App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Most people over the age of twenty remember the board game, Operation. Using a steady hand and a pair of metal tweezers, each player attempts to remove something from the "patient" without touching the sides and hearing that soul-crushing BUZZ. Success endows them with money, while failure earns them nothing but humiliation and ridicule. At least it did in my house. Stitches is Applied Studios' attempt at bringing the classic to iOS, albeit with a few changes.
It's about as straight-forward as the Milton Bradley original, minus the tweezers and plus one touch screen. Double-tap to select where to "operate," use two fingers to move, rotate, pinch and extract the desired part, drop it into the operating tray and move on to the next one. With no multiplayer to speak of save online leaderboards, the focus has been taken off of competitive money-grabbing and instead placed on not killing patients. Which is probably a good thing. Each operation is timed, and the invalid can only survive so many screw ups. If the timer or his health bar hits zero, it's time to start prepping for that malpractice suit.
Stitches is one of those iOS games that's incredibly easy to learn: anyone familiar with looking at photos on their device should have no problem figuring out the controls. Success, however, requires more than just knowing how to twist and reverse-pinch. In fact, depending on the difficulty level (the easiest is the default) it also requires steadiness and accuracy ranging from good to robotic.
Having multiple difficulty settings and four levels with their own special conditions goes a long way to making Stitches something more than a mere play it and forget it title, but it's still not for everyone. Simply making it through that first operation made me more jittery than overloading on coffee in the morning. And that's just the first level, on the easiest difficulty. Trying to complete the same actions during sporadic earthquakes or while hung-over (seriously, what hospital would let a surgeon work like that?) makes things much, much tougher. But even with all of the slight variations it still involves performing the same action on the same items over and over, with nothing but scores and bragging rights to promote multiple play-throughs.
Stitches is sure to be a hit with fans and nostalgic board game-lovers. As for everyone else, it really depends. Those who get frazzled easily and hate feeling tense or nervous should probably steer clear. Anyone looking for a surgical simulation won't find what they're looking for here, either. And for those of us caught in the middle; it costs a dollar. Use that to decide whether or not it's worth the risk.