Platform: Nintendo Wii
Watching me play Grand Theft Auto IV during the last few days, my wife has been wondering why so few games involve good people doing good deeds. Why, she asks, can't someone make a game as rich and immersive as a GTA, but with someone doing something positive for a change? While I was too busy backing over the cop whose car I'd just stolen to pay too much attention, I had to agree. Wouldn't it be great if more games arrived starring firefighters, doctors, ambulance drivers and police officers (and not just loose-cannon cops who shoot suspects in the face, either).
Coincidentally, a game recently arrived through my letterbox that seems to be thinking along similar lines. Emergency Mayhem features all three emergency services in an effort to tackle mayhem on the streets of a troubled American cartoon city. I guess you can work out where the title might stem from.
At first glance, I had the game pegged as a cartoon, GTA-style sandbox game where you choose which service you want to play as, then roam one of the game's four areas looking for criminals to catch, fires to put out or people in need of urgent medical help. In fact, it's more like a cross between Sega's old Dreamcast classic Crazy Taxi and the more familiar Wii fodder of Rayman Raving Rabbids or Wario Ware. Driving a police car, a fire engine or an ambulance, you're faced with a mayhem meter and a countdown. Scattered around the area you'll find a number of markers which trigger missions. Completing missions successfully adds time to the countdown and pushes the mayhem meter towards the green end of the scale. Driving aimlessly or failing missions will take the meter in the wrong direction and cost you valuable time.
The missions themselves are divided into two basic types. First, you have your Crazy Taxi-style runs from one place to another. Whether you're delivering organs in the ambulance or going to arrest some felons in the cop car, the aim is basically the same: get from point A to point B before the timer runs out. In a few cases, you're asked to carry something fragile, in which case the game is rather more lenient about the time, and you also get the odd car chase mission when you're playing as the police. Whichever vehicle you're in and wherever you're going, the trick is navigating the streets, dodging the traffic and knowing the shortcuts - if you've played Crazy Taxi or even Burnout Paradise or GTA, you'll get the idea. It's a little odd, however, that you can run over so many pedestrians with only the odd chastisement from your controller on the radio to deter you.