Game That Tune

Game That Tune: Surgeon Simulator 2013

Have A Heart

The sounds of Surgeon Simulator 2013 are pulse-pounding.

By Derrick Sanskrit • August 22, 2013

Game music has the power to earworm its way into your heart long after you put the controller down. Each week in Game That Tune, we highlight a great tune from a great game (or a great tune from a just-okay game).

It’s hard to pull off effective comedy. You can’t just be all-goofy-all-the-time. There has to be a grounding in familiar reality, some juxtaposition of sincerity for the silliness to play off of. It’s the classic rule of vaudeville that every funny man needs a straight man. If the audience has a baseline understanding of the scenario and how it relates to reality, any abstraction from there is that much more outlandish and potentially funny. Surgeon Simulator 2013 does this by taking the severity of hospitals and complicated life-or-death procedures and hamming it up with cartoonish presentation and an experience that transitions from precise to slapstick. It helps that the soundtrack is steeped in both the melodrama of ’80s hospital action and the rampant trend of tongue-in-cheek retro-nostalgia self-awareness.

This is what Doogie Howser M.D. would sound like if it starred Tom Cruise post-Top Gun instead of Neil Patrick Harris post-Purple People Eater. There’s a tinge of danger in this by-the-books methodology. Clinical yet assertive, it’s the certainty of “Surgeon Stimulator” that makes it so compelling. It’s got all the tropes of ’80s action scores, from the staccato string plucks to the retro space-age keys. The bass is so dank and wet, it’s hard not to feel a little dirty just listening. The familiarity of it all is staid but also ripe for some humorous prodding. The tiniest motions of a scalpel are equated to the tremendous strains of a powerful system of muscles. Beads of sweat form with every echoed tom and snare. The tempo’s not going anywhere as long as it’s tied to that steady heart monitor, which is why the whole section from 1:50 to 3:28 feels so uneasy: It’s got no heart! Defib charging. Clear!

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16 Responses to “Have A Heart”

  1. Merve says:

    This reminds me of the Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon soundtrack, in a good way.

    • I’m trying really hard not to fill up the next four months with songs from 2013 games, but it has been a stunningly good year for game soundtracks.

      • Matt Gerardi says:

        And Hotline Miami 2 isn’t even out yet!

        • Isn’t that a 2014 title, though?

        • Matt Gerardi says:

          @dsanskrit:disqus Just the PS4/Vita version, as far as I know. I was told the PC version is coming out in the fall. 

        • Matt Gerardi says:

          @dsanskrit:disqus Scratch that. Looks like they’ve delayed all the versions until next year…announced via an update of the info text on the YouTube video of the teaser trailer. Boo.

        • SamPlays says:

          @mattgerardi:disqus Total tangent but I clicked on your GS bio and you’re my freaking doppleganger, albeit slightly more beardy and you could use a couple shades more brown in your complexion. Let me know if you’re ever up for some twin pranks.

      • Knarf Black says:

        It really has. I think it’s safe to assume that GTA V’s will be impressive as well, with an actual score for missions and Kavinsky in charge of one of the radio stations.

  2. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    Ah, the iPod: a classic surgical tool at hospitals the world over.

    Unless you have an HMO. Then they use a Zune.

    (Cool tune, bro!)

    • Merve says:

      Also, you’re limited to just 53 songs per month, top 40 tunes cost an extra $2 each, and you’re in breach of contract if you purchase a song from an out-of-network record label.

    • boardgameguy says:

      Of course doctors want to share songs with a limited number of plays, so the Zune makes total sense.

  3. HobbesMkii says:

    The theme definitely adds a great deal of gravity to accidentally sticking yourself with a needle full of morphine and then losing your watch in someone’s body cavity while trying to hammer apart their rib cage.

  4. CrabNaga says:

    Just realized that the title .gif syncs with the song. In fact, it synced perfectly with my playback (with every heart monitor beep triggering a change in the highlighted item). Cool stuff.