Monopoly was Sterns first pinball machine designed by a 'famous' designer: Pat Lawlor, which used to work at a competing pinball company before: Midway/Williams. Pat designed The Addams Family and Twilight Zone pinballs, two top-selling and now still popular games. Because of his track record, people probably expected the Monopoly pinball machine to be at least that good.. so expectations where high, even though Pat Lawlor told people in advance at Stern at that moment it was not possible to create a complicated machine like Twilight Zone. Even though the design came from an ex-Williams employee, the game still was built by Stern under Sterns rules. So when the Monopoly pinball game was released, some people were disappointed. The game was not a new Williams pinball game, it did not look or feel that way, it wasn't a spectacular successor to a Pinball 2000 machine or something like Monster Bash or Cactus Canyon. It was an improvement to what Stern had made up to then, but was not the revolution some people were hoping for.
So don't compare Monopoly to the pinball games Williams made in the late nineties and which almost all became collectibles and looked and played fantastic (Monster Bash, Cactus Canyon, Medieval Madness, ..) or even more recent pinball games by Stern (Simpsons Pinball Party, Lord of the Rings, ..) which have much more complicated rules or nicer artwork.
Some parts of the artwork are nicely drawn. The cabinet artwork is excellent,
and I also like the the backglass. However, the pinball playfield art looks not finished
or a bit too simplistic. The drawings on it are simple but fit the theme well.
The biggest problem in my opinion is that there are too many plain colored parts without any artwork on them. The backside of the playfield is a bright red rectangle. Underneath the entrance of the clear ramps there's no drawing, just a green and pink color. Why have clear ramps if there's nothing interesting to see through them ? The large outlanes also look plain.
Compare the playfield art of Monopoly of any other modern pinball machine, and on the others you'll find no empty space, no plain colored parts, and hidden details or even hidden jokes just everywhere.
If I would own a Monopoly pinball machine, I would make a backboard decal for it and also try to make a decal for under the ramps. Just having something there would dress up this game very nice and make it look more attractive.
The pinball machines I compare Monopoly best with are Whirlwind and Funhouse. Games made more than 10 years before, simple rules but a lot of fun, and on which other excellent Pat Lawlor games are based (like The Addams Family).
I like Whirlwind and I like Monopoly a lot. I like Monopoly even better. There's more to do, more to shoot at, and the playfield design is just a little better.
Its playfield layout is similar to that of Whirlwind or No Good Gofers. Bottom left side has a scoop, a small railroad ramp (which returns the ball very fast to the flippers) and a set of 3 bumpers. At the top left there's another set of 3 bumpers. At the bottom right of the playfield is a small rotating flipper which kicks the ball out of a saucer. On top are 2 ramps (in a similar position as on No Good Gofers), returning the ball to the left and right flipper. One entrance is blocked by a moving door (bank vault). Left to it is a short 'Go' lane which returns the ball to the right side of the playfield, and it's blocked by a drop target. Lastly there's an upper right flipper which shoots the ball at a steep ramp entrance to the left ramp. Balls are locked at the bottom left of the playfield.
Game rules then. In the middle of the playfield is a Monopoly board drawn. Each color group of properties starts a mode. You advance places by shooting ramps. Shoot the GO lane to roll the dice. The position you end on will start the mode.
Similar to Whirlwind locking pinballs is easy to do, just shoot the ramps enough. However when multiball starts, earning a jackpot is done by shooting the steep left ramp from the upper flipper (similar to The Addams Family). Relight the jackpot by shooting the railroad ramp and then go for a double jackpot.
This game has a wizard mode. It starts once you've collected every property on the Monopoly board. It's a timed multiball in which you have to build as many houses and hotels as possible.
You have several options when you launch the pinball. The real skill shot is to plunge the ball softly in the saucer near the rotating mini-flipper. It is however also possible to launch the ball a bit further so it'll immediately fall into the 'Go' saucer. And lastly you can just plunge it all the way around the playfield into the bumpers. It just depends how far you are in the game and what you still need to complete.
I really love the playfield layout of this Monopoly pinball machine. This is not a game in which you can just shoot the ball somewhere as hard as possible. You have to aim very careful, and soft shots and quick reactions are also necessary.
The only disadvantage are the shallow rules. The game is a bit repeating,
as there are not that many modes and you have to start them all. And once that is done
and you've played the wizard mode, it just starts over again.
As far as I know there is only one goal you work to: like in the Monopoly board game you have to acquire all property and then building houses and hotels on it. I think that if there was a second goal or wizard mode, which needed a different strategy (so you either go to own it all or go for this other thing, but not both), the game would've been much better. (ok I know you can shoot the bank door a lot if you just want to earn many points)
Now I find Monopoly to be an average pinball game: not the best ever, not a bad one either, with a good playfield layout but rules which just don't hook you enough. It's made in 2001 and would've been the best game of 1991. I played it a lot for a while, but don't know if it would hold my interest enough if I had it for a year or more. Although maybe I'll consider buying it if I find it for sale at the right price.
You just have to play Monopoly (a lot) and learn to appreciate the game and its playfield layout. But it's probably not a 'keeper' pinball that will keep your attention for many years.. although I say probably..
I don't own a Monopoly pinball machine but did have one in my gameroom for about 2 months.
And I loved it, I played it almost every day.
Prices in Europe for this machine are around 1500 to 1900 euros. Which is low for a machine of only 4 years old. So compared to other games you can buy for around that price it's good value for money, although for a bit less you can pick up a No Good Gofers which is much more fun (good jokes) and has better music. And a Whirlwind will cost you even not half as much (in Europe only a third) and is almost the same fun.
Things to look for when buying
The bank door gets a beating, and its optos need to be aligned correctly or they don't register hits well.
This is not the first time Pat Lawlor designed a Monopoly game. Safe Cracker was originally meant to have the Monopoly license.