Friday, October 26

Review: 911 Operator [Nintendo Switch eShop]

When you have a healthy-sized eShop cranking along developers sometimes need to do something that breaks a little outside the normal box, and with indie devs that can often bring us some interesting niche experiences. One path that’s sometimes taken is turning ordinary jobs that can seem somewhat mundane and turn them into a playable experience. That’s what the people behind 911 Operator have done, working to convey the hectic and sometimes aggravating job they do every day in the form of what’s essentially a resource management game.

Whether or not they took a page from This is the Police or decided to go this path on their own there are definitely some parallels here, though in this case without the corruption, drunken cops you need to tell to go home, and feelings of being a very bad person. Instead, you’re tasked with checking out the details of reported incidents and taking direct calls to 911, assessing the situation the best you can and then trying to quickly and efficiently dispatch the appropriate resources to handle the crisis, though when things get crazy you’ll certainly need to prioritize.

The calls you field in particular can take a little time to work through as not all calls or crucial, meaning you’ll need to take in what you’re being told, ask clarifying questions while trying to waste as little time as possible, and then send someone out to take care of it. Once you get past the first city or two some slight changes will begin to crop up to add a layer of challenge. Not all of your units are the same, with some having vehicles like a motorcycle which enable them to get on the scene more quickly, while something like a paddywagon may be needed if you’re having to collect a bunch of perps.

When it comes to flaws perhaps the most surprising thing is that you’re unable to use the touchscreen to play. In fact, given the lack of that support and the generally small scaling of text a game that seemed like it could be a good match for mobile doesn’t quite work out that way. Another complaint, though far more minor, is that when you’re getting started not a whole lot gets explained, though beyond being efficient and effective when sending out your units the importance of things like equipping them with gear you can buy is less clear. I would imagine giving them appropriate supplies should help but it’s hard to measure how much, especially when saving to get new or better crewmembers or even vehicles may prove to be more helpful.

Overall this is a title that will live or die based on how fascinated you are with the premise. Though mechanically it’s not very complex that isn’t to say it’s easy by any means. You’ll have to be smart about how you use your units, learn to always handle calls before anything else (if nothing else time slows down while you’re on the phone), and then experiment with personnel and equipment to figure out what seems to work for you. It may not be very action-oriented, but there is a certain thrill to a job well done and when you throw in some oddball calls you need to deal with it’s certainly a unique experience.

Score: 7

  • A pretty unique gameplay experience
  • Requires some patience and an ability to think quickly
  • Some insight into even a sliver of what the job of a 911 dispatcher is like can be interesting

  • No touchscreen support and given the scaling text can be hard to read in handheld mode
  • If you’re looking for anything more than a resource management game you’ll be disappointed
  • You’re given limited direction for success, and will need to trial and error your way through at first