Review: Monopoly Streets (PS3)

Title: Monopoly Streets
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (707 MB)
Release Date: October 26, 2010 (Retail) / November 8, 2011 (PSN)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Salt Lake
Original MSRP: $29.99
ESRB Rating: E

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 196 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
Now past it’s 75th year in existence, I probably shouldn’t have to explain Monopoly to anyone, but just in case… Monopoly is a game of property acquisition. The original board game, with names based on Atlantic City streets, was first sold by Parker Brothers in a Philadelphia department store during the 1934 holiday season. It went on to become the best selling board game of all time with more than 200 million sold and over 2000 variations of the game in existence.

You move your token around the board with a roll of the dice, buy and sell properties, build houses and hotels and collect rent. The objective of the game is to effectively bankrupt the other players. Monopoly Streets was promoted in the trailers and marketing materials as a new Monopoly experience “presented as a street level tour of Mr. Monopoly’s fully animated world”. The unfortunate reality is that among the 11 boards available to you, only three are the fully animated 3D spaces that we’re promised and one of those has to be purchased from the PlayStation Network Store for $6.99. As for the others, only two of the eleven boards are available from the start of the game, Monopoly City (a 3D board) and the Classic Board. To unlock the rest, you have to play the game and earn Monopoly Money based on your winnings which can then be used to purchase additional boards and tokens.

Sadly, not all tokens are available from the in game store using Monopoly Money, for iconic tokens such as the cannon and rocking horse along with the newer horse and rider, you’ll need to shell out .99 each. Along with the aforementioned 3D board, Stratosphere City for $6.99, the 2D Championship Board is also available for purchase at $2.49. A lesson in capitalism that fits right in with the sensibilities of the game, but a bit crass on the part of EA and a definite disappointment.

Aside from all that, how does the game play? It plays just like real Monopoly, only better. Not only do you not have to keep track of money and properties or clean up after the game is over, all your stats are fully tracked throughout the game. In the menus, you’ll have access to a Profile screen which tracks everything from your total earnings, games completed, properties owned, houses and hotels built, times passed Go, doubles thrown and more. You can see the record for a single game and a running total across all rounds played. It’s a pretty cool addition and a way to see what you’ve done across all the rounds you’ve played.

When you start a game, you can choose one of the six predefined rule sets or create and save a custom set with a name of your choosing. While you’re given an impressive array of options to change, not everything can be customized the way you want. For example, one of my house rules was always that any taxes collected would be placed in a pile and given to the next player to land on Free Parking. The only option is to give a flat monetary value for landing on Free Parking, not a huge deal, but a little disappointing.

Each game requires four players but the trick to getting around this is to set one or two of them to human players and then start without them. The other slot or slots will be filled by AI players which can be set to Easy, Medium or Hard. None of them are easily duped into bad deals and the Hard players are especially ruthless so they definitely present a good challenge.

You choose a token and everyone gets to roll the dice to see who goes first. Each token has character and a sound associated with it and fortunately, those sounds can be turned off because they get very repetitive. At the start of each turn you can preview the board from an overhead perspective which gives you the ability to see what’s available and who owns which properties. When you’ve finished moving as a part of your turn, a number of options become available, you can hand over the dice to the next player, attempt a trade, build on or mortgage your properties, or declare bankruptcy. It’s all pretty standard Monopoly gameplay but the charm of the game lies in the animation.

The game will auto save after each turn so if you quit, you can resume a game right where you left off. Unfortunately, I had a number of problems with auto save glitches. At times during the game, the auto save would just stop working and the spinning disc save icon would never go away. At this point (if you notice it), your best option is to quit the game entirely and load the last save point, otherwise none of the stats get tracked, you don’t earn the in-game Monopoly Money and the game doesn’t count towards anything.

Visuals:
The iconic Mr. Monopoly (nêe Rich Uncle Pennybags) is a part of the game which is a nice touch. He’ll appear at the start, the end and many times in between. The 3D boards are really the big draw here and they look fantastic. You’re brought down onto a standard Monopoly Board that grows and changes around you, putting you right onto city streets that circle the properties. Neat graphical touches like dead grass and bushes or boarded up train stations will appear when those properties are mortgaged. Houses and hotels are all designed to fit each individual board theme and they even look better on the more expensive properties. The nice thing is that even in 2D boards, you’re brought down to them and they also include full character animation moving around board. This can also be turned off in all modes to speed things up.

When viewing the overview of the board before your turn, you’ll see small cards placed along the edges with a token helping to show you who owns what. The interface is good as well, showing each player’s money, total worth and small icons showing what color properties they own. It gives you a good quick overview as you take your turn and decide what to do next in terms of trades and such.

Whether you’re playing the fancy 3D boards or the more standard 2D boards you’ll still feel like you’re down on the board itself, a part of the world in a Toy Story kind of way. It’s a really fun way to play Monopoly and a much more refined experience than the Star Wars Monopoly game I owned on the PC in the 90’s which did an early version of the same thing.

Audio:
The music and sound effects are all good, but they get very repetitive. Hearing each character’s signature sound before they roll the dice can get annoying after one or two laps around the board. Fortunately, you can turn these off but the most glaring omission here would be in the lack of custom soundtracks. There’s just not enough variety in the included music or sound effects and you’ll quickly be playing in silence.

Online/Multiplayer:
Monopoly Streets offers you the ability to play up to four players locally or online. The host of the game has access to all the different rule sets and can create exactly the type of game they want. The host also has the ability to limit the number of players or save slots for friend invites. There’s actually a pretty robust set of features here with ranked and unranked matches along with leaderboards.

Overall the online matches I played went pretty well but I never heard another voice. Whether that’s from a lack of headsets on the PSN in general or a shortcoming of the game, I can’t say for sure, but being able to talk to people during a match would make a big difference during the game.

Besides that, the only real negative I found with the online experience was that when other players are involved in a deal and they’re working out a trade, you can’t see what’s going on. You’re left to sit idle as the other players take as much time as they need and you have no idea how long it’ll be. Otherwise, it was a pretty smooth experience.

Conclusion:
For a fan of Monopoly, this can be a great game. It’s a fun twist to be down on the board itself and see the world around you as if it were a real place. The unfortunately limited number of fully 3D boards and the need to purchase one of the three available just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. No other boards were ever added for download and they’ve never gone on sale. That being said, there’s still a fun game here with nine other boards to play on and an online component that can hook you up with friends around the world that also have the game.

Score:
8.5

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  • I was looking forward to this on PSN. But than the price tag of $30 scared me away. I rather have this on for $10 than Hasbro Family Game Night.

  • Anonymous

    Always loved Monopoly and online multiplayer with the ‘street view’ board sounded great. Like Stoffinator, the price is too high for a video game of a board game for me.

  • you can change the free parking to your liking. i know cause i got the platinum trophy last year.. the auto save glitch was a game breaker for me though, and online issues…

  • Can somebdy please tell me how to unlock any of the boards.n how do u gain monopoly points

    • By playing the game, you’ll earn Monopoly money (more for winning). You then spend that money in the menu to buy new boards and tokens (like the wheelbarrow, battleship, etc)