538051_largerI had thought about being a doctor long ago. Nothing really disturbs me, I've got the stomach for most of what can be thrown my way, but eight years (or more) of schooling? If there’s one thing I don’t have a huge supply of it, it's patience.

That’s where games like Amateur Surgeon 3 [Free] come into play, for the armchair surgeon in all of us. Unlike previous iterations of the series, the latest offering from AdultSwim is of the freemium model.

As Dr. Ophelia Payne (she feels your pain), you’re the newcomer to Dr. Alan’s crazy world of medical tomfoolery. Fresh out of school, you’re tasked with performing life and death operations on a variety of interesting characters in various locales, using tools any doctor would use: pizza cutter, chainsaw, lighter, car battery and a vacuum.


After a short but amusing opening sequence, you go to work on your first patient, Alan’s dog, Mister Giblets. The game guides you through the full operation for this one; how to make incisions, how to staple them shut, how to solder them together. Throughout the first couple of operations, you’ll be introduced to the majority of the game mechanics, and from then on out you’re on your own.

The graphics have a cutesy but disgusting look, and it’s pretty amusing to see the different characters you’re operating on, whether it’s the dog, a prisoner who has a cement in his lungs, or a guy with fishes stuck in his open wounds. While the game isn't overly bloody in a gory way, it does have a certain quality to it that may not appeal to some people, and is definitely rated for a mature audience.

At its core, Amateur Surgeon 3 is a three-star game; the better you do, the more stars you earn. While using tools, you accumulate points, which contribute to your final score. By being quick and precise, you gain multipliers; you can tell if you’re on a streak with a quick glance at the top of the screen. Using a tool too fast will result in your patient being injured and losing life, while going to slow may let him die before you’re able to complete the job. The time you have left, as well as the patient’s condition, is also just a quick glance away; if you feel like you’re not going to make it, may as well just slice them with the pizza cutter and enjoy your last few seconds. You also get a bonus that can be used every now and then, depending on who your partner is. For example, if your patient is dying, you can call on Mister Giblets to lick them, which refills their health.

screen1136x1136-4Prior to an operation, you’re given a field report on the patient, accompanied by amusing observations, symptoms and action. At the end of every operation, you're shown your surgery report. You get the patient’s name, condition, and the important parts, the time remaining and your score out of three stars. At the bottom is your total score for the operation. As you progress, you can buy more tag team partners which will provide various abilities. You almost feel like you’re forced to buy them all, because each one has a long recharge period before they can be used again.

There's a pretty basic upgrade system that lets you improve the tools you can use, as well as the effectiveness of your tag partners. To upgrade, you spend Surgeon Points.

In addition to the regular three-stars, there are two bonus stars you can earn in the form of challenges. Perhaps you’ll be required to perform the operation in under sixty seconds, or you won’t be allowed to make any mistakes at all.

While this feature offers a bit of extra replay, it’s annoying as well, because you can’t complete the bonus challenges while working away; you have to replay the whole operation.


Clearly, it’s designed this way because of the monetization. How so? You’re given three blood packs with which you use to continue the game should you fail an operation for whatever reason (run out of time, kill them). If you fail three times, you need to wait for your blood packs to recharge, which are at the rate of one every half hour, up to a maximum of three. Or, you can buy them at $0.99 each. In that regard, failure seems to be more harsh of a punishment than it needs to.

Since the game is free to download, you have to assume there’d be some sort of IAP. And there is, in the form of Surgeon Points. For packages ranging up to $49.99, you can buy points which you can use on upgrades. Aside from IAP’s, you also get ads every now and then, as to be expected.

All told, Amateur Surgeon 3 is a fun game the first time around, hampered by an obtrusive and almost necessary freemium system. You’ll want to finish it once, for the dialog and to see the various people and their maladies, but unless you’re a completionist, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the desire to finish the bonus challenges. If the bonus stars introduced something new to the operation, they might be worth attempting, but replaying the exact same case gets old. The freemium model just doesn't work well in this case, and AdultSwim should’ve kept their record going and charged outright.

TouchArcade Rating

  • pavarotti2007

    Do people actually buy the £40-£50 IAP in these games?

