At first glance, you could very easily get lost in Monopoly's streets because each move is viewed plot by plot. If you're not already familiar with the game board, in other words, it's easy to lose immediate awareness of where you stand in relation to other players with all of the graphical jumble around you. Fortunately, several nonintrusive identifying markers point the way, such as appropriately colored strips on the edges of sidewalks and banners outside of each property listing how many houses or hotels are on it. Other button options also allow you to see what lies ahead of you or to see the game's current state from above using a classic board.
6283665NoneMonopoly giveth and Monopoly taketh away.
You can also opt for a change of scenery once you amass enough Monopoly money from completing games in Landmark City, the game's only other virtual metropolis. True to its name, Landmark City features some of the world's most legendary tourist traps (such as London's Big Ben), but it's rather Disneyland-ish and lacks the visual coherence of Monopoly City. Although more cities are scheduled for release as downloadable content, it's a shame that more weren't included in the initial retail package. And if you still can't get used to the alleys and buildings of Monopoly City, you can always play on seven different versions of the trusty classic Monopoly board. These come complete with very basic jungle and winter themes but no building in sight.
Monopoly Streets is designed for four players, with most boards regrettably requiring that all four slots be filled. Fortunately, the game features a decidedly fair AI system that can be set to easy, medium, or hard, and you can add two AI players if you only have two or three human players in your game. At its heart, this is pure Monopoly, and there's virtually nothing wrong with the actual process of playing the game aside from the game's unrelenting insistence on four players. You start the game by tossing dice to see who goes first, you trade property and build houses in intuitive menus, and you buy with the click of a button. The auction process, in fact, is positively entertaining. Here, your opponents' bids are listed on a bar graph from left to right, and by tapping one of two buttons, you can raise or lower the bid dramatically during the course of 20 seconds. If you bid low at the very last second, it's possible to trap your opponents into paying an unnecessarily high price for a plot. Unfortunately, there's no option to turn auctions off if you want to avoid the minigame.
Otherwise, the gameplay is decently customizable, and if you're used to certain nonstandard rules (such as using Free Parking to grab all the money from income tax and the like), you can usually re-create them here. You can also play by standard Monopoly rules or take up some of the game's faster options. These include games like Speed Die, in which you play with an extra die and begin with an extra $1,000; and Short Game, in which all four players start with four random properties. Alternatively, you can play Bull Market, which limits play time to 20 rounds; or Fast Deal, which awards the first player who collects the most color groups; or Jackpot, which radically alters the rules and allows you to sell properties containing houses or hotels. Online multiplayer options for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 offer many of the same options as the offline mode while sticking to standard rules and the faster setups. This includes Bull Market and Short Game, in addition to ranked matches and the option to create custom rules. The ranked matches can be fun, but when your losing rival storms out at the sight of you adding yet another pile of deeds to your stash, the game shuts down and you receive no credit despite however many minutes you put in.
It's not Grand Theft Auto, but these streets can still destroy you.
Monopoly Streets's animations may drag at times and the character voices invite the tossing of heavy objects at your screen, but basic Monopoly hasn't felt so fresh in decades, and it's worth wondering what Monopoly Streets may have been like with a little more attention to detail. Sadly, it doesn't feel like a full package. With only two virtual cities in the new style in spite of a whopping seven versions of the classic board, Monopoly Streets seems to place an excessive focus on future downloadable content when it could have stunned its audiences with a packed release containing even one more city. Still, it's saved by its decent customization options, and diverse multiplayer options on the PS3 and Xbox 360. If you're looking for an engaging Monopoly game that doesn't require clearing the table and spending 15 minutes dealing the pieces, then Monopoly Streets may be the game for you. Just make sure you turn off those confounded character voices.