I'm a big fan of Monopoly. The love I have for the game stretches back to my early childhood, playing with neighborhood friends on the back porch during sunny summer days and with my father at the kitchen table rounding out some evenings. In fact, I was so obsessed with Monopoly that I would even create fictional NES Monopoly leagues complete with hand-kept statistics, playing my own games against computer opponents and watching AI-controlled games do the rest. Needless to say, Monopoly strikes a chord with me, so it should come as no surprise that I was drawn to Monopoly Streets as the game grew closer to its release. Being able to play the classic property trading game on a current-generation console both on my own and with others around the world sounded great to a fan like me.
Everyone knows how a basic game of Monopoly is played. Players roll dice and work their piece around a board, buying properties as they go in attempts to create monopolies with like properties. Other players who land on properties another player owns must pay rent, which varies depending on the value of the property and whether players have opted to build houses and/or hotels on properties that are part of monopolies. As players begin to go bankrupt due to rent and fees they can't afford to pay to other players, the last player standing wins.
Monopoly Streets successfully manages to both stay true to how the game is supposed to be played in its classic form and give gamers some options to keep their rounds fresh and unique. It certainly has its flaws and I question some of the design choices the developer made, but overall, Monopoly Streets proves to be a functional version of video game Monopoly that will appeal to those looking for a new home console version to play on their own or, better yet, with folks online.
What Monopoly Streets probably does best is that it gives gamers plenty of options, both online and offline (though not all modes are available in both places). There are half a dozen default ways to play the game that include everything from the standard game to other house rules-heavy versions such as Speed Die (which adds an extra die), Bull Market (which has a set duration of twenty rounds) and Jackpot (which radically alters how properties are built upon). The best part of all of this, though, is that you can create your own custom games with your own rule-sets. Want to reduce Luxury Tax back down to its old $75 level? Want to utilize Free Parking's often-implemented money pot? Want to double the amount of money earned when landing on GO instead of simply passing it? You can make all of that happen, and you can save all of these options into rule sets that can be selected later.
Where Monopoly Streets stumbles is in its presentation, and even a bit in its gameplay, too. Monopoly Streets' standard mode brings you onto a fully-realized 3D version of the classic game board. This is a cool idea in premise, but it actually looks pretty sloppy, and most gamers will no doubt resort to using the classic board option as a result. In terms of lackluster gameplay, while the game plays intuitively both online and offline, there are some forced waits that make the game drag a little bit. You can shut off piece movement, which is nice, but I don't need to watch the AI player roll the dice and dance around; just tell me what he rolled, where he landed, and what he did before moving on.
Speaking of the AI, there are three varieties to choose from (easy, medium and hard). This AI can be used both offline to fill-out boards, and online, if there aren't enough players to satisfy a set prerequisite. The AI, regardless of its level, plays fairly, but it's possible to manipulate it into paying too much for a property during an auction and making bad trades, which is unfortunate. Thankfully, up to four players can play Monopoly Streets either locally or online, so you don't always have to resort to playing with the computer.
In terms of nuts and bolts, Monopoly Streets contains no graphical flair (quite the opposite at times, actually) and you'll find yourself shutting off the redundant sounds before very long. But where the game shines is in what it does right -- it's a Monopoly simulation that tries to give you something extra, but doesn't force it down your throat. Apart from the core (sometimes slow) gameplay and lackluster aesthetics, there are also Trophies to earn and some in-game unlockables to collect in the form of new pieces and boards.