Karma City Police Review: 911, what’s your emergency?
Ironically, I had to interrupt this review to call emergency services while playing Karma City Police, a game taking place in an understaffed (and underfunded) police station. It wasn’t serious on my end — a powerline transformer exploded and burst into flames down the street, but the fire department is a stone’s throw away so everything was under control quickly. It’s a shame I can’t say the same for my 911 dispatch character in Karma City Police, who fields all sorts of emergency calls that, if fate allows, end well for all (spoiler alert — it rarely does).
Karma City Police is by far one of the most interesting games I’ve come across in recent memory due to its ambitious genre blending. Developed and self-published by Brazilian solo indie dev Meca Games, Karma City Police is described on its Steam page as a comedy 2D exploration JRPG filled with mini-games to keep players on their toes. Although it may only be a 2 – 4 hour experience, it’s one that throws players into the fray head first with no room for dull moments anywhere.
Right from the start, Karma City Police oozes personality, strongly delivering on its world-building and theme. You’re a new 911 dispatcher given a crappy computer, a snarky office mate, and the most basic of tutorials that your coworker can be bothered to give you. Simply put, you’ll receive emergency calls throughout the day, and it’s your job to ascertain whether or not a police presence is required. Additionally, you’ll determine whether or not it’s an emergency call vs. an urgent call and if the cops need to firearms to protect themselves against suspects packing heat. Again, it must be stressed that this is a severely underfunded and understaffed station, so resources are limited; you can’t just send cops, guns, and cars to every single caller’s address — you don’t want to make the mistake of sending armed cops to a prank caller… or worse, sending unarmed cops to a gunfight.
In between calls, you’ll find yourself at the mercy of your coworkers and superiors, who seem to think of newcomers as gofers. This means you’ll be fetching coffee, bringing food to those unable to make it to the cafeteria, training in the gym, and even being asked to assist in the infirmary. Don’t worry about getting lost in the maze-like police station, though — there’s luckily a map offered to help newcomers like you find your way around this chaotic place. It’s almost as if extra rooms were added without thought, as needs arose, only to further complicate everyone’s life in and out of the station. If you can say one think about Karma City Police, it’s that it drives home that understaffed and underfunded feeling well.
Maybe this comes with the nature of the job, but tensions run really high in Karma City Police (I wouldn’t know, I just started!). As such, people are constantly getting into brawls with each other; no need to take it outside, however, as these things can be resolved via pinball. In perhaps my favorite twist of the entire game, Karma City Police contorts the main character into a literal pinball and asks players to launch themselves at their enemies. Can you take out the baddies before you run out of balls?
Although I enjoyed all the individual facets about Karma City Police, like the dulcet 8-bit tones, the fun pixel art, the irreverently wacky writing, and the unique blend of fun mechanics, something about the overall story didn’t seem to go very far. I absolutely love what Karma City Police set up in terms of its world, which was to go dramatically in-depth into one contained building and its lively inhabitants, but the story feels more like it’s setting itself up for something greater, only to take an odd direction and end abruptly. In fairness, this is honestly the kind of problem you want to have: the game was getting good, and I wasn’t ready for it to end. This is a world you will quickly and easily settle into; its such a shame to leave it so quickly!
It’s astonishing that Karma City Police was made by a single developer, its world-building truly extensive in such a small environment coupled with a novel blend of mechanics that work surprisingly well. Although I wish I had been able to spend more time traipsing around the station, helping citizens with their emergencies and getting to know my coworkers (and occasionally duking it out with them over a clean game of pinball), I can’t fault a tight, fun game. If you’re ready for something completely different that’ll keep you on your toes, Karma City Police could use an employee like you!
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Meca Games; Developer: Meca Games; Players: 1; Released: December 16, 2021; MSRP: $11.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Karma City Police provided by the publisher.