Licensed games demand competence, not originality. In theory, the license is bringing in an audience that may be unfamiliar with video games, so there’s no shame in playing it safe. That’s the approach Scarface takes, offering a competent Mafia Wars-style crime game that doesn’t have much to offer to gamers.
You play as Tony Montana, the anti-hero played by Al Pacino in Brian DePalma’s remake of Scarface. (Fans of the 1932 Howard Hawks movie are out of luck.) A recent Cuban immigrant, Tony starts off scrubbing dishes in a Miami restaurant, but after a few text pop-ups he’s on his way to fame and fortune.
A series of jobs guides you through the game. You spend half your time in various neighborhoods, clicking on locations with arrows over them. Clicking earns you money and experience points as you watch a tiny Tony gesture or recite a line from the movie. There are only four or five animations and quotes, so you’re likely to get tired of them before long. Fortunately, each click also costs energy, so you can take a break from clicking and hearing Tony talk about his word (among other things) when the energy runs out.
It’s the smart thing to do.
The rest of your time is spent in your ‘Empire,’ a blank neighborhood that you fill with a mansion and various businesses. Fans of the movie may want to carefully design their cityscape, but most gamers will just slap down whatever they need to finish the current job.
Businesses generate cash at regular intervals, while mansion parts increase Defense. It’s unclear why you need Defense, since there’s no Player vs. Player element. There are robbers in the game, but they never actually take money from you. Both businesses and mansion parts can be upgraded, which takes time and money but increases their yield.
The game loosely follows the storyline of the movie until you reach level 10. You’ll do jobs for Omar, build up your reputation, meet and woo Elvira, and gun down rivals. Movie fans will enjoy recognizing lines and characters, but it’s disappointing to see Tony ‘fly to Bolivia’ by clicking a car near the airport. The limited game engine makes this a static world, where you can kill the same person over and over, but you can’t go inside a building.
As is typical with Mafia Wars-style games, the cost of doing actions rises as you level up, so you can expect to pay thousands of dollars for a new suit just so you can go for a ride in a car. Time to scurry back to your empire and harvest those businesses!
Then the storyline runs out, and you’re left with a few jobs focused on expanding your empire. Suddenly Tony’s friend Manny is telling you to build a furniture store, because ‘people around here love nice furniture.’ It seems like a bit of a comedown for a drug kingpin to worry about the furniture business, but what else is there to do?
This is also the point where the building requirements become outrageous, demanding items five or 10 levels above your current level. You can spend money via in-app purchases to accelerate your progress, or you can grind your way to the dollars and levels you need. Our guess is that most gamers will drop the game long before that.
There’s nothing wrong with Scarface. It’s a little silly to be able to assassinate the same victim over and over again, but that’s typical for the genre. If you like building a little crime empire, you’ll have fun with this before hitting the inevitable paywall. Everyone else can say good night to the bad guy.