Monopoly on computer - a stupid idea, right? The whole point of playing Monopoly is getting together round a table with your friends, actually holding all those culture-icon banknotes and title deeds physically in your hands, trying to nick £500 notes when no-one's looking and putting everyone's fines and taxes into the middle for whoever lands on Free Parking (if you don't do this, you're lying).
It's not about crowding round a poxy 14-inch monitor taking turns at the mouse and fiddling around with half-a-dozen menus just to swap your Regent Street for your mate's Trafalgar Square.
That's the common wisdom on the subject, anyway, and I have to say I used to completely agree with it. But what's changed a bit now that I've played this new version. Oh yes. It provides you with eight players, any, all or none of which can be played by human participants or the computer.
Also, each location is illustrated by a vaguely appropriate picture (i.e. Mayfair looks nicer than Old Kent Road), and building or knocking down houses and hotels are depicted with various animated sequences. Play is controlled by means of an unusually easy-to-understand icon system, but otherwise it's pretty much just good old Monopoly.
So, the age-old question approacheth - should you get this instead of the much-cheaper cardboard version? Well, maybe, but first you should be aware of a few niggling flaws.
It's a bit annoying to have no idea of how much cash the computer players have - it might be realistic, but it's inconsistent if you're playing with other human players. You can see how much they've all got, but not the computer players, which is a little weird.
Secondly, I'd have liked it if the location pictures had some indication on screen as to who owned them, whether they were mortgaged or not, and so on. (Or at least an option to do it.) I can see why they haven't - it means that you've got to remember what you've got and pay attention at the risk of missing out on your rent - but it's not really fair. If you're playing the board game, you've got your little cards in front of you, you're not expected to commit them all to memory. Sure, you can call up a list of who's got what at any time, but it's a bit of a clumsy way to have to go about things.
It's a touch odd to shout all over the box
Personally, I always regarded skipping rent as a bad thing anyway - it just makes everyone sulk. It's also a touch odd to shout all over the box about having computer players with individual characters, then expect the player to play against tem al a dozen times trying to work out what their characteristics are.
It would have been better to have them all described in the manual, so you could deliberately set up harder, easier or just different games without having to play the thing for a week first. And, of course, if you wanted to work it out yourself, you could just tear out that page of the manual and eat it, or something.
IT'S MY LIFE
In fact, generally the only complaints I have about this version of Monopoly are about flexibility. There isn't any. I'm sure, for example, that it was Waddington's who wouldn't allow the old pay-the-fines-into-Free-Parking routine for the sake of purity (the only computer version I've ever seen with this facility was an official one on the Spectrum called Go To Jail, and that had a court order taken out against it), but everyone in the entire world does it, and it seems pointlessly petty not to allow it. This is already a good game, but it would be so much better if you could customise it to your own tastes a bit.
IT'S MY LIFE
However, for all these flaws, this is an engaging version of Monopoly. It's still not as much fun gathering around the monitor with a few friends as it would be just to get the board game out, but the characters (you really do get to hate Mobile Michael after a while) and the presentation make it much more fun to play by yourself against the computer than any previous incarnation.
It's a great time-killer, too - if you've got 25 minutes to hand around in, for example, just pick a few opponents, set the 'Short Monopoly' clock to 25, and play the special game in which you each get dealt a couple of properties at the start and then have to simply be the richest at the end of the time limit.
There are loads of different strategies for this variation, it's surprisingly frantic ('Never mind the bloody auction, get a move on and land on Park Lane!'), and it's kept me happy for a good few days now. As such, it's the first computer Monopoly there's been any point in buying, and I recommend it.