  • whitestatic

    AS3 is a textbook example of freemium done wrong. I like the game well enough that I'd be willing to purchase it outright even with limited tries/lives per patient minus the cool-down. Instead I will spend no money on it because the mechanics are intentionally designed to extract as much cash from the user as possible. What happens for me with a game like this (as well as Injustice but to a lessor degree) is that I stop playing while the timers count down. Over time (a few days to a week) I will completely stop playing and delete the app. This gameplay for cash mechanic is lazy and greedy. If you believe you need to make ten dollars per person to justify the app, then let me pay ten dollars to own the app and play it as much as I want. I've grown weary with developers of all sizes playing gatekeeper to the content. I'm willing to provide cash for unlimited, uninterrupted play. I would urge caution in following the arcade model--given how well that turned out for that part of the industry.

    • conscript

      Whitestatic nailed my sentiments exactly on the freemium model this game uses. I will gladly pay up front for a game I want. The model here detracts severely from a fun game.

    • themostunclean

      I agree completely. I deleted this game once I ran out of blood packs.

      We're starting to see a HUGE chasm in quality between freemium and premium games on iOS. While paid games are getting better, fuller and pulling in major properties from big developers, freemium is getting worse and worse. You really can't expect a free game to be any good at all so I just avoid them completely.

      The people who sink money into freemium are the same personality types that will sit at a slot machine for hours or even days at a stretch. Yet freemium isn't regulated so companies are free to exploit their customers psychological flaws as much as they like. Anyone using freemium, even the indie developer who says they have no choice, is contributing to a sick and exploitative system.

      • whitestatic

        Well said. The one caveat is that I actually did enjoy the mechanics of AS, but I find the purchase mechanic so abhorrent. The way freemium is being implemented, by and large, is the equivalent of serving up dessert for every meal. The first taste is sweet and delicious but every subsequent taste gets less so and ultimately provides no nutritional value. Freemium developers are intentionally trying to develop an addiction algorithm that encourages gamers to pay to play "just one more time." The industry will ultimately resolve itself as more and more of the core gaming market says no to these products and paying for games that provide a great experience for an honest price (and yes that means more than 99 cents). I'm perfectly content to see the market split and let the Candy Crushes of the world go after the SUPER casual market and developers with something compelling to say get my time and money.

      • Protoman

        Wouldn't it be nice if media sites would help out dealing with this sort of stuff? Instead of giving high marks games that use these systems.

    • Tomate Diseño

      I was frustrated as i thought this would be a similar model to Triple Town, which I considered a perfect balance of IAP and just buy the bloody game already. I enjoyed it, wanted to play more and was able to for £2.99. I'd happily fork over a couple of quid to Adult Swim in order to have infinite bloodpacks and hunted around for the ability to do so. Shame as it borks an otherwise fun game.


    Wait...TA now has a writer named James Paterson? *cue crazy laughter* but in all things serious, nice review dude.

    • http://matt-curtis.me/ Matt Curtis

      Don't worry, it's just a ghost writer.

  • 28monkeys

    Why buy iap when you can finish the game !!!

    • Tomate Diseño

      Because a lot of people are impulsive, like to be seen to finish first and will pay to do so - if not the business model wouldn't exist and be as successful and widely adopted as it is.

  • PresidentZer0

    Set your I devices clock a bit into the future to get free blood packs

    • themostunclean

      This works for a lot of timer based games. Unfortunately it also really messes with your calendars, reminders, and iMessage for some reason.

      Also, most games have failsafes in place for when your clock gets set back. Like pocket planes locking out one of your airports or the timers becoming insanely long.

  • Taclys

    My biggest irk, looking past all the freemium elements, is the total lack of any hints in later levels on how to save patients. And sometimes it's not simple either. You have to do x, then x, then press and hold x, then do x to finish a single task. Without any hints, I am regularly killing patients, trying to figure it out. I don't want them to hold my hand, but when the price of 3 dead patients is a half hour of waiting, I wouldn't mind some help.

