Surgeon Simulator 2013 Review

By Darryl Kaye on April 28, 2013

When Surgeon Simulator was released off the back of this year's Global Game Jam, it taught us quite a few things. Sure, there are lots of lessons in there about how the developers were able to create a game within 48 hours, but perhaps the most important lesson was that there are loads of people around the world who should never be let near any kind of surgical procedure. Better yet, when those people are trying to perform it, it's actually rather humorous. It's for that reason alone that Bossa Games decided to take their initial prototype and expand it to a whole new level - the result is a game that is both chaotic, hilarious and vastly inappropriate.

The initial prototype was very focussed. Your objective was to perform heart surgery on a patient without killing them and you had very limited scope to do this. You see, in Surgeon Simulator you're only able to control one hand (movement and rotation) and each of its different fingers independently - that's it. Due to the game's difficulty and propensity for cack handedness, needless to say, this prototype became a bit of a viral hit.

As soon as you get into Surgeon Simulator 2013, the same philosophies are true. The difference now, is that it's applied to everything. The entire menu system is about how you control and manipulate this one hand and there are plenty of Easter Eggs even at this early stage. You can pick up the phone, use the computer or simply just smash everything off of the desk if you want to. It's certainly a good place to get a bit more practice with your new limb before you delve into the surgery.

The first surgery you'll have to tackle is the classic heart surgery. It's important to note at this point that everything is about completing your objective as quickly and efficiently as possible - nothing else matters. Therefore, the quickest way to get to the heart is to just break off all the ribs, rip out the lungs and severe the arteries. We don't have to worry about what happens afterwards.

There are numerous ways you can perform these simple tasks and that's what makes the game rather unique in a way. Most people will opt to use the hammer to break off the ribs, but even this is a rather difficult task in itself. If that's not your thing though, you can also choose to use a bone saw, circular bone saw or even a drill. It all just depends on whether you want to go for cleanliness or speed, because that's ultimately what you're judged on once the operation is completed.

At almost all times, your patient will be losing blood, but the amount of blood your patient is losing depends on how accurate and careful you are with the tools of your trade. If you accidentally drop a scalpel in your patient's body, that might start to cause some serious blood loss, for example. Likewise, if you slip while using a surgical laser and accidentally melt your patient's ear, that can also cause some issues. The important thing to note though, is that as long as you stick them with the right syringe, everything returns to normal on that front.If you haven't realised already, Surgeon Simulator proposes quite a few different challenges. Often, even picking up the right instrument you want can be difficult enough - figuring out how to make it work for you is another matter entirely. It means that simple mistakes can happen quite often, such as injecting yourself with a syringe while you're trying to pick up another one.

Actions like this can have dire consequences. That particular example will lead to hallucinations. It doesn't stop there though, as there are other handicaps you can inflict on yourself if the game isn't challenging enough already, handicaps such as electrocuting yourself by putting a scalpel in a plug socket; this will cause all actions to be performed in a mirror.

There are only three different operations to perform; heart transplant, double kidney transplant and a brain transplant. It's a bit disappointing, especially as the heart and kidney transplant are essentially just the same, but with an increasing level of annoyance. To counter this, the developers decided to add an extra difficulty level, but perhaps not in the way you might expect. Instead of being able to perform the surgery in a controlled environment, which is difficult enough for some, you now have to perform them in the back of a moving ambulance.

The ambulance missions, for the player, are the worst. However, for anyone who's watching it's hilarious. You can go all the way through your surgery, only to find the transplant organs have flown out the back of the ambulance when it went over a speed bump.

For the heart and brain transplant, it's rather fun for both parties, but with the double kidney transplant it's quite the opposite. Not only do you have to worry about losing all your equipment and the new organs, you also have to place the new kidneys in the correct position. This is just frustrating and it ruins the spirit of the game. There's no challenge here, it's just dumb luck because the positioning needed is just far too specific. There was no need for it to be this way, especially when you can just lob the heart in wherever.

It's probably for this reason that the next difficulty only has one surgery you can perform - the heart surgery. Taking things one step further, this surgery has to be performed in space. Yes, zero gravity.

Presentation hasn't changed all that much since the original prototype - there are just some new tools and obviously the new locations. This isn't a bad thing though, as the game's charm has remained. There's also some pulsing music to drive you on. It's just a shame there weren't a few more surgeries to perform, as you can get through the game pretty quickly once you get the hang of things.

Final Thoughts

Surgeon Simulator started off as nothing more than a bit of fun, but it's turned into so much more. Yes, it still feels a little bit lacking in some areas, but the additional content is solid enough and with the new ambulance missions, things are certainly interesting. If you're up for a short, but fun puzzle experience, then Surgeon Simulator is sure to scratch that itch - just don't expect an experience that's too deep.

The feeling of relief you get once you successfully complete your first surgery.
The feeling of relief you get once you finish every surgery.
Playing with friends can lead to hilarity.
The experience isn't that deep.
Double kidney transplant in an ambulance.
Its lasting appeal isn't that great.
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