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Trauma Center: Under the Knife Review

Genres: Simulation Stylus All
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Review Date: 4-3-2009
Review Platform: DS
Review Region: USA Available In USA
Est Playtime: 10+ hours
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Review By: Bradley Beeck

Trauma Center is game that loosely simulates surgical operations. You play as rookie doctor Derek Stiles who faces an up hill struggle to save his patients from all manner of diseases. With the help of his assistant nurse Angie Thompson and a new found ability Derek Stiles will learn what it means to be a real doctor.

trauma_center_one_005Trauma Center: Under the Knife is a game in the true sense of the word. It requires skill, dexterity and persistence. Qualities which are not always present in DS titles. The game revolves around your ability to use surgical tools to correctly and quickly perform medical operations. Thereís a time limit and a miss limit to every operation and thereís also patient vitals which drop at a rapid pace. Once any of these are exhausted the gameís over. The surgical tools include: laser, antibiotic gel, ultrasound, forceps, scalpel, bandages, stabilizer (boosts vitals), drain, sutures, magnifier, and hands. Each tool has its specific use and some are used more often than others. The scalpel for instance is used in every operation to cut the patient open but the laser is only used occasionally to kill parasites and tumors. Additionally youíll gain a time-stop ability called the Healing Touch which is essential in some operations. Itís necessary to quickly memorize where these tools are in the tool bar because every second counts.

trauma_center_one_011 When you perform an operation for the first time your assistant Ė not always Nurse Angie Ė will provide instructions on how to complete the operation. However the assistants donít always provide clear instructions on what to do. For example theyíll tell you to remove something but they wonít explain that youíre meant to use the laser to do it. In other words youíll botch it. The operations themselves are quite varied with the GUILT virus, part of the gameís storyline, coming in seven different varieties in addition to other diseases. Each of the GUILT strains share no similarities. The operation procedures can be pretty complicated and youíll need to remember them exactly for future operations. For example to beat Deftera you need to: laser off tumors, wait until the Deftera fuses, drain them of fluid, cut the resulting body out, pick it up with the forceps, place gauze down over the wound, place anti biotic gel over the gauze and then rub it with your hands.

trauma_center_one_015Trauma Centerís core gameplay of using surgical tools to save patients is fun and engaging. Thereís a real sense of triumph when you finish the more difficult operations. Emphasis on the word difficult. Most operations can be completed in a few goes but then there are operations every so often which are almost impossible. Seriously. One operation involving the final version of a rapidly multiplying disease Ė Triti Ė took two hours of continual attempts to beat. Cracking these impossible operations is down to strategy and perfect execution. Casual players might just give up entirely and I wouldnít blame them.

trauma_center_one_019The rapid gameplay means the DS is in for some abuse. Certain small sections were made irritating by inaccuracy in the touch system. This caused me to repeatedly jab at an area to perform an action and occurred in the bottom 10% of the screen. However it was probably due to my DS rather than the game itself. The game does have a minor element of drawing recognition that requires you to draw a star to activate the Healing Touch. I mostly drew squiggles under the pressure of the gameplay and it still recognized it the majority of times. It works a lot better the Zelda: Phantom Hour Glass but that has a lot more patterns to recognize.†

trauma_center_one_012Trauma Centerís linear story covers areas you donít often see, but is a touch shallow in its handling. It features things like euthanasia, bio terrorism, suicide and the lengths someone would go to protect their child. You play as a rather cavalier and carefree Doctor Stiles. He frequently turns up late to work and doesnít always investigate his patientís condition thoroughly. That is until Derek meets nurse Angie and discovers a new ability. Things go from there as the world faces a deadly threat from a disease known as GUILT. The plot is interesting, kept me entertained and ended pretty well. Thereís no voice acting for the dialogue scenes which is a little unfortunate. The only other complaint I have is that I wanted to see more interaction with nurse Angie. Weíll seem what happens in the sequel.

trauma_center_one_013The gameís graphics are 3dish during the operating scenes and are good enough to do the job. Itís easy to recognize the organs youíre operating on but isnít enough to make you squeamish. The story scenes are disappointingly portrayed by static images of the characters that at most have 4 or 5 different poses. Sometimes they donít match well to what the characters are saying. Itís a long way from the personality and mannerism oozing character animations in the Phoenix Wright series. The game music is decent and thereís only one track that plays during the Savato strain of GUILT thatís annoying. An important point when the game requires concentration. Itís worth keeping the sound on to begin with because your assistant will say ďDoctorĒ or similar when an important event occurs.

Trauma Center is really good game that takes skill to beat and isnít a title for players without a drive to complete it. The story is interesting and goes into areas you seldom see but could have been enhanced by animated characters. The single biggest problem with the game is the difficulty curve. Difficulty heart beat would be a better phrase for it; nothing, nothing then bah-boom and then back down again. The core gameplay of using tools to save patients is fun and requires concentration that keeps the player engaged at all times. Its few problems donít stop it from being a great game and I have no idea why it was never released in Australia (I played the US version). Iíll be checking out its sequel.