Let’s take a look at … – Rogue State

Rogue State is a geo-political simulator that puts you in charge of a country as its supreme leader. The choices you make will affect your approval of the citizens of your country, the Parliament cabinet you work with, and even the opinion of other countries around the world.  Based on your actions you might deal with internal revolt, attacks from other states or possibly become the most powerful nation in the world.

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I’ve never really given one of these games a play-through before, so it was a bit difficult to get right in there as I would imagine most of these games are. My problem for a newcomer such as myself was the very limited tutorial. It covers the basics and then sort of tells you to experiment and figure it out on your own. I had to devote a decent amount of time learning this game. This can be problematic as there isn’t any form of control beyond menus and clickable options.  Unlike a traditional war game where you command units, you more or less place them where you want, and they will either win or lose depending on how strong your military is. It’s a numbers game really.

The game takes place in your presidential office where you visit various aspects of your governmental state. You can change tax policy, make phone calls to ambassadors around the world, start trade policies and make economic changes via sliders. There is also the aspect of building your ruined state to its former glory through different branches. Depending on what you prioritize you will either become a major economic force or a militaristic one. Remember to try to keep the majority of your citizens happy though or they will start to turn on you!

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What I did find interesting is how we as citizens of our own country always think that making decisions is either obvious or easy. Truthfully, the issues are much more complicated than that.  Appease one group and another starts to turn against you. This game did teach me that being a supreme leader is a lot harder than it looks, there’s no way to please everyone. Just try to do the best you can for your country and give attention to where it is needed.

You may some issue at first trying to figure this game out, but in the end you may find yourself a little more enlightened in how much power you truly have, or how powerless you are to the forces that surround you.

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Tl:dr – Rogue state is a geo-political simulator that is basic in its design but really has a lot of depth. Though the tutorial doesn’t offer much direction outside of some basic tools to get you started, the game can still be played and it’s best to learn from your mistakes and make note for your next play through. There was some eye-opening lessons to be learned from running a country, albeit in an unrealistic fashion via a video game. Even with all the power in the world, you can still be totally powerless against the forces at will. Rogue State is a niche game that can either totally engross you or frustrate you depending on what sort of games you have fun with.  It’s not bad, just totally different.

Rating – 6/10

Purchase – Steam £9.99/$12.99

Let’s take a look at – The Beginner’s Guide (Spoiler Free)

Thanks to better, more affordable tools, Indie development has never been so assessable. It’s easier than ever for people to take their idea and make it a reality. Access to various game engines, and the wealth of knowledge and assistance from the online community, have given us a plethora of games over the last few years that otherwise might not have been. Games that make us laugh, cry, and kill, but above all, they make us feel. While The Beginner’s Guide is fairly short, and lacks the sense of adventure we find in many games, it offers a look into the mind of a developer, and tells a deeply personal and powerful story that is unlike anything you’ve experienced before.

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The Beginner’s Guide was created by Davey Wreden, the mind behind The Stanley Parable.  I went in knowing a little about this game but it’s IMPORTANT that you do not read or research what this game is about before you play it. To have any part of the story spoiled will detract from the experience on offer. The game is a walking simulator, you don’t do a whole lot in terms of puzzle solving or fighting enemies, so spoilers are costly. Don’t let that deter you though, this game is really enjoyable.

Davey is the narrator during the roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes you’ll spend playing The Beginner’s Guide. He tells a story of a fellow “real life” developer and his attempts and journey through game design over a period of 4 years. It starts off simple enough to understand, but starts to take an emotionally charged turn where you, as the player, are starting to make your own deductions based on the levels you encounter, the environment and the narration. This is important as this game is all about interpretation. Yes, you will be given facts that are clear and make sense, but a lot of it is speculation on the player’s part. It’s fascinating because it’s a story of trying to understand a person through their art and creativity.

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You’re going to find a lot of reviews already praising this game for its powerful storytelling and pacing. It’s a game that makes you wonder, interpret and reflect on its protagonist. You may even reflect its meaning against your own life and experiences. It’s fascinating to see a game talk about a topic in such a personal way that you can’t help but draw parallels to your own personal feeling and experiences.