    • whitestatic

      Yes. The price model combined with the difficulty leads to no other conclusion than the game is designed to extract as much cash as possible. Obscure game puzzles aren't a bad thing (i.e. Myst, Riven, etc) unless the obscurity is designed for you to fail and make you feel compelled to purchase additional tries. It's dishonest and lazy game design. Lazy in that "I'm going to obfuscate the game level in order to up the ARPU*, rather than increasing the difficulty in an intuitive way which might prevent people from paying more." Cool down timers tied to money are crutches used by companies with sound fundamentals of business and ZERO knowledge of the actual industry they work in.

      *Average Revenue Per User

      • nini

        AS2 had the same issue, just this is now with timers,

  • shaver

    Almost necessary? I don't understand what would make an IAP system necessary to a game (though I'm not philosophically opposed to them).

    • whitestatic

      See Taclys post above.

  • famcyvance

    I totally disagree here with the review and comments here regarding IAP. I've unlocked all but the highest tier of tool and made it through the game without using any IAP and without feeling hampered at all other than a couple 30 min cool downs (which is fine for me, just pay a different game or do something else!) While I do agree that the IAP is TOTALLY overpriced; you really never need it! You only need a blood pack if you kill the patient so just go operate on patients you can complete successfully a few times, get some points, upgrade your tools, and then try to tackle the tougher patients! Practice makes perfect in this game (later stage patients will net you 500-1000 SP for a 2 minute surgery) All in all, for a free game I never had to spend a dime on I'd have to give it 4 stars. Tons of fun!

    • whitestatic

      I appreciate your post, well said. My personal point of view is that I can certainly get around IAP, as you have well stated, but should I have to? For me the answer is no. Whether it's grinding things out, playing something else, setting the clock forward, they're all hacks to get around a poorly designed system. There's a philosophical argument about ownership that takes place about this practice every single day on this site and others. Companies by and large will continue to ignore this, much like their predecessors in music, tv/movies, and literature. Rather than try to understand and work with a customers desire to own and have full access to content (for a price obviously) they'd rather erect as many barriers and hurdles as possible in order to extract revenue in as many different ways as possible. I understand the business mechanics of why they do it, I just find it incredibly sad and pathetic the extent of the laziness to innovate and create on the part of these companies. In this particular case, given who owns AdultSwim, this is not at all surprising.

      • http://ask.fm/MidianGTX MidianGTX

        You shouldn't have to, but if you do you'll risk enjoying an entertaining game. Fighting IAP as a whole will only be a losing battle, so embracing fair IAP is the best course of action if you ask me.

      • whitestatic

        I have no problems with IAP, nor do i avoid it, when done right. My commentary on this has been well documented here and in other posts. My point is that IAP in AS3 is not done right nor does it feel "fair". The cool down mechanic is a lame crutch to get you to buy more plays and serves as an obstacle to enjoying the game fully. AS isn't the first to do this; my preference is uninterrupted play and I'm willing to pay up front for that. Lamest part about arcades? Feeding the machines. Best thing about consoles? Playing the game as much as you want any time you want. I promise you I never spent the equivalent of a console title on a single arcade game (yet have bought a lot of console titles) and given how that industry is fairing I'm not alone.

      • http://ask.fm/MidianGTX MidianGTX

        Fair point, I guess it comes down to individual gaming habits. I see AS3 as a 5-minute quick burst game, so putting it down after each attempt is something I'd do whether the IAP was there or not. I haven't found myself being forced to wait at all so far, it's all been voluntary. If we were talking about an RPG or something then sure, I'd want to be on that thing for 8 hours straight.

      • Protoman

        Really? My logic was sound.

  • Moggylloyd

    Sorry but it should be CCs not CC's 🙂

  • Jake7905

    Seems like a high rating (3 & 1/2 stars?) for a freemium game, and the review wasn't exactly glowing. I can respect a difference of opinion, but I agree with the review, I just don't understand the rating.

    • nini

      The game is good but the application of IAPs isn't, that's why it's got 3 1/2 stars.

      Sadly, around here it's binary thinking and all IAP is bad and we should be paying out upwards of $10 as fair pricing.

      • Jake7905

        Not all IAP's are bad, but when they limit or handicap a game they can ruin a game. That being the case here, the rating is too high in my opinion. And, yes, I would rather pay 10 bucks for a complete premium game, then download a free game littered with pay walls that try to manipulate the player into paying multiple fees.

Amateur Surgeon 3 Reviewed by James Paterson on . Rating: 3.5