(Not Our) Lo-Fi Let’s Play: Life & Death

You may have noticed Leigh Alexander’s Lo-Fi Let’s Play series, with its curious and gentle examination of weird old games, hasn’t graced our pages in several months. Leigh, you see, went off to do exciting and lovely things with Laura Hudson at Offworld, where the series continues.

Through the magic of the Internet (and the courtesy of asking nicely), we can still show you them. Leigh published the latest on Offworld on Thursday, looking at 1988 surgery sim Life & Death.

Leigh explains:

“As a child, I dreamed of becoming a surgeon, thanks to 1988’s Life & Death — before Surgeon Simulator or Trauma Center, this awkward, deathly-serious medical game gave me the idea that I should volunteer to practice appendectomies on the other third-graders.”

That might help explain why, whenever we went drinking and I’d hiccup, Leigh would casually pop open a flick knife and toss it from hand to hand asking “Are you sure ya don’t need an emergency appendectomy?” Ooh the look in those eyes – somewhere between “I can help!” and “I will ‘help’.”


  1. MrFinnishDude says:

    I do remember watching a live stream of this game some months back. The game gets quite hilarious if you do it as a satanic murder simulator (which you can do). You can cut people without anesthesia and do other silly, homicidal things.
    If anyone’s interested here’s the highlights video of the stream: link to youtube.com . Check at 3:11.

    • Smeghead says:

      Vinesauce FTW.

      I remember trying to play Life or Death on the Amiga. “Trying” being the appropriate word; I’d borrowed it from a mate that was gullible enough to buy it. The loading time between screens from floppy was horrific, and this was something like a 4 or 5 disk game, and the amount of swapping was just crippling.

      I don’t think I ever managed to not kill the patient.

  2. PearlChoco says:

    I remember my neighbour’s father bringing this back from his trip to the USA, together with Abrams Tank. It must have been one of the first real PC games I saw in motion. Barely understanding any English, and having only played games like SMB on the NES, it was an incredibly fascinating and mysterious game. I couldn’t understand though, that my neighbour, who is a doctor, wasn’t good at the game :-)

  3. DrLeoWollman says:

    Oh boy do I love Life & Death. Sadly I didn’t discover it until I was in my 20’s, but it’s given me hours of weird, gruesome joy. Much as it scolds you from doing things wrong, it doesn’t actually prevent you from doing them. Forget to put your patient under? You can still cut them open! In the absurdly difficult, brain surgery focused sequel you could poke patients in the eyes with needles and put them through fatal MRIs if they had a pacemaker.

    It was damn hard though, and incredibly specific about following medical protocol. Turns out it’s really hard to cut people open in a straight line using mouse controls. So many times I thought I’d properly completed a surgery, only to be told off for my dodgy slicing technique.

    Anyway, thanks for linking to this! I keep forgetting to visit Offworld and it would have just passed me by.

    • statistx says:

      At least it was REALLY rewarding if you finally pulled it of, allthough it took me a revisit after about 10 years to finally do that, cause even if it stops the ER soon after doing something wrong, it rarely told you WHAT you did wrong and thus i never understood why i failed my cut. (turned out i cut open the wrong area in the wrong way/direction)

  4. quietone says:

    A wonderful game, and a concept that could have been easily expanded and improved nowadays, instead of releasing some paper shredder simulator.

  5. LionsPhil says:

    Egad, those ugly IBM PC graphics. Why not at least revisit a far better 16-bit era personal computer version?

  6. Synesthesia says:

    I discovered this game until very late, when i was fiddling around with dosbox. I loved it. I didn’t quit until i could perform an apendicitis. The brain surgery sequel kicked my ass though.

  7. MattMk1 says:

    I was so proud when I finally managed to successfully get the appendix out *and* the patient survived.

    Unfortunately, I think it turned out that I misdiagnosed the patient and that was the wrong procedure… But they did live.

    I was so disappointed that the so-called surgery game for the Wii was just arcade nonsense.

    Has there ever been a halfway serious surgery simulator since?

  8. MadTinkerer says:

    “No Jimmy, we are not buying you Mortal Kombat.”

    “But Mom, why not? Bobby’s Mom lets him play it!”

    “Sweetie, Mortal Kombat is a game where the game encourages you to maim and kill your opponents in gruesome fashion while they’re unconscious and helpless. The blood and gore is excessive and not age appropriate at all.”

    “Aw, Mom…”

    “So instead we’re getting you this nice doctor simulation game!”

    Actually, come to think of it, I really have killed far more people in Life & Death than in any of the Mortal Kombat games. I should probably play more Mortal Kombat.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      BTW I was actually trying to play it straight. I was just not a very good doctor when I was 12.

      In the words of the TF2 Medic “Anyway, that’s how I lost my medical license.”

  9. Jediben says:

    I remember playing this before I had my own PC. I must have been 11 or 12 and it was a the house of a friend of my mum. Her husband was an actual surgeon so I can vaguely understand why he had it. All I seem to recall doing was giving lethal doses of anaesthetic over and over.

  10. Sin Vega says:

    Oooh, I played this back in my abandonware etc, etc. Well, I say “played”. I did what most people probably did – tried to wing it. Then tried to see how much damage I could do to a patient before the nurses stopped me. The howl they made was as funny as it was disturbing.

  11. statistx says:

    Hahaha, the game is burnt into my mind it seems. I instantly knew it was kidney stones with the first Patient.

  12. Sonny Bonds - Lytton PD says:

    Ooooooh my god the sounds that would come out of the pc speaker when you didnt use anesthetic on the patient. Coulda used a sound blaster back then. Also I tried to play this game when I was 9. It was absolutely impenetrable and I had no idea what I was doing.. other than killing people and/or making them scream.

  13. RichSG says:

    If you liked the memories of this game you might like to check out our (sci-fi) doctor sim game ‘S.O.R.S’ – link to sciencegamed.co.uk

    I only mention this because we’ve had several comments saying it reminds people of ‘Life & Death’ , I don’t usually advertise like this. I feel dirty. Admin gods please forgive me!