Not long ago I used this space to suggest that game playing on the 3G iPod nano, 5G iPod, and iPod classic was an underwhelming experience. I would now like to modify that opinion. That modification comes thanks to Apple and Electronic Arts making a version of Monopoly available for the iPod. This $5, 21MB version of the classic Parker Brothers game—available from the iTunes Store—works remarkably well on the iPod.
And it’s no surprise that it does. Monopoly has been available for years to just about every PIM and smartphone known to man. The people behind coding this thing for mobile devices understand how to put board games on the small screen and make them enjoyable. Plus, the clickwheel is a perfectly acceptable input device for this kind of game. Push Center to toss the dice, scroll through a revolving selection of options—End Turn, Manage (for buying houses and hotels and mortgaging properties), and Trade.
And, in my view, that’s where the crucial difference between a workable and not-so-successful iPod games lies—the clickwheel. Sure, the size of the screen is also going to limit the enjoyment of an iPod game—there are some games that have too much going on to be manageable on an iPod—but those games that depend on an accurate input device (and yes, I specifically mean arcade games) are going to lose something in the translation. It’s just too easy to swoop your thumb a little too far or fail to click Center quickly enough for a shoot-em-up or side-scroller to work as well as it does on a computer or console.