An intriguing title that's far from being a car-crash.
First impressions of Emergency on the App Store bring to mind those bizarre real-life simulators that are so popular in parts of Europe: Garbage Truck Simulator, European Bus Simulator, Underground Mining Simulator, that sort of thing.
Emergency, on the other hand, gives a more God's-eye view of proceedings as police, fire-fighters and medical staff rush around the screen, doing their best to minimize the damage caused by all manner of industrial and commercial accidents. It's the kind of game most suited to the sort of person who likes nothing more than to sit down in front of a good real-life disaster on CNN and watch 20 hours of repetitive, rolling coverage.
And yet for all that, it's rather a good game. Arriving on the scene of these disasters, which range from train-crashes at road intersections to blazing submarines, forest fires, presidential assassination attempts and plenty more in-between, your first priority is to, well, establish priorities.
Firemen can be dispatched to stop fire spreading, or eliminate the flammable threat entirely. Alternatively you might need to equip them with the jaws-of-life so that they can drag digital tragedies out of car windscreens and let the medical team attend to them. Then there are the police offers, complete with megaphones for dispersing the crowd who stand around on their lunch-breaks watching everyone die.
As well as assigning jobs, you also need to micro-manage the emergency workers. You might need to equip a unit with the right tool before sending them off into the disaster zone, for example. Emergency medics will treat patients at the scene, but you'll then need to send in stretchers, bring the victims back to an ambulance, and then send that ambulance packing off to the hospital.
So what starts off as a rather simple strategy game soon turns into a perilous juggling act. You can't get to that fire without using policemen to move the pedestrians, and you can't save the people in the buildings until the fires are out. The tow-truck needs to clear out the vehicles blocking the path of the fire engine, and the fire is spreading to new buildings. While there's never anything enormously complex about the scenarios themselves, the game is essentially one of frantic priority-shifting and careful micro-management.
There are thirteen missions in total, and at the end of each one you'll be awarded a medal based on your performance, with bonuses given for saving every civilian or cleaning up the disaster in a brisk amount of time. Each mission is introduced with a suitably dramatic micro-video of the impending disaster which adds to the laughs.
As the ultimate rubber-necking simulator, Emergency is a great game. We'd like to believe that the amusingly melodramatic seriousness of the title is deliberate too, as you'll find it hard to suppress a guilty chuckle at some of the scenarios that are played with an entirely straight (yet somewhat knowing) face. It may not have the longest campaign in the world, but Emergency packs in more than enough bang for your handful of bucks.
What's Hot: Imaginative missions, a wide range of units, and something a little bit different on the App Store.
What's Not: A rather short campaign. The graphics are crisp, but the animations less so.