Review: Mafia Wars

Like WoW for MMOs, Mafia Wars seems to be the social game that all the others aspire to be and, for the life of me, I can’t really figure out why. I don’t even know why I play the damn thing… and yet I do.

There isn’t really a story per se, there are cities with ‘missions’ and sometimes bosses to kill. The story, such as it is, is one of coming up from the street to a position of power and this repeats itself city by city, which feels like it doesn’t make sense since you’re already a kingpin in New York – why would you start at the ground floor elsewhere? Any pretence at any sort of coherent story kind of goes out the window when you realise that your 500 strong mafia are engaged in combat armed with plasma rifles, riding Tuk-Tuks and accompanied by a sack full of scorpions.


You click, repeatedly, on a task until the bar gets all the way to the right. Then you buy some items with the money you’ve made and do the same thing all over again. Many, many, many times.

Click, click, click…

Please refer to the aforementioned comment about plasma rifles, Tuk-Tuks and scorpions. While the artwork is atmospheric and helps create a sense of place and criminal enterprise it’s completely at odds with the sheer ridiculousness of everything else about the game.

Lovely illustrative pieces for each section of the game and each city, but completely wasted on such an uninvolving game.

I have no idea why I play it, it’s really not that good, still I do keep playing it so it must have something going for it.

On the plus side:

  • Pretty set-piece graphics.
  • Lots of players.
  • You’ll play it for ages.

On the minus side:

  • There’s really no depth to it.
  • The combination of factors rapidly becomes ludicrous.
  • You won’t really know why I play it either.

Style: 3
Substance: 1
Overall: 2

Review: War Metal – Tyrant

Tyrant is another social gaming CCG, similar to Warstorm but, frankly, not a patch on it. Tyrant is, apparently, a sequel to another game and is set years after the conclusion of the plotline in the previous game. This may be the key as to why I haven’t had such a good experience with this game as compared to Warstorm, but I don’t think that’s the whole story here.

Tyrant isn’t particularly well explained but the story appears to be a multifaceted conflict between Imperial forces, rebels against those imperial forces, strange and corrupted people and an alien invasion of some kind. While there is story text it doesn’t particularly grab you and is a bit too spartan to explain what’s really going on. There’s a level of assumed knowledge of the game and the setting which is fair enough for a sequel, but it doesn’t really advertise the fact and if you don’t know what’s going on you simply get bewildered – not that the plot is necessary, but it’s a nice thing to have.

You collect cards, purchased with money made in game by completing missions or duelling. You can mix and match different cards under commanders from the various factions and you don’t need to stick to faction lines, though many special effects that commanders have only affect their own faction.

Where Tyrant diverges from the similar game I reviewed, Warstorm, is in that you do have a measure of control over what goes on in play. From the next three cards to be drawn you pick the one to go out. This doesn’t really have a huge impact tactically and your choice of cards is far more important than the order that they’re played out in in most circumstances.

Point and click, then hit ‘fight’.

There simply isn’t a lot of atmosphere to this game, despite the effort to create missions and a long story thread that goes from zone to zone. This is partly graphical issues – the cards are too small to have the visual draw of Warstorm and they seem to mostly be CGI rather than ‘proper’ art – but also, weirdly, a feeling of greater divorce than what’s going on with your cards, even though you’re directly involved in selecting what goes into play.

The cards in Tyrant are small and pokey and, as a result, lack visual impact. The fact that so many of them are CG is also a factor. CG doesn’t always look bad but combined with the small, pokiness of the images it just seems flat and lifeless.


Not as good as Warstorm.

On the plus side:

  • You’re involved in the battles.
  • Lots of factions to choose from.
  • Threaded, long, story battle themes.

On the minus side:
Pokey graphics.
Card abilities don’t seem to make a huge difference.
Slow to reward play.

Style: 2
Substance: 3
Overall: 2.5

Preview: Invaderz Pocket Edition

The Invaderz Pocket Edition is completely written and the art has been commissioned. Hopefully it’ll be out before the end of the year and as well as being a prettier, tidied up version of Invaderz with some more editing, it also has some new material.

Here’s a couple of examples/Previews:

Hamstoid Minesweeper
Hamstoids are one of the most profligate and widespread species in the universe thanks to their short lifespan and fast breeding cycle. Several Hamstoid worlds have come under Jerkian control and the Jerkians have been presented with something of a problem in that Hamstoids breed so fast that they cause population pressure issues. To alleviate this the Jerkians have instituted Hamstoid death camps, mass sterilisation programs and a special-service program in which Hamstoids act as minesweepers and demolitions experts by virtue of setting the explosives off wandering through them.

Despite their lot in life Hamstoids are unfailingly chipper, up-beat and optimistic. Something that infuriates all other races that come into contact with them.

Meat: 2
Brain Meat: 2
Expertise: 2
Luck: 5

Hamstoids are good at Pissing People Off.

Standard Equipment
Hamstoid Minesweepers receive no base equipment other than a T-shirt that reads ‘Disposable’ and their Electroshock Torture Collar which can be activated at any time by any Jerkian member of the squad. A.R.S.E. units do not have Torture Collar authority.

Hamstoids are so cute that they tend to be targeted last by any enemies opening fire on the squad or otherwise trying to harm them.


  • The Emperor wishes you to carve numerous Jerkian swear words into the cropfields of the Earthian farming regions, simply because it amuses him. This may expose you to danger from alien animals, air forces and farmers, but his will must be done.

100 permanent staff, 1 giant brain, 10,000 trainees at any one time.
The planet itself is telekinetic and psychic, capable of defending itself from outside attack, if not from the Jerkians.
Crania has a turbulent atmosphere with a great many lightning storms. The facilities cling to the surface in a number of low domes.
Crania is completely covered by a vast single organism, a massive ‘brain coral’ that covers it entirely and which has been subjugated by the Jerkians through the use of massive transmitters that rebroadcast the Earthian television station ‘Fox News’ on the psychic band if the planet gets out of hand. Its natural, psychic, background radiation helps create the new Brainiacs.