Boom Street is a strange game - it comprises of pure board game related action which sounds tiresome as a video game but it proves to be very enjoyable and strangely compulsive.
In essence Boom Street plays like Monopoly plus.....plus share trading, forced property buy-outs and other extras like vacant plot development etc. It's themed around the Mario and Dragon Quest universes which makes for an unusual but pleasing feel as they make strange bedfellows. I have no experience of the Dragon Quest series but the sights and sounds on offer look like there is a ton of fan service for those who have.
Despite the inevitable dice rolling mechanic it comes across as a game of skill and those looking for a light family board game need to be aware that this is no Mario Party - there are no between round mini-games and no tedious text mashing or long animations to sit through either. This is a game that takes a bit of investment in time to get it but when it clicks it proves to be quite addictive.
The aim of Boom Street is to amass a target amount of wealth made up of cash,shareholdings and properties. There is an option to end the game when a set number of players go bankrupt with the winner being the richest at that point. One of the key mechanics of the game is the ability to make investments in your own and opponents' properties - which results in dividends from collected rents but also big earnings (or losses) from changing property values reflected in share values effected by development and share trading.
There are 18 boards (12 plus 6 locked) and their layouts are not simple circuits. There are lots of split paths so that even the roll and move playstyle requires some thought. To earn a salary and level up , players must pass through 4 key squares positioned around the board and return to the bank square so you are forced to visit most parts of the board.
Each board has its own features that arise from the clever use of layouts and the positioning of key squares which means that while certain tactics will apply generally, you will enhance your chances of winning by applying strategies pertaining to each layout.
All of the boards have unique backgrounds based on the Mario and Dragon Quest games but they have no impact on the gameplay which has gathered some criticism from reviewers - all they do is provide a change of scenery and background music but they at least provide some variety to the overall look of the game as you progress.
Online and local single and multi-player modes are supported but ror some reason the local multi-player mode has no mid-game save. Some review sites have stated there is multi-player mid-game save - there isn't - so be prepared to play a game in one sitting.
This is understandable in online mode but it's an odd design decision to not have the option in local multi-player as a game can take a couple of hours and a mid-game save option is available in the single player tour mode. While in the multi-player and online modes you can instead take a break and select "Out to Lunch" which lets the CPU take over for a while - and you can select a playstyle (more of these play styles are unlockable.) Examples of these are "aggressive", "timid" etc. - or you can select which opponent character you will be less/more aggressive with.
The single player tour mode requires you to play 12 boards finishing each with a minimum rank position. Being sucessful in this will unlock a further 6 boards so you have to play single player mode quite a bit to unlock all of the boards but mercifully there is a mid-game save option. Even more mercifully the CPU moves happen quite quickly and there are options to speed it up even further.
Even the default speed is quite quick once character chat is switched off so beginner players might feel a little bit overwhelmed by it all but you soon catch on. There is an excellent tutorial mode and also a simplified rules option to help get you going but it should only be used for learning as it removes a lot of the skillful and more interesting elements of the game.
There is a free play mode in which you can lower the target fund needed to win - shortening the game time but lessening the skill factor.
A board game site should actually review this as it is in essence a "pure" board game albeit one that would be a chore to play as a physical game since the CPU does a lot of calculations (e.g. return on investment on opponents' properties you have invested in, property value growth after investment etc.). This is a true "video board game".
By all accounts this game series has been going strong in Japan since the SNES days and the design of the user interface is very slick which indicates that this is the product of many iterations. The board view and menus are very well laid out and it's actaully a pleasure to use such a well though out scheme. (By the way there is no Wii waggle with this game - the remote is held in the horizontal position like the old NES pad).
Boom Street also has a wide selection of characters from both universes to use as avatars and while in Free play you can select your character, in other modes you only play as your Mii. To introduce a bit of variety there are lots of costumes, animations and mascots etc. to unlock in the single player tour mode which you can use to dress your Mii up with.
Online mode only allows you to display emoticons as a way of communicating with other players which is a shame - this was the game to actually implement Wii Speak with properly which really would have added something to the online experience. The usual friend code system or anonymous matching at global or regional level is available.
Graphically this game isn't exactly stunning but everything is clear and the characters and boards are well presented. It has a pleasant look overall. Sounds are quite low key and the soundtrack gleaned from both series adds some fun as you spot the little jingles that pop up with different game events.
Boom Street isn't recommended for all but for anyone who enjoys the board game mechanic that is a step up from the simple roll and move game, this is an unusual and enjoyable proposition.