Monopoly Millionaire Review: The classic board game reinvented for Windows Phone 8
This week we take an in-depth look at Monopoly Millionaire from Nokia and Electronic Arts. Millionaire enjoys the distinction of being the first Nokia-published Xbox game to require Windows Phone 8 (Mass Effect: Inflitrator is the second). It also requires 1 GB of RAM for some reason, which stinks for a less than hardware intensive game. But people with the hardware that can run Millionaire will find a pretty impressive take on the ancient game of Monopoly.
Playing it honors our ancestors or something!
Old is new again
Monopoly Millionaire started life as a 2012 board game based on the original Monopoly. Hasbro’s goal was to streamline the classic game so that it could be finished in a reasonable amount of time, as opposed to lasting for days. Thus the goal is no longer to bankrupt other players but to reach a specific wealth target.
You can choose between one million dollars and two million for that target. Either way, the game should take less than an hour to finish. Since we’re reviewing the mobile version here, the shorter playing time is definitely a good thing. And of course you can save any game in progress and resume it later.
Going bankrupt still knocks someone out of the game, though it’s a bit less likely to occur over this game’s shorter time span. Bankrupt players do have a few last ditch options to fall back on, such as cramming all of their valuables into a suitcase and then leaving the country for one without an extradition treaty. Not really, but they can sell houses and hotels back for half of their initial cost, mortgage properties, or sell properties to another player. The goal is to keep everyone in the game until somebody hits that monetary bulls-eye.
Not quite online
Millionaire supports any combination of 2-4 human and computer players. If playing with computer players, their difficulty can be globally set to Easy, Medium, or Hard – no mixing and matching AI levels. The difficulty levels are aptly named, though the Easy AI is still pretty competitive during auctions, which we’ll get to in a bit.
The original Windows Phone 7 Monopoly only supported pass-and-play multiplayer, as games of that time lacked the ability to implement local W-Fi or online multiplayer. Millionaire doesn’t go all-in and provide online multiplayer, but it does at least add local Wi-Fi into the mix as of the version 1.2 update (just like the iOS version). As far as I know, EA has yet to produce a mobile online Monopoly game for any platform.
Shiny new board and cards
Millionaire’s board looks a lot like the original, but there have been some changes. For one thing, the designers ditched the utility and railroad spaces. This allows pieces to circle the board quicker and also makes standard monopolies easier to achieve. The properties have all been renamed as well, for better or worse. It would have been a cool option had the videogame version allowed us to toggle between the new or original property names.
Speaking of name changes, Community Chest cards are now called Millionaire Lifestyle Cards. Chance cards retain their original designation. The big change rule-wise is that each property space automatically awards a Fortune card the first time a player lands on it. Now you gain cards all the time instead of just getting them from spaces like Chance, which certainly makes the game more interesting.
The classic game only had one card that players could save and use later: Get Out of Jail Free. Millionaire ups the ante to four “Keep Until Needed” cards:
- Free House does just what it says, letting you place one house on a property at no cost. This in turn increases the likelihood that players will actually be able to place hotels.
- Sly Deal allows one player to basically steal any one property from another player during a trade.
- Forced Deal is less one-sided than a Sly Deal because each player contributes a property to the trade, but the player on the receiving end can’t decline the trade.
- Just Say No! offers protection from Sly and Forced Deals.
Up for auction
As with the standard Monopoly game, whenever a player declines to buy a property, that property automatically goes up for auction. SOMEBODY will end up with it, which gets all of the properties into player’s hands faster and keeps the monopolies coming.
This particular game’s auction interface is a joy to use. When bidding, players can type out a value or instantly choose to bid 1K, 5K, or 10K over the current bid. Computer players won’t let properties go below their face value – even on easy, not until they start running low on funds, that is. Then you can score some deals. Bidding on auctions in pass-and-play, however is naturally a chore since the phone must be passed around every time someone bids.
Looks pretty, moves fast
Being a Windows Phone 8 game, Millionaire runs on a fairly high quality 3D engine. This allows for camera pans, zooms, and an altogether dynamic presentation. The board itself is more colorful than a standard Monopoly board, with an emphasis on diamonds and glamour. Altogether, this game pleases the eyes much more than its Windows Phone 7 predecessor.
The game moves at a nice enough clip on its own, AND players can speed things along by tapping the screen to skip animations. That said, the initial loading time when starting a game is slightly excessive. Thankfully it doesn’t need to load again until you start another game. Sound-wise, Millionaire offers three mostly inoffensive music tracks and proper volume sliders to boot.
The 20 included Achievements will probably take several games to earn, but you can still get them all in well less than five hours. All can be unlocked in pass-and-play multiplayer – one Achievement is specifically for completing a local multiplayer game, in fact. The only challenging Achievements are luck-based: roll doubles three times in a row, and roll double sixes twice in a row. There is a trick to rolling doubles multiple times, but the guides I’ve seen at TrueAchievements and Xbox360Achievements.org don’t quite explain it well enough for me to pull it off consistently.
Some people love Monopoly; I mainly love its aesthetics and winning free foods at McDonald’s. But Monopoly Millionaire accomplishes the difficult feat of actually improving on a classic board game. If you ask me, Hasbro should phase it in as the main Monopoly game sold in stores.
EA’s videogame adaptation of Millionaire gets just about everything right as well. It looks great, it plays as quickly as a mobile game should, and the interface shines in every area other than building houses and hotels (see the video review for details). Online multiplayer would have been great, but since this is a straight port of the iOS game, its omission makes sense. If you dig the standard game of Monopoly or board games in general, you might want to look past the slightly too high price and buy into Millionaire.
Monopoly Millionaire – Nokia Exclusive – Windows Phone 8 (1 GB of RAM) – 79 MB – $4.99 – Store Link
By Paul Acevedo