Product: Omnipoly
Publisher: Personal Computer World
Compatibility: BBC B/B+/Master 128
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #46

As gaming Electron owners will be aware, no conversions of the official Leisure Genius series of computer-board games available for the BBC were ever produced for the Electron. Scrabble can be played on an Elk fitted with a Mode 7 adaptor but unfortunately Monopoly, Cluedo and Kensington require too much memory to allow any compatability. Therefore, Elk owners are restricted to second rate rip-offs of these popular games. But if you've ever longed to bankrupt a friend via your trusty Elk then you may like to know that there is an extremely professional "conversion" (and by putting this is quotes I really mean one of those afore-mentioned rip-offs!) of the old favourite Monopoly called Omnipoly available.

Originally published in 1983 by Personal Computer World, it appears at the very end of the book Software For The Electron and was also available on cassette with the rest of the programs by mail order at the time. Plainly, the authors had 'saved the best for last' as it is not only the longest and most compilcated program but, by their own admission, a piece of software which "rivalled" commercial versions. Using Mode 5 and complete in one file, Omnipoly displays a colourful screenful of the playing board identical to the original and marked with all the usual stations, utilities, properties and pitfalls you're used to; all with the same names. Indeed, so accurate is the conversion that even the "Chance" and "Community Chest" cards are reproduced in full and in the same quantity. The text is cleverly formatted so each letter is just three pixels wide and text is properly centred and easily understood.

Unfortunately you can't play the computer (Would this be asking too much?) so you have the immediate problem of each person in essence taking their turn at the keyboard. In addition, you can only play against one other person whereas the board game offers a total of six players in competition. And there are no characters to play with (the good old boot, ocean liner, car, top hat, etc); instead the first two letters of each player's name represent them on the board.

Also Omnipoly is fairly slow to play and it becomes laborious with usually only the RETURN and "Roll Dice" key being pressed for minutes on end. Even a Turbo Board doesn't erradicate the problem and where landing on "Go To Jail" on the original board allows you to simply pick up the piece and place it on the jail square, this computer version moves it square by square which is time-consuming and unnecessary.

Using the four-colour-only Mode 5, you may be wondering how the seven colours of the properties can be supported and an interesting method is employed to get around this problem. The board itself is in just green and black with initials to abbreviate property names. The Omnipoly menu, of which key "1" rolls the dice, also has the option of "View Properties" and by selecting this, the title deeds to each property the player has bought are scrolled through one by one. So with a green and black background and a white title deed, the remaining colour is then changed to the colour of that particular property and displayed in exactly the same way as a Monopoly title deed card! Inspired.

Also on the positive side, the computer is the bank and will not listen to any grasping bankrupt's requests to defer payment - so you really do play the game strictly by the rules. This also thwarts any unscrupulous player from 'borrowing' money when the other isn't looking! It also remembers that whenever doubles are thrown (two dice with the same number), that player is entitled to another go - something I frequently forget when playing the board game.

The Auctions are not supported, although I personally don't use them when playing the original. The student rule of money collected from fines and taxes being placed in the centre of the board and then won by anyone lucky enough to land on the "Free Parking" space is also missing.

However, the code is well put together with menus, title deed and card representations sharing the centre of the board. Each player's money is shown in digits whenever rent must be paid or they are using a menu, and the keyboard buffer is emptied regularly to prevent two keypresses from accidentally skipping a turn.

So although it might be a tad slow, on the whole I would conclude it is definitely worth a few moments of any Monopoly-fan's time. It may not be able to compete with the family-basis of the original but it is a superb rip-off which an official conversion would probably fail to better. And it does bridge the gap of the missing Monopoly conversion when board games such as Blockbusters, Bullseye and Countdown are available!