It’s time to take a trip back to 1920’s America with Whiskey Mafia: Frank’s Story, the latest title released by ChiliDog Interactive. We’ll be taking on mobsters, joining local fight clubs and committing a little bit of friendly arson on the rise to the top of New York City. It sounds enticing, but does it hold up in practice?
Predictably, we’ll be playing as Frank. He’s a local postman in Prohibition-era America, who seems mostly content with life, save for the fact that he hasn’t been paid in three months. One day, he meets an old war friend – Leo – who tells him of an exciting business opportunity. From there, things change dramatically for our plucky postman, as he becomes a bar owner, fights mobsters and takes over the town.
It’s a half-decent story, set in an era that probably doesn’t get as much love as it should. Gangsters and bootleggers always make for a good tale after all.
There’s clear room for improvement though. Frank’s Story is a little slow in places, and there are some threads that could have been explored further – like the love interest side-story that ultimately goes nowhere. It’s also hard to follow at times. Whilst I appreciate the developers don’t speak English as a first language, Whiskey Mafia is filled with spelling and grammar mistakes.
And for a game that relies so heavily on narrative, I would have appreciated some more influence in where the story went. There’s only one choice in the entire game – whether to kill a local gangster or let him live – and it seems utterly meaningless in deciding where the narrative goes.
There are significant shortcomings with Whiskey Mafia’s gameplay too. Consisting almost entirely of a few minigames, it’s limited at best and downright boring at worst. We’ll be delivering post for the first portion of the game (exciting!) and serving bar patrons against the clock in the second half. Don’t be fooled though – the bartending minigame amounts to simply clicking on customers and refilling stock.
The only real ‘highlight’ is the fighting portion of the game, where you’re given a little more agency in what you can do. Even then, all it amounts to is dodging bullets and shooting or thwacking goons.
The worst part isn’t how bad these minigames are, it’s that you need to sit through them multiple times to progress the story. You’ll need to deliver post four(!) times before you can get to the next part of the game. And once you get there, you’ll need to do the equally tedious bartending minigame a number of times. At least here, it’s broken up by those relatively enjoyable fighting sections.
It probably wouldn’t have been so bad, had the minigames been developed in any way. At present, once you’ve played them once, you’ve seen everything there is to see. Making them get harder as time went on, or adding in a new mechanic could have at least added some variety to the gameplay.
In the grand scheme of things it’s a relatively minor element, but Whiskey Mafia’s sound design is great. The music that accompanies our adventure is really well done, and fits the 1920s theme perfectly. At times, it’s even pretty catchy – a nice change from the irritatingly repetitive music that indie games usually have.
ChiliDog Interactive are quickly making a name for themselves as one of those developers notorious for easy Gamerscore. Whiskey Mafia is no different. You won’t even need to play the entire game – which is only about an hour anyway – to earn the full 1000 Gamerscore.
However, if you’re not on the lookout for a quick top-up to your Gamerscore, I’d recommend giving Whiskey Mafia: Frank’s Story a miss. It gets points for its unique setting and interesting premise, but not much else. The fact is, with Whiskey Mafia you’ll be getting a game that consists of a story with clear room for improvement, and a few repetitive minigames.
Take in Whiskey Mafia: Frank’s Story by visiting the Xbox Store