App of the Week: Amateur Surgeon 3

Developer: [adult swim]

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Requires: iOS 6.0

Price: Free

Available: here

In the early days of the Nintendo DS, the two series that really sold me on the portable device were the “Phoenix Wright,” and “Trauma Center” games, both of which used the dual and touch screen technology in innovative ways.

Of the two, “Phoenix Wright” went on to become the more popular, but it was the ER simulator “Trauma Center,” that may have been the more compelling, with its tense and elaborate surgery scenarios made possible by some perfect touch controls and inspired overall design. It’s a type of game that wasn’t done much before, and besides some spiritual follow-ups like “Surgeon Simulator,” hasn’t really been done much since.

The Adult Swim series “Amateur Surgeon” has always been a glowing exception though, as it took the basic design of “Trauma Center,” and injected pure craziness in it, to produce a series that never exactly reached the heights of its inspiration, but does carry on the legacy quite nicely.


Not much has changed with the third entrant into the “Amateur Surgeon” series, but there are a couple of new features, of which the biggest is the move to a free to play format. Naturally this does mean the inclusion of some annoying pay to play elements, but they’re actually downplayed nicely, and you can get through the game rather easily without spending a dime. The biggest exception to that would have to be the new “tag” feature, which allows you to bring in a partner for their special abilities, but costs quite a bit of in game money, which you can of course purchase with real cash.

Other than that, what you have is another absolutely insane surgery game that sees you operate on mutated bears with chainsaws, and other less pedestrian activities. While the wackiness is part of the experience, the actual humor of the game is pretty hit or miss, and is only there to serve the far more entertaining gameplay.

It never really gets old trying to figure out how to fix bizarre injuries with even crazier tools, and that’s largely because the touchscreen, reflex and precision driven controls work as well for this type of game as ever. They are what elevates “Amateur Surgeon” to must have status, and help ensure that the initial joy of trying to figure out what to do on your first play through, doesn’t compare to trying to get that perfect run on every subsequent try.

You couldn’t be blamed for being attracted to “Amateur Surgeon” for its crazy sense of humor, and generally lighthearted nature. What’s going to keep it in your app game rotation though is a truly great gameplay system reliant on just about everything that makes touchscreen gaming so fun in the first place.  I wouldn’t want to catch my doctor playing it, but everyone else should get ready to find themselves addicted to stapling shut freshly shived hearts in what is simply a pure fun app of the week.


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App of the Week: Organ Trail – Director’s Cut

The Men Who Wear Many Hats LLC

Compatible with:
iPod Touch

Android Systems

iOS 3.1.3 or later

Android 2.1


Available here (for iOS) and here (for Android)

“You have Died of Dysentery”

Nothing was worse than seeing this message pop up on the Apple screen at the library we used to play “The Oregon Trail” at in grade school. Maybe the first couple of people to fall to it got away without too much ridicule, but as soon as one of us discovered what dysentery was, we became unstoppable forces of mocking nature. There were many ways to die on the “Oregon Trail”, but the only one you truly feared was the dreaded dysentery. It’s not like it was ever your fault either. If there was a “wash your hands after using the bathroom” button, we would have used it.

If you can’t relate to what I’m talking about then I truly pity you, because you missed out on one of the greatest gaming experiences of all time. What made “The Oregon Trail” so great was the many gameplay options and features, and how even playing the game right wasn’t a guarantee for survival. Even better, the vaguely historical setting meant that it was a game you could play at school, and at the aforementioned libraries. It’s one of those games where you can tell right away if someone grew up with it or not, because if they did, all it takes is a mere screenshot to bring a grin to their face, and set them off on a bombastic recollection of nostalgic memories.

Well if you did, in fact, never get to share that experience, then developer The Men Who Wear Many Hats has your back, thanks to some funding by Kickstarter. Because they are bringing back the old school gameplay of “The Oregon Trail” but infusing it with the harsh reality of the zombie apocalypse. Now truthfully, I’m getting a little tired of the zombie genre, but every now and then something will pop up that resurrects the style much in the same manner as the decaying dead that populate those titles.

