There’s a variety of reasons why we play video games. It could be for pure fun, the challenge, the art, or the social commentary. And thanks to digital distribution, it has made it possible for small studios and teams to put out content that genuinely challenges your views in ways you didn’t expect.
Help Me Doctor, developed by IceTorch Interactive and released on Switch by Ultimate Games S.A, claims it will force you to face the moral obligations doctors face on a daily basis. But when you consider Ultimate Games S.A’s height of social commentary was with their “hit” title Wanking Simulator, these claims quickly fall flaccid.
Help Me Doctor gives you your own practice to run. You’ll see a series of patients and must diagnose their aliments, and ensure all their insurance documents are up to scratch. In between patients, you’ll be asked to face big questions such as; will you bribe the Ministry of Health, or let certain patients get priority just because of who they know?
It all could be interesting, but the gameplay falls flat. In order to diagnose a patient, they’ll give you 3 of their conditions, which are always in the form of an odd statement like ‘Hair growing out of foot’ or ‘Counting pavement tiles while walking’. You’ll look through a list of diseases and pick the one with the matching symptoms.
There’s really nothing more to it. There’s no conditions you might be missing or any challenge in identifying a symptom. The patient’s condition will match the symptoms word for word, and it’s as simple as making sure all 3 matches.
Checking the identification documents is an equally boring affair. You have 3 documents to run through, and you need to check the details match. There’s no moral quandary about helping patients who can’t afford healthcare or diagnosing a perfectly healthy patient just to make more cash or hit targets. All the discrepancies are just purely typos.
Any choice you’re given is laughable. It has little depth and doesn’t affect gameplay. Any semblance of a dilemma is removed instantly when you realise they’re shoved in to purely affect the amount of money you have. Either you choose the selfish option and receive a fine, or do the right thing you might get rewarded.
I will always try to find positives in anything, but unfortunately, in the case of Help Me Doctor, all I can say is that this is an ugly game.
The game is just a single environment, the inside of your surgery. Everything is lifeless, textures are flat, lack any detail, and are badly put together. I suppose I did smile seeing the same screengrab from what looked to be Google Maps in every window. But really, it just highlights how low effort this game is.
The UI itself is a mess. When a patient sits at your desk, the screen is littered with prompts. Whilst I did get used to this, it never looked nice or clean. I liked that halfway through the game, for no apparent reason, the font just decided to increase in size though. There are so many other things in this title like this that show a lack of quality control.
I appreciate that everyone needs to start somewhere, and amateur projects will only have access to basic resources. But we’ve seen much better efforts, from smaller teams, developed quicker as a part of a game jam. Ultimately, when you’re charging for a game in 2020 and looks like it made on the same engine as Dire Straits ‘Money for Nothing’ video, you’re going to leave the player disappointed.
As with all of Help Me Doctor, the audio is low budget and lacklustre.
The tracks selected here haven’t been purposely created to have a central theme, or build any tension as you play. The few tracks here are played on repeat, are as generic as royalty-free music can get. For anyone that’s played a low budget simulator game, you’ll know exactly what you’re diving into.
Sound effects equally don’t add anything to the game. They’re badly mixed, and the unbearably distorted shout of ‘next patient please’ had me turning down the volume very quickly into my first playthrough.
Here’s where things got interesting during my time with Help Me Doctor. It’s poorly made and my time was cut short thanks to a game-breaking bug.
There’s a basic pattern to the gameplay loop. You see and diagnose patients, and every now and again, an event is thrown at you. After just a few days, I came to an event in which the Ministry of Health wanted me to bribe them. I either had to pay up or face closure. The only problem is that the game didn’t give me any choice in the matter. The only option I could select was to refuse to pay, and abruptly end the game. It didn’t matter how much money I had, or what choices I had made before.
I genuinely don’t know how many more days the game keeps going for, or how long it takes to reach the credits. What I can confidently say is that even without the bug, Help Me Doctor didn’t do anything to keep my interest after 5 minutes. There are zero progression and a whole lot of repetition.
Help Me Doctor is a game with very little appeal. It might sound interesting, but it doesn’t expand on its premise or any of the ideas that could’ve been interesting. It’s riddled with a number of problems, errors, and bugs, which at worst stops progression.
Papers, Please shows that this type of game can be done well. But in order to do so, it needs a good story and a genuine consequence. Help Me Doctor misses the mark on every level and seems to think the enjoyment is just in making sure two sets of characters match.
When it comes to rating Help Me Doctor, ignoring bugs, it wouldn’t receive any award. Its gameplay and design is shallow and ugly. But it’s impossible to ignore the game-breaking bug. Thumb Culture has reached out to Ultimate Games S.A. for comment, and we will update you with any response. For now, I have no choice but prescribe Help Me Doctor with a Thumb Culture Broken Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.
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