App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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JoinDispatch imagines a world where emergency services are managed by the gig economy and puts you smack dab in the middle of it. It’s your first day on the job as a dispatcher, and you have to help anyone who calls to the best of your ability. JoinDispatch is narrowly focused on your ability to help customers that call, but the further you get into the game, another narrative unfurls. What starts as a nice satirical romp unfolds into something more abmitious, though I’m not sure JoinDispatch is quite up to the task.
As a dispatcher, you are stationed at a terminal and are tasked with taking calls from anyone who uses the JoinDispatch service. This service is a highly sophisticated system that depends on shift workers to manage most people’s problems without having to actually deploy any response teams.
Of course, as a dispatcher, you can call upon ambulances, police cars, and fire trucks to send them to a site at a moment’s notice, but you’re limited in your ability to do so. Seemingly as a cost-saving measure, JoinDispatch shift workers are severely limited to a handful of these vehicles to respond to situations and instead have to rely more on talking people through situations than sending in professionals to assist.
Stars and satire
Talking your way through your call queue, you’ll come across all sorts of situations and people. Some of these are real emergencies, like a boy who trips and impales himself on fireplace tools or a neighbor who is witnessing a break in, but others are far less serious. No matter the situation though, you have a star rating to keep in mind, so you need to make sure you handle any kind of situation swiftly and with poise, or at least that’s what JoinDispatch makes you think at first.
You see, JoinDispatch isn’t just a satirical take on emergency response services. The game has its own narrative outside of its setting and concept that suggests that JoinDispatch and the people who run it are not exactly who they seem. Without spoiling too much, you can expect a lot of glitching, hacking, and repeating sequences to uncover the mystery lurks beneath JoinDispatch’s humorous surface.
The ugly truth
The nesting of a narrative inside of what is already a really unique concept for a game is really cool. The only problem is that the surface level aspects of JoinDispatch are actually quite a bit of fun and some of its deeper narrative elements are less so. This ends up making the game less enjoyable the further you get into it, which obviously isn’t ideal.
This isn’t entirely the fault of JoinDispatch’s story though. The game itself has a few rough edges that don’t help things either. There are times where certain prompts or other buttons are unresponsive and moments where the dialogue from callers doesn’t really mesh with what you said to them. These things would be easier to overlook if they didn’t combine with a glitch-heavy narrative that causes you to question if these broken buttons are intentional design each time you encounter a problem.
On a side note, it’s also worth commenting on JoinDispatch’s price. It’s listed as a free game, but it’s really “free-to-try.” Playing the game without paying gives you a small taste of what the full game is like, and a single $0.99 payment unlocks the full experience. This kind of monetization is laudable for how straightforward it is, even though the game itself may be a more muddled experience.
The bottom line
JoinDispatch is one of those rare games that starts with an amazing concept on the surface level and actually feels too deep for its own good. It’s still a fun game, but if JoinDispatch stuck to being a “Uber for emergencies” simulator a left out the parts that extend beyond that concept, it would be a more enjoyable and functional experience.