The Game: Ready for a fantastic journey? So long as you’re not counting on Raquel Welch riding shotgun with you, this is as close as you’re going to get. You control a tiny robot probe inside the body of a living, breathing human patient who has a lot of health problems. Tar deposits in the lungs, cholesterol clogging the arteries, and rogue infections traveling around messing everything up. And then there’s you – capable of administering targeted doses of ultrasonic sound, antibiotics and aspirin to fix things up. Keep an eye on your patient’s status at all times – and be careful not to wipe out disease-fighting white blood cells which occasionally regard your robot probe as a foreign body and attack it. Just because you don’t get to play doctor with the aforementioned Ms. Welch (ahem – get your mind out of the gutter!) doesn’t mean this won’t be a fun operation. (Imagic, 1982)
Memories: Microsurgeon, designed and programmed by Imagic code wrangler Rick Levine (who even put his signature – as a series of slightly twisted arteries – inside the game’s human body maze), is a perfect example of Imagic’s ability to get the best out of the Intellivision – it’s truly one of those “killer app” games that defines a console.
This is a case where very good use was made of the keypad controllers, without bogging the game down in needless complexities. (For those of you who have tracked down a cartridge but have no overlays, we’ve scanned the overlays for you! Click our overlay button to print out your own; we recommend some good quality photo paper that won’t let the ink transfer to your fingers after repeated keypresses.)
Microsurgeon is just short of being educational too. And I have to admit that Imagic surprised me here – a game in the early 1980s, including tar deposits in the lungs, pretty much spelling out that smoking is bad? I’m impressed. Maybe it’s not as direct as an edict from C. Everett Koop, but in that day and age I was amazed to see that someone would actually put that message out there, let alone in a game aimed at kids.
There are some mild controller issues with the infamous joy-discs here, but then again, the maze of arteries, veins and other tissue is so intricate, I’m not sure a joystick would make that much difference. Aiming and “firing” treatments with the disc controller is a breeze – it’s a rare instance where this is just the right controller for the job.
For all the mentions of Fantastic Journey, a movie in which a manned probe fought diseases inside a human patient’s body, it’s worth noting that 20th Century Fox’s own short-lived video game company turned out an Atari 2600 title to cash in on that movie’s title, but it turned out to be an overly simple (and actually very generic) scrolling shooter which only shared the film’s name. Apparently, Imagic did a little bit of preliminary work on an Atari 2600 edition of Microsurgeon, but didn’t get very far – which is a good thing. On the Intellivision, Microsurgeon was an incredibly fun game, one of those on-the-right-console-at-the-right-time games, and it would have besmirched many a gamer’s memory of it to see it dumbed down for the VCS.