If you had to think of one household board game that almost everyone is likely to know, it would be Monopoly. The centre of countless family gatherings over the years, Monopoly is often seen as that one game that can get the whole brood involved and that everybody loves; that is until they remember how ridiculously long it can take to complete and participants start to just give up or make up new, on-the-spot rules to get things over with. Regardless, though, Monopoly is - and possibly always will be - an absolute classic in the world of board games and now the time has come for the Nintendo Switch to get in on the action.
The game has found itself recreated (to varying degrees of success) on various video game consoles for over 20 years now, even including the NES, and Monopoly for Nintendo Switch is here to continue that trend. The core gameplay is perhaps obvious; each mode on offer is based upon the source material, playing exactly like the real board game does. Players move around the board, buying and auctioning properties until only one player is left standing, having rinsed their rivals with sky-high rental charges.
If you like, you can experience an exact replica of the real thing by choosing to play on the ‘Classic’ board. Players can join in with just a single Joy-Con and you can also add AI characters to the mix if you wish – anywhere from two to six players (including AI) is supported. Alternatively, you can instead choose to just use a single Joy-Con which gets passed around from player to player as it becomes their turn. All actions are displayed on screen (although some are a little fiddly at first) and you can even shake the Joy-Con to roll your dice. With the game being from Ubisoft, you can spice up your classic board with pictures of Rabbids in place of the usual artwork around the board. The Rabbids don’t affect any of the gameplay, though – they are purely for aesthetic enjoyment (because who doesn’t love Rabbids,right? Right?!)
If you’ve had enough of the simple, classic board, however, you can instead choose to play on a ‘Living’ board. These boards – City, Amusement Park, or Haunted – have you moving around the usual setup but also include large, 3D visuals for each property. The board is full of animations for the streets and train stations and has a whole host of decorations in the middle of the board - similar in a way to how the Mario Party game boards feel like they could be real places. Unfortunately, though, the fun stops there because, once again, all of these things are purely aesthetic; none of the additions can be interacted with in any way and nothing really expands upon the simple gameplay of the original board game.
The one thing in place that can rectify this slightly is the inclusion of rule changes. You can play the game with the classic rules as standard but, if you want a little more freedom, you can also choose to include a house rule. These are chosen from a pre-determined list but include many common choices such as receiving all of the paid money when landing on the ‘Free Parking’ space. Other game modes allow you to use ‘Goals’ and ‘Action Cards’ to change things even more. Goals change the way in which a player can win the game – ‘the first player to own a hotel wins’ for example – and Action Cards are abilities that players can use at any time to influence play, such as ‘make the richest player pay a set fee’.
You can take your mad Monopoly skills online if you are the competitive type - online leaderboards track your success compared to players all over the world and also just your friend list. Online matches run just as smoothly as local ones so, as long as you don’t match up with a player who takes twenty minutes to decide whether they want to put a second house on their Pall Mall square, you should be able to have some decent games.
The problem here is that Monopoly games can take an awfully long time to complete – when you’re playing offline this isn’t an issue as you can save your game and return to it later, but online you might be a little unlucky. We were once in a heated game with an online opponent for around 40 minutes before they randomly disconnected – who would’ve thought that Monopoly would end up being the most aggravating game for victims of ‘rage-quitters’?
Overall, Monopoly for Nintendo Switch is a faithful re-creation of the board game with some nice little touches – saving your game to return to it later is great, little objectives to unlock more playing pieces can be fun, and the action cards can really change how the game plays out. For the most part, though, the game is a rather ‘average’ experience and it is hard to pin down any reason as to why this game should be bought over a copy of the original board game. If it featured different activities to make it a little more special (such as small mini-games or the like) it could have been an interesting take on the trusted formula. As it is, though, it doesn’t manage to add anything of real value to the experience and – if anything – just takes away the need for communication between players, which is surely the whole point of board games in the first place. You could argue that the same stance should apply to games like Chess Ultra, but the key difference here is that Monopoly isn't really a game of cunning skill where a CPU opponent can test your talents as well as a human one, but more a social, tactile experience which is simply better when played with the 'proper' board and a roomful of friends.
If Monopoly is your thing, you can’t really go wrong with Monopoly for Nintendo Switch. It performs exactly how you’d expect it to – offering an almost exact, neatly-executed copy of the experience that you can get from the board game. This is its main problem, though – it does so little to offer anything new that it almost seems pointless having it in the first place. Call us old-fashioned if you like, but we’d play the board game version over this one any day.