Monopoly can be an infuriating game in almost any incarnation, but the mobile Monopoly game developed by Hasbro and Marmalade Game Studio is infuriating for a myriad of new, different reasons completely unrelated to its anger-inducing board game predecessor. While the game works well in single-player, glitches and technical issues seem to be par for the course in all of Monopoly’s other modes, with the online multiplayer never fully functioning as intended even after several days of trail and error adjustments post-launch.
Simply put, the Monopoly game for mobile devices is exactly the same Monopoly players with even a passing understanding of famous board games have likely been accustomed to since birth, albeit with a few new additions such as a Tyrannosaurus Rex figurine. Originally created as The Landlord’s Game by Lizzie Magie in 1903, Monopoly was intended to instruct players on the economic and social implications of Henry George’s single tax theory. The rights to Monopoly were sold to Parker Brothers in 1934, who marketed the game heavily to the American public and later across the world.
Anyone who has played a game of Monopoly in the past knows how infuriating sessions of the game can become, with one or two players slowly gaining control over the entire board while the rest go bankrupt, mortgage their properties, and eventually fall by the wayside. The game is regularly referenced in popular culture as one which has the power to cause arguments among even the closest of friends, and even television shows like That 70’s Show have featured characters becoming irrationally angry while playing Monopoly.
Now, such anger can be carried around in public with Monopoly on mobile devices. The game boasts the ability to play single player, online, online with friends, or by utilizing an in-person multiplayer mode known as “Pass and Play.” During the entirety of time available during Monopoly’s review testing, none of these online modes ever worked properly. Player icons would either not load in or load in and immediately freeze, and the one time the game made it past it’s initial board and player animation it froze immediately during the first dice roll. All of these times saw Monopoly becoming inaccessible and prompted a force close and restart in order to try again.
The “Pass and Play” feature works somewhat better, but has the unfortunate obvious issue of losing both player’s engagement and their understanding of everything currently happening in the game, since every time their turn is over the mobile device must be passed along to the next player. When playing on a table, sitting around a group of people in a circle staring at a popular board game, everyone can see what is going on at all times. When passing a phone back and forth, unless every player vocally narrates what they’re doing as they go, any given person has no idea what is going on. While this may be true in actual business, it doesn’t make for a fun gameplay experience.
In keeping with the board game versions of Monopoly, this mobile iteration offers more than one themed Monopoly board to play on. There is the classic version, the one which contains Boardwalk and Community Chest and Railroads, and then there is Snowdrop Valley, a holiday-themed winter wonderland which replaces Railroads with Ski Lifts, Chance cards with Off-Pistes, and calls Boardwalk Pinnacle Palace Avenue. Like most Monopoly board re-skins, these areas all function equally identical to their normal counterparts, but it is nice as a change of scenery.
Small glitches persist throughout all modes of play in Monopoly. Often payouts to other characters will be displayed on screen incorrectly, with the game instead saying the player is paying money to themselves. Dice can become frozen or stuck mid-roll, and even A.I. players set to Easy difficulty seem to have no trouble at all buying up lots of property while avoiding landing on owned areas. The A.I. itself seems both incredibly lucky and also easily controllable, thanks to the Auction and Trade policies featured in Monopoly’s rules.
An Auction is something which most house rules of Monopoly tend to ignore, opting instead to leave some properties unowned if no one wants to currently buy them. However, in the official Monopoly game rules this mobile product follows, all property must be auctioned if unwanted by the player who landed on it, and computer players will fight tooth and nail to win auctions, sometimes at an increasingly detrimental cost. Trades, too, are sanctioned by the rules of Monopoly, and an A.I. player can be easily tricked into giving up a piece of land which gives players a complete set without realizing the damage they are doing, as long as the monetary value of the trade is statistically in their favor.
Simply put, this means a computer player can be tricked into giving its human opponent the means to place three hotels in its path simply because the piece of property traded in exchange is technically worth more money it its base form. It’s a cheap but ultimately necessary way to game Monopoly’s A.I. systems in order to win, because, as previously mentioned, even the Easy difficulty opponents put up quite a challenge.
To note, players should avoid auctions in “Pass and Play” mode at all costs. Since the phone must still be passed from player to player, and the bidding only goes up in small increments each time, this can drastically prolong a play session for very little gain. Thankfully, the mobile version of Monopoly does offer a variety of settings and custom rules to tailor the game experience to something a little more enjoyable, such as eliminating Auctions completely and re-introducing the most common of all the house rules, money for landing on Free Parking.
In its single-player mode, against A.I. opponents, Monopoly delivers exactly what is promises, which is a fully translated version of the board game in mobile form. All of the other modes on offer leave something to be desired, whether it be technical issues or simple quality of life problems which make the play experience less than enjoyable. Certainly, fans of the Monopoly board game will find something entertaining about this mobile version, but it definitely isn’t the party game experience most people are looking for, especially since throwing a phone is vastly more expensive than flipping a cardboard game mat over.
Monopoly is available to buy now on Android and iOS devices. A digital Android copy was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.
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