Everybody’s worried about high medical costs, but it takes a social giant like Adult Swim to do something about it. The latest game from the publishers of Robot Unicorn Attack, Velocirapture, and– surprisingly enough– Amateur Surgeon 2 proves that you can slash your hospital bills by putting your life in the hands of novice doctors armed with pizza cutters.
Series regular Dr. Alan Probe is back, this time as a mentor to the unfortunately named Dr. Ophelia Payne. Friendly and idealistic, Ophelia is in way over her head, and her horrified reactions to her patients provides a lot of the entertainment. The comedy is broad and you can see the jokes coming from a mile away, but it’s still funny.
After learning some tricks of the trade from Alan and his practice robot, Ophelia journeys around the world performing life-saving surgery on patients who have had unfortunate encounters with shanks, shivs, and the occasional flaming burrowing insect. The game shows you what needs cutting, clamping, stapling, or chainsawing. You have to recognize the injuries, grab the tools you need, and use them quickly and accurately.
Each task is easy, but you have a lot of tasks to do and a limited time to do them. Your inadequate tools also weaken your patient when they’re used, forcing you to pause for injections of healing gel. There’s a good balance of accessibility and difficulty here, and your success depends on keeping calm and precise under pressure. It’s just like being a real doctor, making the game an excellent training tool for amateur surgeons who want to start an unlicensed practice of their own.
(Disclaimer: Please don’t do that.)
True to the “Tag Team Trauma” subtitle, you’ve got some help when the surgical going gets tough. At the beginning of each operation, you may choose a partner. You unlock robots, karate masters, and cops as you play, but your first partner may be your best. That’s Mr. Giblets, a pug dog who has had the transplanted brain of a superintelligent surgeon. His slobber stabilizes your patient’s vitals, which is a life-saver in tight situations.
The partners add a lot to the game, but they also expose its biggest problem: its aggressive monetization. Mr. Giblets has to rest for about half an hour after each surgery. You can revive him with in-game currency, or you can unlock other partners to use instead. Both options are expensive, and the game gets a lot harder if Ophelia has to save her patients on her own.
There’s a big gap between the currency you earn as you play and the currency you need to spend to keep up with the game’s rising difficulty, and the game pushes hard for in-app purchases to close that gap. It’s also not shy about popping up large ads every few minutes, and the star system requires you to grind through each surgery several times before unlocking a new set of cases.
This pushy approach to making money is not uncommon for free-to-play games. Nor is it as harsh as it could be, since the game slows you down instead of completely blocking you. It’s still a scheme that presents the stick of lack of progress instead of the carrot of new options, and it makes the game a lot less pleasant to play.
Dr. Ophelia Payne’s adventures are fun, though. The humor is juvenile and a little gross, but in a light-hearted way that’s entertaining instead of offensive. It also feels good to master the surgical procedure on each patient, even if you end up repeating it a few times more than you’d like. If you grew up thinking the Operation! board game needed more bodies and silly jokes, then Amateur Surgeon 3 may be the threequel you’ve been waiting for.