Monopoly Family Fun Pack PS4 Review

Monopoly Family Fun Pack
Ubisoft

I have a rocky relationship with family/kids games. The simple fact is that, for years, most games directed at younger players were bad to horrible. They were often spin-offs of kids movies (let me tell you about the self-torture of playing through “Megamind” someday) or Saturday morning cartoons. They had no real creative purpose; clearly existing more as a marketing tie-in/cash grab than anything else.

They had all the creativity of a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy. Sometimes less.

Over the last few years, something happened, primarily in two franchises developed by people who recognized that modern kids don’t need to be talked down to and that a game is going to be much more successful on every level if it can appeal to the parent and guardian as well as the child. And so we’ve been treated to some truly excellent “LEGO” and “Skylanders” games (for the record, “Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes” is pretty great too). The tide was turning and gamers of all ages were better for it.

Sadly, every once in a while, we’re struck by a relic of the older age of family gaming, such as “Monopoly Family Fun Pack.” Depressingly thin on gameplay, remarkably slow even for a game that has fans willing to accept a more deliberate pace, and simply not as inventive as it should be, this is a true disappointment—it’s a title that I kept wanting to enjoy, given my love for the classic Hasbro title on which it’s based, but that I never could.

Why It's Important

One of the reasons that Monopoly has remained such a board game staple for decades is that some genius at Hasbro got the idea that the core foundation of the classic title was just that—a core foundation. They built on Monopoly by licensing out versions often related to pop culture like “Star Wars” or “The Simpsons” but also dedicated to sports franchises, cities, and even ones that could be personalized to the individual player.

Monopoly became an industry that I don’t think anyone was really expecting, rekindling interest in the original title by keeping it fresh and new for generations for whom Boardwalk and Park Place were relics of their parents’ generation.

Why It's Frustrating

And that’s what’s so frustrating about “Monopoly Family Fun Pack”—it feels like a relic. The graphics, the gameplay, the pacing, the online functionality, the lack of depth—this would all be right at home on the PS2 much less the PS4. It feels more like a contractual requirement, as if someone at Ubisoft had to make a Monopoly game in 2014 just to keep the license, and so they did.

The core of the game is traditional Monopoly with a video game flourish. The city comes to life in 3D representations of classic Monopoly locations. So, when you build a house, a graphic represents the structure instead of a little green plastic thing. And yet even these graphics feel unrefined. Yes, there’s customization of the basic game, allowing for house rules and pacing issues. The game also encourages online play as AI play is glacially slow. Not knowing anyone with the game and having difficulty connecting to the servers to play with strangers, I played a few games with AI opponents that took a stunningly long time.

What's Different

The same holds true for “Monopoly Deal,” a bizarre new game which merges card gameplay with the core dynamic of Monopoly. You draw cards from a deck and some are properties while others allow you to collect rent or other fees from other players. I can’t discern any strategy in this game. It feels entirely random, like watching someone else play their own, made-up version of Monopoly because they lost the actual board.

There could still be a great Monopoly video game. Find the wit and charm that went into some of the licensed pop culture iterations like “The Simpsons Monopoly”. Allow players to completely create their own games, and not in the perfunctory way like they can here but I’m talking “Little Big Planet”-level design tools.

Monopoly isn’t going anywhere. But Ubisoft needs to remember why that is.

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