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Posted by on Jun 3, 2013

REVIEW: NarcoGuerra

REVIEW: NarcoGuerra

Title: NarcoGuerra
Platforms: Apple, Android, PC, Mac (played on iPhone)
Developer: GameTheNews.net
Publisher: Auroch Digital, Ltd.
Release Date: May 23, 2013
Pricing: $0.99/£0.69
Tagline: Can you end the never-ending war in this challenging, tactical newsgame?
Family Friendly: Click here for more information.

First, a definition:

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newsgame \‘nooz-gaym\ n. 1 short, playable experience to make user smile or think from news & current affairs: Cow Crusher is a newsgame about the horse meat scandal. 2 timely, relevant game which educates users on details of a complex issue: I learned all about the Syrian civil war from that newsgame.

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GameTheNews.net
is a group dedicated to the creation of such things. We’ve covered their work before, because…well, it’s neat. Video games as a means of enlightening people on the ins and outs of important global issues is a cool use of the medium.

Get your game face on. This is war.

Get your game face on. This is war.

Previous GTN topics include (but are not limited to): Syrian civil war, child labor, U.S. elections, and horse-meat.

“Either you’ll conquer the map and defeat the drug trafficking menace…or you’ll fail quite spectacularly and violent cartels will rule. No pressure.”

In NarcoGuerra – perhaps their most ambitious newsgame yet and the first for which they’re charging – the subject is the War on Drugs in Mexico. I’ve played their previous releases. Some of these games are very simple; you do one or two things repeatedly while conditions around you change or information is presented. The point is to hammer home the point, to actually provide an interactive experience which will “explain” complex and potentially confusing situations.

And now, I have played NarcoGuerra – quite a bit!

BE WARNED: YOU MAY LEARN SOMETHING.

If that isn’t a deal-breaker, good for you! Read on!

In short, you play as the Chief of Police, hiring and moving your forces around Mexico in an attempt to take out the rampant and dangerous drug cartels. You fight bad guys, corruption and even the street price of drugs in a Risk-like strategy game – conquer a region, build up/move your forces, be attacked, repeat.

Shoot-out...

Shoot-out…

Without spoiling too much, the game takes place during the build-up to the presidential election.

This new game examines the ongoing conflict from the perspective of the Mexican authorities trying to stamp out the drug trade within their borders. In NarcoGuerra the player must attempt to retake Mexico’s regions from cartels while also dealing with corruption within the police force itself. As part of the global War on Drugs, the conflict in Mexico escalated around 2008 and since that point the human cost has been very high, with over 80,000 people having been killed. Can you succeed where others have failed to push back the Narcos and cartels for over 40 years?

In the end, either you’ll conquer the entire country and defeat the drug trafficking menace…or you’ll fail quite spectacularly and violent cartels will rule.

No pressure.

There’s a single-player Story mode, a Skirmish mode (unlocked if/when you beat Story mode), and even a Local Multiplayer option in which players can actually control drug cartels.

“NarcoGuerra is interesting, illuminating and – most importantly – FUN. There’s enough ‘game’ in this newsgame to warrant the price of admission.”

The Story and Skirmish modes are challenging (even on the easiest of 3 difficulty settings) and very replayable. Each game, save for one or two major plot elements, unfolds differently. Make a dumb move or just hit some bad luck and you’ll find yourself in trouble quickly.

NarcoGuerra moves quickly and there’s a lot to consider at all times. (Thematically-appropriate, no?) You’ll occasionally be thrown a curveball in the form of “chance card” style pop-ups. Some good, some bad.

Dude, Jorge can die?! ARRRG!!!

Dude, Jorge can die?! ARRRG!!!

Sometimes, you’ll lose a turn or lose cash based on some awful occurrence. Sometimes, you’ll get some needed bonus cash. Sometimes, a special reward will be offered for conquering a territory or completing a specific task. Over time, corruption can build up, and your forces may turn on you.

The first several times I played, I got wrecked. Not gonna’ lie – I’m not great at strategy games (though I like them), and I was pretty bad at saving Mexico. You’ll know the moment it’s over, and it’s crushing to see the dominoes fall in short order.

I kept trying, though. I had to know if winning was even possible.

CAN this “endless” war be won?

Is that the point – no matter how hard you try or what you do, you’ll always lose?

No, that wasn’t the point.

ALL BLUE, BABY!

ALL BLUE, BABY!

NarcoGuerra gives you choices and the freedom to attack or defend or redistribute police as you see fit for a reason – every move has consequences. This fight has not been won in The Real World™ because it’s so difficult and nuanced. It shouldn’t be a cakewalk.

That said, you can and will eventually take down every Narco-controlled region.

After beating the Story mission, however, I kept playing it. I’ve played Skirmish, too, but I keep going back to Story to see if I can win again. Win on a higher difficulty level. Win regardless of how the national election goes (you can sway the results with your financial support, by the way).

Pick a side.

Pick a side.

NarcoGuerra is an interesting, illuminating and – most importantly – fun game. I can honestly say I walked away with a new understanding of the conflict and an appreciation for the dire situation facing anyone charged with combating the cartels.

It’s brutal, costly, draining…awful.

The choices you make will affect the outcome, and you should discover the game’s lessons and secrets on your own. So, while I won’t go into the specifics of what I’ve learned by trying different tactics…I will recommend NarcoGuerra, without reservation.

There’s enough “game” in this newsgame to warrant the price of admission, and the amount of care that clearly went into it makes it completely worth your $0.99/£0.69!

“Experience for yourself exactly what GameTheNews.net is doing and how effective newsgames can be. NarcoGuerra is a revelation – in several ways.”

It’s a tense strategy game you can pick up and play again and again. The more you play, the more you learn. There’s geography, politics, war strategy, resource management, a look at the social impact of this decades-old conflict…it’s good stuff.

Try something different! See if you can take down the powerful drug cartels and finally end the War on Drugs in Mexico. Experience for yourself exactly what GameTheNews.net is doing and how effective newsgames can be.

I have, and NarcoGuerra is a revelation – in several ways.

YEAH!

  • A legitimately fun and layered strategy/tactics game reminiscent of Risk
  • Multiple modes of play mean you’ll have a reason to keep on playing long after the lessons have been learned
  • Great way to teach people about world issues
  • Good and bad surprises (kind of like “chance cards” in board games) throw you a curveball and keep the game fresh

UNYEAH…

  • It, um…it’ll probably kick your butt
  • Sometimes, I’m not sure if I’m losing battles by chance or if I’m just not grasping the numbers game.
  • Seriously, don’t screw up. One bad move and you’re probably toast…

Family Focus
Nope, sorry. Mature themes…and though it’s not a gore-fest, it’s rated 12+ on iTunes for a reason. I say save this one for those old enough to handle the complex and sensitive issues being explored.

Tony Sadowski

Tony is a Philadelphia-based writer and producer with a taste for the quirky and comical. A lifelong gamer and pop culture addict, he is also 1/3 of the team behind the You Like the Worst Stuff podcast. Connect with him using the links below, especially on Twitter @TweetsByTheTony. Or send your thoughts to tony@ggsgamer.com!

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