Alan Probe: Amateur Surgeon
Update: 3rd and final chapter now available to play!
(Warning: This game features excessive cartoon violence, adult themes and potentially offensive language.)
The story goes like this. Alan Probe is a slovenly pizza delivery boy obsessed with pipe dreams of becoming a master surgeon. One day, while distracted by thoughts of doctorly fame, Alan smacks his delivery van into a staggering hobo, shattering the poor man's rib cage and inadvertently launching them both on a new and fateful career path. The fallen vagrant urges Alan to perform emergency surgery on him with whatever tools are handy. Open him up, drag his ribs into place, and sew him back together, easy as pie. Convenient pizza cutter in hand, Alan obliges, directed at every step by his patient and new mentor.
Who is this mysterious hobo? If he was once a successful surgeon, how did he fall so far? What secrets hide in the underbelly of this corrupt and vicious city? Why are everyone's mouths drawn so big?
These are the enigmas of Adult Swim's Alan Probe: Amateur Surgeon, a cartoonish and casually offensive entry into the simon-says-surgery genre made famous(ish) by Atlus' Trauma Center. The gameplay is wide open the same way ducks are eloquent. They are not, and it isn't. Your job is to follow the exact requirements of each surgery as quickly and as accurately as possible. A dashed yellow line means you need to select your pizza cutter and draw along it. An object stuck in a wound is your cue to get out the tongs. An open laceration needs to be stapled shut.
That's right. Instead of surgical stitches, you use a stapler. And your operating surface is a bloody pool table. One of your patients is a man who has attacked himself with a nail gun in order to sue the tool company. His name is Insurance-fraud Claude. If that made you chuckle, or if you're already a fan of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming line-up, I think you'll enjoy Amateur Surgeon. If it sounds totally stupid, or gratuitous cartoon violence bothers you, you should probably skip this one.
The game will give you instructions as you play, but the gist of it is this. Choose your off-beat surgical implement from a menu at the top of the screen. You can either click on it or press the appropriate number key, which is much faster, and soon becomes necessary since you'll be under time restrictions. When you've dealt with all of your current patient's injuries and stapled him shut, you win the level. If his heart rate drops too low, either because time ran out or you've done the wrong thing too many times, the patient dies, and you'll have to start the level over from the beginning.
When this review was first written there was only the first chapter out of a planned trilogy. Now all 3 Acts are up and available to play with each one comprising about ten episodes and promising many wacky adventures, including secret levels. If you enjoyed this one the first time around, you won't want to miss the conclusion!
Analysis: Amateur Surgeon is blessed with the finest production values a second-tier television network can buy, with bright, detailed environments and an ever-present sense of self-conscious irony. There's even a halfway interesting story, although obviously we're not talking Shakespeare here (unless you mean Titus Andronicus). The violence is so over-the-top that it's not really gross, but there's still plenty of comically intense moments to go around. Especially the stuff with the chainsaw.
Most of your interaction with the game should go pretty smoothly, except for a handful of places where you'll need to be unreasonably fast and precise, touch-pad operators be warned. The game's biggest flaw otherwise is that it's too repetitive. Most of your time is spent searing wounds closed with the lighter and then glopping a numbing gel on the scar, and you have to do it over and over and over again. Most patients are just covered with gashes both inside and out, and while this can be justified by the ridiculous nature of their injuries, it still feels like an artificial method of making the levels longer.
But what can you do? The point of this game is to tell grisly visual jokes and amuse you, not to supply multi-layered strategic gameplay depth. It does its job well, and the gameplay is actually better than it needs to be. Some of the surgeries have a crazy, inventive edge to them that bodes well for the coming chapters. The developers aren't taking themselves at all seriously, which is enough reason to give this a try even if you've already played both Trauma Center and the Dark Cut series. I give it two severed thumbs up. Get to slicin'.