Adapt And Die

Grey's Anatomy

Flick Away All Doubt

A new feature waggles the Wiimote at a misguided Grey’s Anatomy adaptation.

By Steve Heisler • September 18, 2012

Welcome to Adapt And Die, where we examine seminal (or at the very least semi-interesting) works of film and television that have crashed and burned in the gaming world.

Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game (2009)

ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, a primetime hospital drama about to enter its ninth season, is full of soapy and steamy cheese. When she was still on the show, Katherine Heigl’s Dr. Izzie Stevens fell in love with a patient, who died; then she continued to have sex with his ghost until it was discovered she had a brain tumor. “That’s a little far-fetched,” said the daytime soap operas to their evil twins.

Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game attempts to translate these rollercoaster stories into a palatable, tangible format: a game that turns fans’ investment into interactivity. What it looks like is two games at once—one a bunch of cutscenes telling the story of a typical day at Seattle Grace Hospital and the other a series of embarrassingly simple mini-games. At various points you’re asked to swing the Wiimote to slice a picture of two doctors in half, or swipe wildly at dark clouds surrounding Meredith Grey to “flick away all doubt.” As those clouds disperse, it becomes clear that emotional states are impossible to commodify.

Written “in collaboration with show writers,” or so claims the box, the story of Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game takes place over one day at the hospital, with all the sordid romance and backstabbing of the TV show. Diphtheria is running rampant, but whatever. Nobody ever watched Grey’s Anatomy for pharynx fluid levels. Meredith and Derek (a.k.a. McDreamy) are navigating their relationship, Cristina is vying for a fellowship, Alex is man-whoring around the hospital, and George deals with a crackpot patient who believes he knows the future. It’s the same schmaltz from any old episode of the show, with the drama rooted in our perceived interest in the characters.

Basically, this half of the game isn’t all that different from watching Grey’s Anatomy on television. The story unfolds through dialogue-based cutscenes that aren’t exciting or memorable in any way—not to mention how awful they look. Faces are bloated and rigid. The teeth make the characters looks like they’re constantly chewing gum. And Dr. Bailey’s eyebrows take on Peter Gallagher proportions. The animation’s not much better than those hilariously terrible Taiwanese reenactment videos, only it’s sadder in this case, considering the developers were presumably trying to capture some reality. Even by 2009 standards, Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game is ugly.

The story is hard to follow, not only due to its Shakespearean length (by the time “Act 3, Scene 7” rolled around, I started to wonder when, you know, “Act 4” would begin), but also because it stops every few seconds to include a mini-game meant to somehow enhance the experience. So, for example, while Cristina is performing surgery, you are asked to make an incision or swab down the affected area using the Wiimote. Perhaps you suture a wound after inserting a needle for an IV bag, two actions that require extreme dexterity in real life and not so much in the Wiiverse. Animated as poorly as the rest of the game, these scenes are painful to watch both because you’re suctioning blood and because the blood looks like this:

The most mind-boggling parts of Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game are when these gamettes reflect an aspect of the television show you wouldn’t think could possibly translate into a task-based video game: feelings.

In the first scene, for example, you must choose whether Meredith comes on strong with loveboat Derek or plays hard-to-get. So you piece together one of two puzzles by clicking on the floating pieces—a lustful Meredith portrait, or a picture of her looking dead-eyed into the distance. At another point, you choose one of two doctors to defend in an argument by “unwrapping” crumpled-up pieces of paper with one person’s face or the other (with plenty of unnecessary Wiimote wobbling).

In some cases, the games aren’t looking for such a binary outcome: To fire up Dr. Bailey, you must skillfully maneuver the cursor to absorb “anger” bubbles while avoiding “calm” ones. Who knew personality traits were quantifiable?

The whole thing reeks of desperation, seemingly confident enough the wildly popular ABC drama would coast in a Nielsen-proof medium, even when padded beyond sumo wrestler proportions. In adapting Grey’s Anatomy, developer Longtail Studios simply shoehorns a D-caliber story around a collection of mindless tasks.

It’s a cynical deconstruction of Grey’s Anatomy down to its core parts: Now is the time when the sterilization happens; now is the time when the empathy unit powers up. It’s as if a guy created the game without having ever seen an episode of the show, but his wife watched as he paid half-attention. That’s the exact scenario that happened to comedian Rob Corddry, who parlayed his newfound fascination with Grey’s faux-intensity into the spoof Childrens Hospital. The makers of Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game heighten not the show’s intensity, but its robotic nature. It paints the characters as pathetic victims of an algorithm, not even granted the privilege to flick away their own doubt.

