Surgeon Simulator Touch Review
Reviewed on iPad
At so-called game jams, where devs get together to bash out the bones of a game in a day or two as opposed to the normal drawn-out, focus tested development cycle usually associated with video games, fast-paced creativity is the modus operandi. No notion is too wacky, or idea too flaky, to be explored, and it is precisely in this controlled chaos that Surgeon Simulator was delivered. Originally created over a forty-eight hour period at the 2013 Global Game Jam, it was expanded and refined for a proper release last year on PC, and recently ported to the iPad.
The abysmal effort you make on the test dummy and signing your waiver are indications of woeful performances to come. In the original PC version you controlled the daft doctor’s freakish floating hand with the mouse, but on the iPad version you flail around with your very own not-so-nimble digits. On starting the game you are presented with the good physician’s desk to the strains of a cracking pastiche of the synth-tastic Casualty theme. Here you can attempt to get a wobbly grasp on the world with items like pens, binders, your phone and other standard office paraphernalia. Your ‘iZac’ PDA contains some brief instructions regarding the controls, as well as a wealth of wryly targeted extras, including the opportunity to operate on a ‘Cephalopod Parent’ or to download ‘Dungeon Sleeper’, ‘Floaty Dot’ or ‘Sweet Smash Legend’. The game is nothing if not humorous, and also contains a host of hidden achievements to find by doing the unexpected, like the ‘Time Lord’ achievement for stuffing two hearts into Bob’s mistreated chest cavity.
Bob is the victim of your tender ministrations by the way, or ‘patient’, if you like. There are four transplants to be performed on him (heart, kidneys, eye and teeth), that is, if you’re at all interested in saving him instead of just hacking, slashing and generally abusing him like an unconscious personal meat puppet. This might not sound like a lot but if you’re anywhere as cack-handed and imprecise as we are it’ll take you hours just to clear the first one.
Bob can take a lot of punishment, indeed he doesn’t seem to mind at all having his ribs shattered and organs hurled across the room, but cause too much blood loss and you’ll soon hear some tragic piano, a flatlining monitor and a blunt message stating how fast you achieved Bob’s brutal murder. The game’s words, not ours.
We’ve seen other games like this such as Octodad or QWOP, where the horrendous controls are part of the joke, and much of the humour of the original involved playing alongside a friend and laughing as they totally fail at performing what should be the simplest of tasks. Multiplayer is included here, with you and another online user ‘racing’ to perform a surgery in the quickest time, but it’s not the same as having someone in the room with you. No instruction is provided on how to perform the operation, so unless you’ve been paying attention during those reruns of Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll be pretty much coping with trial and error. Not exactly the ideal situation when someone’s life is on the line, granted. An array of surgical implements are laid out before you, from bone saws and scalpels to cotton buds, and if you can manage to pick one up without dropping it you can inflict all kinds of carnage on poor sweet Bob. The sound design particularly adds to this, with every poke and prod yielding a sickening icky squelch.
There’s some replay value in the form of the corridor mode, where you can try the same transplants as before but instead of a nice, steady operating table, Bob is barrelling down a hospital corridor on a gurney, with the tools on separate trays whizzing by and your aim disrupted by crashing through double doors. If you make it this far without rage-quitting then good luck to you.
As with the office desk, there are some amusing asides to be found just by messing around, such as the screen going all blurry if you accidentally touch the pointy end of the anaesthetic needle, or electrocuting yourself with the resuscitation paddles. Regardless of what you may think of the core experience, the game is at least well presented. This game has had a strange path to its creation, indeed it only really exists because the original demo’s black comical nature was embraced by the YouTube ‘let’s play’ community. If you want the giggles without the challenge then you may be better off watching someone else suffer through it.
If you came here expecting the dramatic tension of the Trauma Centre games, you’re in for a disappointing time. Once you tire of mutilating poor Bob, there really aren’t many reasons to stick around. As one of the loading tips reminds you, ‘In case you were wondering, Surgeon Simulator is not an accurate simulation of surgery’. We’re not sure it’s much of a game either, but if you’re curious, it’s good for a laugh or two at this price point.