Monopoly Here & Now
It's a good mobile translation, but does it matter?
Monopoly Here & Now from Glu Mobile is going to be, I believe, a bit of a thankless mobile release for the company. It's like, you could create the absolute greatest mobile version of Monopoly possible, and nail all the little details, but it's still just Monopoly. The source material inherently limits how enjoyable the final product will be, especially when compared to Glu or any other publisher's original AAA releases. It's a similar situation to mobile Solitaire releases in fact, which is a large part of the reason Modojo has declined to review them, in the past.
Still, for the most part Glu has nailed the feel of the game quite well, and a few ingenuitous (it is a word, right?) menu and game design choices ensure a smooth-playing experience. For starters, the game zips right along, as long as you mash "ok" to skip all the little animations (dice & character movements, etc). It still took me a half hour to take down three AI opponents, but considering all my memories of the physical boardgame involve quitting in frustration as the game entered hour 12, I'd say that's pretty damn good.
Trading, mortgaging, and other complicated (but necessary) tasks are also addressed with more elegance than I expected. At first the trading screen is confusing as hell, with (seemingly) random colored squares and symbols everywhere. Glu included lots of documentation with the release however, and after reading through it all I realized that the trading screen actually provides a surprisingly efficient and succinct summary of everyone's position in the game.
Although Glu got far more right than wrong, there are a couple of small stumbles. The AI, while fairly vicious (even when set on easy), sometimes exhibits some quizzical behavior. In one game in particular, a character kept offering me the same trade, over and over, with only a slightly varying amount of money. But there was no logic to it, it seemed. You'd think after I declined for the 10th time the AI would offer double the cash incentive or something, instead of offering a nearly-identical offer for attempt # 11.
I also can't help but wish more multiplayer options were included. Up to four players can face off in a pass 'n play mode, which is fantastic, but some online implementation would have been cool. Since the games can sometimes run long, how about a "play by email" system where game progress is stored online over a period of days or weeks? You check in once a day, take your turn, and then close the game back down.
Here & Now, by the way, is licensed from the new board game of the same name. Everything has been modernized - play as a RAZR or laptop instead of a top hat, collection $2M for passing go instead of $200, etc. The biggest change is to the locations themselves, however. We now have Times Sqaure and Fenway Park, instead of Park Place and Boardwalk. As far as I could tell there were no additions or changes to the game's actual rules, leading some cynical observers to question how Hasbro's release is anything other than a money grab.
Ultimately I enjoyed Here & Now more than I expected to. The local multiplayer is great, and eliminates all the physical set-up, mess, etc. You're in the game in seconds. The solo play, thanks to a (generally) smart AI, is also engaging. I encourage mobile gamers to not pass on this one just because it's Monopoly - you might be surprised at how much you enjoy youself.
What's Hot: Gameplay speeds right along. Intuitive, comprehensive trading screen.
What's Not: AI sometimes seems wonky. Limited multiplayer options.