|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Spike||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: DreamCatcher Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 6, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
On television, hospital dramas like ER, House, Grey's Anatomy, and even General Hospital have gained momentum by appealing to viewers' curiosity about the ins-and-outs of being a doctor and what goes on behind the operating room doors. Saving lives is often portrayed in a dramatic light with frequent gunshot wounds, vomiting blood, exotic diseases, and other adrenaline pumping situations.
LifeSigns: Surgical Unit touches on a lot of the excitement of emergency room situations, but also thoroughly explores the day-to-day aspects of what goes on in a hospital and the different relationships which develop during the moments in between surgeries.
Two years ago, Trauma Center: Under the Knife introduced DS owners to the concept of surgical simulation with its futuristic, sci-fi story and an emphasis on a large number of extremely difficult touch-screen operations. Though there are some similarities, LifeSigns focuses less on cramming one tough operation after another down players' throats in quasi-rapid succession. Instead, it places more weight on storytelling and balancing both the fantastic and the mundane elements of working in a busy hospital. You'll still get to go hands-on with some pretty tense and interesting emergency surgeries, but they're sandwiched between lengthy rounds of character interaction, plot progression, and fetch quests. The slower pace may turn some players off, but if you enjoy a good hospital drama then LifeSigns shouldn't have any problems holding your attention.
It's not just the overtly anime presentation, LifeSigns plays out like a Japanese soap opera in a hospital setting. As the young Dr. Tendo Dokuta, a second year intern at Seimei Medical University Hospital in Japan, players will seek to save lives, deal with personal matters, and explore relationships with staff and patients. Dr. Tendo is portrayed as a bit of a heartthrob, though he seems clueless to this fact, and he gets a lot of attention from female staff members at the hospital. The situations you'll find yourself in are a bit over-the-top in some cases, which proves to be humorous at times. There are some cultural specific story elements which might be lost on some players. In any event, there's a lot of flirting and occasional relationship tension scattered among the more serious moments the game has to offer. Without spoiling the story, the game progresses as a series of lengthy episodes which follow suit with the TV show-like vibe. Each episode introduces new characters, situations to resolve, conflict, drama, and surgical operations, although there are some running story themes and characters which carry over.
A large portion of LifeSigns involves exploring different locations on the hospital map (or other places later on in the game) to locate and speak with different characters in order to keep the story moving along. By tapping a map location on the touch screen you can view the room on the upper screen and see if anyone is there to speak with. You'll move around to different rooms to check on patients, hunt down staff members, and engage in a lot of other plot-specific activities. During your interactions with characters you'll frequently receive notes which are stored in your inventory. These are later used as conversation points for meeting certain requirements to move ahead in the game. You can speak with a character by simply tapping them on the screen, but introducing specific conversation points requires you to select one from the inventory and drag it onto the person. The controls and play mechanics during the story-heavy portions of the game are fairly rudimentary, and most of the time you'll be hammering on the B button to scroll through voluminous amounts of excruciatingly dense dialogue.