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Review: MONOPOLY LIFESIZED, London

Review: MONOPOLY LIFESIZED, London

Go big then go home.

Review: MONOPOLY LIFESIZED, London "Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite." Attributed to Nobel Prize-winning economist and Ali G interviewee JK Galbraith, this is the phrase that rolls around my head as I take on the Crystal Maze-like Monopoly Lifesized, a highly entertaining take on arguably art's single greatest monument to the pursuit of personal wealth.

Ayn Rand may be capitalism's most famous cheerleader but we doubt that her books ever caused the kind of Christmas carnage that Monopoly does; no other game has the power to turn families against each other and cause year-long rifts. It's been around for over a century and has by now colonised seemingly every corner of culture and geography with boards dedicated to pretty much everything and everywhere you can think of.

Considering the money-makers' mantra of "up-sell, cross-sell, re-sell!", an immersive live-action version is a no-brainer. The way the experience has been extended and enhanced is in keeping with the game: land at the Monopoly Lifesized venue and you can trade up your night to include cocktails and food in The Top Hat bar and restaurant. Everything in there has been themed to within an inch of its life - even the tasty burgers come with a branded M on the bun - and it's a vibrant spot to hang out while waiting to start your game.

Back to that Galbraith quote. While the original typically pits solo players against each other, the name of this game is collective teamwork. We all get roles - banker, treasurer, property agent - and have to pick a team name before we are introduced to the hosts, each associated with a playing token and with a related moniker (Boots Forsyth, Iron Gosling etc).

The hosts do brilliantly to settle in the teams and explain the rules. With one host per team, they work their socks off making sure we enjoy our time there and they are truly one of the night's highlights. Before long, we're off rolling the oversized die and landing on squares around the board. Do we buy or move on? Choose to buy and the team are asked to dive into the room behind the square and solve a puzzle in a fixed amount of time. Depending on where you land, you can go to "jail", buy utilities or railway stations to get special privileges or take on a random challenge to rake in even more filthy lucre.

A word of warning: don't underestimate the difficulty of the puzzles as even our team of high-flying techies and bankers struggled to solve them all. The variety of challenges is excellent and we especially liked the bell-ringing, playing with a train set and walking around a study solving riddles. Each of these calls for collaborative working and group decision-making as you race around the board, avoid the properties bought by other teams and build houses and hotels on ones you own.

Monopoly Lifesized might not meet everyone's expectations. The Classic board we were on only had a subset of the properties from the official London Monopoly set but it was just the right number for the number of teams and people involved. The humour can be on the hokey side of wholesome (to wit, the hosts' names); those looking for an edgier experience may want to track down a copy of Pass Out.

This game bills itself as an "immersive" experience but it's no Jumanji: players can pop out of the room at any time and the team-based approach means a psychological step change from the increasingly intense one-against-everyone feel of the board version. The other available game types (Luxury, City and Classic: Own It All) may be more immersive but, for those looking to be subsumed into a new world à la Punchdrunk, the Classic board may be disappointing.

Like the real thing, winning this game is more about lucky die rolls than actual skill (at least, that's what I tell myself when I'm losing). That said, there is plenty of fun to be had here for those ready and willing to engage with this fun setup. To paraphrase another famous academic, this experience is like a sewer: what you get out of it rather depends on what you what you put into it.

Monopoly Lifesized continues at 213-215 Tottenham Court Road, W1T 7PS.

Photo Credit: Monopoly Lifesized



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