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Android Review: Monopoly

Mark Webb
United States
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The Stats:
Compatibility: Android Phone & Tablet
Current Price: $4.99
Developer/Publisher: EA / Hasbro
Multiplayer: Pass & Play
AI: Yes
Market Link

The Good:
-Two apps, tablet and phone for the price of one
-Many options and house rules.
-Stats and Log features
-Tabletop Tablet UI
The Bad:
-Phone UI is lacking.


Monopoly is a property buying and trading game that started life as an example of an economic theory, as The Landlord's Game, and has over the years evolved into a cultural icon.The object: Bankrupt the other players and be the last one left at the end. You do this by rolling dice to travel around the board buying property in order to charge the other players rent. If you manage to collect all of the properties in the same color group, rents are doubled on those properties, and you have the ability to erect houses and hotels in order to charge more. Besides the properties, the board also has some other assorted spaces: Community Chest and Chance spaces give cards with random events to the player who draws them, Go, which represents your regular salary, giving $200 every time around the board. Other spaces include two spaces to levy taxes against the players, Jail, and a space to send you there, and Free Parking, which is just a safe place to land on, but has no purpose.

Monopoly is no without its detractors. Parker Brothers, Monopoly's publisher now part of Hasbro, originally rejected Monopoly because it had a large list of flaws. Fifty-two to be exact. Many of the other complaints about the game come from the game draging on forever, usually as a result of people not playing by the rules, or developing their own house rules. Putting money on Free Parking usually allows hurting players back in the game with an unexpected windfall. Other house rules also have the same effect of putting cash into the game where the object is to take cash out. Love it or hate it, Monopoly is a rather mainstream game in most non-gamer closets. Also reaching the masses has been many, many software versions of this game, ranging from NES, Genesis, N64, Playstation,PC, Gamecube, and other video games systems, including a protoype made for the Atari 2600. Let's see how the Android version measures up.


The experience you get with Monopoly on the Android platform will differ depending on what type of device on which you are running it. The Android Market allows the developer to specify different binaries for different devices. As long as you are using the same market account on various devices, if you have bought the game on one, you have bought it on all of them. On a lot of games I have seen, some developers just supersize the phone version of a game for a tablet...Not so with Monopoly. Here you get a fully matured tablet version The phone version, however looks like it had to be a compromise for size. I can't speak for the developers at EA, but it looks like they did a superb job on the tablet version, and then looked to see what they could cut, resize, redo to fit the smaller form factor on phones. More on that later.

The Tablet version:

When I first ran the tablet version after the typical screen paying homage to the developer, you get a very bright white screen clad in all things Monopoly, but in an elegant, not tacky way. Very clean, very polished. Three play mode buttons are listed, but the one that jumped out to me was "Tabletop Mode". Tabletop mode is designed to put your tablet down between the players flat on the table. The board stays where it is, but the screen prompts and buttons are rotated around to the orientations of the players that you setup before the game, so that no one has to read upside down. Equally impressive was the overall look of the board and virtual setting the board was in. Similar to Jenga where its developers, Natural Motion Games, put the game in a rendered living room with couches and paintings on the wall, so did EA put Monopoly on a virtual table next to a virtual sofa in a living room. All very clean and crisp, looking like the graphics were well inside of what the device is capable of. Even when playing, the animated moving of the pieces were smooth and jitter free. Yes, by the way, you can turn the animated pieces off. Personally, I don't need to see the race car drive to Boardwalk, but it is nice that it can if I want it to.

The "Play Now" mode is the same as the table top mode, except that the prompts are always oriented the same way, facing the bottom of the device. No differences in gameplay, just the assumption that you are not flat on a table top. Good for playing versus the AI, or in a true pass and play situation. Teacher mode is again the same gameplay as the other modes, except with Pop-up Video style tips, like when you land on an orange property saying, "Did you know that the orange color group is the most landed on?". Other tips are also oriented towards understanding the app's user interface. One confusing bit about the teaching mode is that the tips are not always presented when they are needed for someone that would truly need to learn the game. For example, the tips about what button to press to buy a property are not presented the first time you buy a property, but another time when the buy property box comes up. Granted, some of that may be self explanatory. But trying to think like someone that actually needed to learn the game, the advice was lacking, as why someone would want to take actions, such as buying properties or not.

As I had mentioned before, the Android Market allows developers to supply different versions for different platforms, both tablets and phone models. However, this does have a downside, is that the developer can decide not to support your model of phone, even though it is Android. It will not show in the Android market on your phone if it is not supported.
If you do have the phone version, you will find because of the ability of the phone it is scaled back a bit. The board and graphics surrounding the gameplay is very similar to the tablet version, except for the user interface. Buttons that were presented with a nice looking icon and description on the tablet, are now square, and not as nice looking. To analogize, it is similar to comparing a Windows 7 icon matched up with a
Windows 95 icon. Both show the same picture, but there is a difference in the level of style and complexity of the drawings. Also missing is the description on these, so you may need to poke and try on icons to see what they do if the phone is your only exposure to this game. Other than the icons, some menu screens are different looking, but with the same information. Also, Tabletop mode not present in the phone version either, but admittedly, I didn't expect it to be. A phone is not ideal for a tabletop experience.

I recently reviewed The Game of Life, and was disappointed that there was nothing "extra" included. This was the opposite of what I experienced with Monopoly. Without any additions, this game would have a nice looking Monopoly port. However, EA threw in the kitchen sink... They added eight house rules to turn on or off prior to starting the game. They also added the ability to turn on something called Sleight of Hand where each player gets three one-time abilities, which include choosing a dice roll, one free house when you go to build on a color group, and reducing a rent bill by half. I myself am a Monopoly purist, and don't play with such options, but the house rules are ones that are commonly played with, so it makes sense to include the possibility to play with them.
Also added was a feature that surprised me. It was the inclusion of a play log. While playing, you can examine what has happened, opening the log to read:
Iron rolled a 6.
Iron bought Marvin Gardens for 280
Battleship rolled a 4.
Battleship landed on Go To Jail

In addition to the detailed play log, the game also keeps statistics on Total wins and losses at each of the AI skill levels, Highest money earned and total number of houses and hotels built. Lastly, the game also keeps dice rolling stats.. How many dice rolls there have been, and how fair the human and AI rolls have been compared to the standard 2 die distribution of probability. To prove that the AI isn't cheating getting abnormally good dice rolls, I guess?

Overall, Monopoly is a decent experience. It recreates the gameplay of the actual game very well, and the graphics and user interface on the tablet only seems to help, not hinder things. I have even found myself showing off this app, partially for the looks, but also for the addition of the table top mode. I know this is not the only app to offer this kind of view in this way, but it seemed to bring a spark of added interest from gamers and non gamers alike. The phone version, was not as appealing. I do think the UI hurts the phone version a bit, but still a decent play if you have a family vacation or a long bus ride with your phone as the only entertainment.

Rating: 3/4
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