Some links that were provided to me really helped me understand this game and its meaning a little better. Not because I didn’t when I finished, but I wanted to know more. I’m not quite sure what to tell you here though. Do you watch the video and read the blog post first before you play? Well you certainly can, but I think it might give away the meaning of The Beginner’s Guide. If you watch it after, you may understand it all much better and want to go back to really pick up on every detail. I suppose it’s up to you, the player, but I honestly found this information extremely enlightening consuming it after I finished the game.

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Also, playing The Stanley Parable isn’t a bad idea as well because it may provide some insight that could be helpful…. and it’s really just a damn good game.  Really Good.

I’d recommend viewing these links after you finish, but it’s your call.

http://www.galactic-cafe.com/2014/02/game-of-the-year/

Click on* Playing Stories with Davey Wreden

http://livestream.com/accounts/6845410/gamesnow/videos/83818176

Tl:dr – The Beginner’s Guide has a strangely accurate but misleading title for those who have not played it.  It’s more of a story based game with no action and little puzzle solving. It’s a short game, clocking in at about 1 hour and 30 minutes, but is powerful and intriguing. You’ll spend your time learning something deep and personal about the main character in this game, and maybe something about yourself. Overall, don’t read spoilers and go in blind. It’s worth it.

Rating – 9/10

Purchase – Steam £9.99/$9.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Game Corp DX

Game Corp DX is a causal business simulator from Endless Loop Studios about running a game studio. After the successes of an original flash version, that to-date has over 5 million plays, Game Corp DX is a full rebuild with full screen support, faster performance, steam integration, and a boat-load of polish. Let’s take a look.

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Game Corp DX starts with a tutorial covering the game’s mechanics, though there’s really not that much too it! You have a game studio under your control, and it’s your task to make as much money and games as you can. If you’ve played Game Dev Tycoon, Game Corp DX is like a much simplified version.

You can hire staff, fire staff, train them up, plan multiple projects and create the best games possible. Each game you create has a star rating assigned that is determined by the skill of your workers. As they build games their skills increase and so does the quality of the games created, and the revenue returned.

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Each worker can also specialise in a certain area of development: Art, Sound, Code and Writing. Each skill has multiple levels, and the higher the level of the skill, the better software that employee can use, netting a better start rating for the title. Be careful though! As your employees gain levels and skill their wages increase! I spent all my money upgrading their skills, ready to make the most badass game possible, then all their wages shot up and I went bankrupt. Lesson learned.

There are a few ways in which the games you make can be customized. For one, you build games based around a team size. For example, a micro game requires only 2 staff, and is cheaper to produce, while a medium game required 10, is more expensive, but will get a much higher rating! There are also a number of pre-set game types to choose from, with each having a varying emphasis on the different design stats, so choosing the right employees for the job drastically changes the score your game will get. Each game is given a star rating, and the higher the rating, the more money the game will make!

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Aside from control over what games you make, you have control over the space in which you work. Walls can be knocked down and re-built to build your office how you like, decorations and equipment can be purchased, along with necessities such as fridges and water coolers. The employees in the studio react to your environment, so the nicer it the better they work.

Game Corp DX definitely feels ‘flashy’, with the aesthetic being inherited from its flash-based predecessor. The music and sound effects are nothing to write home about either, and blend into the game nicely. All-in-all it’s a fun, little, casual business sim. It’s not bogged down in numbers, and you just get on with it. The downside of this is that it doesn’t offer much depth. You make games, increase your skill, and make better games. Rinse and repeat.

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Tl:dr – For £1.99 Game Corp DX offers a fun few hours for those looking for a casual sim experience. Don’t go into it expecting deep mechanics and you won’t be disappointed. Its aesthetic throws back to its flash predecessor, but with the addition of full screen support, trading cards, and lots of polish, the £1.99 for the updated Steam version is worth it in my book!