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  • caspiancomic

    Ha! Good one, Heisler, for a second I almost believed this was a real video game, that dozens of people probably worked on for weeks, and that got released, and that some people probably bought on purpose and played!

    Seriously, though, this is a pretty rad idea for a feature. A lot of bellyaching echoes throughout the internet about how videogame adaptations are awful, but I think this of all sites can start providing a bit of insight into why. Lesson #1 I guess would be not to adapt something that is patently unadaptable into any other medium but drecky daytime soap. (oh, and the phrase “soapy and steamy cheese” is I think the least appetizing combination of words I’ve ever read)

    Oh, and before I go: surgery games for the Wii. Pretty good idea, shite execution. When I first got my Wii (back when I actually played it) I grabbed Trauma Centre and was pretty excited about it, and the first third or so of the game was actually pretty good. But then it descended really quickly into stupid anime melodrama and a shitty plot about terrorists using bacteria the size of quarters to do… something. I think I quit playing around the time it was revealed that the main character had magical surgery powers, and that you could slow down time by drawing a fucking pentagram with the wiimote.

    • blue vodka lemonade

       New intel: Trauma Center has black magic or something? I think I played the first half at a friend’s house a few years ago. This must be what it feels like to have only seen the first half of Audition, or something.

      • alguien_comenta

        I played the DS one, and yes suddenly you discover that you have the ability to slow time with, well, a spell. It’s goofy, but it didn’t bother me

    • dimsmellofmoose

      It was still a pretty fun game.  But the first half, where you’re doing various medical stuff, was a lot better than the second, where you fight a set of like 7 different super-bugs, that pretty much throw stuff at you that you respond to while combating the bugs themselves.  Feels less medicinal and more like boss fights.

      Whatever to the plot though.  It sucked from the start, not just the end.

    • Swadian Knight

      You should try the wonderful Trauma Team, where you can play as a bunch of people of different specialties: a forensic examiner (who, by the way, can talk to the dead), a surgeon (who, by the way, is a death row prisoner) and an orthopedic surgeon (who, I’m not even kidding here, is a bona fide superhero in his spare time
      ), among a few others.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

        Eh, I don’t know.  Somehow, that series has become divisive the whole way through.  I think the localized version may have misled people with the tone of the name and the boxart.  The whole series is ridiculous (and ridiculously fun), but you know what to expect when you buy a game called HOSPITAL: 6 Doctors. 

        It’s funny to pause and think about what you’re doing in the gameplay sequences, just because it’s an abstraction of an abstraction of medicine.

      • The Guilty Party

        So, it’s kind of like the surgeon version of Bicycle Repair Man?

      • Afghamistam

        I got my mom that for Christmas one year.

        [pulls surgical mask down, shakes hear sadly] It didn’t make it.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      I enjoyed Trauma Centre for a while (on DS), but it got super-hard out of nowhere. The idea of bio-terrorism and super-powers didn’t bother me (it is a video game, after all) but the repetitive nature of the surgeries bothered me. You’d do essentially the same thing for 5 patients in a row, only faster.

  • blue vodka lemonade

    So what happens if you fail to flick away that doubt? Or, for that matter, give everyone diphtheria with your terrible doctoring skillz? Can anything bad happen? If you miss with the scalpel, does it gush blood? Is there a part where you have to stick your hand inside a patient and OOPS there’s a bomb inside them, and now you can’t move your hand, and then Kyle Chandler explodes? TO DEATH?

    That animation is eerie as shit and I applaud you for making it all the way through without developing some kind of syndrome, or complex.

    • Graphite

      Hey, like the second video says, an important part of life is “being open to failure.”

    • alguien_comenta

      … and Dr. Grey couldn’t flick away her doubts and ended alone with several cats. Game Over

  • buyiong

     http://lnk.co/I2VI9

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      Sucessfully flagged!

  • LoveWaffle

    You know what, a game like this could be awesome if it used something similar to the Heavy Rain mechanic to deal with not only relationships but also the surgery, ending in a myriad of different scenarios based on how each situation goes.

    Then again, I’d much prefer Childrens Hospital: The Video Game, which I fully expect to be a fighting game.

  • http://www.twitter.com/jasonmreich Jason Reich

    Hang on, so all I had to do to get women to sleep with me was to flick away their doubt clouds? Why couldn’t the Wii have existed when I was in college?

    • HobbesMkii

      It kinda sounds like a New Age date rapist.

