911, what’s your emergency?
I love a game that gives me something new. I’m not just talking about story or aesthetic, I’m generally talking about a combination of things that presents a completely different experience that stands out from the rest. It doesn’t have to be something massive either — even small twists can make a big impact. In fact, those small twists often end up being pretty fun. I’d lump Karma City Police into that category, as it’s an 8-bit dispatch simulator with pinball-based combat and RPG elements — a combination I’ve literally never heard of before.
Currently in development by Brazilian solo indie developer Meca Games, Karma City Police is a retro-style pixel art adventure title with a whole lot going on in a little bitty world. Available as an Early Access title on Steam, Karma City Police is an inexpensive 8-bit treat that will certainly please fans of retro games and those who love a bit of novelty. In the very least, it’s hard to beat a game that costs less than a cup of coffee.
Karma City Police has players taking on the role of a rookie emergency dispatcher day one on their new job. Their coworkers are a bit brusque, but the job is of critical importance — people will call in to report emergencies, and it’s up to this complete noob (you) to determine how to handle the calls. Judging by the information given, is the issue real or some kid pranking the line? And if it’s real, is it serious enough to require guns and backup, or will a single officer suffice? Questioning the callers and monitoring their moods will help you determine how to handle each emergency, but be careful — you have a limited amount of resources, so only send what’s necessary.
In between calls, there’s plenty going on in the precinct. Equipment breaks down, the chief will want to speak with you from time to time, and of course you’ll need to take breaks to eat. The office is a thriving hub full of officers, desk workers, politicians, mechanics, custodians, EMTs, trainers, and more, all with their own personalities and dialogues that make the tiny space seem much, much bigger. Wandering around the building will yield a lot of flavor text and events, so be sure to get out of your office and chatting with your coworkers from time to time.
The aesthetics of Karma City Police are a delight. The visuals look like they were lifted straight from a classic SNES game, and the music absolutely matches in the most glorious way. I know a lot of retro games really aim to recapture the feel of yesteryear, but Karma City Police’s dulcet soundtrack legitimately sounds like early 90s gaming. I think my favorite view was the computer screen in the office, as it perfectly marries that old computer aesthetic with more modern, clean design. Karma City Police was a joy to look and listen to, and certainly warmed this elder millenial’s heart.
One truly unique thing about Karma City Police is the combat system: pinball. Combat can occur for a number of different reasons, such as training in the gym or getting into a scuffle with a coworker, and when that happens, you’ll turn into a pinball so that you may launch yourself at your opponent. You’ll have three lives, they’ll have a health bar and plenty of obstacles in the way. Hit them hard enough and they’ll go down eventually, throwing F-bombs as they tumble.
I think my favorite thing about Karma City Police is how well-crafted each component is. The pinball mechanic felt good, the difficulty curve ramping up appropriately as I improved. The emergency call portion was incredibly fun, as strategy over skill was required to ensure each call got the help they needed while pranks and spam calls were rightfully discarded. Even wandering around the building was a delightful experience, as there was always something exciting happening in the bustling precinct. Assisting with a wounded officer, sparring with a personal trainer, picking a fist fight with a coworker, fixing a coffee machine, even accidentally walking into a major press conference happened to me within the first hour of gameplay! There’s a lot of life in Karma City Police, and it’s imperative you keep the pace of your more battle-weary colleagues.
If I have one complaint, it’s that the English localization was not the best. It was certainly manageable, like I could get the general gist of what was happening, but there were quite a few times when I wasn’t sure what I was reading and it did detract slightly from the experience. I only say this because, again, every other component was brilliantly handled, so the clunky dialogue delivery felt out of place amongst the grade-A mechanics. I know good localization can be arduous and expensive, but going over the text one more time to iron out the translation could really enable Karma City Police to soar.
Karma City Police has a collection of really strong elements that I’ve never seen combined before, which will absolutely delight gamers looking for an entirely new experience. A pixel adventure set in a small yet dense world with pinball combat and 911 dispatch gameplay? I’m not sure that sentence has ever been written before, but I am sure there’s nothing else like it. For less than a cup of coffee, you can add Karma City Police to your Steam library and support a solo indie dev while you’re at it. Be sure to check out Karma City Police today!