By September 19, 2006

Monopoly on the Nintendo DS

It is well known amongst my meatspace friends that I love Monopoly. My friend Stilts and I play almost every time we see each other. When I saw that Monopoly was featured as one of the games in the aptly titled (but wordy) Monopoly – Boggle – Yahtzee – Battleship cartridge for the Nintendo DS, I got excited. The game was published last year by Atari and created by Sensory Sweep. My hope was to play Monopoly over the Nintendo DS’s built-in WiFi, so that Stilts and I could argue over trading the oranges for the blues and who was the bigger bastard during auctions. However, as I delved more deeply into the game, I knew I was going to be disappointed.

The interface is … acceptable. The board and playing pieces are rendered fairly well. The board is represented on the top DS screen. Actions such as rolling the dice, ending your turn, mortgaging and unmortgaging property, and trading are accessible via the bottom DS screen. I use my HORI retractable stylus for this, but you can get around without a stylus by using the D-pad and any of the four X Y A B buttons.

The game allows a certain amount of customization with the rule set (more on that later), but it is inflexible regarding the in-game animations. Player tokens are animated; the hat, my favorite piece in meatspace, moves thanks to a white rabbit hiding inside. A paddywagon comes to get your piece when you go to jail. An animated train whisks you away to any railroad square. All of the animations take too long, especially when you’re used to playing quickly or if you’re on your 400th game. There should be a way to disable these animations, but unfortunately you have to suffer through them every … fucking … game.

On the plus side, the Atari version of Monopoly allows you to enable or disable common “house rules” for each game. Getting money for landing on Free Parking or double money for landing precisely on GO! are typical house rules. Since these rules prolong the game and defeat some of the strategy involved, we stick to the official rules when we play in meatspace. These options are not very useful for me, but if you want to test the life of your DS battery by playing a single game of Monopoly, Atari’s there for ya.

Unfortunately, there is no WiFi play, just local-area wireless. This means that if two to four people can play wirelessly if they are in the same twenty feet or so of each other. Which begs the obvious fucking question: IF YOU’RE THAT CLOSE TO EACH OTHER, WHY AREN’T YOU PLAYING THE REAL FUCKING GAME?? Holy shit, are we so adverse to talking with each other that we CAN’T EVEN PLAY GODDAMN MONOPOLY FACE TO FACE? Sheesh. Anyway, not having WiFi kicked my puppy, but it wasn’t a total deal-breaker. I could still play against the computers.

I thought I had come to an uneasy peace with Monopoly until I played my first full game. I had a monopoly on the light blues (Oriental, Vermont, and Connecticut). One of the computers had a monopoly on the dark greens (Pacific, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania Avenue), which I normally avoid due to their high building cost. I had about $900 in cash, which would have allowed me to put hotels on each of my light blues with a little left over. I tapped on the construction icon, and instead of buying houses at the expected $50 apiece, I was taken to the auction screen!

Now, one of the key tenets of real Monopoly, the reason it doesn’t last four fucking hours every game, is that every property is sold the first time someone lands on it. Either the player who lands on it buys the property for retail, or it goes to auction. Around my house, auctions start at $50. That means that you can pick up some sweet deals, like Boardwalk for $50. However, houses and hotels are not up for auction. It’s not an official rule. This isn’t even an obscure house rule. I have no fucking idea why Atari and Sensor Sweep decided to implement the auctioning of houses.’s a horrible thing and breaks the game. If more than one player has a monopoly, any attempt to buy a house or hotel goes to auction. Remember that sweet deal, getting Boardwalk for $50? If you play the game right, you can get houses on Boardwalk and Park Place for $100, instead of the usual $200. This is a double-edged sword, too. It means that the cheaper properties, like my light blues or Mediterranean and Baltic Avenue, are less desireable because their housing costs go up as you bid against other players. It costs $50 per house on Baltic in the real game, but I guarantee you that you’ll spend $150+ on each house if that other player with Boardwalk/Park Place has any money left.

The screen shot to the left (sorry the picture sucks) shows me getting pwned by the comp over a $50 house. It finally sold for $185, still a cheaper deal for the computer who owned the dark green properties.

I can deal with the shitty animations, I can live without WiFi play, but the house auctioning ruins the game. I’ve played a half-dozen or so games to see how to take advantage of the system, and I succeeded: if I can land on/trade for some expensive properties and save cash, I can outlast the other players and then buy expensive homes for cheap. I put hotels on the dark greens for $1800, half of what they would in the real game. The other three computer players were bankrupt within a few turns.

I’m disappointed, but maybe in the future there will be another try at Monopoly on the DS, this time with WiFi and the actual game rules. For now, I give the multigame cart:

One out of five STFU mugs
full STFU mug empty STFU mug empty STFU mug empty STFU mug empty STFU mug

Posted in: games, review

4 Comments on "Monopoly on the Nintendo DS"

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  1. Bond says:

    I agree, WTF would it be adHoc play…Is that were society is going?

  2. “If you play the game right, you can get houses on Boardwalk and Park Place for $100, instead of the usual $200. This is a double-edged sword, too. It means that the cheaper properties, like my light blues or Mediterranean and Baltic Avenue, are less desireable because their housing costs go up as you bid against other players.”

    !! whaaaaat?


  3. roclar says:

    Since houses are auctioned every time, I suspect they would usually go for somewhere between 100-150 each. For the cheaper properties, thats high, for the greens and dark blues, thats a steal. So why get cheaper properties?

    There is a provision in the Monopoly rules for auctioning houses but its only for when multiple people want to build and there are a limited number of houses available:

    Atari Forum Thread

    BUILDING SHORTAGE…When the Bank has no houses to sell, players wishing to build must wait for some player to turn back or to sell his houses to the Bank before building. If there are a limited number of houses and hotels available, and two or more players wish to buy more than the Bank has, the houses or hotels must be sold at auction to the highest bidder.

  4. UncleBob says:

    The auction thing does kill this game. Makes it go a heck of a lot slower as well. Let’s say you have a monopoly on the orange set. Someone else (computer player) has a monopoly on the purple set. The CP has $155 and you’ve got $4000. You want to purchase 12 house and three hotels. You select to build a house… auction! House auctions start at $50. Now, you can whipe out the CP’s chance at bidding by upping the bidding to $156, but then you’re paying more for the house than you should. So you slowly bid… finally winning. Then you have to go in and choose to “build” the house on the property you want it on. Want your second house? Go in and bid again! Win, then build… bid, win, build… This process can take quite a while. Combine this with the fact that the game is bugged and one computer player was buying houses and putting them on another computer player’s RAILROAD… the auction process makes absoluly no sense. Plus, the game doesn’t put a limit on the number of hotels that can be in play (which, of course, should always be 12). This also keeps the game going a bit longer than it should.

    And the computer lets you draw Get Out of Jail Free cards when another player has them and hasn’t used them (the other player then looses posession of the card)…