There’s a fine art to real-time games. Too much going on and you risk overwhelming your players, but if there’s not enough happening they won’t stay engaged. Paramedics: Clear threads this needle by offering clever, streamlined gameplay, simple and easy to understand iconography, and a smartphone app to remove some of the tedium. Let’s dive in and see what I think about the medical real-time game Paramedics: Clear!
In Paramedics: Clear! 1-4 players will assume the role of EMTs responding to patients with various ailments and maladies. It’s difficult to really sift through a real-time game playthrough so I’m going to go over the basics, and leave out some of the details.
The game is played in multiple rounds consisting of 60, 45, and 30 second shifts, with only a single player going at a time. Using the free smartphone app players will select the current shift, then hit the start button to begin. The app will start counting down the time using an appropriately grim EKG indicator.
A player’s turn (shift) consists of a number of different actions which include treating patients, using medical supply tokens matching the injuries on patient cards, trading or acquiring supply cards which can be traded for medical supply tokens or improvements to your equipment, and transporting patients to the hospital where they will earn you points.
Each patient is represented by a card displaying icons that illustrate each patient’s particular combination of injuries. Each card also indicates the points a player will get when that patient is successfully treated, and the points a player will lose if that patient dies from lack of treatment. The injuries range from the serious (drowning victim, gunshot wound, accidental overdose):
to the humorous (carnival catastrophe, fan blade fiasco, office shenanigans):
Players will almost always have two patients in front of them, and both patients must, at a minimum, be “sustained” by assigning a medical supply token matching one of the ailments on their card. If at the end of a player’s shift one or both of the patients in front of them have not been sustained, that patient is moved to the morgue.
Players have to stop the countdown timer before it hits 0 or they must choose one of their patients to send to the morgue even if one or both patients had been “sustained”.
Players continue to take shifts at the current time level until the stack of supply cards has been exhausted, at which time you’ll shuffle all the discarded supply cards and start the next shift. After the final 30 second shift has ended, players will tally points from patients in the hospital, subtract points from patients in the morgue, and add points from any equipment upgrades. The player with the most points wins.
Paramedics: Clear! Final Thoughts
I was a bit skeptical of Paramedics at first. Real times games can be hit or miss, and the formula for one doesn’t always translate to another. That said Paramedics is a solid game, and one which deserves some closer scrutiny. I’m going to break this down into three main sections.
First let’s start with the app. I love that analog game publishers are starting to embrace assisted gaming in this manner. Helper apps like those seen in FUSE, Stop Thief, or the Unlock games can do the heavy lifting and allow players to feel more engaged and immersed in the game. That generally contributes to a deeper enjoyment of the time you’re spending with your friends.
The app for Paramedics: Clear! is simple and well done, featuring just a few screens, with large buttons and great audio. Make sure your sound is on before you start the app or you’ll miss the sound of the defibrillator paddles charging, a nice touch.
My only wish for the app is that it would offer a simple setup screen. Being able to read through the setup on my device would be helpful, and fairly simple to add. It doesn’t get negative points for not having this, but it would have been a nice addition.
The artwork in this game really shines. There’s not much variety, but what’s there is top notch. The cover image is striking and evocative, the colors are vivid, and the text and iconography are large and easy to read.
What really makes the artwork shine are the dozens and dozens of unique illustrations on the patient cards. Even the serious injuries are well done and match up with the descriptions. They’re clever and humorous with the occasional splashes of blood to “brighten” things up.
Side note: while researching this game I wanted to know what this type of illustration style was called. I googled for “what are the bathroom sign people called” and found an article detailing the history of how bathroom stick-figures became universal symbols. Turns out they were originally created in 1924 and called the Vienna method of pictorial statistics, but that name was eventually changed to Isotype (International System Of Typographic Picture Education). Fascinating.
Going back to my premise at the beginning of the article, I’ll say that Paramedics: Clear! does a great job of keeping players on track and engaged. Even when it’s not your turn you’ll have things to do. Resetting your player board, drawing new cards, monitoring other players’ boards to see where they’re strongest, and of course paying attention to the shift countdown. When the player before you is done, it’s your turn whether you’re ready or not.
Staying cool and collected is the name of this game. Make sure you’ve got the cards you need to trade for the tokens to keep your patients alive. Make sure you’re upgrading your equipment to make future turns more effective, deciding which patient to treat and which one you have to let go, and always always always watching the shift clock…because when your shift is over you go home, and do your best not to bring the memories with you.
Not everyone is going to love real time games, and that’s okay. But for the people who do, and those who are curious, I give you Paramedics: Clear! It’s worth your time.