Travel the World with Monopoly: Here & Now

Monopoly is a game that we’ve all played. It has a rich history and is the namesake of hundreds of different versions here in 2011. Its success is derived from a simple board game that can be traced back to 1903 where a similar game was created to explain tax theory.

Now, Monopoly is sold in a variety of editions with five of them living in my house alone. But for those not inclined to pull out the board game, there’s a solution available from EA Mobile and Hasbro, who teamed up to bring Monopoly to your iPhone. The game is, of course, available in the regular flavour, but today we’ll be looking at one of these variations: Here & Now.

The main difference between the two games, available on iPad or iPhone, is the place names. Monopoly opts for the regular names whilst Here & Now uses popular cities, such as London and Montreal to replace Illinois Avenue and Boardwalk, respectively. Transport and utilities are also rebranded to include more modern uses such as solar energy.

Game Setup

The game commences with a setup phase whereby you determine how many human and AI players you want to use. There’s a handful of character tokens to choose for up to four players. I’d have loved to have seen some more of the classic tokens added  in this mobile edition but unfortunately, there are only a few to choose from.

One cool feature is the ability to setup your own house rules to determine factors like starting cash, “Pass Go” salary and house/hotel limit. You can also change the backdrop to your game and, after that, you’re all set to play.

You can opt for up to four human/AI characters.

The game can be set up to have multiple human players. This type of setup allows you to pass the iPhone around on each turn but, alternatively, you can setup a WiFi game which allows multiple iPhones with the game installed to work together. It took me several attempts to get this to work, so consider reconnecting to your WiFi network. However, even then, the non-host device tends to lose the connection many times.

Rolling the Dice

The game plays out just like its physical counterpart. You roll the dice by shaking your device and then move along the game, having the option to purchase visited properties on the way. It will take a while for you to get used to the controls, but it becomes natural after a few games.

A tutorial guides you through most of the core features of the game from buying to auctioning to building. The touch interface is executed perfectly so buttons match your fingers in proportion.

If you’re playing against a computer, you’ll take your turn at regular intervals dependent on the amount of players. Note that there’s no way to skip through the NPC plays but I guess it’s important that you watch what’s happening to get a better grasp on the game’s events. After all, there’s no way to skip this in the real game either!

I initially bought the game around midnight expecting to commence a review an hour or so later, purely due to my prior knowledge of the game. I was shocked that I didn’t achieve that since the sheer immersion of the game will eat away hours of your time. And the experience is not something to just comment on in comparison with a hard version, it’s its own adventure.

Full board and the "manage" views.

Other than that, there’s not much else to say about the game’s actual functionality as it’s not unlike the board game. Most controls are well executed with the only disappointment being that the computer seems to have an advantage. Strange how they always seem to miss your properties!

Presentation

Monopoly comes across very well on the small screen and fourth-generation iPhone owners will appreciate the retina graphics added in a recent update. Edges do seem sharp, but this is in line with other games released around the same time. Yet, it still seems very polished and, more importantly, stable.

The game is smooth and stable and I haven’t seen any problems with it. It feels like an iPhone game yet is very intuitive and is designed around a player’s accessibility.

EA Mobile does a good job at converting a table-top experience to your phone. It doesn’t feel “right” at first but will certainly grow on you as you continue to play. It’s an intriguing adaptation that has the strength of being playable anytime due to lack of need for multiple humans.

The use of animation offers another spin on the classic game especially for the AI players. It feels much more than just a theoretical port.

The vanilla Monopoly also has an iPad-optimized version.

Final Thoughts

Monopoly Here & Now is a clever variant on the ubiquitous version and is sure to monopolize (see what I did there?) your iPhone for casual gaming. Animations and a stable AI system suggest it’s a real contender in extending the popularity of Hasbro’s already popular brand.

The game is available in the Here & Now version we have reviewed today, but is also available in the normal, un-themed edition. It would be great to see EA’s mobile division start work on connecting their relationships by combining already-released games into Monopoly brands such as The Simpsons.

When choosing a new game, I opted for the iPhone version due to it’s potential to make a great review here but the iPad edition looks great too. Whilst I haven’t had hands on, you can be assured it will work in a similar way to it’s iPhone counterpart but with presumably better graphics. I’ll be picking it up soon!


Summary

A pleasant adaptation of the popular board game, optimized for mobile.

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