Mafia Wars Shakedown takes the series back to its roots on iOS

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While Mafia Wars 2 may have introduced an isometric view, player avatars and city-building a la CityVille to the Mafia Wars franchise, Zynga's latest iPhone offering in the series, Mafia Wars Shakedown, does none of that, instead reverting the series back to its "pure" text-based form. While the game hasn't come out in the US iTunes store as of this writing, we're here to give you a detailed overview of what to expect once the game launches here.

To start, you will be able to choose an avatar, but this is a simple image-representation of yourself, rather than something that can be customized in-depth as in Mafia Wars 2. From there, you'll be thrown straight into the mix via a brief tutorial that introduces you to Jobs, Robbing, Goons and more. Instead of energy, here you'll spend Goons, which are hired thugs that will go out and do your dirty work. In this way, Mafia Wars Shakedown places you in the role of a Don with an already considerable amount of power, with your power only growing as you progress.

Doing jobs is the same process that you'd expect. You're given a list of jobs that you can complete, all falling under different "bosses." For instance, your very first boss is in the Bronx district, and goes by the name of Fat Tony. We brought you a look at Fat Tony, the chef, in our look at the game's trailer earlier today. To be able to attack him, you'll first need to complete three jobs, each of which requires a specific number of Goons to start, and must be done repeatedly in order to "master" it. Once that's done, you'll simply be able to tap on a "Fight" button to see the turn-based battle commence. Weapons fly across the screen and health meters change automatically, with some nice animation effects. While your first fight will be handled alone, you'll eventually unlock the ability to bring in two members of your Mafia with you to subsequent battles.

As you level up or earn mastery on a specific job (simply do the job enough times to fill the associated meter), you'll earn extra Goon Points. If you're familiar with the traditional Mafia Wars setup on Facebook, these bonus Goon Points can be thought of as "Skill Points," allowing you to assign them to one of three categories: Job, Attack of Defense. Assigning it to Job gives you more "energy" to complete actions, while Attack and Defense make you a more formidable foe when going against bosses, or other real world players.

Speaking of, the Robbery aspect returns here, although it details the Collection feature more often than not. That is, as you work to complete collections in your own game, you can steal collectibles from other players. You'll be able to choose an unlucky opponent from a list, and can choose which specific item you'd like to steal before attacking. You're then shown a comparison of your stats, and you can choose how many individual Goons (or energy points) to spend on the attack based on how likely you are to win. The game automatically determines your likelihood of success, and will color-code your options to give you a quick overview of just how many Goons you should spend. Of course, if you're going against a player of a lower level, you'll be able to send in less Goons, and vice versa.

Just as in the original Mafia Wars on Facebook, you'll earn money by completing most actions, and will need to spend that cash on weapons to unlock access to more jobs, or to simply outfit your Goons with better weapons, armor, etc. to make yourself stronger in fights.

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While fighting against other players is all well and good, there's also the social element of adding new members to your own Mafia. These friends show up as Goons in your own game, and are accessed via "Mafia Codes." Each player is given their own unique code, allowing users to share this freely with both friends and strangers alike to earn a single Goon for each friend that accepts your request. As you're able to choose a name at the beginning of the game (either real or created), there's almost nothing in the way of personal information that's given out to these players, which is, of course, a good thing.

As it currently stands, this launch version of Mafia Wars Shakedown is pretty bare bones when compared to the behemoth original Mafia Wars on Facebook, but this version works well technically, and does list a few features as "coming soon" - Animals, for one. If you're ready to jump back into the life of a Don once more (and on the go, to boot), make sure to check out Mafia Wars Shakedown when it launches in the US soon.

Are you excited to try out Mafia Wars Shakedown, or have you become dedicated to your new life of crime in Mafia Wars 2 instead? Does this version of the game sound like something you could enjoy on your phone, or would you want something with more features? Sound off in the comments.
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