Developer: Massive Damage
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime: Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Pocket Mobsters takes the Tiny Tower formula of sticking the free-to-play simulation game in a charming pixel art style, while throwing in some good old-fashioned light-hearted mob violence. Players try to become the best mobster in town by doing RPG-style battles and comical shakedowns of business owners to increase one’s infamy and fortune. Yet, critical rebalancing of the game’s energy mechanic is neessary before this game can be one worth recommending.

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Players have a map of locations that feature shakedown opportunities or enemy fights, needing to complete missions that usually involve fighting certain enemies or doing x number of task y in order to advance the story along, level up, and get that sweet scrilla. The game is supposedly set in Prohibition-era Chicago, which is where I live (but not when I live, thankfully), and I was a bit freaked out at first to see that the in-game buildings were all named after locales near me. Like, how did they know?! Well, after a minute my brain recalibrated and said “Hey Carter, they’re probably just basing it off of real-world location, that it’s a game based off of Chicago using Chicago locations is a coincidence.” Thanks, brain! Still, it’s kind of funny shaking down people at the bar next door to me. They know what they did.

PocketMobsters-12That the combat and shaking down is based off of somewhat skill-based mechanics is a refreshing change of pace from the current slate of free-to-play simulation games. The coins one earns from the shakedown sessions is based on how well one can play that minigame. The turn-based combat features a lot of randomness, and is definitely designed to sell the “happy juice” (clearly in the shape of a Jack Daniels bottle) for healing. However, it has a nifty turn-based RPG mechanic to it. At least there’s more going on here than in others in its genre. Plus, the global chat idea is cool; using tokens that can be bought to send messages is not.

The game needs some serious rebalancing, however – the energy in particular regenerates so slowly that it’s not really possible to do much without waiting for an absurdly long time, and even then some fights require more energy than others, which is just a bigger insult given the slow recharges at launch. Items to recharge the meter are expensive too: basically, a dollar to refill the meter based on mob bucks prices at launch. Energy mechanics are annoying but are clearly here to stay for the time being, I get that. I would appreciate if developers made them not be so terrible, though.

While I can’t recommend Pocket Mobsters at launch due to the energy balancing issues, this is worth keeping an eye on. There’s an interesting game here, it just might take some re-jiggering to get it out.

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