Although the genre is largely overlooked by critics, fans must adore the time-management simulation. How else could one explain the proliferation of operation supervision titles like Cake Mania, Sally’s Salon, and Diner Dash? Each is strikingly similar, requiring players to prioritize a situation that becomes ever-increasingly hectic. As the aforementioned titles indicate, even the game’s settings offer little more than variations on a form. Surely, the genre could be contextualized to introduce locales beyond restaurants, cake shops, and beauty parlors.
Cleverly, the developers of Emergency! Disaster Rescue Squad have used the time-management blueprint to create a simulation where the player must coordinate a team of fire, paramedic, and police teams. The title isn’t perfect- at times immersion if broken by the title’s rigidity, but it is a refreshing change of pace for DS owners, and moves the action to an outdoor setting.
Each of the game’s five disaster locations has four related scenarios that extend from a three car traffic accident to a devastating earthquake. Players must assess and prioritize the situation; for example, fires must be extinguished before paramedics can safely come to the aid of the injured. Players use the stylus to select a unit, and a second tap opens a radial menu. Each response team has a sizable number of actions; firefighters can use an extinguisher, chainsaw, hose, jaws of life, or axe.
The game does little to hide its European roots- one level takes place at a ‘petrol’ station, while the game refers to the injured as ‘casualties.’ While denotatively correct, I was slightly puzzled as to why the dead needed medical attention. Before long, I looked beyond the game’s quirky localization, and become immersed in the title’s demanding gameplay.
While controlling fire crews, debris clearing trucks, and paramedics was enjoyable, the title faltered when police investigations were required. One early level had a team of officers interrogate park-goers, in an attempt to arrest three gangsters. In an overtly simple digression, I interviewed suspects, who would either implicate or vindicate other nearby park patrons. Basic reading skills were all that was required to detain the hoodlums; I would have preferred a dialogue tree of interrogation questions, rather than the reductionism of canned suspect responses.
Graphically, the game is surprising strong Nintendo DS entry. The top screen is used to show character portraits and display objective information, while gameplay in handled on the bottom display. Emergency! uses a hand-drawn, three quarter view that is quite attractive; buildings, cars, and landscapes are impressively detailed. The title’s one visual downfall is the minimal amount of unit animation which exhibit the fluidity of a older RTS game. Parents worried about the gruesomeness of the game have little to worry about. Although the title features plane crashes, auto pileups and industrial blazes, there is no blood or gristle. Emergency wisely keeps the game’s camera in an elevated, omniscient position.
Overall, Emergency! Disaster Rescue Squad is an enjoyable experience that offers short bursts of intense planning and prioritizing. While some players may overlook the title based on its $19.99 MSRP, and pedestrian cover art they would be making an impetuous mistake. Although Emergency! has the markings of DS a shovelware title, the game is a pleasing diversion that will appeal to anyone who has ever wanted to direct a team of crisis respondents.