Our prior Gaming For Couples articles have focused on “slam dunk” titles – games that are highly likely to appeal to both people in a couple for various reasons. But for this week’s column, I decided to try something different: picking a niche, relatively unknown game that seemed on the surface to be a really good fit for my murder mystery-loving spouse, but didn’t wind up working out. I’m sharing the story because it was a valuable learning experience, and how we handled it might help you get out of a similar jam.
We wound up buying a classic board game she liked, instead. And in retrospect, just doing that in the first place would have been a lot easier. Read on for the story.
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die – My Mistake
On the surface, Access Games’ D4 sounded like a “can’t lose” proposition. Released earlier this year for the Xbox One, it’s a murder mystery with fully 3-D graphics and a modern storyline. Microsoft published D4, and is literally giving it away as one of several Xbox Live Gold “Games With Gold” titles this month. D4 normally sells for $15 on its own, so since a three-month Xbox Live Gold membership is only $20, you get three months of free downloadable software by spending five extra dollars. (Don’t buy them at full price through Microsoft; Xbox Live Gold cards are sold at a discount here, with a current eBay deal taking a one-year membership down further.) I signed up for Xbox Live Gold, got Worms Battlegrounds for free at the same time as D4, and loaded them up.
It took less than 30 minutes to see that D4 was a mistake. How do you play? Well, the developer originally designed it to work with Xbox One’s Kinect for gesture controls, but had to retrofit D4 with an awkward on-screen cursor system when Microsoft de-bundled Kinect from the console. Even after 20 minutes of tutorial-like walking through the controls, my wife didn’t feel comfortable with them, and basically wanted to hand the controller over to me – assuming we wanted to keep playing at all.
Neither of us did. The story was a bit off, the interface clunky, and there wasn’t much room for two players to cooperate or compete. There was no way we’d actually play the game together. We loaded up Worms Battlegrounds to see if it would be any better, but it was full of its own control and story oddities, so fatigue and annoyance quickly set in for both of us. That’s when I pressed the reset button and went for something I knew would work.
Partnered with Hasbro, longtime console game developer Ubisoft has gone completely over the top with its video game adaptation of the classic board game Monopoly. Sold alone for $15 or in a bundle with a custom board creator and Monopoly card game for $30, Monopoly Plus offers two major versions of the real estate-grabbing, dice-rolling table game: a simple 3-D version where a camera rotates and zooms around the original board with stacks of cards and fake cash, and an insane 3-D version that brings the board to life in truly outlandish fashion.
How Do You Play? One to four players can share one controller or use individual controllers, primarily holding down one button to roll two dice before moving a metal avatar around properties on the board’s edge. Landing on an unowned property gives you the ability to buy it at a full price or auction it, prospectively for less. But landing on an owned property forces you to pay a fixed rent to the owner, and the more developed the property is, the better the chance you’ll run out of money and have to declare bankruptcy. The last player standing wins the game.
Although rolling the dice, moving, and choosing to buy or auction properties are the meat of the game, Monopoly Plus includes fairly simple screens to let you add homes or hotels to properties, trade properties between players, and raise money as needed by mortgaging properties or removing houses. Apart from reading on-screen instructions for each of these transactions, they’re easy to handle.
Why Is It Great For Couples? An easy answer: Monopoly’s ubiquitous. Everyone knows generally what Monopoly is, and quite possibly how to play it. Monopoly Plus handles all of the rules for you, and eliminates manually managing cards, cash, and plastic objects from the board game. You can also adjust the rules and settings a bit to increase the pace of the game, which is handy because a single two-player session can run for longer than an hour.
Ubisoft’s visual development of Monopoly Plus from a flat board into an animated, living world is deliberately provocative. Trains, ships, and smokestacks are constantly in motion beyond the edges of the board; a rollercoaster operates in the middle, and the animated presentation of a new property for sale looks like something out of a computer-generated television commercial. There’s nothing boring about this board game; there’s even a voice-over and decent upbeat music to keep the energy level up.
Which Versions Should I Consider? Monopoly Plus is available for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One for $15, with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One multi-game bundles at $30. PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions are listed by Ubisoft as coming soon.
Since the prices for Monopoly Plus and its $30 bundled set are the same across platforms, with the same general graphics, sound, and gameplay, there’s no reason to prefer one machine over the other. You can save a little cash on the PlayStation 4 version by buying a combined PlayStation Network membership card and store credit together from Amazon.