I 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.
Prior 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.