I’m not a huge fan of standard Monopoly, as I find it to be a very outdated design that’s far too reliant on the luck of the dice to be enjoyable. Another facet that ruins the experience is player elimination – it’s no fun to have to sit out for potentially hours of gameplay while the person who’s clearly been winning for the duration of the game continues to very slowly whittle away at everyone else’s funds. Sure, played with the original rules (including auctions and definitely not including daft house rules that some people swear are the correct rules, such as placing tax payments on free parking to be collected by the next player who lands there) makes the game marginally more enjoyable, but the fact remains that there are thousands more games on the market these days that are filled with much more interesting gameplay that’ll keep everyone involved and engaged right until the final moments.
However, I’ve also been quite impressed with the more streamlined versions of Monopoly that have been released in recent years, which eliminate that pesky player elimination problem and also bring the game to a conclusion with a defined end point that everyone can aim for. The Gamer versions of Monopoly, such as the Super Mario and Sonic variants, see players defeating bosses on their journeys around the semi-familiar but simplified board – with the game ending when the final boss has been defeated and the winner being the person with the most coins/rings. With a power up die to also add a bit more variety and unpredictability to proceedings, along with individual character powers, it’s an excellent way of modernising the game without taking away the basic feel of Monopoly.
The Pac-Man version of Monopoly does something similar, with the game ending once all property cards (here they’re Levels, numbered 1-16) are owned. Whoever has the highest score at that point is the winner.
However, what this version has that the Gamer editions don’t is a marvellous little Pac-Man arcade machine. It’s not just a game of Pac-Man though – it also keeps track of everyone’s score and takes care of all in-game transactions too, using plastic coin tokens to track who’s playing the game and how they’re doing.
Passing Go no longer sees players collecting a set amount of cash (or in this case, points). Instead, players get a 15-second game of Pac-Man, complete with the familiar sound effects and music, in which they have the chance to rack up as many points as possible before the time expires. For ancient gamers such as myself, the novelty of doing this never seems to get old, though it can be a bit of a pain for players either unfamiliar with Pac-Man or if they’re just not very good at it – it’s no fun to keep losing your mini-game too soon, as you’ll have little chance to catch up with your score on the main board otherwise.
Other neat changes see power pellet spaces added, as well as power ups, with maze tunnels added where the stations normally sit – these allow players to jump from one side of the board to the other – and a Ghost pawn who moves around the board, taking a small bite of a player’s score if they land on it, or if it lands on them.
The overall look of the game is wonderful, with a very old school Pac-Man vibe throughout. The Pac-Man and Ghost pawns feel solid and look beautiful – and the player coin tokens, used to activate the arcade machine and perform banking tasks as well as play the game, are a superb touch. The arcade machine itself is a striking, wonderful addition – though it can be a bit tiresome when it takes longer to sort a transaction out using the machine instead of just handing players cash or properties – and it’s easy to forget to use it for things such as properties changing hands, for example.
The reference cards that remind players of what the new spaces do – and shortcuts explaining how each transaction type is done using the machine – are an excellent idea, but the card they’re printed on is cheaply perforated and very thin, which feels like an unnecessarily cut corner given the nice production values on display elsewhere in the box.
I’ve found that the endgame, despite having a finite point, can sometimes drag too – as players seek to roll the exact number to land on the final property and end proceedings.
However, despite the game feeling somewhat gimmicky and the arcade machine being a little unwieldy to use for every single transaction type that crops up in-game, it’s a very appealing idea and it’s so cool to have a little game of Pac-Man included. Though it’s obviously a very basic LCD version, the sound effects and music give it a wonderfully authentic, very nostalgic feel. Definitely one for Pac-Man fans – though it may well prove a little frustrating for players unfamiliar with the little yellow dot muncher’s antics.
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