Bomb-sniffing dogs

Being a good airport police dog is hard

A review of the “Airport Police Dog Duty Sim” mobile game.
Bomb-sniffing dogs

Being a good airport police dog is hard

A review of the “Airport Police Dog Duty Sim” mobile game.

Ah, to be a dog. That’s the dream, isn’t it? To lie in the sun all day without responsibility, to get your tummy rubbed without expectation, to maim suspected terrorists at the airport with impunity. Oh, we would if we could. But we can’t.

— Or can we?

“Airport Police Dog Duty Sim” is a mobile game from Tapinator, Inc., a game company whose stock is currently worth 12 cents a share. The game affords humans, at last, the ability to act as an airport police dog. This ends up meaning “the ability to act as a person with inexact control over an airport police dog’s running and jumping movements,” but I must admit it’s still closer to the experience of being an airport police dog than I’d previously had in my daily life. It has a 4.5 star rating in the iTunes store. To find it in’s game list you have to click the “load more” button five times — past “Angry Fighter Attack,” past “Go-Man Epic Revenge 2016” — which seemed damning until, on the sixth click, I came across a game called “Pet Dog: World's Best Doggy,” which sounds very good. Perhaps a game’s “load more” placement in Tapinator’s game list isn’t as damning as we once thought.

Here is an excerpt from “Airport Police Dog Duty Sim”’s description in the app store:

Your mission is to check arriving passengers and stop criminals carrying illegal drugs and weapons. Use your sharp sense of smell to sniff out the contraband! Protect innocent passengers from delinquents and terrorists! Chase and bust smugglers, sniff out bombs, prevent hijacking attempts, and attack thieves! Keep a keen eye on airplanes to ensure the security of passengers before take-off.

When you search for “Airport Police Dog Duty Sim” in the app store you’re offered a host of similarly, hm, “dicey”-sounding games that look exactly like “Airport Police Dog Duty Sim” but are from different manufacturers: “Border Police Dog Simulator,” “Prison Police Dog Chase Sim,” “City Police Dog Crime Arrest Rescue Airport Criminal Duty 3D.” What kind of person wants a game where you’re a dog attacking terrorists on a plane, or prisoners, or people crossing the border? It’s an interesting questio — hm, sorry, what? Sorry, I couldn’t quite hear you. Did you say, “I bet probably a racist?” Ah, I’m sorry, this is embarrassing; I thought I heard you say “I bet probably a racist” but I guess that was me.

This is still closer to the experience of being an airport police dog than I’d previously had in my daily life.

Before we dive into my review of Airport Police Dog Duty Sim, let’s talk about airport police dogs. It is with sadness that I must inform you that bomb-sniffing dogs are becoming scarce. The New York Times recently reported that demand for and prices of dogs have surged while supply has declined, which has taken a toll on the United States particularly as it has no breeding program of its own and sources most of its dogs from Eastern Europe. You can read the article yourself if you’d like to know more, but suffice to say I hope the government is at least considering “Airport Police Dog Duty Sim,” somehow.

What else about bomb sniffing dogs? According to a Pix11 article, a bomb-sniffing airport police dog’s shift can last up to 13 hours. An airport police dog has an acute sense of smell. As airport police dog handler Michelle Ramos explained, an airport police dog doesn’t just smell a cheeseburger, he smells “the ketchup, the bun, the burger, the pickles, mayonnaise, the bacon, whatever's on.” It’s unclear how this relates to smelling bombs, or if any airport police dogs have unmasked bombs disguised as cheeseburgers. Anyway, “Airport Police Dog Duty Sim” was so boring and I hated it so much! In case you’d like to play it, though, here are my notes:

DON’T PLAY IT: I believe I was asked to review this game because its description reads as light jingoistic propaganda. This is bad and certainly reason enough not to play it, but also I need to stress to you that this game is just so boring and I hated it so much! (This is worth repeating.)

IT’S TOO HARD: It was too hard, but not in the rewarding way I assume it is to be a real airport police dog. For example, on one level your job is to stop a terrorist from murdering people on a plane. (To do this you attempt to maneuver your dog up a plane ladder, then you attempt to maneuver your dog so it’s facing the right way to walk down the plane aisle, then you attempt to maneuver your dog to the unmoving terrorist, then you hit the “jump” button.) This is a fairly straightforward task and I understand its purpose, however it took me multiple attempts to reach the terrorist (a white male in jeans and a black T-shirt) after which I was treated to gunshot sound effects so that I might viscerally understand — as much as a dog can “understand” anything — the effects of my failure. It took me multiple attempts because, first of all, it’s nearly impossible to maneuver the dog clockwise, and second of all my damn dog kept falling through the plane! Excuse me? I highly doubt airport police dogs have to deal with such conditions and don’t feel it was a necessary test in preparing me to become one.

MENTALLY PREPARE YOURSELF FOR 18 LEVELS: Each of the levels presents you with a predicament. (“A terrorist is placing a bomb by the plane. Catch him.”; “Find the suspicious bag and bring it back to the officer.”; “A suspect is trying to escape. Help officers catch him.”) To deal with these predicaments, you press “forward” on your touchscreen joystick until it’s time to press “jump.” The game’s challenge comes mostly from how difficult it is to maneuver the dog even if you’re just trying to go forward, and also from how sometimes walls disappear and sometimes you go through them by accident. Maybe you’re going to think there are only 12 levels of this, and maybe, when you are approaching the 12th level, you will think, “almost done.” There are 18.

THE DOG ISN’T GIVEN ENOUGH PRAISE: The dog does a bad job and you hear people getting murdered, but if the dog does a good job? Nothing. There’s just more game, which, to the dog, is work! There should be a sporadic “treat” bonus round where you (as dog) play with a toy.

THE DOG DOESN’T RUN FAST ENOUGH: The dog runs exactly as fast as the fat police officer. Yeah right? The dog would run faster.

IF YOU WANT TO BE A KIND OF DOG OTHER THAN GERMAN SHEPARD YOU HAVE TO GIVE THE GAME MONEY (DON’T): In a review I read, an upset user complained that they’d been under the impression that completing all 18 levels would “unlock” the other dog options — Doberman, Husky, Labrador Retriever — you’re presented with at the game’s start. It doesn’t; you have to pay $.99 for those. Completing all 18 levels does nothing except prepare you to be an airport police dog.

Good luck, and have fun catching terrorists in your mouth!

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