FDNY Taking Forever To Respond? Try The Embr App!
Picture the scene, you're on your way to the kitchen on the way to a late-night snack. As you approach the refrigerator, you realize that the electrical currents are frayed and broken. There is now a raging fire. This is all happening in real-time and it causes panic. But, don't panic! You have the highly-rated Embr app! You send in your request as you would for Lyft and wait for your saviors to, hopefully, save the day! Or ruin it! The narrative is entirely up to the "Respondr" of the Embr app.
While Embr doesn't have a story, this is the closest to the lore that exists for this game. In a dystopian future, public service workers as people know it are unreliable and the "Uber" variant of firefighters, Embr, has replaced the city as the #1 app service. The goal for each level is simple, save as many residents as possible while preventing as many casualties as possible. Each level has a bare minimum number of residents that need saving. Of course, the player should save all of the residents because it's the right thing to do. The more residents saved the more money earned, which means going over quota = more money earned at the end of each level.
Stop, Drop, and Roll Your Way To Everyone's Safety
As a Respondr, your basic toolset is a fire hose and a fire ax, both very important tools that are integral to the player's success. The fire hose obviously puts out the fires barring your path while the fire ax knocks down wooden doors and pushes items to the side. The intensity of the fires is dependent on the level. Some levels feature small houses with a higher concentration of fire, requiring more water pressure. Other levels are larger, forcing the player to deal with hazards ranging from toxic gas and loose electrical currents.
The NPCs that players save are found in the most unnatural circumstances that make Embr feel nothing less than a satire. More often than not, players will find NPCs sitting on the toilet with fires surrounding them without a care in the world. Other times, they will run around an area into embers, which affects their health. There was one moment where an NPC was on their phone on the rooftop, standing on top of a money safe. The entire aesthetic of Embr felt like a parody of real life, from requiring an app to put out fires to the comical ways that players can die.
The Better You Perform, The Higher Your Embr Payout
Embr is a race against the clock experience, with a burning fire bar that serves as the game's timer. As the bar lowers, the fire will spread throughout the building, causing different interactions in real-time. In the beginning, fires aren't as chaotic, leading to an easier time saving the NPCs. This lets players form a bit of strategy, as rescuing players from the top floor will be easier the less fire the player has to deal with. Conversely, saving NPCs from a lower floor first equates to less that the player will have to deal with when they re-enter the building.
Other intricacies including the time of day and weather conditions affect a player's performance. Saving the NPCs at night will impede visibility, especially in a dark smoke-filled room. After the first handful of levels, the player has seen all that Embr has to offer. Enter a burning building, save residents, collect pay, use pay for upgrades, rinse and repeat. Unfortunately, I was unable to test the stability of online play as I could not find a match.
Physics Is Not Your Friend
Embr requires the player to complete a tutorial before they are allowed to access the rest of the game and it is a necessary requirement. The random factor of Embr is entirely dependent on item physics, in other words, items won't work the way players will want them to. This is evident in the tutorial mission that requires the player to grab barrels, crates, and other obstacles. As the player pushes the items out the way, the obstacles collide with each other and go wherever they wish.
This comes to an impasse when using the ladder as one end of the ladder requires a solid object to rest. Sometimes, the end of the ladder can obstruct a player's passage, which is what the tutorial warns the player. However, outside of the tutorial stage, it's infuriating when the pressure is on and the player cannot crawl through a window with enough headspace because an item's hitbox clips with the player. Perhaps if the game was in third-person, it wouldn't be an issue, but as it's in the first-person view and it's hard to gauge where items are, it becomes an issue. Thankfully, the player can adjust the FOV slider to offer a wider view of your surroundings so this becomes a non-issue.
Embr Is A Short Fuse Despite Its Fiery Intensity
Unfortunately, the graphics tend to break the larger the FOV number reaches. At max FOV, Embr begins to show how low quality and cartoony the game is, something I commented on via recording. The game looks like an upscaled PlayStation 1 game under 1080p with jagged 2D sprites up close. While the 3D models are crisp, the textures are highly simplistic although it meshes well with the cartoon aesthetic.
Ultimately, Embr is a solid 4-player co-op game but it's something I wouldn't recommend on the Switch. Thankfully, its availability on other consoles is a blessing in disguise. Popular platforms like the PlayStation and PC benefit from its instilled player base and higher-fidelity graphics. Underneath all of its "jank," Embr is a solid party game with enough cartoon dark humor to keep a player entertained. After a while, the leaks in the hose aren't enough to sustain the fiery issues that Embr has for a solo player experience. Combined with the lack of content and Embr's, well, "embers," burn out quickly.
Embr is available on the PC, PS4, Stadia, Switch, and Xbox One