The crossover of board games from analogue to digital format has always been a bit tricky, if not impossible, considering how potent the tactile experience of playing a board game can be. The clatter of the dice on the board as you roll, the artwork on an event card as you flip it over, or the feel of all that fake money in your hands, are all impossible to satisfactorily reproduce on a computer or console.
That said, the reality of being a board gamer is that often you don’t have room, or the inclination, to unpack a huge game with all sorts of bits. Or you don’t always have the requisite number of players to sit down and get stuck in to a long game. Or perhaps you’ve got a bit of time to kill but you don’t want to make a big production out of having a play.
Well, this is where Monopoly Deluxe on the iPad comes in. It’s fun, familiar, and affordable – and the kooky interface manages to keep out of your way, most of the time. It’s got some good multiplayer features, and is family-friendly. Sure, it’s not going to recreate the warm fuzzies that come from watching your money pile grow (five hundreds tucked underneath the ones so no one can tell how many you have), but it runs a pretty close second. Here’s why:
There are a heap of different gameplay options, including basic solo, table top, Teacher mode, and even network play. Once you’ve decided what sort of game you’d like to play, there are all sorts of different choices you can make to set up your house rules, with details like whether Free Parking should award money (either money gathered from taxes, or a set amount) or not, whether auctions come into play if someone decides not to immediately purchase a property they’ve landed on, and even whether cheating – sorry, “slight of hand” – should be allowed.
The touch screen interface works really well: you roll the dice by touching them, and then flicking your finger (there’s even a quite good clattering dice-roll sound to accompany them). To build houses or manage your properties, you simply touch the square on the board. To move from one edge of the board to another you just flick your finger across the screen. In fact the whole interface feels like it has been designed with the touchscreen in mind. It’s very easy to use.
There are also a few new additions that actually improve the gameplay experience. If you don’t have enough money to pay the rent for a space you’ve landed on, you can choose to let the game sort it out for you (selling off houses, mortgaging properties, lawyer’s fees, and the rest) or do it manually yourself. There’s a good interface for trading, and the computer players have a reasonable AI, to the point where they aren’t complete pushovers with haggling, and they don’t agree to everything you might propose. There is even an option to view the log, to see a blow-by-blow recount of everyone’s turns since the game started, as well as a record of all the dice stats for a game. OK, this part is a bit odd – do people really keep track of this stuff? In any case, the option is there if you want it.
On the down side, the cheese factor is high. The animations, music, voice-over and general style are not for everyone (but it’s worth noting you can turn a lot of this off if you need to). Oh, and the way the board would move and tilt during the dice rolls made me a bit seasick after a while. And I thought it would make for a cooler game if you could get different skins for the game – you know, different countries, or even different styles.
But hey, it’s Monopoly. It’s a classic, and the iPad version still retains that vibe.
All-up, for a ten buck game, Monopoly HD is definitely a good addition to the iPad game library. Not only is it great to while away the time if you’re stuck somewhere alone, but the tabletop option makes it a great way for up to four real people to play around the pad at once. Plus the pad can sit in the middle of the table, and the UI moves around so the pad and players don’t have to. It’s great value, and great fun.