While songs often call December “The most wonderful time of the year”, for gamers it can be anything but. November and early December are full of big releases that fans have often been salivating over all the year. So many times though, players have to decide between several great and hyped titles, often due to not having the bankroll to buy dozens of full-priced games. Thankfully, smaller titles such as 911 Operator exist to not only save you some cash, but also serve as a nice buffer between other games.
A simulation game, you take on the role of a 911 operator, and manage police, medical services, and fire fighters, and dispatch them to crimes and people in need. There are two modes of gameplay — career and free. Career is the shorter of the two, and to be honest, feels almost unnecessary. There are several maps of popular American cities, and you unlock them by successfully raising your reputation after a few days of work. While the career’s existence is likely tied to trying to give players a starting point, the game lacks the complexity to really make it needed.
Free mode is where players will spend most of their time, and for a good reason. One of the big boasts of 911 Operator is that you can choose from over 900 cities, and that’s not a lie. Being a Clevelander myself, I naturally gravitated to the great city of Cleveland, but noticed while selecting it that both Akron and Canton were available. That speaks to the amount of choices available, as both are not as well-known as a larger city like Cleveland.
So, how do you play? Well, it’s fairly simple. You start by managing units of police, medical, and fire department vehicles, manning them with employees. Several types of automobiles are available to choose from, and each grant different strengths and weaknesses. Some are faster and cheaper, allowing for greater mobility, but might lack transport space or larger crews.
The crews are important, as they have their own stats that allow them to perform their jobs faster or get to emergencies quicker. Each worker has two slots to add small boost items, such as guns for police, or fire extinguishers for fire fighters.
Once you’ve prepped your load-outs, you start the day, and a generic road layout map of the chosen city will appear with icons of your cars on it. You can do a bit of reorganizing before starting, which was a nice touch. Spreading out at the start helps give you control of your destiny once the action gets going. Eventually, everyone will get grouped up again, but better to start with an advantage than a disadvantage.
Your job during the playtime is two-fold. Small events, such as broken bones, driving offenses, or cats in trees, will appear on the map and you need to resolve them. By selecting the correct car and dispatching them to the event, they’ll head there and solve it automatically after a short while. As you play, you’ll learn small tricks, such as looking for situations that might call for more than one car to transport all the criminals, or potential dangers requiring medical to come and clean up the call.
These small calls take up a majority of your time, but random special calls will come in that halt the action. Someone will call into 911, and it’s your job to answer the call, and manage the situation. Not every call is an emergency, as angry citizens or drug-impaired teens might try and take up your time. You are given a few options after each line on how to respond, to gather facts or instruct the individual to act, treating every call as important until proven otherwise. Many of the calls are based on real events, and are overall quite well done.
One of the biggest flaws I found with 911 Operator was that both during calls and when units are near each other, dispatching vehicles can get muddled. Often times I would be trying to prep my service vehicles to solve a problem while on a 911 call, only to make an incorrect phrase selection to the person on the line. The maps also have you wanting to be zoomed out, so having to zoom in to select the right vehicle between the two right next to each other was sloggy and frustrating.
Graphically, there are no major issues, yet nothing special either. Visuals are pretty standard, and the minimalist nature of them is demanded upon, since they aren’t the focus. There really are not much music, but I do want to give credit to the voice acting. Each call has a full voice work, and the performances aren’t that bad. They do eventually get repeated, reducing their effectiveness over time.
That really leads well into my thoughts on the game as a whole, as it’s repetitive and about as generic as it could be. That’s not a knock on the game, though, as the concept as a whole only had so far to go, and 911 Operator is about as solid as it could be. It’s a simulation game doing its best to depict a real job, and at the end of the day could only get so close to what a real life 911 Operator does on a daily basis.
Those looking for a big investment of gaming will probably do best to avoid this title. But those after a nice palette cleanser, I recommend 911 Operator. It’s not going to light the world on fire, but is a decently-crafted little time sink that works well on the Switch. If you’re looking for something to do in-between catching Pokémon and settling it in Smash, 911 Operator is a nice buffer title to call on.