“Surgeon Simulator 2” review: A delightful operation blemished with sore points

Did you know that a rubber duck, applied with enough force, can break a set of human ribs? If you’ve answered no, don’t worry about it – until Surgeon Simulator 2, I didn’t either.

I hadn’t covered this with the patient, who was laid in front of me in need of a new heart, before the surgery. To get to that pesky blood-pumper I needed to get through a frustratingly intact set of ribs, and with a rubber duck located conveniently closer than any “real” surgical tool, I gave in to my temptation. With a bit of debased bludgeoning, the squeaky toy managed its task without a problem – although as I finally squeaked my way to the crack of bone, there was, actually, one teensy-tiny problem.

Surgeon Simulator 2
Surgeon Simulator 2. Credit: Bossa Studios

His left leg isn’t attached. The leg isn’t – under any circumstances – meant to be halfway across the room. I don’t know how or, to be honest, when it happened but here we are. Across the operating table, my fellow surgeon is fighting through waves of blood to assault the poor man with his own thigh, desperately trying to reattach it with a little too much force. I sprint for a yellow syringe to staunch the bleeding, but in my panic I grab the tray beneath it, scattering our life-saving medicine across the floor like marbles.

Just as we think we’re about to lose our patient, there’s a satisfying plop as his leg rejoins the rest of his body. With the blood loss stemmed, I get back to the real task at hand – reaching into his chest and plucking out his heart with a good old-fashioned Kali Ma. From there, it’s just a matter of chucking in a new one – it doesn’t really matter where – and we’re good. See? Surgery is easy.

Well, it would be, if controlling your character wasn’t so deliberately clunky. There are separate controls for moving your arm and hand, which means that in Surgeon Simulator 2,  accidents in the operating theatre are incredibly common. In my experience, these accidents fall into two categories: they can be funny or they can be frustrating, and rarely can they be both.

Using a saw to hack off a limb often obscures the handy “cut-here” lines that are helpfully laid out, meaning that you can spend far too much time trying – and failing – to remove the limb safely. It’s amusing at first – in just one of my medical mishaps, I was cackling when my bloody saw emerged with a lower intestine forked firmly to the tip, especially considering I was only trying to remove his arm. However, the frustrating process grew tiresome quickly and I resorted to ripping limbs off like the Hulk in scrubs, which was far less professional but much less frustrating.

Surgeon Simulator 2
Surgeon Simulator 2. Credit: Bossa Studios

The surgery, honestly, isn’t actually a massive part of Surgeon Simulator 2, despite what the name may have you believe. In the story mode, I spent more time solving puzzles and fetching fuses than actually carrying out medical procedures – and although i’m not a doctor I’ve never seen a surgeon remove a patient’s head to unlock a weirdly demanding door.

These sorts of tasks are grotesquely fitting to the story of Surgeon Simulator 2, where the founders of a hi-tech medical training facility have gone a little overboard in the pursuit of science. The levels are narrated with some quintessentially British commentary, so you’ll get to know all of the founders from the snide complaints of their colleagues. While I was completely engrossed in learning more about these founders, like my exasperation with the saw, I did start to grow tired of the puzzles within story mode. They could be fairly repetitive – the main culprit was having to hunt down those bloody fuses – and I was particularly frustrated that there were no checkpoints, meaning that one of the many accidents in Surgeon Simulator 2 could force you to replay the entire, often tedious, stage from scratch.

Very early on, I realised that the story mode – which I went into totally blind – was absolutely nothing like I was expecting. From the ominous music to the disquieting sterile halls, Surgeon Simulator 2 feels like a British sibling of Portal – so I was always expecting the campaign to take a dark turn. Each level politely screams “something’s not right”, especially when a plain-looking office room requires a human arm to enter. That’s exactly what Surgeon Simulator 2 is going for, so when the weird shit gets going, it’s a very good ride.

Surgeon Simulator 2 puzzles
Surgeon Simulator 2. Credit: Bossa Studios

While this ride can be taken alone, it’s one that is absolutely intended to be played with friends. Surgeon Simulator 2 repeatedly prompts you to bring – or make – friends to play with, and I couldn’t imagine finding the game as enjoyable with nobody to share each moment of chaos with. When you accidentally yank off a head (hey – it happens) and there’s nobody to fling it at, it’s not really that funny – it’s just a nuisance. It’s not really a game I’d recommend picking up to play solo, as I just don’t think that single players will get enough replay value without the shared bond of prop-pelting medical violence.

Also grating were the bugs that plagued my time with the game. Trying to get my friend into the lobby was an ordeal in itself, as it crashed every time she joined until we figured out she needed to load up a single-player game first. Once she was in the lobby, I needed to enter and exit two different ready-up tubes so that we could progress, as the doors wouldn’t open on her screen. After all that, when we finally got into the game, it was sometimes hard to tell what was part of the “gimmick” experience and what was a genuine bug. There was one particular case where I was soft-locked out of progressing in a puzzle because I’d sent up an arm instead of a fuse, causing an elevator to lock me out of the crucial pieces I needed to move forward. It was particularly exasperating because it had taken us so long just to solve the puzzle, so I had to restart and do the whole thing again. In another case, I was consumed entirely by the glass door of a walk-in fridge.

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Despite those bugs, the majority of my definitely-real medical training in Surgeon Simulator 2 was a load of fun. When the surgery clicks and everything is working as intended – or you’re thriving in the limb-strewn chaos of near-death – it’s a mix of being intensely satisfying and outright hilarious. Though the gimmicky nature of movement – while obviously the core of the game – can get old alongside the slightly repetitive levels, overall Surgeon Simulator 2 is worth playing with pals. Just remember – if at first you don’t succeed, there’s always another Bob (and another rubber duck) to try again with.

Surgeon Simulator 2 is available on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. We played the PC version on Steam, which releases on September 2, however it is available now on the Epic Games Store.

The Verdict

When Surgeon Simulator 2 is overflowing with body parts and frantic buddy-comedy surgery, it’s fantastic. Unfortunately, the game is slightly too repetitive – and buggy – to become a staple for those late-night Discord sessions.

Pros

  • Surgery – however makeshift – is oddly satisfying
  • Flinging household objects at pals has never been so amusing
  • When playing with friends, flash in the pan moments of chaos are hilarious
  • An intriguing storyline manages to bring a lot more depth than the predecessor

Cons

  • Frequent bugs make the game irritating – or sometimes impossible – to play
  • The hand-controlling system can become more annoying than funny
  • Puzzles are slightly too repetitive for each level to feel fresh

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