Speaking of Monopolies…

Well, as I’m sure you all know by now, this Thursday the 25th marks the release of a major new piece of software that some say is a godsend and a breakthrough, others say will waste untold hours of computing productivity, and virtually all agree is an extension of America’s most dominant monopoly. Yes: (I mean, what did you think I was talking about?)

It would be nice to believe that Monopoly Tycoon’s new release date was indeed an unusually witty corporate joke, but the truth is that publisher Infogrames originally wanted to release this new “competitive sim game” late last month but postponed, and probably genuinely picked 10/25 because they figured lots of people will be roaming CompUSA that day. But, while this title has some corporate smarm in its DNA, it also has concepts and gameplay strong enough to get me excited about it. And I don’t get excited about PC games much anymore. (When I do, I almost always note it here. Folks who don’t follow video-gaming press should also check out . Would you believe that one of the most anticipated holiday releases for the Game Boy Advance is a turn-based wargame?)

Monopoly Tycoon lets you play one of seven characters based on the Monopoly tokens (boot, top hat, etc.) and sets you loose in a SimCity-type landscape based on the Monopoly board. Boardwalk and Park Place are blocks next to the river in a tony part of town, whereas Baltic Avenue is across the river in the sticks. You develop businesses and residential complexes, and they interact with each other interestingly, but I wouldn’t be writing about this at all if it weren’t for the fact that the other characters – and in networked games, other players – are in there with you, placing competing bids for development rights and generally trying to mess you up. That’s cool. Gameplay doesn’t really have much to do with Monopoly, but speaks to the kinds of urges you always have when you do play the original: “What do you mean I can only have one hotel? I wanna build a shopping mall!” Not sure what the hardware reqs are on this – no Mac version, of course – but I’m just hoping to Uncle Moneybags I can run it. (And no, I don’t mean Bill.)