PLAY FOR TODAY: VIDEO GAMES / AARON BURGESS

Column #14: Monopoly Streets, and more
Kinect entries than you can shake a bundle at, including The Biggest Loser:
Ultimate Workout, Dance Central, Kinect Sports, EA Sports Active 2 Bundle,
Sonic Free Riders and Kinectimals. Incidentally, don’t miss the debut of “Play
For Today – The Print Version” in the Fall 2010 issue of BLURT, on newsstands
now.

 

By
Aaron Burgess

 

 

Monopoly Streets

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii

Developer/Publisher: Electronic Arts

ESRB Rating: E

 

Even
before coming to current-generation consoles, the classic board game Monopoly
already existed in dozens, if not hundreds, of different incarnations around
the world. But slapping a new skin on a rosewood game board and transporting a
board game to a new medium are two very different tasks, and with Monopoly Streets, EA has done Monopoly
fans proud.

 

At the
most basic level, the game plays just as you’d expect: You “roll” the dice with
your controller and move from Start to Start again, strategically picking up
properties along the way. As your opponents follow suit, they pay rent upon
reaching your properties, and the last one to survive the loop without going
bankrupt-jail, Chance, Community Chest and other diversions notwithstanding-is
the winner.

 

Of
course, how you achieve these goals
in Monopoly Streets becomes quite a
different experience when you get behind the controller. First, there’s the
board itself: You can move throughout a 3D version of the classic game board,
literally experiencing everything from to Mediterranean Avenue to Boardwalk as a
living environment. There’s not much depth beyond the idea that, “Wow, so this
is what Park Place
looks like in 3D,” however, so the game itself doesn’t change in the process.
The elements of Monopoly Streets that you can control, on the other hand,
really add something to the experience.

 

 

 

Monopoly Streets technically legalizes all the annoying
cheats your kid sibling used to get around the standard rules-but it does so
within tight boundaries. You can create custom games that follow rule sets you
lay down, or choose from multiple default game settings (including, as purists
will be glad to hear, the standard version). Once you’re in, you play by the
new rules-and for those who’ve always found Monopoly to be a little too, er,
monopolizing of your time, speed  games
like “Bull Market” (which limits the duration to 20 rounds) let the game adapt
to your attention span.

 

Unlike
the board game, Monopoly Streets also
lets you play against the computer – a rather fair, if easily overtaken, AI – but
you’ll have the most fun playing with friends either locally or online. And
even though you can tweak the settings to suit your ADD, Monopoly purists will
be glad to know that Monopoly Streets,
like its real-world sibling, can also go as long as your stamina can handle it.

 

Rating: 8/10

 

 

 

Kinect, Connect, Kin…

 

Microsoft’s
Kinect sensor launched earlier
this month, essentially negating the need for a controller while adding a new
piece of hardware to your Xbox 360 console. Games for the peripheral have
already started to come our way faster than we can review them, so in the
spirit of staying on top of our options (read: overwhelmed by choice, tired
from playing), here’s our look at some of the better Kinect games on tap for
the holiday season.

 

 

The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout

Though
it launched alongside a Wii-ready sibling (The Biggest Loser Challenge),
this fitness game based on the hit TV series is in a class by itself for
Kinect. Offering over 120 different exercises, The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout tackles every inch of your
flabby, overweight frame, aiming to get you into shape via a progress-based
regimen that tracks what you’ve done; maps out where you’re going; and even
fine-tunes (via 50 in-game recipes) what you put in your belly.

 

 

Dance Central

Where Dance Dance Revolution keeps you bound
to the foot controllers, Dance Central forces you to match that fancy footwork
with an equally full-bodied sense of rhythm. The first mat-free console dance
game “reads” your body as you move in front of your Kinect, keeping the pressure
on you by flashing on-screen prompts that coordinate into complete
dance-routine challenges. The game offers a solo workout mode that tracks
calories burned, but it’s a lot more fun with a room full of friends and a lack
of inhibition.

 

 

 

Kinect Sports

We
know, you’ve been to the Wii
Island and conquered
those challenges, but there’s a big difference between flailing around with a
remote and using your entire body to fill a 3D space, and Kinect Sports bridges that gap. This means that track-and-field
events-while limiting you to run in place-require you to keep all four limbs
going, while both soccer and bowling require precise coordination across more
than just the limbs where you move the ball.

 

 

EA Sports Active 2 Bundle

For
those who find Kinect Sports to be
too lightweight, EA’s first Kinect-powered sports entry brings a legitimate
personal trainer into your living room. The circuit-training game tracks your
progress via wireless leg- and arm-strap motion sensors and a hear-rate
monitor, delivering real-time feedback on your goals as you play. You can work
out either alone or with friends, basically eliminating the need for another
gym membership after your holiday binge this year. 

 

 

Sonic Free Riders

Every Sonic the Hedgehog game pounds you with
enough light-speed action that you want to get off the couch and into the
game-a state that Sonic Free Riders is all too happy to accommodate. The racing game throws you onto a hoverboard
(look down and imagine it), which you zip, grind, sail and boost through a
dozen-plus beautifully designed tracks while lobbing attacks that keep your
opponents in the trailing position. Yeah, you’ve seen a similar Sonic ride on other consoles-but you’ve
never felt it until now.

 

 

Kinectimals

Hooray
for those of us with pet allergies, because Kinectimals is the soft, saccharine-sweetest we’ll ever come to interacting with real, live
furry critters in our home. It’s clearly aimed at the youngest Kinect users,
but the game frees players of all ages to collect, train, nurture and (of
course) play with a menagerie of wild kitties. Though playtime is fun enough,
thanks largely to an array of minigames, the wide-open environments make it
easy just to get lost in the wilderness with your Kinectimal.

 

***

 

Our game guru, Aaron
Burgess, lives digitally but dreams in analog down in Round Rock, Texas. Contact him at first2letters@gmail.com  / AIM: First2Letters

 

 

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