NINTENDO DS REVIEW: TRAUMA CENTER: UNDER THE KNIFE

Trauma Center lies somewhere between an arcade game and a mini-game. It's brilliant to be sure, but you might tire quickly of it. Rental is recommended.

Trauma Center: Under the Knife is one of those rare games that come along once in a blue moon that are truly unique and become identified exclusively with the system they debut on. It uses the touch screen in such a way that I can't imagine this game being played on any other system.

Using the stylus as a scalpel, and as other medical tools, you attempt to save patient's lives by performing a series of operations on them. It's your chance to play doctor - and God. There are about a dozen procedures that range from incisions to inoculations. The story is quite absorbing and very mature for a game that features anime characters. Interaction with members of the hospital staff appears in various cutscenes making for some very tense situations that put you under pressure when you put a patient under the knife.

If you break down the gameplay it's not unlike being a mechanic breaking down an engine, fixing it and putting it back together. There are strict procedures for each operation including diagnosing, anesthetizing, incisions, draining, use of tools such as a scalpel and forceps and suturing them back up. The order of methodology appears at the top of the screen while you perform the manual steps with the stylus on the lower screen.

It requires a great deal of concentration to get all of the steps right, and in a reasonable time. You are ranked on your time. If you manage to pick the wrong tool or do the wrong procedure in the wrong order you will lose precious time and receive less points on your score. You won't be able to do any willful harm to the patient with any particular tool so don't even go there.

Operations range from stopping bleeding to removing life-threatening tumors. Each subsequent operation becomes more difficult until you begin running into patients with multiple ailments. As in RPG fashion you will eventually upgrade your skills as you acquire the "healing touch." This slows the game down as in "bullet time" allowing you more flex time to treat these patients with hardcore problems.

A Challenge mode lets you replay these procedures in an attempt to get a better score. It's not exactly the best form or replay value but at least you get to skip the cutscenes in this mode. A two-player mode wouldn't be a bad idea either. Perhaps players could co-op an operation with one doing the surgery and the other taking the place of the assistant.

Occasionally the controls won't respond when you're zoomed in on an organ. It's very useful to be able to zoom in but it will cost you time when you have to zoom out to make a command. The graphics are very clean and clear making sure that you don't get confused with living and inanimate objects.

Trauma Center is challenging and fun but it's short on replay value. It's a great prescription for temporary relief of the blues, but if they persist you might be in need of a solid, next-gen game fix.

Preview by Devin

Have you ever wanted to play God? Well now you can! Even though I'm kidding, game developer Atlus Software has used the Nintendo DS to give us the power to play doctor, but not the doctor we used play to back in grade school.

Paging Dr. DS
In Trauma Center: Under The Knife, you take on the role of young blood surgeon Derek Stiles, who's fresh out of his scrubs and ready to prove his worth. At the beginning of the game you start off wandering around your hospital, speaking to other doctors and nurses in infamous Japanese Text-Based style gaming. Soon enough young Derek will get tossed into the fire. Scalpel!

Your first operation won't be too difficult. The top half of the DS is dedicated to communicating with your nurses who will help you through the surgical process for your first few operations. They'll take you step my step as to what tools do what and how to use each tool. And when they feel that you are competent enough to not maim your patient, you will be set out on your own to tackle all sorts of timed surgeries.

The Tools of the Trade.
The bottom half of the DS is your operating table, so to speak. You will have access to all your tools here, and this will be where all the surgeries take place. With injuries ranging from burns and lacerations to tumors, you'll have a plethora of tools at your disposal. There will be the usual: scalpel (for slicing), stitches (for stitching, I'm sure) and cotton swab (for applying ointments).

There will be instances where say, you have to pull out a tumor you've cut or even some glass that a kid got stuck in his arm. You can use the ultrasound to get an x-ray of your patient to find the foreign object in question, and then you can use your tweezers to yank it out. Maybe yank was a bit too aggressive of a term. If you're using the tweezers and you pull on something the wrong way, you will harm your patient.

The Rocket Science
When you select a tool a respective mini-game will trigger for that particular healing function. Stitching will require you to actually draw stitches on the patient. The scalpel will bring up a pre-determined course for you to cut along using your stylus.. Developer Atlus expected some of us to take advantage of the scalpel, so the ability to free roam with the tool and create your "own surgeries" has been removed.

As I touched upon before, each operation is timed. You'll have a diagnosis so you'll know pretty much what you have to do. Completing the surgery with artistic precision is the underlying goal, because you can and most likely will, lose your patients. Ok and your patience.

Trauma Center is definitely a unique sim game. I don't believe it's a title worth investing in a DS for, but it's surely a title you would want to try at least once. Plus it'll give me an excuse to print up a fake diploma with MD plastered all over it.

System: DS
Dev: Atlus Software
Pub: Atlus Software
Released: Nov 2005
Players: 1
Review by Daemia
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
3.0