| Goodfellas

Who says crime doesn't pay? Apart from possibly your parents and the local constabulary, everyone knows it does. Why else would so much of it take place?

We're not saying it's easy or glamourous, mind, and it's far too much like hard work for the likes of us.

For instance, we've never had anyone come up to us and tell us about a lorry carrying hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of diamonds that's an easy hold-up target. (More's the pity.) Nor have we ever lived in the world of Goodfellas, a gangster sim that places you in the shiny wingtips of a mafia goon in 1940 and leaves you free to progress your career in crime as you see fit.

Based loosely on the movie of the same name, Goodfellas could quite easily have been called Mafia Tycoon, such is the business management style of play. Run via a main screen that enables you to carry out your illegitimate activities whilst keeping an eye on the speakeasy you call your office, there's little of the whacking and extorting in this mobile game that you might expect.

Instead you pick the jobs that are on offer and then assign one of five henchmen to go out and do the dirty work. As you and your boys successfully accomplish more and more jobs, you're trusted with bigger responsibilities: the targets of your thievery, loan sharking and protection rackets all increase in value.

Likewise, your foot-soldiers, who are initially as dumb as posts, become increasingly adept at their jobs, meaning they're less likely to mess up or, even worse, squeal. Either will land you a stint in the slammer, though you can buy your way out if you've got the green.

Managing all this takes place during a weekly cycle where you assign jobs, collect loans and also gamble on the races or boxing matches. At the end of the week your profits and losses are calculated and, if you've got the dough, you can take part in a poker game against the goodfellas of the title.

Three mafia bosses, it's their respect you have to earn by pulling off jobs, earning money and winning at poker. When you've filled each of their respect meters, you're promoted, enabling you to work your way up to wiseguy and finally join the rank of the Goodfellas themselves.

And all this sounds very achievable, until you realise that everything in the game is based on luck. It's all one series of gambles after another. Whereas business games like Lemonade Tycoon rely on you reacting to weather reports and external factors, turning them to your advantage, there's no such forethought required here.

Unless your bar is filled with police, you're free to pick whatever jobs you want to undertake and whenever you want to do them. The only variable is the risk: the greater the reward, the more likely you are to end up in the clink.

This removes almost any tactical finesse from Goodfellas and, ultimately, means it's nowhere near as satisfying to move up the ranks as it should be. Even the weekly poker games fail to satisfy, despite including the capacity for you to cheat by producing cards from your shirtsleeve.

I-Play is to be applauded in taking an unusual movie licence and attempting to do something more than attach it to a vanilla shoot 'em up or action game like Mafia Wars. It also manages to capture the spirit of the film, and its scope, which can see your career span from 1950 to 1990, is equally praiseworthy.

You're left feeling though that I-Play has overstretched itself. The poker element of the game is the thinnest and compares poorly to dedicated poker titles (if you want a dangerous twist you'd be better off looking at The Sopranos Poker). We'd have preferred to have swapped playing cards for an on-the-streets alternative where you can get busy with your Tommy gun, for example.

This would have also solved another problem – that you're very detached from what's going on around you. Most crimes don't need any greater involvement than picking the job, picking the hired gun and then waiting for the money to roll in. At no point do you really feel like you're an integral part of the process.

Goodfellas is an entertaining enough game, well put together and offering something a bit different thanks to the intelligent use of the licence. But it isn't great because there's no progression in terms of skill. There's no learning curve and so it doesn't really reward the more experienced player.

On balance, it all leaves Goodfellas in the position of being an offer you might well choose to refuse.


Goodfellas so badly wants to be a made man, but it veers rather too close to being the patsy