â€˜The Landlordâ€™s Gameâ€™ was invented by Elizabeth Magie Phillips in 1904, and through it she tried to explain the negative effects of USâ€™s Henry Georgeâ€™s single tax theory â€“ it was supposed to show the negative effect of large amounts of land in private hands. As usually happens to a simple, new and good idea, others pounced on the game, changing it slightly and then producing and marketing their own versions of â€˜The Landlordâ€™s Gameâ€™. It caught on quickly.
But it is Charles Darrow who is credited for the name â€“ and game â€“ â€˜Monopolyâ€™ when he got a patent for it in 1934 and had the board printed and mounted on cardboard. He then took the game to both Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers, but when both companies rejected it Darrow invested his own money into the project and began selling the game privately. But in 1935, when Darrow began taking orders from Philadelphia Department stores, Parker Brothers did an about-face and negotiated the rights to produce the game in large quantities. Within a year Monopoly was the biggest selling board game in the US, and soon after it made Charles Darrow a millionaire.
And now EA has brought Monopoly to a console near you. Now I donâ€™t know about you, but it seems to me as though the soul has been taken out of the game. What made the game fun was the mad grab, before the game even began, for your favourite token â€“ mine was the top hat â€“ then drawing straws for who would be the banker â€“ and the inevitable quarrelling that result would bring. Now thatâ€™s all gone. Youâ€™re unable to hold your top hat/scottie dog/car/thimble in your hot little hand. You canâ€™t blow on the die â€˜for luckâ€™, you canâ€™t argue over how long someone takes to throw the dice and you canâ€™t count, recount and re-recount the move to you delay your inevitable landing on Park Lane - with a hotel. And gone are the little flourishes that add to the gameâ€™s fun but arenâ€™t in the rules.
EAâ€™s Monopoly has nine themed Boards but play begins with only two: the World Board and the familiar Classic Board. And although I was pleased to see that the player tokens remain the same - for the Classic game at least; top hat, scottie dog, car, thimble, etc. - I was put off with the total lack of â€˜feelingâ€™ to it all. Dice, tokens, money, board; everything is untouchable and reduced to a console controller. Although a controller is fine for moving a character through a game, it just feels wrong to use it to move a token thatâ€™s usually held in your hand. Maybe itâ€™s the price of progress.
At the beginning of Monopoly, after choosing the Board and number of players, each player is issued with a passport, and as property is purchased stamps are placed in the passport, as stamps accumulate other Boards are unlocked, among them Future, Art Deco, Jungle and Artic. All very simple really. So why is it that Mr Monopoly (aka Rich Uncle Pennybags) â€“ the happy little fellow in the black suit and top hat and with the handle-bar moustache â€“ has to explain every detail while running alongside your token? Itâ€™s very off-putting. He also runs the auctions, explains the rules and generally keeps everything moving along while (annoying) up-tempo jazz music accompanies play. The â€˜Bankâ€™ seems to take care of itself very capably.
If, like me, you think that the game is way too long (I dubbed it Monotony) or for those with short attention spans, there are several mini-games available instead of the lengthy and drawn-out â€˜properâ€™ version. The downside is that you can only access them once youâ€™ve played them during the full game. And they basically consist of nothing more than moving your left or right analogue stick in different directions and pressing â€˜Xâ€™ at the right time to; saw through bars, stuff a christmas stocking, drive a car or count coloured votes. Thereâ€™s nothing there that could vaguely hint at heart-stopping excitement.
The â€˜Richest Editionâ€™ will appeal to players who donâ€™t have the time to spare for a â€˜properâ€™ game. Itâ€™s a money-less, shortened, version of the full game and can be completed in around thirty minutes. Instead of the last player to bankruptcy being the winner, the â€˜Richest Editionâ€™ winner is the player who acquires the most assets - by landing on them - at the end of a limited number of rounds. When a player lands on property thatâ€™s already owned â€˜rentâ€™ is paid by handing over a property, or properties, of similar value. Basically itâ€™s game based on trading like for like. But I can see that it could rapidly degenerate into arguments and maybe even fisticuffs. But then what game isnâ€™t won without a little bit â€˜o the red spread generously about?
All in all, I found EAâ€™s Monopoly unfulfilling and sterile Although the graphics are clean and crisp there is no â€˜heartâ€™ to it. But what I find most remarkable is that there is no online multi-player ability. Seeing itâ€™s a multi-player game I would have thought that online play would be a logical extension.