It all sounds simple enough. You are a surgeon, or rather, you are in charge of the left hand of a surgeon who is tasked with performing critical transplant operations on a series of luckless men. Each individual finger on the hand is controlled via the keyboard, and exact positioning and angle is covered with the mouse. You grab surgical tools (and sometimes pencils), introduce them to the innards of the patient, and do your best to not kill them via accidental blood loss.
It is hilariously awkward to control; the closest experience you’ve had to it before now is playing Operation, using a fairground claw machine, or perhaps trying to quietly unlock your front door whilst you are falling-down drunk.
Originally programmed as part of a game jam it is – of course – a joke. It is as such a simulation of surgery as Mario games are a simulation of plumbing or Sonic games are a simulation of being a hedgehog. And for the most part, it’s a joke that works – the absurdity of the thing covers up an awful lot of the problems with it. Instructions are vague at best; we played for a long time without realising that the green syringe stops the patient from haemorrhaging, rather than merely giving you wild hallucinations when you accidentally prick your finger on it.
But that’s all part of the fun, really; the joy of exploration, the satisfying release when a patient’s heart comes loose after minutes of tense lean-into-your-monitor-and-squint knife work, the sense that this is a strange and largely forgiving world with rules that must be discovered through play, not presented to the player as a matter of course.
The lack of feedback can get frustrating, at times, especially when it’s a challenge to even pick up the instruments you’re provided with. Wobbling them around in the patient and hoping that something useful falls off is often the only applicable tactic and there’s a lot of trial and error needed to succeed. Which knife is the right knife for, say, stomach removal? Is there even a right knife for stomach removal? Does it matter too much if we leave a wristwatch inside the patient, again? How do we stop these wild hallucinations? Can a man really survive with both of his lungs casually discarded on the operating room floor?
But those aren’t the sort of questions that you should be asking. Surgeon Simulator 2013 is rather a lot of fun, all things considered, and is certainly the sort of thing you could show off to your friends, take turns, and do your best not to accidentally drop the always-on electric drill in such a way that it spins wildly off the table and buries itself in the patient’s eye socket. It’s what his family would have wanted.