Right, so Boom Street is the Australian and European title for Fortune Street which is itself the American title for the Wii incarnation of the previously-Japanese exclusive board game series Itadaki Street. It's the first English translated incarnation of the series, which apparently means it deserves three names. Boom Street combines characters from both Nintendo's Mario stable and Square-Enix's Dragon Quest in a battle of property buying and share prices. This may sound like a strange idea to our Western sensibilities, and to be honest, it is.
Well, alright. It's actually not too far removed from probably the most classic board game out there - Monopoly. Four players have to move around the board collecting four suits (spade, club, diamond and heart) before being allowed to return to the bank (the start) and collect a paycheck. On the way, players land on properties (stores) which they can buy and use to collect money off any other unfortunate players who happen to land on them (somehow becoming compelled to spend their hard earned cash in the store). As the game progresses, more and more squares are taken, stores are improved to raise money harvested off other players, and the game's pace increases until finally someone reaches the required amount of money to win the game.
Actually getting to that point is the trick, and mark our words this is a game that will test your patience. For the first couple hours of a normal game, the pace is very slow indeed, as players creep across the board and superfluous dialogue and text prompts keep popping up. When playing in local multiplayer with three friends, this is understandable as everyone has to have a go and see what's going on, but when playing through the game's single player mode the lack of a fast forward or skip function can get annoying really quickly. As you're the only real player among four, it means you're watching the computer play with itself 3/4 of the time, which doesn't exactly make for tense or exciting gameplay. While online play is an option, we found it difficult to find anyone to play with, and when we did matches tended to be cut short by players leaving early.
With that said, the Boom Street board game itself is well made. The 'Easy Mode' feels a lot like Monopoly and is indeed quite easy to get into, while playing with the normal rules adds 'districts' and a stock exchange. Districts are groups of properties on the board whose value is determined by the price of stores within them. You can buy shares in these districts and then improve the properties within them to drive their price up. It's actually a fun way to gain a basic understanding of the stock market, and there are plenty of strategic ways to play it in the game.
Being a video game board game as opposed to a board game board game, there are some gimmicks thrown in to take advantage of the digital format. An arcade can be landed on that launches a range of mini-games, although most of them rely on pure luck. One features a 'Slime racing' game that sees players choose a Slime from a starting line-up, then watch as they run an obstacle course completely controlled by the computer, and we got flattened by a boulder within the first ten seconds every single time. Luck is always a factor in board games, but we still wish players had more control during these mini-games, perhaps in a Mario Party-like fashion.
There are several boards to play on, each based on locations from the Dragon Quest and Mario series, with bright colourful graphics and decent representations of characters from both worlds. While some boards feel similar, others have their own quirks that make them stand out, such as one with a rotating island of squares that can become a death-trap for anyone who gets stuck there among high-value properties. There are plenty of items to unlock - all of which are used to dress up your in-game Mii with various costumes. It's not the greatest incentive to spend hours in the main 'Tour' mode of the game, but it's something at least.
If we haven't made it clear, Boom Street can be an incredibly slow experience that many will simply not have the patience for. However, the fundamentals of the Itadaki Street board game are actually pretty solid, and if you stick with it for a few games you'll likely start enjoying yourself more and more. It's a shame that all the digital window dressing doesn't help the game's pacing or add more interactivity, but we still think that there's a niche audience out there who'll be able to put that aside and enjoy the game with a few friends. Boom Street may not be for everyone, but it's certainly not bad either.