Indie Quickie: Surgeon Simulator 2013

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? Well, duh. Surgeon Simulator 2013 is a surgery simulation of course. Except it’s not really a simulation at all, rather more of a dark parody of a surgery simulation starring Nigel Burke, the last man on the face of the planet you would ever want putting you under the knife.

Who made it and where can you get it? The sick twists at Bossa Studios put this one together. The original Game Jam prototype, created in just 48 hours, is available to try for free. A full version is available on Steam (PC, Mac and Linux) for $9.99.

How much did we play? Successfully completed heart transplant and double kidney transplant operations on patient Bob, who died on the table during four other attempts. Also attempted a brain transplant, but butchered Bob while trying to crack open his skull with a hatchet. Whoops. My bad.

Any technical concerns or hardware requirements you should know about? None that I encountered. The game was a bit chuggy at max detail and resolution on my aging system, but everything evened out after tweaking some settings.

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Why should you play it?

    • The Controls Suck (on Purpose!): Imagine having to perform major surgery on another human being without any prior medical experience or training. Now imagine having to do so with one hand. Your off hand. With your dominant hand tied behind your back. That’s what playing Surgeon Simulator is like. You control Nigel’s hand by scrolling the mouse, holding/releasing the left button to adjust height, and holding the right button to adjust wrist flex and rotation. From pinky to thumb, your fingers on the A, W, E, R and Space keys control Nigel’s in-game digits for grabbing and gripping objects. If you’re left handed, you will control Nigel’s right hand. If you’re right handed, you will control his left hand. (Or you can just cheat and choose the opposing orientation to match your dominant hand with Nigel’s, but that would sort of defeat the purpose.) Sounds awkward, doesn’t it? Well it is, and that’s the whole point of the game: to overcome Nigel’s clumsiness and somehow manage to perform life-or-death operations. Then, with a little practice and patience, the controls actually begin to feel somewhat comfortable and you can attempt to take the game somewhat (but not too much!) serious.

    • Medical Malpractice: Ultimately the goal of the game is to successfully complete various organ transplants, without misplacing or mistreating the human body’s offal meats. But before getting to that point, the real fun comes from finding new ways to completely botch the operations and torment poor, anesthetized Bob. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve done some pretty disturbing things, like rip Bob’s lung out and slap him across the face with it. Or empty his entire body cavity and fill it back up with coffee mugs, beakers, pens and other random objects from the surrounding tables. One time I accidentally (or not?) left the laser tool hanging from its cord, swaying back and forth over the patient’s head while at the same time an unmanned power drill got stuck spinning out of control in his chest. To add insult to injury, I used this as an opportunity to make Nigel flip Bob the bird, after first tripping out on the acid-like drug loaded in the blue syringe. I sure hope Bob has Saiontz & Kirk on speed dial…

    • Milton Bradley’s Operation Gone Terribly Wrong: Surgeon Simulator is not a digital board game recreation, and has no multiplayer of any kind. Yet as I played, I couldn’t help but recall long ago days spent wielding the tethered tweezers of the classic Milton Bradley (now Hasbro) board game Operation. Only here the penalty for a shaky hand is the comical mutilation of a virtual person rather than the startling buzz of a cartoony cardboard cutout slotted in a bed of cheap plastic (though both lead to spontaneous laughter). Still, the spirits of the two vastly different games somehow seem kindred. Surgeon Simulator’s just a whole lot less family friendly and a whole lot more twisted.

Parting Thoughts: From what I have played, I can sense that Surgeon Simulator 2013 will likely be a love it or hate it type of a game for most players. Basically, you’re either going to “get it,” or you’re not. At first just coming to grips with the controls is a chore, to the point that an act as basic as grabbing onto an object becomes a Herculean task. Play for just a few minutes, and you’ll probably deem the game to be one of the most un-fun experiences ever packaged and sold as a form of entertainment. But once—and if—the game clicks, the balance of dark, demented humor and actual skill-based reward begins to come together surprisingly well.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!