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Monopoly Streets (PlayStation 3) artwork

Monopoly Streets (PlayStation 3) review

"You can play by the standard rule set (with a few minor tweaks from the game that I remember), or you can select a few preset game modes. Those modes have names, such as "Bull Market" (where the players begin with more money and every piece of property is auctioned off before anyone even starts moving around the board) and "Jack Pot" (where it's possible to upgrade spaces that you own with houses and hotels even if you don't have a proper monopoly). If you'd prefer changes that are less drastic, you can create and name various custom configurations for convenient use down the road."

When I was a kid, playing Monopoly was almost never my idea. I liked the game well enough, but I was nursing an addiction to video games that aggressively competed with the best that Parker Brothers could throw my way. Digital entertainment usually won the battle for my attention. Then, one fateful holiday season, my mom bought me The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. For my sister she picked up Monopoly, also for the Super Nintendo.

The purchase was savvy on a level that I'm not sure my mom has ever managed since. My sister might not have been the world's foremost lover of video games, but she certainly enjoyed the Monopoly board game. During those years, she spent many afternoons trying to convince me to play it and I spent nearly as many afternoons resisting her pleas and retreating to play video games. The gift had the potential to bridge our separate interests, and indeed it did. In the years that followed, my sister and I spent many enjoyable hours playing the game with computer opponents, with the neighbor kids and even with our mom. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with Monopoly.

I've played many Monopoly video games in the years that followed. The Super Nintendo version is in a box somewhere now, forgotten by my sister and out of my reach, but that doesn't matter because various game publishers are constantly reworking the classic title for fresh audiences. I've played numerous versions in that time, from browser-based efforts to the Nintendo 64 version and more. Now I've played what may very well be the best version to date: Monopoly Streets.

I say that it "may" be the best version because while I enjoy it an awful lot, I still find myself missing the 16-bit version that I enjoyed so much during my childhood. Nostalgia plays a large role in that preference, as does personal taste. Though I like a lot of the design choices that were made for Monopoly Streets, some of them I find disappointing. The good news is that the game's robust customization tools allow me to correct at least some of those design choices in ways that were never possible with the old SNES cartridge. The bad news is that even that customization doesn't quite fix everything.

Though I've read that the Wii and Xbox 360 versions of the game allow you to play as customized avatar characters (Mii people, on Wii), I went with the PlayStation 3 version of the game. It features characters, too. A different character accompanies each classic token. With the dog, there's a snobbish woman who runs alongside her miniature pooch. A dim-witted driver moves the race car around the track, a yodeling hick pushes the wheelbarrow and a Navy man leaps onto the battleship model and surfs along the board. If there's a way to turn off these annoying characters and to mute the sounds they make each time they have a turn, I haven't found it. I yearn for the days when it was possible to select a token without all of the unnecessary baggage.

There are a variety of boards from which players can choose. The game is called Monopoly Streets because the developers spent time bringing the city to life and now as you run along the board, you can see buildings to your side. It's fun to explore and build within that world. Cars roll down the streets, property upgrades butt up against the curb and there's all sorts of other activity that you'll notice as you make your rounds. Much of the effect is lost if you decide to save time by skipping the character movement as your characters trot from place to place, but there always remains a sense of unique charm.

If you're not a fan of the presentation, though, there are other boards to unlock. There's an alternate street-level environment with buildings named after famous world monuments (instead of the classic East Coast naming conventions), plus there are themed boards where your destinations are named after cheese, sweets, crafts, icy conditions and so forth. Everything is presented in clear, crisp 1080P if you have the hardware to enjoy it. Monopoly Streets has the distinction of being the prettiest Monopoly video game that I've ever played, by a long shot.

It also is the version that boasts the most options for customization. You can play by the standard rule set (with a few minor tweaks from the game that I remember), or you can select a few preset game modes. Those modes have names, such as "Bull Market" (where the players begin with more money and every piece of property is auctioned off before anyone even starts moving around the board) and "Jack Pot" (where it's possible to upgrade spaces that you own with houses and hotels even if you don't have a proper monopoly). If you'd prefer changes that are less drastic, you can create and name various custom configurations for convenient use down the road. It's possible to tweak things such as the availability of money on free parking or the rule that requires buildings to be evenly built across a series of spaces. You can also increase the money awarded for landing directly on the "Go" space, decide whether or not landlords receive rent while in jail and so forth. I really love the convenience of being able to save those settings.

Something else I should probably mention is the helpful interface that you'll encounter once you actually start playing. I've played enough Monopoly video games to appreciate that what the developers offer here is truly polished. It's easy to tell at a glance who has which properties so that you can plan your strategies without tipping your hand. If you decide to initiate a trade, it's easy to tell which properties you're requesting and which property you're offering. If a deed has been mortgaged, that's also easy to see at a glance. Once you finalize a proposal, your trading partner can either accept it, reject it or make a counter offer. It's only possible to make propositions at the end of your own turn, which also prevents a lot of stalling and cheap tricks from your human or computer-controlled opponents.

As you might expect, there's also Trophy support for the game. You're credited for developing property enough that the bank runs out of hotels, for building a set number of houses over the course of however many games that you must play to do so, for owning property of each type during a single game and so forth. There are quite a few such trophies, but around half of them can only be unlocked by playing online. I decided to give that process a shot and didn't get far at all. Though there are numerous options for custom, quick and ranked games, there's not much of an audience online at even the most obvious times during the day (or at least, there wasn't when I made several attempts to find a match). You'll probably have similar luck unless you specifically coordinate times to meet up with people.

In spite of its various flaws, Monopoly Streets is a fun game that remains true to its board game inspiration. I spent quite a few hours with the title and I'll be glad to spend many hours more if I find local competition. While not every improvement that the developers made feels like a genuine enhancement, it's easy to see that a lot of thought went into this new release. The result is a polished release that has more to offer than any console adaptation that has preceded it. If you enjoy Monopoly and you're looking to experience a digital adaptation, this is definitely the one to get.

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Staff review by Jason Venter (November 18, 2010)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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aschultz posted November 18, 2010:

I enjoyed this a lot--it's interesting to see what they could do with Monopoly even if it may not have been 100% successful.

And every Monopoly game reminds me of Monty Plays Monopoly on the Apple IIe. It let you pick what random cards Monty got in Chance or Community Chest, and it even let you charge your own rent for properties like Baltic.

Seeing the 40x40 depiction of Monty behind bars was the highlight of that game. It seems like this has quite a bit more in terms of aesthetics without jumping overboard. I'm glad to know about it even if I don't have a PS3.
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zippdementia posted November 18, 2010:

Great review. I'm really interested in picking this up for me and my sister to play.

I loved the original SNES Monopoly. That was a good hook for the review.
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honestgamer posted November 18, 2010:

Thanks for the feedback, guys! Honestly, I wasn't expecting much in the way of comments but this was a game I definitely wanted to play and review, so I'm glad that it seems to have covered everything it should have while (hopefully) making for a reasonably interesting read.

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