Some games just like to poke fun at you, often by being notoriously difficult, with the likes of Dark Souls, Flappy Bird, and QWOP springing to mind. These titles frequently find success through their brutal difficulty levels, and even amass cult followings of dedicated fans, who are able to succeed where so many fail. Surgeon Simulator: Anniversary Edition bursts its way into this category, ready to prove that you don’t have to be any good at a game to get some fun out of it.
Right off the bat, something doesn’t seem quite right with this “simulation”. You’re greeted with the outstretched limb of Dr. Nigel Burke, a self-proclaimed and evidently inept surgeon who definitely didn’t earn that Doctorate legitimately. After perusing the paraphernalia on his desk and admiring the basic control scheme flashing up on his monitor, you’ll turn your attention to a nearby clipboard. This acts as an incredibly basic menu system, where you can look at your Trophy progression, fiddle with the settings, and start your next surgery.
Surgery consists of mutilating a single patient – or, er, victim – in a collection of operations including heart transplants, brain and eye surgeries, and even some dental practices. None of these come with helpful hints that allude to the correct method, however, and you’re left to deduce the best way to dissect Bob without him bleeding to death using a collection of barbaric surgical instruments, including a bone saw and drill. The more damage that you cause to Bob’s internals, the quicker that he’ll bleed out; the amount of blood that he’s got left acts like a timer, adding pressure to an already difficult situation.
The haphazard control scheme doesn’t make saving Bob any easier either: triggers raise and lower your hand, while the bumpers control your fingers, and the analogue sticks strafe and rotate. These controls prove ludicrously difficult to master, and remain at the heart of the problems faced with this PC port; it’s evident that the accuracy of a mouse outshines the DualShock 4’s capabilities in this instance. Thanks to that brutally fiddly control system, and overall lack of instruction, these surgeries often unravel into complete bloodbaths, ending with poor Bob flat lining, covered in gore, a coffee mug, and a few surgical tools.
If the standard combination isn’t to your tastes, then the PS4 release enables alternate control options to wreak havoc with Bob’s insides. For those in ownership of the PlayStation Camera, you’re able to use it to control the tracking of the arm, and those that are yet to invest in the peripheral can instead simply rotate the wrist using the in-built motion sensors of the new controller. While these extras are certainly novel, they don’t exactly make controlling the situation any easier, and in fact only serve to complicate the already tedious procedures.
In an upcoming update exclusive to the PS4 release – due out around the 27th August – these issues may become two-fold, with the inclusion of co-operative surgeries. Switch on another controller and Dr. Burke will spontaneously regain use of his other arm. On the one hand, this could make the surgical procedures easier, using the extra appendage to finish operations in half the time; alternatively, your counterpart could decide to impede your efforts with Bob, and simply lay waste to his vulnerable torso – It’s just down to how nice your friends are really.
The game’s art style echoes the popular children’s toy Play Dough, with Bob’s internals looking comically clay as you toss them around the operating theatre. Although this doesn’t exactly harness the PS4’s own internals, it definitely suits the experience: if things were hyper-realistic, the Anniversary Edition would probably come with a complimentary barf bag. The musical score is also oddly fitting in a similar manner, pleasantly churning out a rhythmic 80s synth tune that complements the eccentricity of the atrocities that you commit on your unaware subject.
Surgeon Simulator: Anniversary Edition’s concept will almost certainly be lost on a few, but if you play with a combination of patience and trial and error, then you’ll often yield positive results. The clunky controls are unforgivable, but its humorous attitude towards surgery is endearing, creating an experience that’s as weird as it is funny. This isn’t a game for perfectionists looking for a true simulation of a busy A&E department: it’s more like a training ground for psychopaths looking to learn the ropes, shave a few eyebrows, and play with lasers.