Muse Games’ Embr has a hot little concept, both horribly dystopian and undeniably plausible; the emergency services we rely on and pay our taxes for no longer exists. Instead, in this garish cell-shaded and primary-coloured future, we must use the new Embr app, an Uber for firefighting, that tasks any old Dick or Jane and their grandma to save people trapped in burning buildings. Anyone can join the app and become an Embr firefighter, in fact, it’s your first day on the job, and there’s calls coming in.
You are given a water hose gun that you can refill at any water outlets, an axe to smash your way through doors, and an app to help locate the almost always oblivious civilians (seriously they are more often than not unaware of the fire, and just playing on their smartphones, which beggars the question who called for the Embr in the first place). Anything else you’ll need to buy with your profits, including ladders and a number of more-fun-than-useful gadgets to help you in your fight.
It’s rarely about tackling the fire and more about getting people out alive. Find one of your targets, chuck them over your shoulder in a classic fireman’s lift, and its back out to look for the array of mattresses where you can hurl them to safety. And you don’t have to go out the front door again. Smash a window, why not? The house is a write-off. Chuck them out, just aim carefully for the mattresses down below.
Now, throwing people out of burning multi-stories is wrong on a number of levels, but you need to save time as well as people, you need to save as many as you can, not because, you know, it’s the right thing to do, but so that they’ll give you that coveted five-flames rating. Steal some cash, priceless art or heirlooms as well and along with the high marks you can walk away with slightly charred green.
It’s a madcap ragdoll physics game and can be hilarious in the way that games that give you too much freedom often are. It sort of screams a VR version at some point too. I hurt more people than the fire on most of the harder levels I tried, throwing them onto rocks or getting too handy with the water pistol near open fuses.
In a house with anything more than five to save, there’s always at least one person more concerned with taking a dump than the fire going on around them. I understand the need to shit in a panic, but seriously they should be getting out. It’s kinda weird when you throw them over your shoulder and you know their shitty arse is right there blocking your screen.
While there’s plenty of good, there’s also some work still to be done here. It’s a Steam Early Access release at this point which means you can chop your way in on the ground floor, help the developers fight fires and find bugs in the code, report glitches and generally help make the game better. The game will need a bit of time in early access to really be called well done, because currently it’s a little rare. Hey, Early Access is where you go if you like them bloody.
I noticed some heavy glitching on any large items I bought including ladders and trampolines, the screen around the items flickering to black. Controls are also pretty cumbersome and floaty, which is in keeping with the type of game, but I kept falling off ladders and such and burning to death myself, mostly because the controls kept rebelling.
It also takes quite a lot to run smoothly, and I’m not really sure why. Though it looks nice enough, I can’t see the real reason why it was taxing my graphics card quite this hard. Nothing could be accused of looking real, it’s a cartoon world, so if the graphics are mainly stuff that was perfectly possible last gen, then why the heavy toll? I hope personally that one of the main things they do during early access is some tight optimisation to make it more accessible.
Rather than only gamers with high spec PCs, why not the more casual, who are probably closer to the target market? My computer felt like it was going to burst into flames.
While it could do with some time to simmer on Early Access, Embr is a undeniably quirky and fun little game with a neat idea behind it. Fans of Get Packed, Moving Out, or Hello Neighbour should get a mate involved and tackle some house fires together, you know for laughs and cash, because what’s more fun than saving people burning alive?
Sorry, that’s not hypothetical. The answer is clearly getting a five flames rating! Why else would you bother?
Embr is available on Steam Early Access and Google Stadia on May 21st.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this preview, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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