Surgeon Simulator 2013 is a darkly humorous over-the-top operation sim game where players become Nigel Burke, a would-be surgeon taking life into his own shaky hands, performing life-saving surgical maneuvers on passive patients.
There aren’t many games on the market that can define themselves as a true FPS - a First Person Surgery game, which is what makes Bossa Studios’ creation, Surgeon Simulator 2013, attention-grabbing. Unlike similarly titled releases, they’ve gone for the silly and challenging approach, rather than the mundane simulator that the title might suggest.
Release Date: 19/04/2013
Available on: Linux, Mac, PS4, Windows, PC Download
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Hilariously Funny... Painfully Frustrating
At its core, Surgeon Simulator 2013 appears to be designed to be as frustrating as possible without becoming a completely worthless experience. It’s a line that it flirts with and crosses at times. It’s up to the player to decide whether that’s a good thing or not. The physics engine is probably best described as ‘dodgy’ and having to control each individual finger and thumb makes for a clunky experience, regardless of control scheme.
Frustration aside, Surgeon Simulator 2013 can be absolutely hilarious. In my case, it moves from being a game of maddening failure to one of tear-streaming laughter when someone else is in the hotseat. The scenarios are ridiculous – performing a heart transplant in the back of a moving ambulance, for example – and the tools that the player is given even more so. What could be better than a surgical saw to remove part of the ribcage? A claw hammer, of course!
Just a little on the Gruesome Side
The game is gruesome and it’s certainly not something that a young child should be exposed to, but in its own way, the presentation also carries the humour. The blood looks enough like HP’s tomato ketchup as to not be disturbing, and the interaction between a surgeon who acts as if they’ve had injections of anaesthetic all the way down their arm and vital organs is one that somehow ends up being funny and charming. This is a game that almost forces you to laugh at tragic accidents – such as accidentally tossing away someone’s lungs after 5 failed attempts at carefully placing them to the side.
A true game for parties, I don’t believe that Surgeon Simulator 2013 is a game that everyone will find enjoyable if they sit down to play it on their own. In fact, some people will find it nigh on unplayable and give up on it after quarter of an hour. The physics engine certainly doesn’t help, either - there are just a few too many glitches and inconsistencies keep the game on the funny side of difficult.
Also a detriment to the single player experience is the lack of variety in operations. There are three basic procedures that are repeated in different environments. Just a couple of different objectives could have made the game more accessible to some.
As with most games that are fiendishly difficult, the emotional reward for achieving a high grade is huge. There aren’t many people who’ve played the game that have achieved the highest grade in each of the stages – so for those who enjoy fiendishly difficult challenges, there’s something to aspire to.
Niche Focused, Not for Everyone
I think it’s clear that Bossa Studios were looking at a handful of distinct audiences – which is something that I think will apply to games similar to this, such as ‘Octodad’ and ‘Fly in the House’ – and those are YouTubers & streamers, social gamers and completionists. It’s certainly hard to deny that watching a popular personality struggle and curse their way through operations is fun, but sadly I think this is where Surgeon Simulator 2013 peaks – when someone else is playing it.
What Surgeon Simulator 2013 does deserve praise for is taking a risk. It’s risky to put your faith in an awkward and imperfect physics system. It’s risky to put your faith in a gruesome sense of humour that people could have reacted to in a much more negative way. It’s certainly risky to put faith in a theme that is so unusual. How much those risks have paid off is very much down to the individual. For me – this is not a game that I will get any enjoyment out of playing myself – but perhaps that’s not the point. It is a game that has brought a great deal of laughter to parties and gaming channels, and the game is enjoying a good position on Steam as a result.
Similarly, the way in which the operations have been designed with some flexibility also deserves praise. The addition of alternative options for those that are struggling with the more precise tools is the only reason I managed to make progress. This is the point at which players will start to notice the subtle depth the game has to offer – there are various obscure hints that suggest the correct place to make incisions, for example. And for those that have no idea, there’s always a tool on hand to brute force their way through the task at hand.
Surgeon Simulator 2013 is part success, part failure. Playing it on your own will leave you feeling like you need a humour transplant. Playing it with friends is guaranteed hilarity.
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Surgeon Simulator 2013 is developed by Bossa Studios.