Rating – 7/10

Purchase – Steam £1.99/£2.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Interstellar Marines (Early Access)

Interstellar Marines is a science fiction FPS with quite the history. Currently in development by Zero Point Software, the game has been in development since 2005 under the working title Project IM. After being Greenlit in late 2012, a Kickstarter was launched to fund the rest of the game, but it unfortunately fell short of its target: $157,907/$600,000 was raised.

Since mid-2013 Interstellar Marines has been available in Early Access on Steam. That’s quite a run in Early Access! Let’s take a look.

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The official website states that IM will take you through three massive campaigns, taking you through mankind’s first contact with a sentient alien species. The gameplay currently available in Early Access appears to be the pre-cursor to this storyline. You play as a soldier who has been specially selected to join the Interstellar Marines, and you play through training.

On starting the game for the first time you’re greeted with an epic introductory cut scene. It looks great and production value is through the roof. It got me really excited to get playing! This quality carries right through into the game models and environments. It’s a looks great, and even in early access I had only a few very minor graphical glitches. The same can’t be said for UI. It feels empty, and unfinished. Not a fan, and I hope it gets an upgrade before the game leaves early access.

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My favourite thing about Interstellar Marines is how it feels. It’s solid and different than a lot of shooters. The closest thing it reminded me of was Battlefield. You feel more connected to the character, and movement feels real. It’s the little things like how your sight sways, and if you become out of breath they will sway more as you recover. Weapons give a lot of kickback, so you can’t just spray and prey. You have to pick your shots, and use your weapon wisely.

At the time of writing this article, the game supports keyboard and mouse only, so those that like to play their shooters with a controller are out of luck. I would however encourage those pad users to give the game a go with mouse and keyboard. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

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Up until this point Interstellar Marines has a good first impression. It looks pretty good, I like the controls, they feel solid, and the overall production is great minus some lacking UI. As we now come to take a look at gameplay however things ramp down a gear.

There are currently 2 campaign missions available, and both are training exercises that take place in quite small environments with equally small goals. Campaign 2 is longer than campaign 1, but they can both be completed in a short single sitting. There is also only a small collection of weapons available, and a single enemy. It’s all very sparse and demo-ey feeling, even for an early access title.

Alongside the 2 campaigns, and a tutorial level, there are a selection of scenarios such as survival and escape. These can be played in either singleplayer or online multiplyer, although I could only find a couple of multiplayer games live that were both for survival.

Gameplay itself is very unforgiving. The campaigns do not have any checkpoints, so if you die during the mission that’s it. It adds a real sense of fear, and make you feel very vulnerable which is great. It can be frustrating when a robot that you can’t see shoots you, and the mission re-starts, but I enjoyed the challenge. I was playing on normal, and it doesn’t take many bullets to kill you. There are also two difficulty levels available above normal, so I can only presume they are insta-death!

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I was unsure whether to include this next section or not, but since it directly affects you as the consumer I decided to leave it in. The advertising of the game irks me greatly. I understand that when selling a product you want to make it seem amazing, you really have to sell it. But Interstellar Marines has lists upon lists of selling points that just shouldn’t be there. Here are a few from the list of current features:

  • Shoot from hip or look through the Red Dot scope for increased accuracy.
  • Full-body first person character simulation (no more floating hands!) with a physics-based dynamic character controller.
  • Toggleable tactical flashlight for when it’s pitch black.
  • Toggleable laser to assist your aim (no crosshairs).

These are all standard things that every FPS has. It’s like selling a car and going ‘Look. It has wheels and doors.’ Well, it’s a car, so obviously it has wheels and doors, what else does it do? This may seem pedantic, but this sensationalism is seen throughout the Steam page, the website, and all promotional material, and the game does not live up to how it’s sold. On the website you’re painted a picture that you’re about to receive an epic ‘AAA-Indie’ experience, but that’s just not the case. Not yet anyway.

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What gameplay is there is solid, it’s just there isn’t a lot of it! I enjoyed my time with it, but have no reason to go back to it. If you’re a big fan of shooters you’ll find reasons to like Interstellar Marines. But given the development history, and its current state, I’m not sure I’d actively suggest it right now, but keep an eye out.

