue with them, but I did win my second game (which I suffered through for you, dear reader), so cheap AI is the least of the problems with this game. The game is slow, boring, and difficult to use. The game should excel in these areas, so as to serve as the better alternative to setting up the physical board and finding a friend to play with. Add to that the plethora of intrusive ads propagating in a paid title, and this game should be very low on your list of games to buy for your iPhone.
[Monopoly Here & Now: The World Edition — iTunes]