Review by Arkrex

"Bachelor of Stylus Surgery"

This is my 3rd retrospective review. In Trauma Center you play as a just-starting-out doctor by the name of Derek Stiles (his initials are DS and his surname sounds like "stylus" - go figure). But you don't move him around the area trying to do the world a great justice, instead you are hands-on in the O.R. performing the life-or-death operations yourself, as if you really are a surgeon in training. This game/semi-sim is totally touch-driven; be prepared for an incredible challenge, especially if your scratching skills aren't up to par. But just like in real life, focus, dedication and a lot of a lot of practice makes perfect. And in the world of Trauma Center, you can get S-ranks too!

Visuals - 8
Sound - 8
Gameplay - 9
Lasting Power - 8
Replay Value - 10
Difficulty - 10
(Hand-eye coordination, reflex actions, stylus centric)

Dependence - 9

I think I'm gonna spew

The doctors, nurses, patients and everyone else in between are presented in a nice looking anime-style. They are entirely shown throughout as still shots alongside some written dialogue (just like in Phoenix Wright). It is all very "normal", but at least it does not pervade into what is the main ingredient of this title, the operations themselves.

During your surgeries, your nurse offers you guidance on the top screen whilst you carry out your handiwork on the bottom. Graphics here are presented as 3D - textured, stylised, throbbing structures abound. The surgical site with all the internal guts and such are easily identifiable, and whilst nowhere near realism, the dynamic pulsing that goes on does make it feel like you are performing some actual procedure. It's a great representation, and I know by experience.

Intense Instrumentalisation
There is not much music throughout Trauma Center. You've got the main map theme (as you converse with others to progress the insidious plot), the standard operation theme (which helps you really to focus), the GUILT theme (you'll find out), as well as a few insignificant others. But this is no action-packed, thrills aplenty kind of game. When you are actually playing, epic scores would sound totally out of place and very off-putting. As you carry out the delicate procedures, at times with great urgency, the music changes to suit appropriately. It never interferes with your work, and if anything it is a great motivator. So whilst the soundtrack isn't going to win any prizes, its beauty shines in its subtleness.

IV Adrenaline
Can a game be so immersive that it makes your palms sweat and heart race? I never thought this was possible, until this game appeared.

You are a doctor, whose aim is to save people's lives. The dialogue is pretty tame and it may not make sense for those who don't keep up with the jargon, but the main story arc involving the GUILT is easy to grasp and that's all you really need to know.

The operations are what you live and die for. The stylus is used intuitively to carry out a vast array of surgical tasks. Incising, puncturing, draining, applying bandages, and even high-tech lasering; everything is easily accessible with a touch here and just as easily executed with a few simple tapping, sliding or rubbing motions. The game guides you steadily at first, introducing you to the tools of the trade as well as the key situations you are likely to encounter. But do not fear, nearly everything will be in your hands soon enough (perhaps too soon for some...)

The operations you perform have various backstories and consist of the appropriate problems relevant to the injury. This is great as it really adds to the realism of it all. Halfway through though, you are met with a new challenge in the form of a parasite. It is here where the pace picks up, but unfortunately it is here where the variety suddenly kind of stops too. Your focus will be on eradication of the 7 featured types, and it longer seems "realistic" anymore.

But don't get me wrong, it is still highly addictive and a lot of fun! The challenge brought on at this point, along with the pressures of time and keeping the patient's vitality high, adds a lot of tension. This makes the experience incredibly intense. There were times I found myself shaking with nervousness/excitement, and when you finally manage to successfully save the patient (which is the main scenario although there are a few nice diversions), the feeling you get is tremendous.

If you ever feel the need to hone your skills further before continuing on in the story mode, you are free to replay any operations you have already completed. This is as good as any practice mode would have served. For those who seek excellence, the replay operations allow you to try and try again to obtain the coveted S-rank, equating to the apt title of Master Surgeon. Since Trauma Center is a puzzle-game at heart, scores are a big deal. Especially when you have an entirely online following to compete against. It's a shame there aren't any bonuses apart from the unlockable infamous X-missions upon completion of the main game. But if you are satisfied by doing a job well done, completing and replaying the operations daily, weekly, monthly, yearly makes for an incredibly lasting joyride. Extend yourself. Try dual-stylus wielding to shatter the barrier as some have already demonstrated through online home videos.

When I grow up, I want to be a doctor!
This is a dream that many academically & scientifically inclined kids have. However, getting into the profession takes a loooong time, and a lot of focus and life-long learning is expected. It's not at all like what you see on TV. For those who were always interested in this sort of stuff anyway, Trauma Center fits the bill perfectly.

It's a great rendition of actual surgical operations capturing the more conservative thrills and spills of the real world. The difficulty level progresses step by step initially, but towards the end it does spike big-time. But there's still a lot to be had before that point; masters will be able to delight themselves with the challenging last bunch of tasks (after losing all their hair of course!)

So if you have been playing a few stylus-based games lately and think you've finally got a feel for how it handles, you have attained the prerequisite for this Bachelor of Stylus Surgery. Just like a real degree, you get out what you put in. It's definitely not for everyone, but people who enjoy medical scenarios and those who find their haven in puzzle-type games should enrol ASAP!

9/10 - Surgery without the stress (there are exceptions though!)
Highly recommended!


Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/14/06

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