Star Wars Monopoly
Review by Mark Isaacson
And now for something completely different.
Take all the elements of Monopoly; splash in a bit of 3D graphic splendor; add a pinch of a little old Saga and what do you come out with? I don't know, I've never tried. But thankfully Hasbro Interactive has done the job for me with Star Wars Monopoly, a combination of two of the greatest trademarks ever made. In this, the second Monopoly on CD-Rom, you take control of one of your favorite Star Wars characters, and zoom around the famous Monopoly board, grabbing as much doe as you can while buying out all the planets and star ports.
In this, the first of many "Flashback" reviews, I'll dive into the universe from long ago, with my trusty R2 unit by my side, ready to tackle anyone who gets in my way as I buy out the entire board and become, as they say, a Millionaire!
What, Monopoly has a story? Well, in this case, I suppose so. But we all know how Star Wars goes, so I'll come up with something inventive. Let's see:
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, (Cue the music)...
The Empire had been destroyed, Endor is free from the dark moon that was the Death Star, and the New Republic is born. But there's a problem. With evil all but dead, the good guys have nothing to do. So R2-D2, the trusty robot of Luke Skywalker, creates a new game based on all the adventures that his pals had been through. Not realizing that they had just broken every copyright rule under the sun, the good guys, as well as a few old "retired" friends, sat down and took to the new game like ducks to water.
And so, Star Wars Monopoly was born...
Right, with that silly story out of the way, let's get down to the important stuff. First of all, Star Wars Monopoly (SWM) uses much of the same rules applied to the normal Monopoly game, however there are some changes and new additions that make the game more fun to play. For one, you can trade items and money using a simple interface, and you can also auction an item to see if you can buy the spot for cheaper, or drive your opponent over the price limit. This adds some strategy to the game instead of just going around and buying everything you land on, because you can bankrupt many people, especially if they really need the spot to complete their collection.
Of course, items and places from the Star Wars universe have replaced the old train stations and towns from the original Monopoly, but the trusty Jail returns as well as Community Chest and Chance cards.
You'll get most of the enjoyment from this game while playing with a friend or three, so Hasbro includes a simple multi-player setup to get things going. You can either go over a Local Area Network (LAN) or simply log on to the web. A single player game, meanwhile, has you playing against computer controlled opponents, which aren't easy to defeat (but can be very stupid at times).
Graphically, this game has its moments. 3D models of everyone's favorite Star Wars characters are included, and can be very detailed on occasions (especially Boba Fett and R2). The board itself is very simple at first, with a kind of top-down perspective used while you play. The camera then shifts closer to the board when your character moves forward, and when you land on a particular square a short movie clip will appear. It's nice at first, especially with some footage from the Special Edition versions of the original saga, but it gets repetitive after a while.
I'm a little up in the air with the sound aspects of the game. At times it re-lives important parts of the trilogy, especially trademark performances from C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), classic battle sounds from Tie-Fighters, X-Wings and the Falcon, and cries of joy from R2 and Chewy. But from there, everything seems a little rushed.
I mean, how can you have a Star Wars game without some voice acting of all the characters. Sure, C-3PO is great, but what about Darth Vader, Luke or Han. Even Chewy is a little lame. The movie clips are also a mixed bag. Some are uncut, while others are missing music and sound. Even some of the voices are cut out, leaving nothing but a mess.
The thing that really lets Star Wars Monopoly down in the end is lastability. As far as I am concerned, this is the most important area of a video game. You may have the greatest visuals in the world, and sound that blasts your ear drums to oblivion, but if there are a limited number of levels or things to accomplish, and multi-player is a bum, then you can kiss your chances of making big bucks good-bye. As Monopoly has always been a game where you play as long as you can stand it, SWM may be fun to play in short bursts (which is where the save game feature comes in very handy). Otherwise, if you play for hours at a time, you may find yourself bored to death.
Multi-player action does save the game a little, but there's nothing like sitting around a little board, winning "kind of real" cash and bashing the hell out of the nearest contender at the same time (preferably with a baseball bat (Don't try this at home kids, trust me).
If you love the idea of playing Monopoly and watching Star Wars at the same time, then this is you best bet. I actually enjoyed for a while, and that's saying something. But the quality of the presentation, and the long, long game time lets it down some what.
On another note, I haven't seen this game on the shelves for some time. If anyone spots it, please tell me, just for record sake.
For comments or questions email the TFN Games Staff
and thanks to Mark Isaacson for the review!