When someone described Boom Street to me as "Monopoly with Nintendo characters", I wasn’t exactly excited to try it. Actually, saying that something’s similar to Monopoly is among the quickest ways to completely unsell me on a game’s concept. In my eyes, the world renowned boardgame of real estate magnates is less of a game and more of a teaching tool that can be used to have kids learn some basic, far-reaching principles which get used in other games. As it turns out, the comparison is valid, but extremely reductive. It’s rather like saying Chess is ‘like’ Checkers: They use the same 8×8 board, players take turns, and when certain pieces reach the end of the board, they become more powerful. In this scenario, Boom Street is Chess to Monopoly’s Checkers, and I really quite like it.
I wasn’t even playing on a board before it became apparent that Boom Street is considerably deeper than what I’d been led to believe. Upon selecting to play alone, Boom Street presents the player with the option of either Easy or Standard rules. Easy, as the name suggests, is an option for beginners and is an experience closer to the standard ‘buy real estate, invest, collect from players landing on the square’ model. It’s not so similar to use the houses and hotels system of investment, instead allowing you to invest a number within the maximum capital that can be invested in a square, which increases the value, in turn affecting the price of what people pay when they land on it, which is a product of the value plus how many consecutive squares you own in the block together.
When the Standard Rules option is highlighted, some scrolling text states something about using the rules that fans have enjoyed since 1991. So the first thing I learned was that this game has some kind of pedigree, even though I’d never heard of it before. A brief googling reveals that the reason for this is that the series has been exclusively Japanese until now and was developed by the Dragon Quest designer, Yuji Horii. So that accounts for the fact that half the roster being Dragon Quest characters, while the rest are Nintendo characters, presumably because they want the title to be a success on the Wii. The other thing that the scrolling text told me, was that the Standard rules involve districts, and a stock market revolving around them. This fact alone should tell anyone that Monopoly has nothing on Boom Street.
While the stock market aspect adds an extra dimension to the game, most other aspects remain the same. All players start out at the bank, and the objective is to be the first player to arrive back at the bank with your net worth over a set amount. Scattered across the board are the four icons of the suits in a deck of cards, and all you need to do is pass them to collect, then make your way back to the bank with all of them to promote your level and earn some money, rather like passing Go. The other Monopoly similarities involve rolling dice (though in this case it’s just a single die, though it strangely can go up to eight), landing on an unowned square to purchase it, and Chance cards take the form of Venture cards. Owning multiple properties within a given (colour-coded) district increases the the cost if an opponent lands on it, but doesn’t actually increase the value of the shop itself, so doesn’t have a direct impact on your Net Worth, which is what it all comes down to. Your net worth is calculated as the sum of the value of all your property holdings, the value of your stock holdings, and the amount of ready cash you have. Having stock in a district where a payout is made via a player landing on another players shop/square will entitle you to a portion of the dividends, which is around 20% of the transaction (though this happens on top of the transaction, not eating into the money changing hands, weirdly.)
Buying stock or investing in a district, will drive the stock value up, which is enough of a reason to buy stock wherever possible as the dividends they pay, and insider trading is a legal and crucial strategy (though I’d caution anyone against trying it in the real world). Simply buying stock in a district you own, then investing heavily in a shop in that district (thus driving the stock price up) and then selling the stock to cover the investment retroactively will cause a nice boost in Net Worth that will be crucial to stay competitive against the harder AI.
Among the game of real estate and stock trading is the Venture Card spots (which are also triggered by landing on the Suit squares), Vacant Lots, an Arcade, and a Take-A-Break square, which will close all your shops for one turn. The Venture Card squares allow you to pick a square from an 8×8 grid, which will be an arrangement of 64 of the possible 128 Venture Cards, and could involve you losing money, gaining money, warping somewhere, or many other things, like calling in a cameo with presumably Dragon Quest characters, Lakitu, Heal Slime, or a Goody Bag, which will run around the board for a while doing something specific to themselves. The Arcade involves a few basic minigames which will earn someone a little bit of money depending how they play out, by either betting on a slime race or by the luck of where a dart lands. Finally, the Vacant Lots allow you to build a structure of your choice on them, with their own specific properties. My favourite was the checkpoint, which causes opponents to pay a toll when they pass through (regardless of whether the land on it), and each time someone passes, the price rises by 10.
The boards are usually pretty large (particularly in the third, unlockable tour) and have curious ways of allowing you to navigate, sometimes moving sections, or wrapping around by some magical door. One level is made out of four island circuits, which would disengage if someone landed on a button switch, leaving players stranded on the island they were on at the time, with the only way of getting off being by a warp square, or a kind of ferry service. Movement isn’t always predetermined in Boom Street, and you usually have the option of what path to go down when presented with a fork, though you can’t turn around and come back the way you came, and in certain situations a path may temporarily unavailable simply to stop players from taking safe loops on the board and forcing a stalemate.
The Bottom Line
Boom Street is the most action my Mii or even my Wii have seen in a while, and I’m glad I gave it a chance. If you need a game to chill out with but still want to be presented with critical choices to forge a path to victory, then this is a good one. If you have need of a game to fill in some family (that is to say, G-rated) fun time, then this game will really shine, and I have no problem recommending it, as it even supports multiplayer with a single Wii-mote.