Text-based gaming is an old genre that reaches back to the days of Oregon Trail, where one can die of dysentery, before hitting its zenith as an epic adventurer in the world of ZORK, where a gamer can go south/east/west/north with the power of words. Text-based games usually require a healthy amount of logical thinking with a mix of risk-taking, which makes them attractive to the most intelligent gamers (it’s true).
Regardless, text-based gaming can be fun, if done right, which leads me to Jassim Albuarki’s HERO Unit on iOS and Android. You play as a 911 dispatcher and there’s nothing more frightening, and occasionally funny, as being a 911 dispatcher. And believe me, folks, it’s done right.
Let’s get right into it.
Jumping into HERO Unit is simple. You put in your desired name for your character, click on the phone icon on the bottom of the screen and BOOM! You’re answering your first call. The top two-thirds of the screen is dedicated to the phone conversation, all text-based, while the bottom third is dedicated to your response choices (you touch the choice to make it). It’s a pretty simple gameplay layout that even a dummy like me could figure it out without batting an eye.
Once you choose the appropriate response, and sometimes the game allows for the wrong one to be chosen without losing, you move forward trying to figure out the best set of responses to get the emergency resolved. If you get it resolved, the emergency turns into a success story and you can see the full-blown story in the call archives (with character names and how the situation ultimately resolved). If you win, then you continue on and on into tougher situations that require a bit more brain power and patience.
Should you go south with your choices, the call will end in a disconnect. The call archives will reflect your failures, and sometimes tragedies, thus sending you out of the 911 field after a few failed attempts at resolving emergency issues. Losing in this game ranges from frustrating to soul-crushing, especially on very serious calls (not saving kids is the worst).
The majesty of this game is putting yourself in the situation presented to you on the made-up 911 calls. The gameplay design encapsulate the very core of text-based joy, where the game requires you to imagine what is going on in the phone call without seeing the characters or the situation. It truly opens up your mind to the 911 dispatcher experience and creates great scenarios through good writing and well-written dialogue. The situations seem plausible, as do the steps to resolve them. For example, there is a call where a kid is with friends who are about to bomb a movie theater in a terrorist act. The kid has to speak in code, acting like he is talking to his mom about going to the movies, while avoid getting caught and killed by saying the wrong thing. You have to ask him the right questions to avoid tipping his friends off and ultimately setting the bomb off in a public place. It’s quite serious and quite sad, especially if you lose, but all of it works because of the writing. You’re put in the scenario and shown the roadblocks to resolve it. You’re really drawn into it through the writing, which makes it all the more engrossing.
The gameplay design is pretty good. Built on simple and methodical mechanics, which are, for the most part, an intense amount of entertainment. The only downer? the game can be repetitive sometimes when you start over. I played a few cases over after becoming the worst 911 dispatcher in the world. Repetition set in and re-reading the text became a tedious effort. That said, I have found that if you wait a day or so, you can probably forget the answers to the scenario, which resets the challenge of the game. It doesn’t work all the time, but for the most part it’s a solution to dissolve the repetition. That or just simply winning and progressing.
The longevity of the game depends on your gameplay success. If you do well, you’ll find a lot of calls to resolve. If you do poorly, then you’re in for a tough ride, but you shouldn’t expect less from this old genre.
Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.JassimAlbuark.HeroUnit