- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 24, 2009

Children control the real superheroes of the world in Emergency! Disaster Rescue Squad (for DS, from Destineer, $19.99). This adventure turns a player into a hands-on dispatcher as he directs paramedics, firefighters and police officers to help tackle 20 catastrophes spread across five campaigns.

The Irwin Allen-style movie action covers situations that quickly move from simple car accidents to large pileups, forest fires, an airport disaster and a massive earthquake. The player’s major goal is to save lives and property during chaotic scenes as he selects from 15 types of units including a squad car, crane, medical helicopter, fire engine and on-scene personnel.

As a mission begins, the top DS screen shows a map and slideshow of the current dilemma while a silent narrator offers text messages. The narrator will pretty much hold the hand of the rescuer as he decides on the course of action.

A surprisingly active bottom screen details the disaster with sirens blaring and flames sizzling as vehicles and people move around and emergency crews pull up to the scene.

In the case of a town under a fire threat from a multicar pileup on an interstate, the player has at his disposal two ambulances, three firetrucks, a squad car and about a dozen rescue personnel.

Use the stylus to tap on a vehicle or hero on the bottom DS screen and circular minimenus open to direct actions. That could mean getting a firefighter to grab a chainsaw and cut down trees to stop flames from spreading or use the Jaws of Life to remove someone from a vehicle. Tapping a paramedic can move him to treat an accident victim, who is then moved to a stretcher. Tap an ambulance to take the victim to the hospital. You can even have a police officer question bystanders and get them out of harm’s way.

The player must remember to keep his heroes out of obvious danger or face losing the use of them, and to keep monitoring objectives and acting on the helpful advice of the narrator.

Once a mission is completed, a player receives a point total that rates him from a recruit to hero and may even award a medal for high scores.

Although the missions are intense, that’s just not enough to extend the replayability of the game. It would be nice to have a multiplayer option or be able to unlock items for use in situations.

Learning time: Lessons in organization, following directions, balancing resources and keeping a cool head under pressure are standard issue during all of the disasters. The game also is a perfect opening for parents to teach and discuss what to do in the event of a real emergency.

Age range: The 10-year-old looking for a stress test will at least stick with the game for a couple of hours. Parents should know that saving lives is paramount to success in the game and patients will die if not moved to the ambulance and sent to the hospital quickly enough. Death scenes are not graphic, but young players might be upset by the concept. Also, police officers tend to rough up criminals before arresting them. That’s an odd concept to introduce in a game that is rated for players as young at 10.

Final advice: Emergency! Disaster Rescue Squad is a worthy, budget-priced title that delivers a compact set of crisis missions guaranteed to challenge the multitasker in the family.

Joseph Szadkowski’s ROMper Room is a place for children and their parents to escape the world of ultraviolent video games and use that gaming system or computer to actually learn something while having fun. Send e-mail to [email protected]

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