So you’re sat there, on a huge airliner, and you’re nervous. You don’t fly much, and the thought of hurtling through the air, thousands of feet above the hard, unyielding ground… well, it’s a scary thought. The kindly old lady sat next to you notices your nervousness and gives you a smile. “Don’t worry”, she says. “The pilots are all very experienced. They’ve done this hundreds of times.”
It’s kind of reassuring to believe that the people who take care of us when we’re at our most vulnerable are infallible. The doctors, dentists, pilots and emergency service-people who keep us safe, comfortable and – more importantly – alive when we need them most. But what if…
Well, what if you went in for heart surgery and your doctor was a wobbly, one-armed drunkard with no clue as to which end of a scalpel is which? Who piles your lungs up on your face in a slippery pile as soon as the anesthetic kicks in?
Welcome, my friends, to the wonderfully silly world of Surgeon Simulator 2013.
The name itself is accurate in that it’s 2013, but this definitely isn’t a simulator. You’re not given anything resembling a surgery tutorial, but actually which tool to use for the job is the least of your worries at first. Surgeon Simulator 2013 follows in the faltering, unsteady footsteps of such classics as QWOP and Octodad by challenging you with the controls before you even lift your first bonesaw. You control one arm – each finger can be individually clenched and the wrist can be rotated. Yes, this does allow you to flip the bird and do devil horns – there are achievements for both, in fact. The game opens with you sat at your desk, and the phone rings. The first time you reach for the phone, your arm inevitably sweeps all your papers, pens, pills and ultimately the phone itself clean off the desk. That first burst of surprised laughter is wrenched from you, and if the first of many.
Surgeon Simulator 2013 is basically just a joke disguised as a game. The gag is a little bit of the ‘uncoordinated idiot’ that made the aforementioned QWOP and Octodad into underground hits, soaked in medical TV-drama viscera and over-the-top action (later levels see you performing tricky operations in the back of a high-speed ambulance, with tools and removed organs flying hither and yon). Beyond the joke… well, there’s not really a lot else.
But then, I would say that. Because I found it really, really tricky. And not just because of the controls, which I could never really get the hang of, but also because I couldn’t really work out what I was supposed to be doing in the operations themselves. Mostly, this is because I’m a moron – I spent the first couple of attempts at heart surgery trying to drill through a lung in order to get to the heart before it dawned on me that I could just… you know… remove it. Graphically, there’s not a lot to make a fuss about here (thankfully – it could have been lunch-ejectingly horrific if the graphics budget had been much higher) and the sound is pretty limited, and occasionally a little irritating. But that’s all missing the point, really.
Surgeon Simulator 2013 is kind of an awkward, freeform updating of the classic board game ‘Operation’. Still, for the price of a couple of pints, there’s a good couple of belly laughs here, if you’re not averse to some pretty sick shenanigans. The precision required to complete an operation is pretty sloppy – once you’ve yanked out the patient’s brain, for instance, brain surgery is pretty much just a matter of slinging the new brain into the hole and calling it good. There’s none of the tedious stitching, or even putting back the bits you’ve pulled out or cut away. As a simulation of surgery, it fails on pretty much all counts. But as an exercise in silliness, and a bit of harmless fun, it’s hard to really feel anything negative about this game, really. It’s infuriatingly difficult, it’s true, and sometimes hard to work out just what exactly you’ve done wrong, and why a level’s not completing. But with patience there are skills to be learnt and Youtube-video-uploading bragging rights to be earned. And if nothing else, it makes you feel drunk without having to drink any booze. That’s probably worth the admission price on its own.
UPDATE - To add to this fun title, Bossa Studios have recently added a bunch of free updates - TF2 skins that let you recreate the Meet The Medic video. On top of that they have included support for the popular new device, Oculus Rift and Razer Hydra. Although not as smooth as some of the custom tech demo's, the Oculus still adds a fantastic amount of immersion to the game. You really feel like you are getting your virtual hands dirty as you physically move to reach into some innocents chest cavity and carve your way through their organs like some lunatic handyman. Again due warning: don't try this if you're squeamish.
The Razer Hydra motion controls were a bit more of a mixed experience, but nothing that couldn't be fixed with some patches. Often trying to reach down to pick up your much needed bone hammer would result in a fail as the calibration of the system was not as accurate as needed. But our ability to adapt and over compensate soon gave us the wobbly skills needed. This issue can be fixed with a patch tweak, if it is indeed a problem with the title and not with the Razer Hydra system.
All in all a great free addition to help encourage the games lifespan and we can see this turning Surgeon Sim into a go to title after the pub with your mates.