Released into Early Access in May last year, Embr is a firefighting party game that has already scooped up several awards due to its fun and addictive multiplayer action. The title has also proven to be a huge splash with audiences online with it amassing more than 500,000 total views on YouTube. After a year's worth of updates, the game has now been released fully on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One and we were recently able to sample the Switch version for review.
Whilst there are a variety of modes (we'll get to those later) the main one here sees you rush into burning buildings to try and save some helpless technology-addicted civilians. During a typical level, you'll have a set amount of clients that you'll need to rescue and you'll need to enter the burning building and whisk them away to safety one by one. Chaos is always one step away here as parts of the building will slowly start to collapse over time and clients are obviously at risk of being burned to a crisp if you don't hurry to save them. You use what is known as a Client Findr to pinpoint everyone who needs rescuing and you need to approach them in a strategic manner and target those most in danger.
Along with your Client Findr, you also have a range of other tools to help you with the job, and you need to carefully consider what to take with you as your loadout is limited. Water grenades can easily dowse large sections of fire, you can pack a ladder to reach higher floors, and a trampoline can be used to safely move clients down to the ground. You can also equip yourself with gear that gives you buffs like being more resistant to explosive damage and moving more quickly when carrying clients. The selection of items here is plentiful and there's even the option to upgrade their effectiveness within the Item Shop.
As you progress through Embr's 25 levels, the layouts of each building become more complicated to navigate and you'll also have to adjust to new obstacles such as doors that require keycards and laserbeams that detect motion. There are also a variety of hazards too that will keep you on your toes and require that you pay close attention to your surroundings. Power switches, for example, need to be turned off before you spray the area around them with water otherwise you will suffer from a pretty nasty electrical shock.
As mentioned earlier, Embr really does have more game modes than you can shake a fire extinguisher at. Along with the typical rescue mission, there are also escape missions that act more like environmental puzzles. These require you to break from the imprisonment of a deranged rival and you only have a fleeting amount of time before you get engulfed by flames. Another personal favourite is the Demolition missions that see you doing the opposite of usual. Here you need to send a house crashing down to the ground as quickly as possible by smashing up explosive barrels and barrels of toxic waste.
This is just scratching the surface of what content Embr has to offer as there are also daily and weekly challenges and 'Embrgigs.' These Embrgigs change up the gameplay in many fun and exciting ways and reward you with special currency that can be used in the Item Shop to buy rarer items. Mutator Challenges increase the damage of different hazards such as fire and electricity and Delivery Contracts task you with handing out packages to clients before the time runs out. Sure, some of these modes are more enjoyable than others, but there's a great feeling here like you are spoilt for choice in what to select.
It might be marketed primarily as a party game, but Embr is also fun to play solo. When playing alone I never felt like the difficulty was too unbearable and you just have a single character to play as, unlike in Overcooked or KeyWe, for example. I played Embr almost entirely alone and not once did I feel penalised for doing so. Even if you are itching for some multiplayer fun and don't have a friend around then you can still hop online and join a group of up to three other players pretty easily.
Embr does, however, suffer from a handful of technical hiccups and I found its compulsory boss to feel pretty frustrating. When playing, clients would often glitch into walls and the framerate took a nosedive when my surroundings were getting extremely burnt and damaged. The boss stages I lightly touched upon see you fight against the heads of other companies and you'll need to reduce their health bars by electrocuting them or hitting them with explosive barrels. The first of these encounters felt downright tedious, as I had to hurl objects at a boss on a higher platform and the throwing mechanics felt too imprecise.
Embr is admirable as it doubles as both an enjoyable single-player and party game experience, and I can see myself getting a lot of mileage out of its variety of modes. Rushing through burning buildings to rescue helpless clients always felt intense and these moments remained varied with there being a variety of different gear to choose between. It does have some technical issues and its boss encounters can feel tedious, but this is a solid package overall and one of the best outings that we have seen from the genre all year.