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Review: Monopoly for Nintendo Switch

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Go to Jail, Do not pass Go

At one point or another, everyone has played Monopoly. It may have been on one of the numerous console iterations or the various themed board games, but most people have been subjected to the terrors of Mr. Monopoly’s menacing grin. A lot of the fun in Monopoly doesn’t come from its loose interpretation of real estate, but more so how much of an asshole you can be to your friends.

While this Switch port of the “classic” real estate trading game will let you bankrupt your buddies in public at any time, there isn’t a whole lot else this brings to the table. It also has a bunch of performance issues and an insane price that hinder an otherwise decent package.

Monopoly for Nintendo Switch (Switch)
Developer: Engine Software
Publisher: Ubisoft
Released: October 31, 2017
MSRP: $39.99

A few years back, Monopoly Plus was released on all major consoles as a downloadable title for $14.99. It included what was called “Living Boards” and custom rule sets along with simple online play and not much else. It made sense as a budget title to get people introduced to Monopoly, but it was pretty no-thrills. For one reason or another, that was the version of Monopoly that Ubisoft decided to port over to the Switch.

While that is fine, in and of itself, the cost of this package is what really makes me shrug. I have a history of heated Monopoly battles with a friend of mine, so I actually do enjoy the game. What I don’t enjoy is unnecessary price gouging on a title that barely has content. I know Monopoly is more about endless replayability and tons of strategy (with a dash of luck), but there is no way you can justify a $25 price increase, even for portability.

Putting that aside, the game has support for up to six players by either passing the controller off or using split Joy-Con; you can even shake the controller to simulate rolling the dice. There are some unlockable tokens, so you can set some goals for your various play sessions to get a golden pumpkin or gramophone.

Where this Switch port drops the ball is in the “Living Boards” section. I’m not sure what the idea behind these new boards was, but there was clearly no optimization done to ensure these run at any reasonable framerate on Nintendo’s new console. Playing in docked mode does provide a smoother experience, but you’re looking at around 20 frames per second when picking the Classic, Amusement Park, or Haunted boards. It looks plain ugly on handheld and it even slows down the pace of an already slow game.

The whole gimmick on these new boards is that the game is supposed to feel more alive by becoming overly animated. The entire middle section has whatever theme going on and landing on the different properties will show a quick sequence of a for-sale sign popping up. I don’t know of any person who wants Monopoly to feel more alive, but I guess this kind of accomplishes that. To me, it simply elongates a game that, with skilled players, can take upwards of three hours to finish.

Really, you should only be buying this if you intend on playing with other people, because the AI does not understand the fundamentals of Monopoly. While the opponents on “Hard” can at least hang around for a while, you’ll find that the AI will mortgage properties to avoid bankruptcy, pass Go to collect $200, immediately rebuy their lost properties, and then land on one of your acquired properties to turn around and mortgage things again. It creates this vicious cycle where games go on for so long because the AI is just plain stupid.

When you put on custom rule sets or house rules, the AI also fails to acknowledge these and continues as if the game were being played normally. When the objective is “First to Build a Hotel Wins,” why is the AI buying every railroad or trading other properties for utilities? Those spots on the board are worthless with that custom rule (apart from potentially bankrupting an opponent).

I even take some beef with the custom rules implementation, but not because I’m a Monopoly purist. For some reason, you cannot mix and match your own rule sets. There is a list of options you can select from, but only one rule can be applied at any given time. If you wanted to have faster dice rolls and the ability to buy hotels without first getting four houses on each property, you’re out of luck. You can thankfully put action cards into play with the standard rule set, but having all of these different rules without a toggle option seems like a wasted opportunity.

The online play also suffers from issues. Lag is present in basically every game and performing simple actions can feel like they take an eternity. You’ll roll your dice only to see them lag across the board and the resulting roll will take 10 seconds to register being complete. The prompt for when your turn is up also takes a bit, so you’ll often be sitting and waiting for other players to simply go. At least Monopoly is inherently slow, so the lag is easier to tolerate.

The biggest problem with this Switch version, though, is just how poorly optimized it is. I already mentioned that the “Living Boards” don’t run particularly well, but Monopoly will drain the life out of your battery like no other. It is simply shocking that Breath of the Wild can last longer in portable mode than Monopoly. When playing one night, I even had my Switch die in an hour-and-a-half game. That has never happened to me before.

I’m also not sure how I feel about Monopoly implementing physics into a dice roll. If your piece on the board is close to the camera, your dice can potentially collide with it and that has the side effect of screwing up a roll. The “Living Boards” also have some interactive parts, so your dice will roll off of them or stop dead if they hit a specific angle. I guess this is supposed to simulate playing a real board game, but it can be frustrating to roll a three when your dice hits the top hat piece and plops down.

I also cannot forget to mention the sluggish interface. While I was highly confused at first, the main point of contention comes from how laggy everything feels. Making simple choices isn’t immediate, even on the main menu where nothing is happening. You’ll press left or right and the game will take a full second to acknowledge that decision. It can lead to trades taking longer than they should and you feeling like you have no control over the board display.

If you are okay with everything I’ve mentioned, though, then Monopoly for Nintendo Switch at least offers up what the name states. This is certainly Monopoly on Switch and sticking to the classic boards alleviates any slowdown or ugliness. The prospect of taking Monopoly on the go is also a huge plus, though I don’t believe it justifies the price tag.

I suppose that is the biggest struggle you’ll need to consider before making a purchase. Do you like Monopoly enough to pay more money for it on the Switch? If you don’t intend on playing a digital version out in the park and have access to an Xbox One or PS4, then you’d be better served with getting the much cheaper Monopoly Plus on another console.

If you really do just want to practice your evil corporate grin in public, then I’d still suggest waiting for a price drop. Monopoly for Nintendo Switch isn’t awful; it just feels like a first draft.

Quick note; the eShop version of Monopoly suffers from a loading bug that causes the game to stall at any load screen. The solution, for the time being, is to completely restart your Switch. I did encounter this issue a couple of times, but a patch is promised to be on the way.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Monopoly for Nintendo Switch reviewed by Peter Glagowski

5

MEDIOCRE

An exercise in apathy, neither solid nor liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.
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Peter Glagowski
Peter GlagowskiNews/Reviews Contributor   gamer profile

Plucked right from the DToid community (formerly KingSigy), Peter is an aspiring writer with a passion for gaming and fitness. If you can't find him in front of a game, you'll most likely find hi... more + disclosures


 



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