Tl:dr – Interstellar marines is a promising shooter with controls that feel great and make it stand out amongst other shooters, and an interesting sounding story line. Its main problem right now is lack of content, and according to plenty of Steam reviews updates just aren’t coming frequently enough. Fans of shooters will find reasons to like it, but for casuals I’d suggest waiting until further into development.

Rating – 7/10

Purchase – Steam (Early Access) (£10.99)

Trailer –

Let’s take a peek at … – DiRT Rally

DiRT Rally is the latest entry into the Colin McRae Rally series from CodeMasters. Currently in Early Access on Steam, we managed to get our hands on a copy and I’ve sunk a fair few hours into the title. I’d like to point out that I have no real experience with rally games. I own WRC for the Play Station 2, so that’s the extent of my rally gaming career! Also, because I’m a filthy casual and only own a wheel for my Xbox, so I played with a game controller.

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Since I’m a newbie to Rally games I was expecting a steep learning curve. What events are what? How do I enter them? etc., but the game has a very clean and self-intuitive interface that immediately dismissed those woes. As you boot the game for the first time there is a great tutorial that introduces you to all the features it has to offer, and gets you up to speed and ready to race in no-time.

In career mode there are currently 2 championships available: the Rally championship, and the Pikes Peak USA hill climb that was recently added. The hill climb challenge was added mid-review, so I unfortunately don’t have enough credits to try it out! You need 175,000 credits minimum to purchase the right car, and I don’t see me getting that any time soon!

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The rally championship consists of 5 tears: Open, Clubman, Professional, Elite and Master. At the end of each championship your points will dictate whether you are promoted, relegated or just stay the same tier.

Each championship then consists of multiple events, each of which has multiple races. I’m just approaching the end of my first championship which consisted of 3 events, each with 4 races. That’s the crux of the game, complete a number of races to complete an event, complete enough events to complete the championship.

Online play includes Daily stages, Weekly stages and Monthly stages that allow you to compete against others for the best times to earn credits. In the daily stage you get provided a car, but in the weekly and monthly event, you’ll be using the car from your garage. So get racing and earning credits so you can perform on the online stage.

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The first car you have access to is from the 1960s. As you play and earn more credits, you have the option to buy cars from later decades, all the way up to the 2010s. Including the hill climb cars, there’re 20 in total to unlock. That’s plenty to go at, and since the game is still in early access there’s almost certainly more to come!

You are only part of the equation in DiRT Rally. Alongside yourself, you have a crew of up to 5 engineers that will travel with you throughout your career. You start with 2 slots, and the others are unlocked as you wrack up miles in the stages.

Each engineer has 10 skills, with each being more apt at some that others, so it’s important to pick the right engineer for your team so these are as balanced as possible. No use have 5 engine specialists on your team when no-one can change a wheel! Each engineer also has a contract length and cost, so that has to be taken into consideration also. If you hire a top-notch bunch of engineers, then can’t afford to renew their contract they will be gone.

From what I’ve played so far, I don’t know how much the makeup of your engineering team actually effects gameplay. For a casual player such as myself, content with finishing 5th and not blowing up in the process, I imagine the makeup of my team will bear little effect on my results; it hasn’t so far. For serious players however, I imagine striking the right team balance will help a lot. It’s a fun feature, which gives more control and connection to the team.

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Racing feels great. With no mini-map, it’s vital that you listen to your engineer describing the upcoming roads. “Left 6” and “right 4” will be phrases that you’ll hear a lot. If you stop paying attention, and miss the upcoming warning if a hairpin, things are about to get real bad.

The car is a constant fight. You’re always riding a fine line of being in control of the car and sliding towards a tree or cliff … or at least I was. The controls are tight enough so that you can stay just on the right side of that line so long as you give the car your upmost attention. Again, I used a game controller for this, so my comments should be disregarded for wheel users and that’s usually a different ball game.

If you get the guts to up your speed, and start using your handbrake, there’s lots of fun to be had, and crazy high-speed turns to nail. The faster you go however, the more punishment awaits should you screw up. I was 86% through a nice ice stage, went over the edge and received terminal damage. I DNF’d the race and overall lost 800 credits that race. Bad luck, next race awaits … NO. Terminal car damage brings a swift end to your entire championship. So, so punishing.

