Virtual Surgeon: Open Heart is the fourth and unfortunately last medical simulation game designed by Dr. Myo Thant, a Timonium oncologist whose first game Life and Death became an instant classic when it was first published by Software Toolworks. Published by his own company ISM Interactive, Virtual Surgeon didn't sell well enough to cover Dr. Thant's costs, and as a result the company was disbanded.
Virtual Surgeon is undoubtedly Dr. Thant's most ambitious project, although due to many bugs it's not as fun as his first effort. The setting and gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played Life and Death: you are a hospital's latest recruitee. A cardiovascular surgeon, to be exact. Your job, of course, is to save the patients' lives by correctly diagnosing heart diseases and treating your patients effectively. Like Dr. Thant's previous games, Virtual Surgeon is a very realistic medical simulation. The game teaches you examination, testing and surgical techniques, and then puts your skills to the test. You will be assigned patients and presented with various conditions for you to suss out. If you succeed, you will be lavished with praise from the grateful patients, and get promoted in your career. On the other hand, failure could mean death and subsequent lawsuits from grieving families, and a setback for you.
Virtual Surgeon takes advantage of the CD-ROM space by including a lot of multimedia elements. You can now explore the hospital from the first-person perspective and talk to other hospital personnel played by digitized actors. A lot of the acting (by actors obviously amateur) is quite bad, but at least that's not the core of the game. The in-game library contains a lot of in-depth reference material on various heart diseases and surgical procedures, presented via video clips and text, although you should be prepared to climb a relatively steep learning curve the first time you play. You are also allowed in the beginning to view instructional videos during surgery, and be guided by a senior surgeon. If you still find the game too difficult, you can reduce the difficulty level from Attending (intermediate) to Fellow (beginner). If you are a real-life cardiologist or want the ultimate challenge, play the game on Professor (advanced) level and see how many lives you manage to save.
As with Dr. Thant's previous games, Virtual Surgeon: Open Heart is a unique, complex, and realistic medical simulation. If you enjoy Life and Death but want more challenge and have the patience to spend many hours learning the game, check out this true underdog. Too bad the game has far too many bugs (although I didn't encounter any when playing in Windows 98). Just make sure you save often and back up your save files. Highly recommended, but it may not be your cup of tea.Reviewed by: Underdogs