      “How’d you do with Whatsherface last night?”
      “Great, once I eliminated all her doubt clouds using just a single dose of Rohypnol!”

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        Oh god, it’s like PUA bullshit in shitty tv doctor game form. I’m going to barf.

    • Effigy_Power

      “Flick away their doubt clouds” sounds an awful lot like you’re trying to put a cute spin on assault.
      “No, baby, I am not slapping the shit out of you, I am helping you flick away your doubt clouds.”

      • The Guilty Party

        Sounds like scientology.

        Troubled by Stress? Are your or your children suffering from Doubt Clouds? Take our test and unleash your true potential!

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      I prefer to dispel doubt clouds using the power of song. Gin works well, too.

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      Actually, all you have to do is come up with a nickname starting with “Mc” and ending in a “Y”.  McQueasy, McSleazy, McDopey, McSleepy, etc.

      Alternatively, SNL’s rules to avoid sexual harassment double as rules for office dating:
      1. Be attractive.
      2. Be handsome.
      3. Don’t be unattractive.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        McFlicky

  • Citric

    I like how surgery is scored to “wacky hijinks #4″ from the cheap stock music collection.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      They wouldn’t even shell out for “wakkety sax”

  • Graphite

    I think you can hear a bit of guiro in the opening measures.

  • Effigy_Power

    I like how “written in collaboration with show writers” has replaced “were not sued by the show writers” as a statement.
    Seriously this looks atrocious. But hey, I haven’t been under the knife in years, so it’s nice to see that an appendectomy is so easy and bloodless these days. Rub a warm towel on it and presto… cured.

    • Electric Dragon

      It sounds a lot like the Mitchell and Webb “lazy scriptwriters” had a hand in it. “Get me the medicine! No, you fool, this is medicine for a different kind of illness from this one!”

      • Effigy_Power

        “Quick, give me the pedals with the electric that can make you sort of well when you’re poorly but poorly if you’re well. -bzzzt- Oh no… he was well. But now he’s poorly from too much electric.”

  • jarviscockblocker

    Wow, I hope you’ll be doing CSI games in the future, I actually completed one and it was the worst/best/what.

  • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

    I’m not going to lie. When I saw this in-store, I was very curious as to what it was. Thanks for playing it so I didn’t have to!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mindpieces Donnie Williams

    Great idea for a recurring feature. I’m a sucker for tie-in games. I thought the Alias and 24 games were actually pretty fun, and I loved the Buffy XBox games to pieces.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      http://scroll.vg  The latest from Ray Barnholt latest got me feeling all fuzzy about licensed games, so examining the wreckage here will be a great counter-exercise.

      I’d recommend the contrast between Fighting Spirit Revolution by passed-but-now-appreciated Cavia, which is theatrical in tone but not in scope and which has awful, arcade-Punch-Out gameplay, and Treasure’s Fighting Spirit: The Fighting 1, which is the biggest adrenaline rush that one can get on the Game Boy Advance.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5agxewF-N7w  This is no Punch-Out style puzzle game.  Cavia captures the right sentiment, but does so by telling you, “This is monumental!”  Treasure shows.

    • ToddG

      Yeah, the 24 game was quite fun, despite having a plot that was somehow more ridiculous than those found on the TV show.

  • PaganPoet

    This should be the start of a new GS series about awful adaptations and shovelware for the Wii. You’d have a never ending smorgasboard of article ideas!

    I’ll await my check for the idea in the mail.

  • The_Quirk

    Actually worse than the Lost game.

  • supercrotchinator

    Wouldn’t it be more interesting to write about video game adaptations of movies that actually don’t suck? I guess it would be a pretty short feature.
    Oh, and Seanbaby already did a review of this game that is 100X better:
    http://www.cracked.com/blog/ons-awards-the-latest-and-worstest-nintendo-games/ 

  • Ghostfucker

    “Katherine Heigl’s Dr. Izzie Stevens fell in love with a patient, who died; then she continued to have sex with his ghost until it was discovered she had a brain tumor. “That’s a little far-fetched,” said the daytime soap operas to their evil twins.”

    I’m not sure what’s so far-fetched about this? Is it that she died of a brain tumor at a relatively young age? Brain tumors can affect people of any age so I don’t see how this would apply. Can anyone help me in understanding what would be so weird about this plot-line???

    • Asinus

      You just taught me a valuable lesson about skipping over names before reading posts. 

  • Mercenary_Security_number_4

    only film and television adaptions?  You mean we won’t be seeing “Kriss Kross: Make My Video?”  darn!