Josh Goldie reviews the Monopoly-inspired party game on the Wii
Boom Street (or Fortune Street outside of Europe) is essentially Monopoly and has everything you would expect from the classic board game, from fortune cards to broken friendships. However the game is not just a Monopoly clone and it adds an ‘interesting’ feature: the stock market. Another of Boom Street’s assets is its noticeable aesthetic: instead of playing as a top hat or an iron, you now get to choose characters from the Super Mario and Dragon Quest franchises. The game has a roster of 27 characters, four of which are unlockable with one being your Mii, so you can play as yourself. The game also lets you pick from 18 different boards based on various locales from the Mario and Dragon Quest series, from Delfino Plaza to Castle Trodain.
This game is fun in the same way that Monopoly is fun and the addition of a stock market really does help to add more strategy to how you play. You can change the rules and length of the match to your liking, but the standard mode has you and three others battling it out on a board in a race towards a target profit. Just like Monopoly, you make money from buying plots of land, shops in this case, instead of streets, and having people land on them. The more shops you buy in one coloured district the more money your shops are worth and the higher your net value. You also make money by going to the bank, much like passing GO in Monopoly, but thanks to the varying shapes of the board you have to collect four suit emblems (heart, spade, club and diamond) before returning in order to claim your money. The stock market works just like it does in real life; you invest your money into the stocks of a particular district and so whenever anyone spends money in that district you make a small profit. Of course, stocks are expensive and it is a gamble; if you invest all your money into one district and it fails, you have lost. It is also cheaper to invest early on when districts are not worth as much so you really have to analyse and predict which areas are going to make the most money, be it your own or your opponents’. Removing stocks can also reduce the value of an area and can be done towards the end of the game to really mess with your opponents, but it must be done wisely, because it can also ruin your chances of winning. If all this seems too complicated for you then don’t worry, the game comes with an easy mode that makes the gameplay just like Monopoly and nothing more.
It is pretty cool being able to see all of your favourite characters from the two series interacting with one another. Each board also has a different set up and a different gimmick, whether it is the board changing shape mid-way through a session, or the appearance of cannons that shoot you across the map. This makes each board play slightly differently and gives you another reason, aside from the aesthetic, to try something new. Each level has music taken from that specific area, making them sound just like the original games. But here is where a problem arises – while the music selection does take from some of the best in each franchise, there is a limit to how many times you can hear the same track over and over again. Each song loops after fifty seconds or so, and in a game that can last up to four hours, it’s easy to see why this grows tiresome. My friends and I just found ourselves turning down the volume as the game progressed. Another disastrous problem with this game is that you cannot unlock anything in multiplayer. The extra boards and characters can only be unlocked in the game’s single player mode and to be honest, playing monopoly on my own for four hours to get one character is not my idea of fun. It seems ridiculous that you cannot unlock anything in the multiplayer mode of a party game and that means most of us will be stuck with the starting roster and stages forever. The graphics also don’t hold up very well – they are especially pixelated and blocky in the menus, which is a real shame.
Boom Street is definitely a fun game to play with friends and is a good alternative to Monopoly, but it is not as good as Nintendo’s other party games like Mario Party and Wii Party. The game does not feel fully polished, with choppy graphics and repetitive music marring the experience. The single player mode can drag horribly, an issue compounded by the fact that players are refused access to unlockables in multiplayer. However, the stock market stands as a strong idea and adds some concrete strategy to the game, and the alternative boards offer a great deal of variety. Ultimately, Boom Street is enjoyable for what it is, just don’t put down your cash if you have a terrible attention span.