Review by Super Smash Bro

Reviewed: 11/29/05

Terrific and Brutal

The Nintendo DS is an incredibly innovative platform that has consistently offered creative new games instead of rehashed controls and mechanics. Atlus's Trauma Center: Under the Knife is one of these games, and a must-have for all DS owners.

Concept: 10/10

The concept is brilliant and a perfect match for the DS, turning the stylus into a scalpel. You are Dr. Derek Stiles, a fledgling surgeon assigned to Hope Hospital. The game revolves primarily around surgeries such as removing tumors and lasering polyps and whatsuch, but some of the more inspired levels have you disarming bombs.

Graphics: 8/10

The story unfolds on the top screen through now-typical anime stills. The characters all strike overly emotional poses and expressions, but it fits. Trauma Center would have been scored higher here were the characters actually animated.

The gameplay all takes place on the bottom screen. The patients are not anime, but a more realistic depiction lending itself well to the operations. However, the internal workings of your patients often mash together into blur of sameness and are often underwhelming. The squeamish among you need not worry about excessive blood, but forgetting to suture a cut will result in a fair amount of hemoglobins.

Sound: 9/10

The music always fits the scene, and is usually tense and dramatic. Your assistant and a few other characters have a few phrases they will throw out, but nothing too repetitive or annoying. For the most part the soundtrack isn't memorable, but that isn't necessarily bad thing.

Gameplay: 10/10

This is of course where the game shines. Atlus has given you 12 different tools to use during operations, although not all of them are always available or necessary. Players can use the scalpel, ultrasound, bandages, sutures and more to heal patients. The game registers movements with the touch screen accurately and gives a real sense of interaction with the game.

Of course, just like the real medical practice, the game is brutally hard and unforgiving. The learning curve is very well crafted, and the first few missions can be cleared on the first try. However, patients will develop complications and relapses as the game progresses, and players are required to become quick, precise, and perfect in their movements. One improper stroke can throw off a stitching or cause unintentional bleeding, losing the patient.

Derek Stiles is blessed with an additional weapon as the game becomes more frantic: the Healing Touch. The Healing Touch is the tool of last resort in Trauma Center: by drawing a star on the touch screen, players can slow time in order to operate faster or perform last ditch Hail Marys in an operation gone awry. The downside to this is that using the Healing Touch drains the points from your score (which isn't always a concern during story mode), and you only get to use it once per operation. If you misjudge when the critical moment during the procedure is, you will lose your patient.

Replay Value: 8/10

Trauma Center offers only two gameplay options: Story and Mission. In Story mode, you will follow Dr. Stiles through the events of medical terrorism and GUILT. While not particularly long, the game is challenging enough to keep you busy many, many hours as you perfect your techniques and have to repeat certain operations several times. Any operation successfully completed in Story mode will become unlocked for Mission mode. Here the player can redo any previous operation either for practice or to achieve the coveted S Rank (something I have yet to do on any operation). However, Trauma Center does not offer anything for achieving these ranks other than immense personal satisfaction.

Overall: 9/10

As mentioned before, Trauma Center: Under the Knife is a must own app for the Nintendo DS. Understandably, there are 15 or so must-haves for the DS, but the original, unique experience offered by Trauma Center should not be missed.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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