Review by Crazee Boy
"While it won't teach you to be a doctor, it WILL teach you to throw your DS at the wall"
So, here we have Trauma Center. I picked up this game a few days after it's release, after reading a few favorable magazine articles. I haven't got a lot to say beforehand, unlike my usual long-winded introductions, so let's get started, shall we?
First off, the presentation. Trauma Center is heavily anime based during it's cut scenes. I hate anime with a passion, but only for it's quirks. I actually find the stylish characters in this game to be visually pleasing. The characters aren't actually animated, but they switch between static, clean-drawn images to display their emotions as they talk. Their most dramatic poses can be a bit over the top, but nonetheless, it works.
During an operation, things are much different. On the lower screen as you start, you see your patient. Your patient is, of course, naked, but if you're a worried patient, never fear. There's no anatomy, just a smooth body. After you make your incision and dive in, you see the organs. For the most part, the organs are pre-rendered, static backgrounds. These look nice, and the wounds and blood that appear from your work are realistic enough. Organs that move, however, such as the heart, are polygonal models, and these look great.
Things inside of the patient, such as tumors or the "villains" of the game (more on that later), are nice-looking sprites. And you need not worry about this game if you're squeamish. The blood isn't over the top.
The sounds are average, and not exactly spot-on. As you cut through flesh, it sounds as though you're scraping toast. Not all the sounds are mis-matched, however. Your laser makes a soft whine like you might expect, and your suction tube makes a fitting "shlurp". If you rub the patient with your hand, for example, to apply a patch to a wound, it sounds like you're rubbing sand paper. Like I said, not exactly spot-on.
Occasionally as you play, your nurse, or whoever happens to be with you, may blurt out something along the lines of "Doctor!" or "Derek!" (Derek, for reference, is your character's name.) These little snippets of dialogue are clear and sound fine, but full voice acting would have been nice.
The music is one of the game's better elements. While there aren't many songs, they always seem to fit the situation. The basic operation theme is relaxed, but has an air of anxiety to it. There's a more dramatic operating theme, too, for more critical situations.
Here we are, the meat and potatoes. Let's get started here, shall we?
First, the items. You have a versatile inventory, ranging from scalpels to lasers to your suction tube. Also, you have your trusty syringe, which can inject a variety of liquids, but most often, you'll be using a curious green substance. This raises the vitals of the patient, and I have no idea how.
This isn't too complex, and all surgeries begin and end the same. You cut the patient open, fix the problem, and sew them shut. The first few missions have you doing simple, relatively tasks. Remove glass from a person's arm, excise tumors in the stomach, remove polyps in the throat... It's not all a walk in the park, of course. You have a certain amount of "misses". These are mistakes such as dropping something you picked up, cutting the wrong area, or messing up a bandage. That last one is stupid. You screw up sticking the bandage on, and the operation is a failure. Imagine if you were only having your tonsils removed, eh? Also, there's vitals. This is a number, ranging from 99 (perfectly healthy) to 0 (flatline, and you lose, unless it's cardiac arrest). This starts generally at 99 if the patient doesn't have too threatening of a problem, but a patient who's in cardiac arrest at the start will be at 0 until you can start their heart again. Vitals are lowered from blood loss. If there are too many lacerations, the vitals will plummet like crazy. Thusly, you have to stay on top of open wounds.
I could have enjoyed the game had it been all basic procedures, but that wouldn't be very challenging. No, there's a menacing man-made virus called "GUILT". I forget what that acronym means, but I think a more fitting name would be "TIPS". (This Is Plain Sick) Trust me. There are seven varieties of this virus, each one named after, I believe, every Latin day in the week. Or Greek. I'm not sure. The first few are actually pretty fun. For example, little burrowing bladed creatures you have to dig out and laser away, or tumors that move. Then you start finding the more evil ones, such as a nailed-down plate of hardened flesh, or a worm that slithers through the body to the heart. The game quickly becomes a frantic matter of cutting, removing, suturing like crazy, and injecting that green fluid as fast as you can. It gets extremely hectic, and I have to tell you something.
I DON'T HAVE THAT KIND OF COORDINATION!
However, there's light at the end of the tunnel... Sort of. Your character is a descendant of the Greek god of medicine, and thusly, he has a special ability called "The Healing Touch". To activate it, you draw a star. This can be used only once per operation, and what it does is slows time down, allowing you more breathing room in those really tight situations. That said, it only lasts a few seconds, depending on how well your star is. A scribbled star will only grant you a few seconds, while a perfect one gives you much more time.
The controls are responsive, at least. The buttons aren't used at all during operations, it's all touch-screen based. To activate a tool, you touch it's icon on the screen. Personally, for the icons on the left, I use my thumb. The controls for each tool differ, but they all make sense. To cut with the scalpel, you draw. To suck things up, you touch to bring the tube down, and trace up the tube to suck. Likewise with the scalpel, the laser burns where you touch, and the syringe first requires you to fill it, a lot like the suction tube.
However, I blame this game for just about ruining my touch screen. Frantically slicing away at the screen really does it's toll. Beware.
The story is what you might expect from this game. A medical terrorist group is spreading their virus called GUILT, and a rookie doctor named Derek Stiles realizes his abilities and becomes, not surprisingly, one of the key players in eliminating the GUILT threat.
Personally, I wouldn't want to replay this game, and there's no multiplayer, though I don't think that would've been a good idea anyway. Whenever you complete an operation, it's added to the "Challenge" option on the main menu. In challenge mode, you can replay any operation you've finished, to get a better rank. Also, once you've finished the single player game, you can play through the seven X missions, which are throw-your-DS-at-the-wall-while-cursing-like-a-sailor difficult versions of all seven GUILT viruses. That's certainly an adventure I wouldn't go on.
Trauma Center is an interesting concept, but it falls on it's rear-end due to it's extreme challenge. Personally, I'd buy it if it were in the bargain bin, but for a new game price, keep on walking. I also warn you, if you have high blood pressure (like I do), then play with caution. I'm a pretty patient guy when it comes to video games, but this is a sick challenge.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 09/25/07
Game Release: Trauma Center: Under the Knife (US, 10/04/05)
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