If you have ever played the board game Operation and felt bad about being a poor substitute for a real doctor while operating on some poor man’s insides and enjoyed it, you would do well to play Surgeon Simulator. It makes you laugh and cringe and curse all at the same time, and that’s quite a worthwhile experience for a smaller PSN game.
I was frustrated and fuming for much of the time when I first started up Surgeon Simulator. The hand controls were really stupid and jittery around other stationary objects — and whose hand juts out directly from the middle of their body, blocking the view of what is under said hand? No one’s, except for the surgeon dude’s in this game! Plus, he never wears gloves or washes his hands pre-operation (I just assumed on that last point), and doesn’t care that his watch pops off all the time and can be forgotten inside the patient’s body cavity. He likes to bring his bottle of orange drink to every surgery and just sets it with all his tools like no big deal. He has fat fingers and has problems grasping the very important surgical tools that are necessary for saving patient’s lives, and even doesn’t see the problem with throwing and/or knocking said tools off the table, never to be reached again during the surgery. He even considers a plastic spoon as a valid surgical tool. Eye transplant, anyone?
By now, I hope you have also gotten a hint of why the game is so great. It’s hilarious. The hilarity is in the same vein as Octodad’s clumsy, nonchalant family life. Hacking into parts of a patient to successfully complete a critical heart transplant is so paradoxical. My frustration dissolved when I suddenly stopped and thought, “I just used a hammer to break patient Bob’s ribcage, ripped out his in-the-way lungs with my bare hand, flung them wherever my hand wanted to fling them, carved out his old heart with the nearest sharp thing, tossed a new heart in the empty hole and called it good. That was awesome.” Now input that scenario into a rushing E.R. hallway, a swerving ambulance, and even outer space. There’s an inescapable charm in this game that can overpower how difficult the controls can be.
I would say this game’s most obvious negative aspect is how difficult it can be. It’s fine that the controls are hard to work with and require careful dexterity and skill, but to get a good score on any of the levels is more than challenging. It seems to pass that point where a gamer would even want to try any more, because to be that good you need to dedicate a lot of time practicing, as if playing this game well and scoring highly is a valuable life skill. I am completely in awe of and congratulate those players who have gotten A++ ratings on any of the levels, but personally I think the bar is set so high I can’t even see it. If you are into really niche, challenging games, you won’t mind this aspect of Surgeon Simulator. You’ll have a lot of fun playing it. But for me, the entire package of the game contains 10 percent fun, and 90 percent challenge and frustration.
The draw of this game is the crazy “realistic” surgeon simulation, but that is also the bad part. It’s just realistic enough to be very difficult due to the precise way you have to learn to control the hand, except most people already have real hands and know how they should work and behave and so can feel the flaws of the game hand during gameplay. It’s quite a fun game to watch, though! All the frustrations of trying to do well while controlling your hand and being fast without killing your patient just melt away and you get to enjoy how bizarre and ridiculous the gameplay is. Stabbing eyeballs with pencils is way more fun to watch than actually try to do with the physics of Surgeon Simulator. If you have multiple people in your house or have friends over often, this game is great to start up and mess around with. Sadly, I don’t think that’s the intended selling point for a game like this.
I enjoyed the idea of Surgeon Simulator, but the difficulty made the game futile more than entertaining. Flinging internal organs about was fun (and quite disgusting), but I personally can’t think of anyone I know who would enjoy trying so hard to score decently on a game like this for all of the many levels– except maybe my crazy husband. Even with its frustrations, I’m glad I own it, played it, and can refer to it as a “hilarious, crazy video game” in conversation.
Surgeon Simulator review copy provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.