If you've ever wondered how stressful the life of a 9-1-1 operator could be, well it's time to grab your Switch, boys and girls, and buckle up for a stressful little ride. 911 Operator is exactly what it says on the tin, and from the moment you load it up this is readily apparent. The menu screen blares a cacophony of operator voices calling for various indeterminable actions, all while what has to the most stressful (and possibly loudest!) background music ever plays.
If you're ready for excitement, hold onto your pants as the game's loading screen throws a 28-page emergency manual at you. Yes, I read it all. No, it's not required. Yes, it does come in handy. Sort of. Let me explain. You play the role of the titular operator and your job is to send out a limited supply of police, fire fighters, and medical works to various places around real-world cities based on the emergencies that pop up. The vast majority of these will simply blip onto your screen with either a police, fire, or medical icon (occasionally combinations of the three) and you send who you have to deal with these emergencies. But every minute or so you can expect a 911 call to roll in and it's your job to field these with a branching dialogue tree. You'll have to decide what to ask, how to respond, and even if the calls are worth your time as, occasionally, you'll get non-emergency calls like “My tummy hurts because I think I drank too much last night” or even prank calls designed just to waste your very limited time. Occasionally these calls even require you to give the people calling life-saving instructions (See? That's why you read the manual!)
Before each round you get to look over your resources which come in the form of people, vehicles, and tools. With the budget earned from not completely destroying the city you can hire new people, get them better and faster vehicles, and of course give them what they need to do the job. Police need guns. EMTs need medkits. Fire fire fighters need fire gear. Beyond this, you'll need to make some tough choices. Do your police need vests more than your fire fighters need masks to breathe? And if someone got injured in your last shift, do you spend that extra money on hiring a replacement? Maybe you should save up for the ambulance that carries three people instead of two instead?
Unfortunately the game doesn't have a lot of depth. The career mode lets you go through five major cities, each one with a unique emergency and a greater degree of difficulty, but your task never changes. Send the people to the correct location and field a variety of calls. But even those calls, with all their subtle differences, do eventually run out. Sure, the “My car was stolen at the mall!” has about three different endings, but you know exactly how to handle it by the tenth time you've heard it, regardless of which way it decides to go.
There are more than a few other problems. Navigating the maps, as small as they are, can be awkward as sometimes the cursor will “stick” to an icon and won't let your move off. Or if you're fielding a 911 call at the same time, you might accidentally chose a dialogue option while trying to order a unit to a map location. And, while it's a small issue, it's clear that localization wasn't as good as it could've been. The game is obviously European and the script shows it. On top of this, the voice acting is largely atrocious. The operator is passable, but several of the people calling in are awful. I can't fathom how someone can call about a “towering inferno” that is “really scary” and end the conversation with “Okay. Bye.” They report emergencies so nonchalantly that I originally wondered if they were fake calls. They weren't.
The game boasts hundreds of maps from cities around the world in free mode, but in the end, they're purely set dressing. One map's catastrophes are identical to another's outside of career mode, meaning the only thing you'll get is from it is a fun feeling if you pick a city you know. Really, this is the main downfall of the game: it gets repetitive quickly. You answer the same calls and see the same emergencies. Once you've built up a respectable emergency response team, there's no reason to stick around that map. Sure, occasionally you'll guide someone through CPR or tell them how to deliver a baby, but for the most part you play no active role in anything. You send others to do the work while you watch icons move around a map.
The game is great for short bursts, especially being on the Switch. Take it to the DMV or the laundromat and run through a couple shifts between loads. But if you're looking for something with depth and a story, this isn't it. In the end, maybe the game is a little too realistic. You're not the hero of the game, you're the face behind the phone line. All the stress, none of the pay off. So I suppose in that aspect, the game knocked it out of the park. If you're looking for something fun and deeply engaging though... maybe call someone else.
Final Score: 6.5 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.