Is adding some amusement into a game enough to make you forget the fact that you spend most of the time getting utterly and totally pissed off at everything being so difficult? That’s the dilemma I had while playing the recent PS4 release of Surgeon Simulator, a game which has enjoyed success on other platforms before now and drove me mildly insane within half an hour of loading it up.
It’s clear that this isn’t meant to be a game where you have success whenever you want it. If you’re expecting a game of serious medical procedures then you’re in the wrong place, instead you’ll be cracking ribs with a hammer, slicing out lungs with a small circular saw and dropping a portable radio into the space you’ve just made for yourself. Well, you will be if you can get a grasp on the incredibly intricate and awkward controls that have you flinging scalpels across the room, dropping a patient’s heart on his face or simply managing to do none of this at all. Tilting the controller (or using the right stick) will twist the surgeons hand, with various combinations of buttons operating the fingers on said twisty hand. Picking objects up is tricky enough, but putting them to good use? Not without much trial and error, something which might kill the interest for a lot of people.
And yet all this flailing around has plenty of potential for some laughs, especially if you’re not the one failing miserably. Watching someone else playing is far more enjoyable, but then so is watching someone else getting smacked in the nuts by a football, but that doesn’t mean it was fun for the person actually experiencing it. There reaches a point thought that things start to make some sense, you figure out how to pick things up without dropping them and you can concentrate on at least trying to do what you should be doing with the body lying in front of you. It starts to become fun, and even if you’re not doing what you’re being asked to do the very fact you can carry out tasks with a tiny amount of accuracy is just reward for your efforts and actually feels pretty good. But even when you do start to believe your luck is turning, and that you’re finally becoming a master surgeon, the end of operation ranking leaves it so impossible to do well that it’s tough to find the motivation for another attempt.
The motivation will come from other people egging you on to have another go without dropping your watch onto someone’s brain after some frantic skull hammering. But without those people it’s hard to bring yourself to spend too long on this, it just breeds frustration, and as Yoda once said frustration leads to anger, anger leads to damaged controllers. It was something like that anyway. Your enjoyment of this will depend entirely on the company you hold, and the amount of patience you have (an unintentional homophone in case you’re wondering). It’ll also depend on how much fun you can derive from hacking someone apart with no real intention of putting them back together again, something which I found to be quite intriguing for a while but didn’t grasp me for any long periods of time.
Generally then if you’re hoping for something realistic, you’re out of luck. This ranks somewhere near Operation for realism on an operating table. But with a couple of mates and some staying power (possibly fuelled by a lager or two) it’s not impossible to enjoy it. Here’s the big thing though: if you like to get quick satisfaction out of a game, run away. Quickly.
Reviewed on PS4