“The Organ Trail” (huh…clever) is one of those instances. From the menus, to the basic gameplay, to the perfectly recreated graphics and sounds, “The Organ Trail” shamelessly apes “The Oregon Trail” with admirable accuracy. The basic goal is the same. You and yours traverse the country in search of a better home, while battling the dangers of the untamed world. But rather than just throw a couple of undead sprites your way and port “The Oregon Trail,” the developers have completely re-imagined the experience of that classic as it stands in this new world, and along the way have managed to perfectly recreate the experience of the original, while still making sure that anyone who grew up on the original game enjoys the near flawless ratio of nostalgia to the joy of a fresh game experience.

Read the rest of this entry »


App of the Week: Turf Geography Club

Hyperspace Inc.

Compatible with:
iPod Touch

iOS 4.3 or later


Available here

I feel like real estate tycoon is one of those universally appealing job titles. I mean sure, according to the History channel’s lineup, any ordinary blue collar position can apparently draw national interest, but the life of a real estate magnate will always hold a certain mystique that other careers just can’t touch. Personally I believe it’s got to be the “Monopoly” effect. That game caused people everywhere to realize that given the opportunity, they will compete for hours with their closest friends and relatives just to acquire a prime piece of property, even if it’s through greed and devious cut throat means.

Now, thanks to developer Michael Tseng, the thrill of real estate wars via a game are back in a big way. His new app “Turf Geography Club” (or just “Turf”) uses a loose relationship with “Foursquare” to allow users to check in to their favorite places (“Foursquare” can also be used to add new properties and check on current ones). But unlike “Foursquare,” the goal isn’t to become a virtual mayor. The mission here is instead world domination, as users look to own the property they check in at.

It works like this. You go to your favorite spot and check in. This gives you coins. Got friends? Good. They can help you earn even more coins by checking in too. With these coins you can then purchase a virtual recreation of that property. Not only that, but since it’s yours, you can spend coins on it to make new additions like signs, condo extensions, and all manners of random item enhancements that make the spot  uniquely yours. Once you’ve built your property up, you have the option to sell it at a higher value to other players, and use the profits on new ventures.

I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t this mean that one player could conceivably get ahead of the game and own an entire city? Well they could, if it wasn’t for the slot system. See, if you notice a bit of property that you want, but someone else owns, you can steal it from them by using coins to buy a slot pull. If you win the slot pull, you take the property. If you lose, you try again. The more a player spends on a property, it becomes much more difficult to steal it from them. Also if the owner doesn’t keep up with things like repairs, the property becomes easier for others to take. It’s a game about timing and management, with the end goal being to control your own world, and maybe a few other pieces as well.

Like I said, “Foursquare” has been running with the idea of checking into your favorite places for a while, and other apps like “My Town” have let users create their own world from real world locations for years. Where “Turf” pulls ahead of the competition is through its style, and its simplicity. “Turf’s” 8 bit art style makes it immediately visually appealing, and the level of unique customization options available reminds me of “Team Fortress 2”, a game that illustrated the effect that a deep level of add on’s can have to a game’s longevity. Also the design insures that users in small areas aren’t left out of the fun, as one user can grab an iron grasp on the hottest property in town, with everyone working to snatch it from them, as they continue to build and build it putting it further out of reach. The appeal for major city users is, of course, more obvious, as the entire metro area (from bodegas to bars) becomes a virtual battlefield for those seeking total domination.

I’ve covered a few fun apps here so far in this article, but “Turf” is the only one so far that I’m ready to call a must have for any reader. Not only is it built from a solid background derived from “Foursquare,” but it’s incredibly obvious from all of the little design decisions present that the team behind “Turf” is ready to make this app their own thing. Personally, I can’t wait to see what both user contributions and developer additions are going to do to an app that is already poised to become a sensation.

In a game that’s all about properties, “Turf” has already snagged a lofty one that no amount of slot pulls could ever take away from it. That’s its place as my app of the week.