Review by meb9000

"Easily the best use of the stylus for the D.S. PERIOD"

Trauma Center: Under the Knife

The title of this review doesn't lie-I seriously doubt you will find another DS game that can take advantage of the touch screen/stylus better than this hardcore surgery simulator. Trauma Center is a game that no avid DS owner should be without, IMHO. Besides its outrageous quirkiness and the sky-high originality factor, this game will make you crave for me after each operation is over.

Although it is difficult to fully describe the plot of this game without actually playing it yourself, here's the run through. You are Derek Stiles, a young surgeon fresh out of residency who is working at Hope Hospital. At first, you are a slacker, so bad that a patient almost dies due to carelessness. However, you eventually develop what is known as the "Healing Touch" an ability that actually lets you slow down time for about a minute in order to ensure success in a critical surgery. (You can only do this once per surgery when you get it, though). After about 2 chapters, you join this secret branch of the World Health Organization, known as Cadaceus, which is trying to fight a form of medical terrorism known as GUILT (Gangliated Utrophin Immuno Latency Toxin) that is threatening many poor patients. With your stylus in hand and trusty nurse at your side, only you can stop this outbreak!

This where the core of this game shines. All of the surgeries take place on the touch screen, where your stylus can become a scalpel, forceps, syringe, laser, and other medical tools. Each action in the surgery involves a pretty simple movement with your stylus. For example, when using the tweezers, you click on the object you need to extract, then DRAG the stylus towards a dish at the bottom right corner to dump it. For suturing a wound shut, you do a zig-zag motion across the cut in order to stitch it. The other actions are similar in this way. The main difficulty is the rate at which you must do these actions. All of the tools are at the edges of the screen, and they are activated with a simple touch, allowing quick change when you need it. At the top of the touch screen lies your patient's vital signs (ranging from 0-99), be sure to keep those up, as well as a heartbeat on the cardiogram.

The story for this game is pretty farfetched to say the least, but it does do a good job of getting you in touch with the game's main characters and with the subject matter. The story is set up in linear chapters, usually with every other being one with dialogue/plot advancement, while the other is a surgery. Before each surgery, you are given a briefing as to the affliction you are dealing with, along with what the objectives are. Each surgery has a time limit, which is typically 5 minutes. You also have a miss limit, which counts how many times you do a procedure incorrectly, such as making your incision in the wrong place, etc. If you get too many misses, run out of time, or if the patient's vitals drop to zero, it's game over. (You can always retry that surgery, though). Each surgery gets progressively harder as the story goes, especially when GUILT enters the scene, but they are all enjoyable and give much satisfaction when you beat them.

Although the dialogue is done with subtitles and still shots of the characters, they are all done with excellent art and are pleasing to the eye. The surgeries are in a basic 3D model, nothing fancy in comparison to other games, but it does get the job well. The organs look appropriately realistic to their real life counterparts, but not so much that you will get sick looking at them (Thankfully). All in all, I would say the visuals do exactly what they need to do for the requirements.

Sound in this game is surprisingly limited, especially when it comes to dialogue, as the only voice acted words are things like, "Let's begin.", or "Doctor Stiles!". However, during the surgeries, there is always a VERY dramatic music that plays that is sure to make your heart pound and really gets you into the tense drama that is an operation. All the actions make a little beep when you them correctly, and they each have appropriate sound effects as to what they are doing.

After just a few days with this game, I am definitely hooked on the innovative game style, brilliant puzzles, and the overall satisfaction you get from saving a patient's life. My heart was truly pounding after tough surgeries, more so than any other game I've played. The game does wonders to make you feel for the people you are operating on, something that you can only understand by actually playing the game. As for the difficulty, the game mercifully eases you through the first few surgeries, but then you do have to make the decisions for yourself as time progresses, don't expect someone to hold your hand the whole way. After about halfway through the game, it does kind of get too difficult for its own good on certain surgeries, but that really the only flaw to an otherwise awesome game. My recommendation is to buy this game if you own a DS, you won't regret it!

Rating: 9/10 Incredible game, but difficulty can be frustrating at times, believe me...(But don't let that deter you!)

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/10/05

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