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The cars are detailed nicely, as are the environments. Some of the scenery as you fly past a rock face is spectacular. Also it runs great. I’m sitting on 4 hours play time and haven’t run into a single issue.

One thing I did feel with DiRT was a bit restricted. There are no side-objectives: ‘Complete X track in X time’ etc. time-trials, challenges, it’s just straight-up no-nonsense racing. Now that’s not a bad thing, the game is true and absolute racing sim, but those looking for more than that won’t find it.

Tl:dr – DiRT RALLY is an out and out rally sim. With a pure focus on racing alone, and no gimmicky additions, it offers a great rally sim experience; those looking for more won’t find it. It looks great, runs great, and feels great.

Rating – 9/10

Purchase – Steam £24.99 £18.74 (25% off for Steam Summer Sale, Ends 22 June)

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – The Spacials

The Spacials is a space colony management sim from the Carrasco brothers over at Weird and Wry; a small indie studio developed in 2014, Barcelona. It’s their debut title, and what an entrance. The Spacials is probably best described as Roller-coaster Tycoon in space, with a dynamic and randomly generated world around you. The game has been available in Early Access through their website, but today it lands on Steam as a full release. Let’s take a look.

The Spacials is set in a not too distant future where the human race is trying to establish itself out in the Universe. It’s your task to build a team of officers, explore the Universe around you, gather resources and build the most bad-ass space tourism spot you can to bring in as many visitors as possible and keep them happy.

It’s a fun and friendly implementation of a genre that has before put me off by its very nature. It’s not bogged down in numbers, meticulous details or terrifyingly complex interfaces, it’s all action and is presented in a succinct manner. This is further enforced through the aesthetics which are very light and cartoony, it’s a very nice style and compliments the gameplay and overall casual feel of the game well. Same goes for the soundtrack throughout. Its light ambiance feels perfectly at home in the game.

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The core of The Spacials is to gain resources and use them to build and maintain the best space tourism spot you can. Resources come in many shapes and sizes and are collected by completing missions on planets in the systems that you have unlocked, bounties and contracts. Once you complete a mission on a planet you unlock its resources and supply lines. The missions come in a variety of difficulties, so if you’re finding things a bit easy you can crank up the difficulty for a greater challenge.

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Combat when on these missions is rather unique, and is where the bulk of the action comes from. All combat is squad based. When you are selecting a mission, you will chose the officers that will comprise your squad. There are 5 classes of officer in the game, Strategist, Scientist, Diplomat, Engineer and Doctor, each with their own roles. For each mission there’s a slot available for 1 officer from each class, 5 total. So you pick your quad of 5 and start the mission, teleporting you to the planet in the process.

From this point on you’re on your mission on a randomly generated planet. The goals of the missions, at least all the missions I’ve played, are simple and along the lines of ‘Find X’, ‘Destroy X’ and don’t take too long to complete. You click the ground to move, your whole squad moves as one unit, and when you find an enemy you spam click the hell out of it; there’s no auto-fire. At first this bugged me, but after playing the game for a while I came too really like the combat.

Each officer has a special skill that gets mapped to the hot-keys 1-5. Having these different types of abilities really offers some verity to combat and your squad. Each of these abilities, and your officers’ weapons and passive abilities, can be changed and upgraded, so you can kit your squad out however you like and create some crazy combos for weapons and abilities.

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Once you have your resources you can return to you base, tend to your officers’ needs and work on your space tourism base. The goal is to get as many visitors as possible, and to keep them as happy as you can. The visitor screen will give a breakdown of all visitors currently at your base, and how happy they are. You use this to expand your base to accommodate the needs of your visitors. As you attract more visitors you need to provide a wider variety of accommodation and attractions, so you will have to pay a visit to the tech tree; the upgrade system of The Spacials.

Throughout your exploits on other planets, you will earn research points. These are spent at the technology tree on unlocking new build types, and there’s lots to choose from. There’s no rules on how you create and customize your base, so it’s really just down to your imagination.

