A crude but straightforward depiction of the game aspect of capitalism, the original Monopoly—essentially unchanged since Parker Brothers first published it in 1935—forces its players to put their money to work, rather than focus on simple accumulation. For the ever-decreasing pool of Americans whose financial situation doesn’t entail choosing between buying groceries and paying off their credit card, the game articulates three essential keys to capitalist victory: (1) buy land, (2) out-invest your opponent but leave aside enough cash for chance, and (3) get out of jail free.
Oddly, but perhaps appropriately, the latest video-game iteration of the Parker Brothers classic begins by treating the player to a dreary, yet gnawingly perky orientation video, as if the path to Boardwalk and Park Place begins with an initiation into wage slavery: filling out I-9s, W-4s, enrolling in direct deposit, signing off on zero-tolerance policies, etc. Even before play begins, Uncle Moneybags, the game’s instantly recognizable mascot, gives an endless introduction that can’t be skipped, which is both the first clue as to what’s wrong, as well as the most telling: All of the problems that sink the game are connected to on-screen avatars and their voices.
What happens on the board itself is actually just a simple matter of pushing the pieces in circles, tossing the die, and maintaining an account of cash reserves and property.
Monopoly Streets offers two basic modes: a classic view that recreates the board as a board, and a “Streets” version, a 3D walkthrough that resembles a day at a Monopoly-themed amusement park. Regardless of which mode is chosen, the players are represented on screen by horrifying animated figures: a stuffy British sea captain (think “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”) if you choose the battleship, a little demon girl (think The Bad Seed) if you choose the shoe, a vivacious housewife if it’s the wheelbarrow, etc. Worse than their image, scraped from the depths of the uncanny valley, is their sound: preverbal whoops, grunts, and delirious cackling, which becomes intolerable just a few minutes into the game.
All of this flash-bang fails to hide the fact that the most elaborate aspects of the game take place in the player’s mind as they make management and investing decisions. What happens on the board itself is actually just a simple matter of pushing the pieces in circles, tossing the die, and maintaining an account of cash reserves and property—none of which warrants the garish spectacle that seems to be Monopoly Streets’s only reason for existence. If you’re hard-up for a video-game replication of the Depression-era classic (it does benefit from easy-access accounting and a property-trading function), minimize the pain by muting your television and gluing your thumb to the “Skip” button.