Games that revolve around being a badass man (or woman) of business are not entirely unknown in the industry. One of the most famous, Monopoly, has been in existence since the Great Depression era, where people realized that bankrupting their friends made for a fine social event indeed. As the medium of gaming evolved from the tabletop to the desktop, the quest for success in the make believe business world came with it. There have been electronic Monopoly games, but also a number of others such as SimTower, SimCity, Railroad Tycoon, and more where the object is to keep yourself and your fictional enterprise out of the red.
Striding in amongst these well recognized names is a game that is experiencing its first incarnation in the virtual realm. The name of the game is iNetMania, a digital version of the popular ServerMania board game, and it has been released for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The game itself plays similar to ServerMania, which has a definite Monopoly style flair about it. This familiar format thankfully makes the game one that is easily picked up. Once the game boots up you are initially treated to the handsome looking logo screen before you jump right into the heart of the matter: the options screen.
First and foremost is the Rules screen, which teaches you the ins and outs of iNetMania in both text and pictures. The object is simple: each player is the owner of a fictional website and you must earn more money and attract more visitors than the other guy. It sounds simple in theory, but the accomplishment of the goal is actually a lot trickier as you can see from the rules. As you move around the board you will land on various squares, each of which have a specific effect, be they positive or negative.
The Payday card, for instance, grants you an instant cash bonus just for landing on it, even if you are only passing over it as you move to another square. There is also the infamous Stuck square, which is just what it sounds like: you pay 50,000 dollars or roll three or less on the die to get out. If you don’t do either of these you’re not going anywhere. Also thrown into the mix are the Slump or Spikes cards which act as forces for good or evil; a Spike card can bring with it additional money or visitors whereas a Slump card can easily take all you’ve earned away with it.
In addition to selecting the rules you can do a variety of other things. You can start a new game and create a profile that will track your play history or just hit QuickPlay if you want a game to go. Both game modes support up to four players and can either be human or computer controlled. Each player can be given its own computer-inspired playing piece, six of which are made available right off the bat, and four others which will be unlockable as you go along in the game. There is also the globe of the world as an option which will probably be the one everyone ends up fighting over. The pieces have been designed so that they almost seem to have a life or their own.
Mentioning the pieces brings us to the topics of the graphics. Anyone who owns either of these pieces of gadgetry know that their graphical ability is nothing to sneeze at, and iNetMania makes full use of their potential to produce a very colorful and solid game. The graphical touches are very engaging in ways such as how the piece hops from one square to the other, or how they do a little jig or jump up and down when landing on a square that has some kind of reward. My favorite piece of animation in iNetmaia has to be the dice cup, however. At the start of your turn a large hovering dice cup will appear and, by shaking the Ipod, you can cause the die inside to rattle around before upending it and letting it fall to the board but never off the table. The little graphical tricks are a large part in what make this game so much fun to play.
Now seems a good time to talk about the games’s difficulty because this is an area where many board games don’t transfer well: Stratego, for instance, was a particular horror because the computer player always made a beeline right for my flag. iNetMania only has one difficulty setting but thankfully the odds between winning and losing are more or less evenly split. The only thing keeping yourself from gaining victory is that mystical quality known as luck; sometimes you’re going to be at the top of the heap and sometimes you’re going to be left falling down flat. That’s how all games are, but luckily, it’s a part of the game that’s balanced enough so that while you may lose this time, you’ve got just as much chance of winning the next.
There’s another component of this luck equation that bears mentioning as it can have a critical effect on the gameplay: marketing. All successful companies these days have solid marketing teams that they use to get ahead, and your fictional company in iNetMania is no different. At the start of every turn you have the option to pay a sum of money to Marketing before you roll. To a lot of gamers paying out money to something you can’t directly see may seem like a waste of time, but on the contrary it can be a lifesaver. As you go around the board you will encounter these Marketing squares from time to time. If you land on them when you have paid for Marketing, you will get an increase in visitors whereas, if you have not, your will suffer a serious drop in visitors. The usual rule is if you can afford it, spend the cash, but it can easily tip the balance between losing and winning.
The audio score is also a factor that also adds to the engrossing quality of the game, from the clicking sound made by the pieces as they move around the board, to the sudden electronic chord you hear when your luck has taken a turn for the worst, to the rattling and bouncing sound your dice makes when it makes the transition from cup to game board.
All of these elements combine together to make a game that is simple yet engaging and, above all, addicting. If any iPhone owners have wished to have old time tabletop gaming feeling in a bright colorful package, then iNetMania is a sure bet.