Monopoly Zapped

Date Wed, July 25 2012

Monopoly zAPPed

Monopoly zAPPed

Hasbro has tried to enter into the digital era with its classic board games before, but the effort hasn’t always paid off. The so-called electronic editions swapped cash for debit cards and a somewhat-smart card reader, but it proved to take more effort and frustration than it was worth, in my opinion. Similarly, these readers make it much more difficult to use flexible rules, which it seems like most people do. For example, we always put $500 in the middle and add our taxes and payments to the pot for the next person to land on free parking. You probably do something similar, to be honest.

Monopoly zAPPed suffers from some of the same limitations, but there’s a whole slew of new problems, because the manufacturer has finally decided to let us player with our Apple devices. Read on, if you want to know why I think the idea is good but needs some fine-tuning.

Hasbro tried to give the entire game an update. The board now has rounded corners, but I think this gives it a very punched-out-of-carboard-right-off-the-assembly line look. The properties have the same names, but the art is changed, too. There’s all sorts of rounded corners and gradients. It’s very Web 2.0, you know, five years too late.

The pewter pieces have been replaced by small plastic pieces, so you can actually only see which piece it is from the right angle. We had a ton of trouble with this, often moving the wrong piece and not realizing it for some time. The same idea could be done a little better, with colored bases for example, even if the vertical part of the peace remained a clear acrylic. Similarly, the dice are clear with silver pips. Silver. It’s so hard to see. I wound up playing with Collin, and he downloaded a dice app to his phone. Really, that should be part of the Monopoly app anyway. There’s no reason to have physical dice in this game.

Monopoly zAPPed

Monopoly zAPPed

This game uses debit cards, instead of money. Your iPhone or iPad is able to read them due to a special reflective paint on the back. There’s only four included, so I imagine you’ll need to purchase add-ons if you want to play with more people. The cards are already a bit difficult to work with, so I store them in their plastic sleeves in which they came. You’ll need to be careful. I’m pretty sure that, if you play this game often, you’ll soon have even more trouble playing, but I’m getting ahead of yourself.

The houses and hotels are vibrant, translucent red and green. They use the same shapes as usual, and there’s nothing memorable about them, except that they don’t quite seem to match the rest of the game.

Starting Monopoly

Starting Monopoly

You have to download the free app from iTunes. This game doesn’t have an Android app. I’m not actually sure if the devices use the same sort of screens so that the cards would even work. Once you download the app, it’s easy to use, I’ll give it that. You start by loading existing players– the game keeps track of cards and pieces–or adding new ones. That the app remembers, is awesome. Adding new ones requires you to type in a name and pick a piece. Then you hold their chosen card against the game to register it.  The cards don’t have chips, but each uses a different pattern of paint, which lets the app recognize it. There’s no chips, so even my second-generation iPod Touch was compatible; although, not ideal (more on that in a bit).

The app stores all your data, though; the card doesn’t. You’ll have to repeat this action whenever you need to make payments, and it quickly becomes frustrating, because you often have to hold your card multiple times. The game includes a spot in the center for your iPad or iPod, and there are these little foam stickers that you add to the board to hold it in place.. except they don’t work at all. Plus, you’ll probavbly just wind up passing around the smaller iPhone or iPod for every person to use on their turn, which is what we did. I wound up being the banker and dealing with everyone’s debit cards as well. It was just easier.

Get out of jail

Get out of jail

So, roll your dice or  use your app and move your piece. Then, you have to use the app to purchase properties, pay rent or taxes or pick up your Chance cards. The payment is a little annoying. Like the other electronic versions, the cash was quicker. However, the app does add fun mini games, which appear when you want to get out of jail or pick up a Chance or Community Chest card. They add a little something different to a game that is monotonous for many. You can try to fling Mr. Monopoly over the wall to make a jailbreak or fix all the windows in an apartment building before your opponent does. With multiple players, you get to pick who you play against, which is delightfully evil. However, my iPod Touch just seemed too small, and it slid across the board. I spent as much time holding it down as I did playing.

Monopoly Zapped Action Screen

Monopoly Zapped Action Screen

While the debit cards went digital, the properties did not. I’d like to be able to scan them and have the app remember them. As it is now, you can end a game early, but you have to enter which person has every card, the number of houses and whether or not it’s mortgaged. It’s a hassle, and I imagine that most people will wind up walking away without determining a clear winner.

In fact, I’ve not been able to finish a game, because my iPod’s battery isn’t very good. Even starting with 75%, I wasn’t able to finish. Because you can’t scan the cards, you’d still have to write down what everyone has as far as properties if you wanted to finish the game later. In fact, you really should be able to do that. I think that Monopoly zAPPed only fails in that Hasbro didn’t go digital enough. In the age of QR codes and NFC and Bluetooth, the company could have done more. Sure, fewer people would be able to use it, but the reflective paint only serves to be frustrating right now. I can use it on my iPod Touch, but I don’t think that I really want to. This game is obviously intended for an iPad, and that will make it easier and more fun. Still, it needs some revisions before it’s really the best example of how technology can enhance a traditional board game.

2 Responses

  1. amanda August 10 2012 @ 11:09 am

    wow this is different looks kinda cool.

  2. Steph August 29 2012 @ 3:27 pm

    Great review and it covered off many of the frustrations I felt playing the game. This game could have been improved on much more – hopefully Hasboro can update their app and make the game even more interesting and fun (ie Free Parking). Simple App updates (ie more mini games, electronic dice) would solve a bunch of issues and make the game so much better. Definate challenges with the scanning of cards as well.

    That said, my kids love it and don’t even notice the downfalls of the game so on that note I’d recommend it.

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