Thursday, September 13

Review: Surgeon Simulator CPR [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Physics games are notoriously difficult to review, ones that would ideally rely on precise controls even moreso. The fun, if you choose to think of it that way, is in the frustration that ensues when you’re left to try your best to fumble your way through scenarios on the way to some semblance of success, the many broken eggs along the way to your omelette being part of the point. Surgeon Simulator CPR, the Switch incarnation of the pretty popular series, tries to bring that fun complete with motion controls, co-op play, and HD Rumble but I would imagine opinions on it will be divisive to say the least.

The nature of the game is that you’ll play the part of a surgeon, working your way through surgeries that get increasingly ridiculous in both their nature and their locale. While you’ll begin performing relatively normal transplants in a proper setting further on you’ll be challenged to be accurate in an ambulance and even performing surgery on an alien in space. If it sounds a bit silly you’d be correct, and we’ll be clear that this is in no way remotely realistic, nor is it meant to be. This is very much a matter of success by any means possible so feel free to use that hammer to break through your patient’s ribcage or flail to get that new heart into place, embracing the insanity is really the only way to go.

What can get in the way is a mix of the lack of direction and the consistent struggle with the controls. The first crucial thing to understand is that short of killing your patient, which will happen, there really are no rules. Certainly in real life there’s a proper way to do everything, here experimentation is the way to go. Where this can be an issue is when the game’s cues for your success or failure in doing something can be limited. The result may sometimes be consulting a walkthrough or YouTube just to be sure you’re on the right track, and this can be frustrating when it crops up.

The remaining issue is that even when you’ve got the idea of what you want to do the controls aren’t just a bit loose and silly they’re generally just not very intuitive and sloppy. It’s true, this genre is built on fumbling your way through things, but there’s a point where it can fall off the rails and at best Surgeon Simulator is on the outer boundaries of this. Motion controls are a mess and even using the joysticks to simplify things a bit when you’re sometimes struggling just to pick up instruments it can get a bit tedious. Co-op mode conceptually is a nice addition, potentially throwing gasoline on the craziness fire, but again unless both of you are happy with the controls it just may serve to frustrate you both.

I’d consider this to be very much a love or hate kind of title with very little room in the middle. Either you’ll embrace the lack of direction and wonky controls, enjoying the ridiculousness this inevitably prompts, or you’ll get turned off by it all very quickly. The control implementation on Switch I don’t think does anything to help matters as none of the schemes are quite imprecisely precisely enough to keep it further on the wacky fun side rather than the head-bangingly aggravating side. If you’re inclined to give it a go be sure to come in with an open mind and a fair amount of patience.

Score: 5.5

  • For the right crowd this sort of experience can be silly fun
  • Playing with an audience can add to the experience greatly
  • Tries to make the most of the premise with a variety of curveballs thrown in for good measure

  • The lack of direction and more apparent cues for when you’re doing things right can lead to confusion
  • Pretty well none of the control options offered are ideal, even keeping in mind the intent for the control to be inherently imprecise
  • By its nature and implementation it is likely a love/hate proposition