Did you ever play Theme Hospital? Who am I kidding, of course you did, it’s brilliant. Surgeon Simulator feels a lot like you’re controlling one of the doctors in that late 90’s classic. A patient needs a heart transplant? You just need to rip open his chest cavity, pull everything out and fling a new one in! Left your watch inside of him? No matter, he wanted a new ticker anyway! Ha ha ha.
For those of you who don’t know, Surgeon Simulator: Anniversary Edition is the PS4 version of last year’s PC game. You control a hand, using a variety of surgical tools to complete various operations without killing your patient.
While it could be a bleak training game, Surgeon Simulator instead goes down the comedy route, with ungainly controls making your life as difficult as possible. Your disembodied hand is rotated either with motion control or the right stick, moved around with the left and lowered with L2. R1 meanwhile grasps with the forefinger and thumb, whilst R2 closes the remaining fingers.
Operations have you clumsily grabbing scalpels, bone-saws, lasers etc. and transplanting various organs into and out of your unfortunate patient without him loosing to much blood. Along the way you can accidentally drug yourself by touching a syringe, drop vital equipment on the floor or in the patient, and even electrocute yourself.
It has all the trappings of a comedic game, and you’ll giggle the first few times you play it, but the novelty soon wears off. The line between fun and frustration is a tight one in games such as this, and unfortunately Surgeon Simulator crosses it far too often.
Wrestling with the controls is kind of the point – there would be no challenge otherwise, so it’s hard to pick on that as a flaw – but the system is tied to incredibly specific points on each organ that can be cut. Bone isn’t so bad – in fact you can see lines separating the sections it will break into if you look close enough – but removing the large intestine in the kidney operation requires you to cut two points that are slightly darker than the rest. It’s a level of finesse that is almost impossible to pull off, particularly when you can’t change the angle of the scalpel you’re using.
Your arm further compounds things, completely obscuring lower sections you need to cut, making the entire thing guesswork, and I had to restart one level because the replacement organ I dropped in fell the wrong way round and I had no way to flip it over. Most operations – at least the first few times – devolve into aimlessly mangling the patient’s insides with something sharp to find the points that can be cut, before reattempting on a “serious” run.
Later stages replay the same handful of operations, but in different environments – a corridor, the back of an ambulance and even in space – adding a bit of longevity, but by that point you have seen all that Surgeon Simulator: Anniversary Edition has to offer. Each successful operation is ranked and timed, though I doubt you’ll want to go back.
At least it looks okay, and the music suits it down to a tee, but it does nothing to show off the power of your PS4. It’s also surprisingly buggy; items glitch through your hand regularly, or just fall out even when you have a solid grip.
VERDICT: Surgeon Simulator: Anniversary Edition is a one trick pony, and once you’ve played through the first operation enough times to complete it you’ll have stopped laughing. The controls err on frustrating far too often, and while deliberately clumsy, the entire system is too inconsistent to provide much fun.
POOR. Games tagged 4/10 will be playable, perhaps even enjoyable, but will be let down by a slew of negative elements that undermine their quality and value. Best avoided by any but hardcore genre fans.
Review code provided by publisher.