Reviewed by Tracy Benson
When I think of simulator games, I think of things like Farm Simulator or Train Simulator, games where you get to pretend to be someone doing really boring real life… stuff. Surgeon Simulator 2013 is not one of those games. That’s sort of the point.
Originally developed in 48 hours at the 2013 Global Game Jam, Bossa Studios designed an intentionally over-the-top simulator that challenged players to complete a heart transplant one-handed, using badly placed tools and a cripplingly painful control system. Diabolical, as Bossa Studios themselves described it. Having seen what they could do in 48 hours, they then asked themselves, what could we do with 48 days? The result: Surgeon Simulator 2013, a mad blend between simulator and complete balls-to-the-wall insanity.
You play as Nigel Burke, a faceless surgeon whose floating hand you attempt to control as you work your way from the original heart transplant to a double kidney transplant, then on to full on brain surgery, with barely a hint of a tutorial. The control scheme made me feel drunk and dyslexic at the same time, as your hand bobs and weaves around above the patient, knocking instruments over and dropping scalpels into chest cavities. Also, that was before I accidentally stabbed myself with a syringe and was treated to a trippy couple of seconds while the patient was bleeding out.
The patient lives as long as they have blood, and after certain amounts of “damage” (read: uncontrolled bonesaw/drill/hatchet collisions) will start to bleed out. You have until his blood level hits zero to complete the surgery by tugging out enough organs to make space for the new one, then shoving said new organ into place as best you can. It really only matters that the kidneys are in the right place, you don’t need to worry about the intestines that slid to the floor.
After finishing the brain surgery things become a little bit more difficult, when you’re asked to do all of those surgeries over again, while in the back of a moving ambulance. Yes, a moving ambulance. Here’s where the insanity gets dialled up to eleven as instruments, fire extinguishers and organs go bouncing around and sometimes straight out of your “operating theater”.
Surgeon Simulator 2013 feels like a good joke, and it’s letting you in on the laughs as well. Accompanied by a surprisingly fitting soundtrack that makes you feel like MacGyver, it’s really not meant to be taken too seriously. Just have a look through some of the achievements you can get, and you’ll see what I mean. They’ve anticipated most of the hand gestures you’re likely to give, and they knew that people, like me, were going to put two hearts in just to make a Time Lord. Bossa Studios knows gamers very well, and they dropped a lot of Easter Eggs in to make us smile.
It’s also well worth it to just play around in the interactive main-menu. Firstly, you can try get to grips with the controls by trying to answer the phone or write on the notepad. If you’re anything like me you’ll knock the phone across the room and grab the radio instead, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Secondly, this is a game that really rewards curiosity, and you might not get to the very end of the game unless you are paying attention. I won’t say anything further though… spoilers.
Surgery Simulator 2013 is a strange, funny, frustrating and ultimately rewarding experience in “how not to perform surgery”. Brilliant to play and almost more hilarious to watch, there’s a real sense of achievement to be had, even when all you manage to do is to not kill the patient.
Lasting Appeal: 7/10
Reviewed on PC. Available on Steam.