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Once you have your resources, and whatever you want to build unlocked in the tech tree, then it’s time to start designing your tourism base. The building controls are easy and nice to use, although I think the UI surrounding it could do with some more polish. In fact, the UI and polish everywhere I think are a few patches short of being where they could be.

There is a nice tutorial that covers lots of the introduction to the game, but I think in general the UI and self-intuitiveness of it could be improved. Example. It took me ages to work out how to remove someone from an Embassy pots. (You can put your officers into the Embassy of a system to gain more resources from it). To remove someone from an embassy position, you have to assign an empty slot the position. I realise you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work that out, but a remove button would have just been that much easier.

And that’s the focus of my criticism. There’s a whole bunch of tweaks that could be made to make it that much easier and just add a touch more polish. Things like tool-tips when you’re hovering over buttons, some of the UI overlaps in places when you do certain things, you can’t move items once placed, and the inventory system is somewhat cumbersome when it comes to kitting out your officers. Only small things, but given the genre, and especially the fact that this is a casual implementation of the genre, I think self-intuitiveness and UI design should be as perfect as can be and for me there’s still a bit of room for improvement.

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What I love most about The Spacials is that it makes the genre accessible. I’ve seen plenty of space sims before this, but they’ve always seemed like too much hard work! The Spacials captures the essence of a good sim without letting it get in the way of itself. Yes, I think there’s some issues with the UI and general self-intuitiveness of the interface in places and some of the actions, but these are minor. I think The Spacials is a great casual entry into the genre, and an awesome debut title from Weird and Wry.

Icing on the cake, it’s only £8.99; a nice cheap price for the amount of content and hours you will get out of the game. There’s also a launch sale, where the game will be 25% off until April 7th. Will you be playing The Spacials? We hope so. If you do, let us know what you thought of it in the comments.

Tl;dr – The Spacials is a fun and friendly implementation of a genre that has before put me off by its very nature. It’s not bogged down in numbers, meticulous details or terrifyingly complex interfaces, it’s all action and is presented in a succinct manner.  I very much enjoyed it. For those accustomed to their space sims this will be a nice casual experience, and for those like me that are new to it it’s a great entry point.

Rating – 7/10
Purchase – Steam £8.99 (excluding 25% launch sale until April 7th)

Let’s talk about … – Surgeon Simulator certifies over 2 million!

Massive News for indie Development team -Bossa Studio’s as their title Surgeon Simulator reaches Two Million Sales with its barbaric medical practices and questionable patients.

Commenting on this landmark achievement Surgeon General Henrique Olifiers had this to say:

“Thanks to everyone who has played Surgeon Simulator and made it such a global success. It has been really amazing to see this title go from a game jam project to a full release across multiple formats and is testament to the originality and creativity we nurture here at Bossa Studios.”

In celebration of this feat, gamers itching to try their hand at major surgery can now scrub up and get their hands dirty with a 50% reduction of prices for the rest of the week (04/02/15), available on steam and IOS.

I managed to get my hands on a copy of surgeon simulator and I tried my best to transplant a heart, no biggie…

After a number of “incidents” where Bob wouldn’t make it through the minor surgery, I finally managed to perform the transplant and received an overall grade of D; which seeing that I have no previous medical knowledge I’d say it went rather well.

The game doesn’t end with just some basic transplants. As you work your way through a range of “Exotic” patients, you may find the title is riddled with bacteria like Easter eggs which are both detailed and perfectly linked with a collection of gaming titles.

Sounds great right? Get your hands on Surgeon simulator yourself over on steam at – http://store.steampowered.com/app/233720/ and IOS – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/surgeon-simulator/id814977594?mt=8&dm_i=XF5,35UFQ,J1MK2Q,BBW7X,1.

****For those coming for the competition to win a key:****
Leave a comment with your favorite body part to remove in Surgeon Simulator!
Make sure the name you comment under is your Twitter name so we can contact you if you win.
The key will be a Steam Key and will awarded to a random comment on Sunday 8th February.