Medical students: they spend years of their life pretending to learn complicated surgical procedures, when in actuality, all you have to do to cure deadly viruses is tilt a scalpel back and forth.
At least, that's what we've learned from playing Dr Awesome, the new game from iPhone publisher ngmoco. It's the world's first accelerometer-powered microsurgery game, as far as we know.
You play the eponymous hero who has to save the world (well, a succession of patients) from a new and vicious virus that's sweeping through their immune systems. It's impressive in the way the game grabs patient names from your iPhone address book, so you're operating on (in theory) your friends. It's a small touch, but very cool.
If you're thinking that this means a DS-style Trauma Center title, well, you're not quite right. In fact, it's more accurately described as a modern take on Qix. You know, that game that involved moving a diamond-shaped thing around the screen fencing sections off while avoiding baddies. Dr Awesome's theme may be surgical, but its gameplay is as old as the hills.
Of course, it's been jazzed up. Each patient has a certain number of bugs roaming their system. Each one involves moving your scalpel around the cell by tilting the handset, chopping bits off until there isn't enough room for the viruses to survive (usually when 25 per cent of the cell or less is remaining).
The viruses vary in look and action; some fire shots at you, while others slither along the outside of the cell, forcing you to make cuts when you might not want to. Power-ups help even the odds, giving you extra time or a speed boost when cut out. Collide with a virus and you lose precious time, which if you run out of it, results in a failed procedure. Three failed procedures and the patient carks it.
It's beautifully presented, with stylish visuals – particularly the cartoon characters who appear in between surgical procedures. Their dialogue may get repetitive once you've been playing for a while, but they look great.
However, Dr Awesome is not a stone-cold classic. Like many iPhone games, it suffers from the fact that you're trying to look at the screen while tilting it. With a failed procedure often a mere slip away, having to squint because your iPhone is tilted away from you isn't great.
More serious is the frustration factor as you get onto later viruses. For all its slick visuals and simple controls, Dr Awesome can be properly frustrating. Maddening, even. We actually had to turn the game off several times while reviewing it, as the only way to stop us flinging our iPhone through the nearest window in rage.
Should casual iPhone games really be making you this angry? It can feel genuinely unfair to die just because you were tilting your iPhone in the wrong direction after reappearing after a previous death or because you reappear right next to a bacteria.
We did keep firing the game back up again, though, and not just because we were reviewing it. Its addictiveness just outweighs the frustration factor, but only just. Dr Awesome may have you curing the sick, but at times it'll send your stress levels sky-high.