One time back when I was in my early twenties, my best friend and I were walking through one of the libraries at our university. As a group of people were studying, he loudly told me that he wanted to be a surgeon.
I asked him, “Why? So you can make lots of money?”
He replied, “No. So I can have a license to KILL!”
I’ve always dreamed about a game coming out that is as straight-up bonkers as my friend’s outlook on practicing modern medicine. It took nearly twenty years, but it has finally happened. Surgeon Simulator 2013 exists, and it is a truly singular gaming experience that offers thrills, laughter, and challenge to only the boldest players.
Surgeon Simulator 2013 tells the story of Nigel Burke, a young surgeon dedicated to healing the sick and getting things done in time for lunch. He is a specialist in organ transplants of all types — heart, kidneys, brain — if it’s not working properly, he’ll switch it out no problem. Well, the only real problem with Dr. Burke is that he’s got some issues with fine motor skills.
A big part of this game’s appeal is that its floaty physics and awkward controls create situations in which a perfectly uneventful procedure can go horribly, horribly wrong. This is by no means a bad game however; a little bit of practice can make you a master of the operating room. For example, I’m not a particularly skilled player of games but I can do a double kidney transplant while barely causing any blood loss in my patient, and you can too.
Once you complete the first three transplants and move out from the operating room, that’s when this game veers into some truly inspired territory. Its second section takes place in the back of a speeding ambulance as it’s racing towards the hospital on a bumpy road. Aside from the obvious challenge of tools and organs bouncing around, there’s even the possibility of crucial items (i.e. a kidney) flying out the back door. Keeping track of everything in the game environment is crucial in the part of the game, and it can be a little frustrating to have to start over again. Then again, it never made me stop playing because surgeries are brief, and each attempt is a learning experience that pays off every time.
I mentioned to some of my colleagues around the Twinfinite office that the game this one reminds me of the most is Portal, and I meant it. Surgeon Simulator 2013 is at its core a puzzle game, in which the objective is to figure out the best route to a successful resolution. Much like laying out the proper sequence of portals to escape from the test chamber, you must make a proper sequence of cuts and grabs to be able to extract and replace the faulty organ. The methods are different, but it’s the same philosophy at work.
This leads to perhaps the biggest flaw with this game (and with Portal for that matter). There’s nothing quite like the first time you solve a puzzle in Surgeon Simulator 2013. You can try using different tools and challenge yourself with speed or minimal blood loss, or using only a laser, but the process of cutting and removing is essentially the same. At this time, there’s no word on more content over the next little while, but I’d love to see some DLC or expansions. Let’s try a nose job. How about a skin graft? Hell, how about a gender reassignment? The possibilities are limitless!
Comedy is hard to do in any format, but it’s proven to be particularly difficult with video games. This one however is absolutely hilarious, and full of little details that only get funnier the deeper you go. From the title screen which allows you to interact with everything on your desk, to the shockingly graphic surgeries themselves, to the 3.5 inch floppy discs that contain tutorial information, credits, and a secret mode that you have to see to believe. For $10, this game is easily worth owning.
I don’t have the stomach, the steady hands, or the nice abs to be a proper surgeon like on TV. Up until now, I’ve had to settle for watching Private Practice and Grey’s Anatomy with my wife. Now I get the chance to call the shots and live on the edge. I recognize that Surgeon Simulator 2013 isn’t the kind of polished gem that is characteristic of games that get this kind of praise, but it does something that so few games these days achieve; it gives you an experience that you’ve never had before. This game is literally a bloody mess at times, but it’s got more humor, heart, and soul than just about anything else you’ll find this year.
*Please check out the video below to see and hear my final thoughts about Surgeon Simulator 2013.
[+Unlike anything you've ever played] [+Perfect length] [+Varied challenges] [+Fun to play AND to watch] [+Blend of sim, puzzle game, party game] [-No thrill like the first time]