|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|
The gameplay itself gets more exciting once you begin dealing with patients directly. When working on a patient players will have to interview them to obtain information about their symptoms. Once you've gathered the necessary information, you'll be able to give them a physical examination. In most cases patients will be sprawled out on the exam table, and you'll have to manually search them to come up with a diagnosis using three methods: listening with a stethoscope, palpating them with your hands, and checking areas of their body for visible symptoms. Their responses give you clues on where to search in order to come up with all the symptoms needed for a diagnosis. Once you've figured out what's wrong with them, it's time to slice and dice.
In operation mode, the top screen shows the patient's perspective with Dr. Tendo and any other assisting doctors in full scrubs and masks standing over you. The touch screen shows a close-up view of the operation as it progresses. Most operations begin with cleaning the site before moving on to making a series of scalpel incisions to get through the first few layers of skin and muscle. Rather than having to guess which tools you'll need for the job, your attending doctor will let you know what comes next and hand you the appropriate instrument. You are an intern after all. While Trauma Center went for a more realistic look for its operations, the innards in LifeSigns have a more cartoon-like style which is not quite as life-like. The art direction on the operating table is visually appealing despite the fact you're looking at a person's internal organs in many cases.
As players progress through each phase of a step-by-step operation they'll be drilling skulls open, suturing leaky organs, removing diseased tissue, and conducting a relatively wide range of other medical procedures. Pressing the L button enters concentration mode which temporarily slows time and provides a momentary visual guide for you to follow. Then it's just a matter of moving the stylus where indicated as quickly and accurately as possible. A false move or shaky hand will harm the patient and knock their health down a few notches. If you take too long or make too many mistakes, the patient will lose health and eventually go into cardiac arrest. When this happens you have one last chance to use the defibrillator in a heart-shocking mini-game to jump start their system again. If you're successful, it will boost their health slightly and let you proceed with the operation. Some procedures can take quite a bit of time, but most are over in relatively short order.
The actual number of operations is far less than we'd hoped for, yet the slow pace of the game does make each procedure feel like a reward for your patience. Once the main game is completed it unlocks a mode which allows you to free-play through the surgeries in any order in addition to the handful of non-operation mini-games which pop up from time-to-time in the story. LifeSigns essentially provides a less-difficult alternative to the Trauma Center series by striving to provide more balance between story development, information gathering, and actual operations. It's mostly successful, aside some bothersome repetition and a handful of other moments where the momentum lags. Fans of anime and hospital dramas will undoubtedly want to scrub-in to see what LifeSigns is all about. They'll be rewarded with an excellent story and some so-so surgical action.
CCC Freelance Writer