Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
ESRB rating: Everyone
Release date: Available now
In our text-crazed world, family game nights have become a faded relic of the past. Sure, a walk through your local Toys R’ Us will yield ample evidence that the board games we grew up with as kids are still enjoying shelf life. But they’re usually busted out for special occasions, and even then, Rock Band and Dance Central often command the living-room stage. So game developers look to the ever-popular digital playground to breathe new life into those golden oldies, presenting us with compelling new reasons to gather around the tube and get our game on. It’s this strategy which EA employs in Monopoly Streets.
Monopoly Streets takes the classic board game and presents you with a variety of new ways to play it. For purists, traditional Monopoly using the tried-and-true game board can be played alone, with friends and family, or online, using all of the same rules you’ve always known. In addition, the developers have opened up the game so that you can create custom variants, allowing you to add die to speed up rounds, set the starting dollar figures, etc. This classic mode, which can be played on a virtual game board or in a dynamic 3D representation of the board’s famous avenues and city streets, has you racing around the block, looking to grab up real estate, build hotels and take your opponents to the cleaners anytime they land on your spaces. True to its depression-era roots, the end game is achieved when the other players are bankrupt.
Monopoly Streets also offers a number of game variants to challenge you. Some of the highlights are Bull Market (a game played in 20 rounds) and Jackpot (which changes the dynamic governing property development, keeping you on your toes). In addition, you can take your game online and challenge up to three other players. While the computer AI can be tweaked, and bots added to almost any mode, there’s no substitute for playing against a conniving human competitor, which makes online play an addictive draw.
While most households have a Monopoly board occupying shelf space in some closet or nook, it’s not always easy to gather a group of players. That’s the premise I led with, and it’s one that makes for a fine selling point for Streets. Our current console generation has found gamers really embracing the online front, so it’s refreshing to dabble outside the dominant first-person shooter realm and slow things down. In a bit of counterprogramming, EA has done a fine job re-creating the core Monopoly experience, giving it an attractive, high-def polish while making sure that all of their gameplay tinkering is confined to the ancillary bonus modes. Sometimes it’s just nice to be able to play a round of good, old-fashioned Monopoly to while away one of those cold winter nights, bathed in the warm glow of your 102-inch plasma.
While the presentation is top-notch, some of the animations in Streets tend to bring an already slow-paced game to an absolute crawl. Most players will likely edit the various options to remove some of these animations and help speed the game along. On the audio front, some of the character voices grate quickly (the less you have to play against the Southern cowgirl, the better), but the inclusion of Avatar support for all players helps to mitigate these minor annoyances. Along with the assorted Achievements you can earn, there are a number of compelling unlockables that can be purchased within the game’s economy, allowing you to upgrade to some fun new game pieces and boards.
The holidays are the perfect time to gather with loved ones for some good-natured battles, and on a landscape dotted with scene-stealing rhythm games, Monopoly Streets makes for a nice change of pace. It’s the game you’ve always loved, buoyed by stellar production values and anchored by the addictive core gameplay that the best games possess. There’s no denying that Monopoly is a timeless classic, and EA has honored the series well with this release. I recommend you Pass Go and collect this game.