HERO Unit: Rescuing Others Couldn't Rescue Me From Boredom
Recently, I've really started to get into the mobile gaming scene. I almost always have my phone close by, and if I have a few spare minutes, it's fun to hop on a little game and waste some time. So, when I was approached to review HERO Unit -- a game that simulates you being an emergency services dispatcher -- I was intrigued and excited.
These were sadly short-lived feelings.
Now, before I go into the "bad" aspects of the game, I want to focus on what the game does right. For starters, the user interface for the game is very well done. It navigates just like the main screen of your smartphone and is minimalist, which is something I really like. An "exit/quit" button would be a good addition but it's not much of an issue on my Android phone.
The game also plays at your own pace, with the average scenario taking less than 5 minutes to get through. This is a plus if you're just looking for a short break, like when you have to pause Orange is the New Black because your significant other swore up and down they totally didn't need to use the bathroom before you sat down to watch. So, what then makes this game not so good?
Well, for starters, this text-based game is rated 17+ and some of the scenarios are rather dark. I understand that actual dispatcher events aren't all about getting Mister Mittens out of a tree, but the game sticks pretty close to domestic violence scenarios, which makes the game feel kinda samey.
So, you click on the answer phone button and then give your 911 operator line and go from there. Roland is on the line, hiding scared somewhere in the house because his step-dad had too much to drink and is beating mommy in the other room. You ask Roland for the address and he gives it to you. Then, when you're going to dispatch the police in the next choice branch you ask him for the same address that you literally just got.
Now, this might just be my inner game developer talking, but it's slightly obnoxious to have repeating dialog. It also shows the developers relative "newness" to programming when a simple check could be written into the code showing that you, the dispatcher, already had the address.
Another issue I had is with some of the spelling and grammar in the scenarios. If your game is a text-based game then the last thing you want are those kinds of mistakes. I also feel like the storyboarding for the scenarios comes off as rather generic which made me less interested in playing the game. To their credit, though, the game does have a number of alternative endings for the bulk of the scenarios but they don't really have much of an impact on how I went about the mission.
The game is also really short. It took me roughly 30 minutes to play through all of the scenarios and only 2 of them were interesting enough for me to go back and try to get alternate endings for. The developer does state on their Google Play App page that they do plan to add more scenarios for free in the future, so they are addressing the game's relatively short engagement time.
This is a game based on an interesting concept but just lacking in its execution. The mobile gaming market is a very competitive arena with literally 100's of games being added daily which makes it really hard to stand out. With some more work, I feel like this could be an interesting title but, as it stands, it doesn't do anything to make it memorable or worth suggesting that others play it.
From reading the "About Us" section of their website, it seems that the project was a "passion project" because of their love of gaming, yet the game is on the app store for $0.99. Even at that price I still couldn't recommend it to other people.
I wish the developers luck in any future games that they make and hope that my criticism is taken in a constructive manner.
* A copy of this game was provided by the developer for review