I knew this one girl in high school—let’s call her Betty. Now Betty, she liked to take control. In Monopoly, I mean; I don’t know or want to know about any other areas in which she liked to take control. She loved rolling the dice for everyone, taking and receiving money for everyone, moving everyone’s pieces, and even yelling at whoever was too busy having fun to pay attention to her. Monopoly was not so much a game to Betty as it was strategic warfare, and she sucked all the joy right out of it.
You’ve played Monopoly with Betty before—I know you have. Everyone knows a Betty. Action Video Monopoly is your Betty-alternative. Instead of playing against obnoxious human players, AVM allows you to play against nondescript computer opponents, ones who won’t get irritated if you get up in the middle of a game to get a handful of pretzels and a Mountain Dew. The game is also multiplayer, so if Betty was actually around you could play with her; but why do that when you can play with CPU opponents?
AVM plays like your standard board game version of Monopoly, assuming your standard Monopoly game abides completely by the game’s official rules—there are no “house rules” in AVM. One rule that threw me off was “any property landed on but not purchased is immediately auctioned off among the players”, and there’s no doubt other quirks you’ll notice if you play. If you’ve never played Monopoly before, you should be able to pick it up just fine with this title, watching your computer opponents and following their lead.
One thing you’ll want to do right away is set the game to “quick mode”, as watching the computer roll the dice, move its pieces slowly, and take its maddeningly-long time to buy houses and trade with other computer opponents isn’t particularly exciting. Setting the game to quick mode reduces the game from around an hour to maybe twenty minutes. Which is, of course, about a couple days shorter than what real-games of Monopoly run for.
If you want your game to go even faster than that, there are several scenarios loaded into the game for you to play out. Scenarios wherein everyone starts out with lots of money and lots of property, lots of property but no monopolies, few property but nice monopolies, etc. These games can end in minutes, and they’re actually not as fun as regular ones just because they go by so quickly. Plus, what’s the fun in starting with Boardwalk and Park Place, anyway?
Action Video Monopoly has one of the two features that all respectable portable games need: Multiplayer on one cartridge. (The other feature, the ability to save anywhere and at any time, is completely missing, as is the ability to save itself.) You not only share the cartridge, but the actual system as well, passing it off to one another when it’s someone else’s turn. If you’ve got a friend with a Game Boy and a copy of the game you can link up for two-player action, but I doubt you could’ve pulled that one off even in 1993, let alone 2006.
Some could argue that AVM features the perfect soundtrack for a portable game: The game’s totally silent. No tunes play during gameplay, and its sound effects are absolutely minimal, meaning you can watch Mammaltoes the Turdburglar on G4 without missing any integral parts of the game.
Also, while on the topic of aesthetics, both the “action” and the “video” parts of this game’s name are nowhere to be seen, unless the game’s talking about its standard animations of a racecar driving across the board at a decidedly not-racecar speed. That’s not something you wanna advertise in a game’s name, though; it’d be like calling Super Mario 64 “Super Oh My God, There’s Animation!” The graphics are about what you’d expect from a game called Monopoly, putting them slightly below what you’d expect from a game for the original Game Boy.
For a round of Monopoly on the go, you’re not gonna do much better than Action Video Monopoly for the original Game Boy, assuming you haven’t bought a new portable gaming console in the last fifteen years. It’s easier to deal with than its portable board cousin, and the game itself is much faster to play through than the real thing. Plus, there’s no clean-up, there’s no hunting through property cards for the one you just bought, there’s no not being able to play because one of the cards is missing.
And, most importantly, there’s no dealing with Betty.
As far as board games go, Monopoly is one of the best, and this portable port is spot-on. The only things I’d like to have seen are more players (c’mon man, we can handle “Pass the Game Boy” with more than just four people) and an ability to alter the rules, and maybe AI that’s slightly less irritating (as un-lifelike as that’d be). Other than that, Action Video Monopoly is surprisingly worth the three bucks it fetches on eBay, and it’s a great cheap game to play with your family on those wonderful four-week driving trips to Utah.