As Nigel, the player controls one hand of a decidedly dysfunctional doctor as he attempts several anatomically forgiving operations on helpless patients. By default, the A, W, E, R, and Space keys contract the individual digits of the hand, whilst the mouse controls the movement, angle, and rotation of the inept limb. The control scheme is exceptionally unsettling at the outset, which only adds to the hilarity when accidentally dropping a spinning drill into the subject’s exposed innards. I managed to master the controls after several minutes of humorous fumbling and set straight to my medically dubious butchery.
Three basic operations are available to the player: a heart transplant, a double kidney transplant, and a brain transplant. The initial operating room procedures are incredibly entertaining in their own right, but become vastly more wacky (and fatal) as Nigel is asked to perform the same operations under increasingly difficult circumstances. Having a fire extinguisher bounce off the shelf and into the patient’s lungs while operating in the back of an ambulance driven by Evil Knievil adds an extra layer of difficulty. I won’t spoil everything, but Surgeon Simulator does feature a number of additional circumstances and special stages that will keep you maiming victims, I mean patients, for plenty of hours. While not stipulated by the game itself, I found myself attempting to clear each operation without unnecessary blood loss or as quickly as possible.
There are dozens of things to mess around with in Surgeon Simulator. The game creates a need to explore, to mess around with everything in the game. From sticking a scalpel into an electrical socket to zap the controls backwards and slamming Nigel’s hand onto a syringe for a psychedelic surgery to messing with the various floppy disks in the lobby, there is plenty to do beyond the stated goals of the game. There are alternate ways to complete each surgery. A player could conceivably complete an entire surgery with the laser scalpel, or hack apart a ribcage with a hatchet. The options are multitudinous.
The game is not without fault, however. During the kidney transplant operation I often find myself unable to grab the patient’s right kidney because of the rotation limits on Nigel’s hand. I often have to poke the kidney to the side with a pencil in order to get my slippery digits on the errant organ. This seems like a specific oversight, but does give me occasional fits. Additionally, I often find myself yanking at the patient’s liver for inordinate lengths of time. It isn’t just the difficulty of dislodging it, I feel like it gets stuck, which is irritating. The same can be said of removing the dressing over the patient at the beginning of the heart and kidney transplant operations. My hand tends to clip through the cloth, leaving it stuck on my wrist and forcing me to restart the operation.