Earlier this month, I read an article quoting Apple Director of Technology Evangelism John Geleynsen where he proclaimed the iPhone to be a strong contender in the handheld console market. I was initially very sceptical, since I didn’t actually believe that a mobile phone could rival a “dedicated” console. Also, the platform only had simple games from independent software developers and the lack of big titles did not really make it attractive in the mainstream.
However, having had quality time with Monopoly – Here & Now: The World Edition, I’m now a strong believer of Apple turning the iPhone/ iPod Touch platform into a true mobile gaming platform.
Upon downloading and running the game, which costs USD 10, I was greeted by a beautifully rendered front screen that allows the user to either select a normal or Wi-Fi game, which then you can select the number of players/ AI players when I selected “Play Game”.
Once selecting the correct options (a maximum of 4 players either human or AI can play a single game), the game will present you with the familiar Monopoly game board. The game offers informative in-game tutorials on various controls, but the user interface is clear enough for anyone to understand. When my turn came, I started by shaking my device to roll the dice; not that I’m against the use of the advance functions of the device but after a short while it will be quite tiring, not to mention that other people will simply stare. However, after my piece moved to the right grid, I was greeted again with simple controls to ask me whether I wanted to purchase the grid. A few simple touches later I was the proud owner of Tokyo.
The game continues in the typical Monopoly fashion, and when any new option arises, I am again presented with the friendly in-game tutorial, which will guide me with the various decisions I can make. Tasks such as building/ selling properties, looking at the portfolio of other players and the such are very intuitive. Nice touches are the trading screens, whereby the player is presented with a very simple interface to initiate trades with other players or the AI. This also applies when bidding is carried out. Another good function is the auto-selling function, one that saves a lot of time but also one that I hope I never have to use.
Of course, no game/ application is without fault; with this game, I find that the in-game tutorial is very nagging. I mean, the tutorial is great and all when I first played the game. However, on my second game, third game, fourth game the in-game tutorial is still there, nagging me on what each button did. How annoying and long-winded is that? I can’t find an option to switch it off, and so with each game I have to press the monitor many times to go through those same instructions. [I have now found the option, thanks to youngTURBO, but these “desktop class” applications as Steve Jobs described should be smart enough to switch off automatically like most applications?] Another small thing is that at times the display on the phone can be a bit tiny to fit the entire game board full screen. These are small annoyances that could be lived with in contrast to the overall fluid gameplay.
Overall, game play is very simple and that the controls are very easy to navigate. This friendly interface is one of the biggest draws to the game, along with the astonishing graphics built for the app. Seriously, the graphics for this version of Monopoly is just like PS2, Wii or the PC; if I was only shown the screen and not the device itself I would never believe this was achievable on a mobile device. Also, unlike the other versions of the game, the touch controls fit perfectly to enhance gameplay. Using a mouse or game controller is not bad, but the fact that you can use a touch screen for direct access just makes game play so much smoother. Once you’ve started a new game, you can spend a lot of time on it without realising. A commute to/ from work is not enjoyable, but with the purchase of this game I can no longer feel the boredom nor the urge to push and shove on the subway since I was so concentrating on the game.
Going back to what John Geleynsen said, I think this type of games is what makes the iPhone/ iPod Touch platform a strong contender in the mobile console market. Unlike PSPs or NDSs, I always have my mobile phone with me; hence the game too is always with me. This means I actually spend more time with my iPhone games rather than proper mobile gaming consoles. The more time I spend with one device, the more I neglect others. Also, the fact that these casual games are turn based meabeltns I can immediately save and quit the game to tend to other things, or take a phone call, or switch to a business task. This cannot be said with games on PSPs or NDSs, where pauses in most games ruin the gaming experience.
Monopoly being a household favourite was always going to be of high demand on a mobile device. The fluid game play with intuitive controls means both my friends and I can gather around an iPhone at the local café, spend time hanging out, whilst playing the classic game, knowing that we won’t have to clean up afterwards. Small annoyances aside, Monopoly – Here & Now: The World Edition is a very good game and one which I think will live on many iPhones/ iPod Touches.