One of the first fruits of Electronic Arts’ lauded partnership with toy manufacturer Hasbro, Operation Mania attempts to upgrade the classic board game for today’s keyboard jock. Its strategic approach: to weave nearly two dozen “micro-games” (bite-sized diversions that can be played in roughly 10-15 second increments) into the standard time management equation.
Happily, the setup works surprisingly well, staying true to the spirit of the original tabletop diversion. Nonetheless, extreme repetition – the bane of many a similarly-styled competitor – again rears its head, ultimately reducing the experience to a fun, but fleeting novelty best enjoyed in brief installments.
As the story (if you can call the occasional hand-drawn comic that) goes, you play zany surgeon Dr. Humerus, on a quest for fame and fortune. To make a name for yourself, you’ll need to make pit stops at five individually-themed hospitals (Muscle Beach, Waistland, Frostbite Heights, etc.) and 35 individual levels.
Laid out on a single-screen 2D backdrop, each stage plays identically to the sort most commonly indigenous to the category, i.e. involving you attempting to please as many testy patients as possible. The faster you attend to each of the randomly arriving medical attention seekers’ needs, of course, the more money you’ll earn towards achieving a minimum daily goal before the ever-ticking clock runs out.
While play starts out simple – click that clown-nosed customer, drag him to admissions, process paperwork, dump dude on the operating table, start surgery, collect some cash – things quickly get more complex the further you proceed. In the beginning, clicking on OR patients proves mostly optional, letting you jump into a brief arcade-style challenge, such as “Wrenched Back” (find the hidden wrench) or “Water on the Knee” (use a bucket to catch falling drops) on-demand.
Later, it becomes a necessity, as emergency cases force you to drop everything and bat tennis balls back or remove chickens from ventricles with surgical tongs, and the extra cash these activities bestow turns vital. An increasingly diverse array of patients (e.g. those willing to wait longer, but pay less); props (i.e. ward beds and wheelchairs for recovery or referrals); and surprises (sudden health inspections) that’s drip-fed at a relatively slow pace also adds challenge.
Still, much as we love the comedic visuals, ability to chain actions/colors for extra payouts and sight of noses lighting up when you accidentally vacuum abdomens instead of green gunk, flaws exist. For one, there’s not a vast array of customers, detracting from long-term appeal. Play proves all-too-similar over extended periods to boot. Likewise, although there are quite a few gems amongst the micro-games (see the goo-tracking “Elbow Grease” or blowtorch-wielding “Brain Freeze “vignettes), each grows old after just a few tries.
Purchasing speed upgrades, better gear, more equipment and new stations between levels also turns out to be quite pricey, forcing you to forego helpful upgrades or spend more time experiencing the same amusements over and over in order to afford them. Lastly, queuing actions isn’t always a fine science either, since you can add clickable, but not drag-requiring tasks to the pile, demanding you manually remove patients from surgery tables, for example, before others can be added.
As such, Operation Mania delivers nicely on its underlying potential, but fails to excel in any single given area. More importantly, despite promising oodles of variety at surface value, it’s a mostly textbook take on time management outings, albeit one with more minor distractions than the average contender. Should you not mind the frantic pace, or need to enjoy in coffee break-style sessions to preserve your sanity, both Story and Marathon’s objectives – get paid and keep patients alive, lest they turn into cartoonish angels – will certainly amuse.
Nonetheless, consider it more well-produced genre knock-off than must-play advancement, and one likely to still mostly appeal to the family game night’s existing core fan base at that.