STAFF REVIEW of Gangsta Paradise (Xbox One)

Sunday, April 18, 2021.
by Chad Goodmurphy

Gangsta Paradise Box art Flash games were quite popular back when I was in high school and although I didn’t have the home internet to support them, I managed to play some at both school and friends’ houses. I was never that big on them as a whole, but Newgrounds’ Kick-Ups hooked me for some reason, and made programming class bearable. Why that game? I don’t know.

I’m talking about Flash games for a reason, and it’s because that’s basically what Prison Games’ Gangsta Paradise is. It’s a very simplistic looking and playing title, which doesn’t offer much in the way of variety.

Although it basically shares a title with a popular Coolio song from the 1990s, Gangsta Paradise doesn’t have anything to do with rap music. In fact, it harkens back to yesteryear, when the mob wore trench coats and fought for turf in back alleys. Then again, maybe that’s more Hollywood than real life.

Either way, this is a very straightforward strategy shooter in the vein of Plants vs. Zombies. The idea is that you’re a lone mobster who’s being threatened by the enemy and must make a last stand, by moving vertically and shooting horizontally. Different types of mafiosos stream in from the right while you, armed with different types of guns, try to protect the left side of the screen. Failing to do so will result in the enemy breaking your fencing, destroying your cars and presumably killing you, but things end once the fence is destroyed.

As with other games of this ilk, completing this title will require patience. You won’t be able to go gung ho and kill every foe with ease right from the get go. Instead, you’ll want to replay and farm early levels in order to earn money that can then be spent on upgrades. The fence can be bolstered, your weapons can be upgraded and new ones can be purchased.

Of course, the weapons are all themed on the 30s or 40s time period in which this game is set, not to mention borrowed from mafia movies. Thus, you’ll have access to a pistol, dual pistols, a Tommygun and a surprisingly effective shotgun. The latter will likely end up being your best friend as you progress; at least until you run out of ammo for it.

Gangsta Paradise presents forty levels over four different chapters, with the shooting gallery environments changing with each act. As I said above, this is a very basic game, meaning that the backgrounds rarely ever change and only do so when you progress from one chapter to another. Then again, it’s not like they affect much. Neither does beating the game, it seems, because there’s hardly any acknowledgement when you do so.

As you’d expect, the enemies also keep getting more challenging as one progresses. The basic gangsters give way to stronger foes, who then give way to even bigger and more daunting foes. Thus, whereas a quick headshot is enough to take a basic grunt out, you’ll need to pump more lead into the others. It’ll also be important to make good use of your grenades, which have a surprising stun effect. Most of all, though, replaying early levels and upgrading your stuff will have the biggest impact, because this thing isn’t necessarily easy despite being simple and only two to three hours long.

Being that this is more or less a Flash game, don’t expect much from Gangsta Paradise’s visuals. They’re drawn and cartoony, and pretty colourful, but they’re far from notable. The same is also true of the very basic music and sound effects, which don’t stand out and aren’t memorable in any way.

With all that having been said, it’s likely unnecessary to state that Gangsta Paradise will not be for everyone. In fact, I only see this appealing to a very limited and niche audience because of how basic and dated it is. Those stuck at home may find a bit of fun playing through it with a friend (through local co-op), but there’s so little here that I even wonder at that. The good news is that it only costs $8.99 CAD, but even then it's hard to find the value.

**This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with. It was reviewed using an Xbox Series S review unit.**

Overall: 3.9 / 10
Gameplay: 3.8 / 10
Visuals: 4.6 / 10
Sound: 4.2 / 10


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