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Game Reviewed: Mafia Wars
Platform: Facebook (also on MySpace, Tagged & Yahoo!)
Category: Social Games
ESRB Rating: N/A
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Mafia Wars is one of the few true hits in the history of social networking sites. It has taken both Facebook and Myspace by storm, and it does not take too long to see why. Though it starts off slow, like most Facebook games, it speeds up as you progress in the game. It is a never-ending game and it continues to expand; there are already three different locations to run your mafia and there are two entire new areas in the works right now.
The game is rather simple at first glance, but its simplicity masks its true depth. You start with a few basic stats: energy (which you need to do jobs and rise through the ranks), stamina (which you need to fight other players for money and loot), and influence (which you need to run legal and illegal businesses and get rich or gain boosts). These things regenerate over time, ensuring that you cannot keep playing for too long at any one time: eventually you cannot do anything and have to wait for everything to recharge (a typical feature in social network games, this provides a steady pace to the game, as well as making sure you do not waste too much time on it at any given time). Each action gains you experience, which allows you to gain a level when you obtain enough experience points. You can then put skill points into various aspects of your character (like how much energy you have, how good your defense is, or how much health you have): this allows each player to tailor the game to his/her preferred play style. Your community of friends is extremely important in this game as well: your friends (referred to as your mafia) help you in fights and send you bonuses, making your fellow mafia-playing Facebook friends an integral part of this experience.
The actual gameplay of Mafia Wars is simple: you press buttons. Like many Facebook games, the actual interface only requires the player to press a button to carry out a particular action, then the game tells you it has been done and you get the reward. For instance, you see a job that says “Rob a bank,” and it lists the amount of money you will get from it, the amount of energy it costs to do the job, and any other information you need to know about it. There is a button that says “Do job,” so you click it. Then a screen comes up that tells you what you got from doing the job. Everything in Mafia Wars is done in similar fashion, simply pressing a button to carry out various tasks.
Mafia Wars is one of the more well-designed Facebook games I have ever played. But I do not even need to point out the potential problems with a game of this subject matter; the criminal underworld is hardly a kid-friendly place.
NOTE: Mafia Wars is an absolutely huge game, and it is simply impossible for me to experience every aspect of it (unless you would rather this review be posted in a year or two); as a result, if any of our readers know something about the game that is not present in the review, please let us know so we can adjust the review.
What Parents Need to Know
Many mentions are made to killing (usually in some form of slang), usually in the form of a job that tells you to kill someone (jobs are done by simply clicking a button: this is never seen or actually done by the player). Though there are a few “battles,” in which the player controls his actions turn-by-turn, no violence is ever actually seen. When you fight another player and bring their health down to 0, you are congratulated for “icing” your opponent: the game keeps count of how many players you have done this to.
There is no foul language in Mafia Wars.
One of the rackets you can run is a strip club: this is done simply by pressing a button, so nothing is really shown, but the picture representing this racket includes a shot, from behind the waist down of a girl in a thong next to a pole. This is the only sexual content I discovered, though there are two related rackets that are unlockable by mastering the strip club (Massage Parlor and Escort Service)
Nothing here beyond some un-notable special Halloween items.
Most of the activities in Mafia Wars are illegal, and many include references to gambling or alcohol (in-game, of course: nothing in Mafia Wars requires you to actually perform illegal or inappropriate activities in real life). There is, of course, a severe ethical question to almost everything in this game.
I was hesitant to start playing Mafia Wars when a friend told me to start. But when I was asked to write this review, I tried picking it up. It now takes up quite a bit of my time on Facebook. It is surprisingly deep and the role that friends play in your success makes for a very interesting social experience. I have found it to be very enjoyable, and a great way to waste a couple of minutes at a time.
But of course, the very nature of this game is one big moral red flag. The game does a good job of actually portraying very, very little in terms of visual content, but it still puts you in the role of a Mafia don: a person who kills, steals, and cheats his way to the top.