If you want an example of diminishing returns, look no further than Whiskey Mafia: Leo’s Family. Released only three months after Whiskey Mafia: Frank’s Story, it’s an epilogue that is shorter, more generic and about half as fun. When the original was slapped with a 2/5, that’s not exactly a springboard to success.
You play as Christopher, a mechanic’s apprentice who quickly finds out that his wages won’t let him bathe in cash like Scrooge McDuck. So he meets with his Uncle Giuseppe, who introduces him to Frank (of Whiskey Mafia: Frank’s Story fame), where he becomes the gang’s mechanic, getaway driver and – eventually – a fully enlisted gang member.
Like Whiskey Mafia: Frank’s Story, this is an extremely on-rails adventure, dotted with the odd minigame. It’s verging on a visual novel, as each scene plays out as a couple of minutes of dialogue, before you get the privilege of pressing A on a door or car to leave, triggering the next loop of dialogue and exiting. This is not a game to play if you value action or choice.
Similar to Whiskey Mafia: Frank’s Story, there are about five minigames, and they’re meant to replicate what the characters are doing. We’d hazard to call these ‘games’, though, as they forget to offer something approaching gameplay. As you train to be a mechanic, you get something that looks like two traditional pipe puzzles, but they are the same as each other and they’re benignly simple. Confusingly, they also don’t create a flow from one end of the screen to the other. In a getaway car, you’re asked to hammer the A button, but it’s not clear for how long or if you’re succeeding. It’s like more engaging, working minigames have been traced over, but rules and difficulty have been erased entirely.
If there was going to be a low-hanging fruit, it was always the dialogue. You only have to watch Goodfellas once to get a sense of how gangsters talk, but Whiskey Mafia: Leo’s Family can’t even pluck that fruit. In an argument, one gangster capitulates with a “you are probably right about this”, as if that’s even close to how a gangster acts or talks, regardless of the era. There are reasons, of course: this is a depiction of Prohibition era America written by a Russian developer. That doesn’t stop it from being a stilted, characterless experience, littered with grammatical mistakes, though.
Whiskey Mafia: Leo’s Family is a perfect median of every gangster movie ever, too. A young boy joins a gang, has a quick rise to power and then a just-as-swift fall? It’s paint-by-numbers gangster storytelling, and the twists are not so much telegraphed as pummelled into you down a side alley. A gang member wants to go off the books with their own deal? Yep, that will go sour. A rival gang leader says he is hanging up his boots and wants to meet for a parlay? Yeah, we know how that’s going to go. There’s even a scene that is directly lifted, near verbatim, from Goodfellas. It’s one of the film’s most infamous scenes. You wonder whether you’re meant to admire the reference or ignore that it was stolen.
We want to find something good to say about Whiskey Mafia: Leo’s Family. We’d probably linger on the artwork. It’s a pleasing, half-believable attempt at 1920s America, rendered in pixels, and while it doesn’t take you anywhere new – this is all bars, restaurants and docks – it acts as a decent backdrop.
Gah, we can’t stay positive – while Whiskey Mafia: Leo’s Family looks good, you just don’t get to interact with it in any way. When your cursor is locked to the one thing in the environment that you can interact with, you stop admiring everything else. Even in those moments where you can click on a few characters in the background, you needn’t have bothered: they have dialogue that could generously be described as ‘placeholder’. “Greetings” is about the most exciting thing they will spit out.
Whiskey Mafia: Leo’s Family is a Mafia adventure that is over within forty-five minutes, and you will have 1000G handed to you in a brown paper bag. That might be an offer you can’t refuse, but we’d argue that you should. Even at £4.19, you’re wasting time and money on a regurgitation of every gangster plot ever, but without any of the character development, violence, twists or plotting that tend to come with it.
So, are you coming to Whiskey Mafia: Leo’s Family for a slice of Mafia magic? Well, you can fuhgeddaboutit.
You can buy Whiskey Mafia: Leo’s Family from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S