Facebook’s growth in India has started to pick up in India the past few months, and with that growth has come new social games from developers in the country. The latest we’ve seen is a Mafia Wars’esque sort of game called Mumbai Underworld, from ibibo, for one of India’s major social networks of the same name. However, while the game is only available on that site, it is connected through Facebook Connect, allowing users to use their Facebook credentials to become part of the ibibo network as well.
Though Mubai Underworld is similar in respect to Mafia Wars, it’s not actually text based (nor does it have missions). Players actually build an illegal business empire through a more visual, virtual space-style means. Nevertheless, while the game may be more visual, it’s not necessarily deeper.
Players start out with a simple terrain full of locked venues. At the start, all players can own is an “illicit” dance bar, though, eventually, they will unlock a shipyard, casino, hotel, etc. From here, everything is quite simple: Open it up and start building oneself up as the top underworld mogul.
This is where the virtual space concept comes into play. Players will earn money periodically by merely owning a venue but extra income can be generated by hiring various “assets.” As far as the dance bar goes, these include pole dancers, bartenders, bouncers, and miscellaneous equipment such as a music system. Each one will “work” for a set amount of time, and the player will be able to collect income from them at varying times (e.g. the pole dancer earns money every two minutes). Once purchased, the assets will also appear in the space, performing whatever animations they have.
Unfortunately, while the addition is great, and can create a wonderful sense of progress, the player starts with so much money at the start that everything that isn’t gated by level can be bought right off the bat. Additionally, the ones that do move are not very fluid; animating at an extremely low frame rate.
Once your dance bar is pulling in its weight, it’s time for the social aspects of Mumbai Underworld. Like Mafia Wars, or any other game of that genre, players can attack, so-to-speak, other players. Oddly, however, those other players are stated to only be one’s friends that play the game, yet we have a few random users we can fight as well.
Perhaps the word “fight” should be used loosely, as it only actually occurs if a “Gunda” is present. What a Gunda is, is a friend who has been dropped onto another player’s property to loot a percentage of its income for about 12 hours. Also, that Gunda will reflect that friend’s level and equipment (some of which can be bought with a virtual currency called iCoins). The only time a fight occurs is if you visit a property and someone else’s Gunda is present or if one invades your place directly.
Regardless of the reason, fights are pretty straight forward. They are automated, with the winner being determined based on the weapons the player owns (which increases their “power”), the current level of health they have, and how many friends they have.
Interestingly enough, there doesn’t appear to be any form of stamina or energy that limits how many actions the player can do in any given session. They can simply play until they run out of money or health, with the latter healed in the hospital. The true limiting factor on game play sessions is actually stuff to do.
Even though there were some random players in our friend’s list, there were only two. There is nowhere to pick fights with other random players of the game as there is in just about every other mafia-style game. Moreover, when attempting to place Gundas in these two random individuals’ dance bars, one of them already had a significantly higher level Gunda present, meaning there was nothing that we could actually do to win.
Yes, one could level up and unlock better weapons, but therein lays another issue. Leveling is painstakingly slow. In a single session, players only garner a handful of experience for the different actions they can perform, and it takes 200 experience just to get to level three. Typically speaking, most games will at least let a user get to level five or six before things slow down this much, in order to hook the user.
Overall, Mubai Underworld is headed in the right direction, and the Facebook Connect integration to ibibo makes it easy for new user to jump in, despite some of the design problems.