Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Ever since man sat in a cave and discovered fire there has always been someone who wanted to buy that very cave. Thus the theory of Monopoly dates back 2000 quadrillion years, to the very first primordial estate agents.
For those of you who have been locked under the stairs for the past 14 years, the present day game of Monopoly is set in London, or in the case of this conversion, New York. Various properties such as the posh Boardwalk and the not so up-market Mediterranean Avenue are laid up along four sides of a 'board'. Along with these are railway (sorry railroad) stations and public utilities such as the Water Works and the Electric Company. There are also spaces to pick up cards - Chance and the weirdly named Community Chest. These cards can either make you or break you: with Bank Errors which refund £200 ($200 sorry!) or crippling bills for building repairs.
(Image caption) The Monopoly board in all its titchy glory!
"Buildings!", I hear you cry, "No one said anything about those." Well just hold on a minute. The aim of the game is to buy property, and charge rent whenever the opposition lands on them. Of course the best way to raise the rent is to build houses. Get four houses on a site, and you then have the option to erect hotels, which whack the rent up to mesmerically huge levels. Once you've got a few of those up you can expect to bankrupt other players.
So, how does the Sega improve on the board game? Well, the conventional game failed because cards got lost, houses got eaten by your dog, and, most importantly, there was no one-player option.
With this Sega version, you get a couple of console chums to play along with, ranging in skill levels from Beginner, through Intermediate to Experienced (a hard dealing SOB, who's very difficult to beat).
At the outset you get to choose a token (I’ll have a Dog please Bob). If you're using computer opponents then you choose one for them and set the skill level. Then it's time for the off. You use button 1 for such things as rolling dice (roll to see who goes first), agreeing deals such as auctions for property and attempts to buy from other players. Button 2 is used to speed the rate of travel as your token scrolls around the 'board' - although you can dispense with the visual display of travelling and get on with the nitty gritty of wheeling and dealing.
Gameplay depends on just how clever (and lucky in the dice rolls) you are. Each turn can comprise a roll, buying or selling property from other players, mortgaging your own property if you’re borassic lint (skint) or building those precious houses and hotels. If you get bored or need to use the Sega to shoot the odd alien then there is a Save Game option with battery back-up (no crappy 35-digit passcodes here!).
(Image caption) The hat cruises past his estate!
You can even set a timer on the game so that the player with the most property and dosh at the end of a set time becomes the winner. The best way to win, though, is to wipe everyone else off the board and own the lot!
Although the screen tends to look cluttered this merely reflects the wealth of information to hand. The movement of counters, when required, is smooth and sharp. Icons are clear and generally the graphics do the job asked of them.
However, the sound is limited to an appalling muzak version of 'The Entertainer' providing the in-game audio. And with some sarcastic-sounding jingles when you 'Go To Jail', cop for Luxury Tax or go bankrupt, you wouldn't be missing out on too much in the sound department even if you were completely stone deaf.
Aside from the really obvious points, like it's not for shoot 'em up fans or hack 'n' slash merchants then Monopoly has everything: excitement, mean nastiness, tension, strategy and the joy of victory. It only falls down on the fact that the computer players refuse to make under-the-table deals and nor will they form cartels in order to stitch other players. And how can you swipe a few hundred dollar bills when the banker nips off to the loo, if the banker's a Sega?
▲ The scrolling sequence is well done, with some nice animation on the counters
▼ Generally, the graphics are plain and basic. They do the job, but they could easily nave-been 'nicer'
▼ The house building, house demotion and 'Going To Jail’ sequences are... well.... crap
▼ Crummy rendition of 'The Entertainer' (you know, that awful music from 'The Sting')
▼ Crude jingles and spot effects add zero atmosphere
▲ The complexity of a board game crammed into a cart!
▲ There's loads to suss out and strategy can make all the difference
▲ Get lots of players round (human or otherwise) and you'll have a whale of a time
▲ When you start bankrupting the opposition, there's an addictive feeling of power!
▼ With a save game option, tea won't stop play
▼ Menus are a bit unwieldy
Just what solo Monopoly players need - and if you're a greedy, property-stealing Scrooge then this is the game for you!