Mafia Wars mobile SMS hands-on: Not quite the perfect crime

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Mafia Wars has rolled out a new mobile feature for the game designed to close the gap between playing the game on Facebook and on your mobile phone. But unlike Bejeweled Blitz, which uses Facebook Connect to create a connection between the Facebook and iPhone versions, the Mafia Wars solution is not as intuitive, requiring players to sign up to send and receive texts from Mafia Wars, and then use a series of commands to complete missions, fights, check stats, etc in the game.

For someone who has an unlimited mobile/texting plan, this isn't a big deal, but for people who pay upwards of 10 cents a text or have limited texting plans, this new Mafia Wars feature could easily go from nifty to nuisance.
Here's how it works: Head to Mafia Wars and click the Help button on the upper right hand side of the game page, and select SMS Mobile from the drop down menu. A window will prompt you to enter your cell phone number, and then you're directed to wait for a text. If the text doesn't arrive (it didn't for me), then you can request that the code be sent again. Wait a few minutes, and a text with an activation code arrives, which must be entered in the Mafia Wars SMS Text page. You'll receive a confirmation that you've successfully signed up (and you receive a special weapon as a reward), and then the flurry of texting begins.


To get started, send a predesignated command to MAFIA (62342) to complete a job, fight someone on your list, help fellow mafiosos with jobs, etc (see the complete list below). After sending a text, you'll get a reply that the job/fight has been completed and get a breakdown of the payouts. Repeat until your energy/stamina is depleted ... or until you surpass your monthly texting limit.

Aside from the sign-up hiccup, the actual texting seems pretty finely tuned, once you text a command, confirmations arrive almost instantaneously, and the stat changes seem in sync with the Facebook version of the game. It's obvious the hard-working folks behind the scene at Zynga have been doing their job, but is this really the best way to play Mafia Wars from our phones? Instead of using texting -- which can quickly turn into a financial liability -- how about we do the same by sending a (free) Twitter message or (also free) email? We're sure that Zynga has looked into adding Facebook Connect to the iPhone version of Mafia Wars, but for whatever reason -- it's not here yet.

In the meantime, you've got two options for Mafia Wars on the go -- play the text-only game from any mobile handset, which will keep your Facebook game updated; or play the standalone iPhone version, which exists entirely separately from your FB account. Neither is a perfect solution -- which one would you choose?
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