911 Operator (Switch) Review
Release Date: October 26, 2018
Publisher/Developer: SONKA/Jutsu Games
Platform: Newly released for Switch, Previously on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Steam, Mobile
911 Operator places a city's fate in your hands. You are responsible for balancing a city's emergency funding budget, hiring and firing staff and deciding what kind of equipment they carry on their daily shifts. When the day begins, you receive a myriad of calls and notifications discussing emergencies in the city. Some may be prank calls, some may be pointless and not need intervention, and others may put their life into your hands. At the end of the day, your choices on what to follow through on and where to send resources affect your overall reputation and how you progress through the game.
Within the game you play a career across six cities with escalating problems and a solid set of story-specific crises to face, such as an earthquake in San Francisco or a bomb threat in Washington D.C. The game is graphically simple but very complex in what it asks of you. The selected city's street grid is laid out in blue on a dark background with basic icons representing the squads you created prior to a day's shift. During a game session you will receive simple notifications that directly say what is going on as well as 911 phone calls that you have to decide on their level of importance. You may have to deescalate a situation on the phone to give the first responders a better chance at success. As multiple calls come in across the city you have to delegate your resources to save as many people as possible. You can hire more workers but that cuts into your overall budget which will hurt your overall progress.
The game is set up in a quick pick up and play mode. Whether you are in career or free play mode each round lasts roughly ten minutes (depending on how fast you have the time set for). You don't have to worry about marathon play. While things may get frantic, you will eventually get to a place where new calls are over and you simply have to mop up the remnants. It feels a bit unrealistic but it guarantees a quick play session that you can always extend by playing one more round. In between, the game shows you first aid and first response tips. I question these because as someone who works in the helping field I have to be trained no matter how simple it is. I hope people don’t try to act as experts in crisis situations simply because they played this game. Rules change (did you know you’re not supposed to do breaths in CPR anymore?) so I hope that the game is updated if any major changes happen in the future.
While this is my first time getting to step into the shoes of a 911 dispatch officer, folks on many other platforms have been playing for about a year. I've thoroughly enjoyed my time with the title but have come to understand that being "built from the ground up" specifically for Switch also caused a major sacrifice. The game has 500 preloaded cities to play on, but most all other versions (even mobile!) have an option to search a basic map cloud and download any city in the world to play on, meaning you can likely find your hometown and use its basic road structure and emergency infrastructure to run the game on.
In general, my complaints with the game are few but valid. There are two DLCs for the game that add new cities, scenarios, equipment, and abilities. These have been out on other platforms for a while. This is not intended to be a "gold edition" but the age of the DLC makes me feel it could have been baked into this edition, especially with the loss of the infinite custom cities. They could have slightly increased the price and I wouldn't have thought anything. The advertisement for the DLC just talks about the extra stuff that will be mixed in and help with the repetition. Since there are only so many calls available you WILL eventually start hearing repeats that will require the same responses. The individual alerts are simple enough; as you manage the scenarios you are juggling so many things the repetition isn't much. When you get a call you've already received before about a cat in a tree or a prank pizza call it is frustrating to know you have to force through certain conversation points to succeed or flat-out ignore it based on the first two words.
No matter what though, 911 Operator offers a new management experience different from anything else available on the Switch. It feels like a super detailed version of the crisis moments of Sim City and the financial management makes you feel as if you are solely responsible for the well being of an entire city. While it is toned down without the infinite city search (which hopefully gets patched in one day) there are 300 cities to explore and will provide plenty of street variety. Despite the limitation this is a quality port of 911 Operator and the tension will show you what it’s really like when someone’s life is on the other end of the line.
-Well done control scheme feels intuitive and lets you cut back and forth quickly
-Guaranteed short-burst sessions give just the right amount of tension and fun
-Play a full career or solo a randomized city
-Unique ability to decide whether or not a call is important to build your reputation
-Other versions allow download of any city in the world. You get 500 cities, but can't download your "hometown"
-There are only so many calls, you will eventually be hearing repeats
-DLC packs are cheap and enhance but feel like a part of the game that was cut out at this point