Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

The Doctor’s Back

For many DS gamers, Trauma Center is representative of hardcore gaming on the DS as well as innovation characterized by both the series and the system. The series has expanded from the hardcore niche status it enjoyed with the original (Under the Knife), as both Wii titles are fairly popular now. With Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2, the franchise returns to its original system and ultimately provides a game experience that is the best in the series.

Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 screenshot

Plot-wise, Under the Knife 2 is just more of the same that we’ve come to expect from Trauma Center. Killer virus? Check. Shadowy organization? Also check. Medical hero willing to save the world from said killer virus? Yep, we’ve got that too, as Derek Stiles again takes front and center in an attempt to save lives from a medical catastrophe that is the aftermath of GUILT. Storytelling is better than in the original Trauma Center, and for such a gameplay-oriented title there’s a lot of story in this game. The game deals with some surprisingly deep themes, and thanks to the great writing you’ll grow attached to various characters as you progress through the story. You’ll almost surely enjoy the storyline more if you’ve played the original Under the Knife, but it’s not at all a requirement.

While a lot of basic gameplay implementations have stuck around since the original Trauma Center, Under the Knife 2 doesn’t feel stale or overdone at all. It’s the same gameplay fans have come to know and love, but with enough minor tweaks to ensure this doesn’t feel like a simple rehash. All Dr. Stiles’ basic tools are intact, such as the scalpel, forceps, drain, and laser, among others. The defibrillator is also available, which is a new tool for the DS Trauma Center titles.

Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 screenshot

What’s really great about Under the Knife 2 is the developers really did obtain that sweet spot of introducing new players to the game but at the same time making sure things don’t get boring for Trauma Center vets. The first few missions will recap certain procedures and the game is really great at teaching you what you’ll need to do. After that, however, you’re expected to remember how to deal with certain problems and you’re left to fend for yourself with little help from the game. Under the Knife 2 can be really tough, but the learning curve is gradual enough that casual gamers don’t need to be afraid of playing this game.

The core gameplay is essentially the same as that of the original Trauma Center, but it’s still a lot of fun. Each operation includes some story, then some info on the patient and the required procedures, and then you’re off to the O.R. The nurse helping you out will occasionally give you advice and generally points you in the right direction. It’s then up to you, playing as Dr. Stiles, to use a handful of tools to save the patient’s life. There’s a time limit and operations don’t always go as planned. As you work through the operation at a generally frantic pace, sudden problems may crop up that you’ll have to deal with. Part of the fun is figuring out just what to do when faced with certain medical conditions, from excising tumors and removing aneurisms to facing some really extraordinary medical “monsters”. Overall, gameplay is a lot of fun and will satisfy fans of the series as well as those wanting to hop on the Trauma Center bandwagon.

Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 screenshot

Control is as sharp as ever, and I personally find the accuracy of using the stylus greater than that of the Wii Remote. Selecting tools is as simple as tapping on their large, easy-to-find icon. From there, you’ll tap, slash, scratch, and drag to utilize all your instruments. Switching items on the fly is easy and intuitive, which is a good thing because the action gets really frantic really quickly. Control is sharp and some minor problems found in the first Under the Knife (for example, magnifying didn’t always work) have been patched up nicely.

Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 screenshot

Aside from the fundamental gameplay mechanic, many aspects of Trauma Center have received noticeable improvements. Under the Knife 2 offers multiple difficulty levels, which makes the game more accessible to new players and serious gamers alike. Easy can be beaten without trouble, while Hard is going to challenge even the most hardcore gamer. In essence, Trauma Center is a puzzle title, but it’s one that’s surprisingly imaginative and challenging. With so many games for the DS that are painfully simple and easy, it’s nice to play a title that recognizes the value of offering challenge to gamers.

The game has also received a noticeable visual update. Under the Knife 2 moves away from the anime graphics of the original to a more realistic set of visuals. While this makes Derek look pretty androgynous, for the most part this new direction is a good thing for the game. The game still goes with 2D character models during story sequences. It would be nice to see the development team get a bit more creative here, but overall this is a minor complaint. The fact is, the game looks good and has a strong artistic style.

Under the Knife 2 has a lot going for it, but there are a few things that could have been done better. For starters is the fact that we’ve already seen fun online integration with Trauma Center on the Wii. But for whatever reason, this wasn’t included in Under the Knife 2. Leaderboards are gone, and many of the added touches that made the Wii iterations of the franchise so great are nowhere to be found. Nevertheless, Under the Knife 2 is more than fun enough to stand on its own addictive gameplay.

The last “problem” with Under the Knife 2 is it really doesn’t do much new with the series. Sure, there are plenty of new operations, but as I’ve stressed throughout this review, the core gameplay remains essentially unchanged. Many people aren’t going to see this as a problem; after all, it’s been several years since we first got a Trauma Center title on the DS, and the game is so addictive and exciting that it doesn’t really need to be new to be fun. Overall, despite some really nit-picky problems, Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 is a fun, frantic game that’s worth trying. Regardless of what type of gamer you are, you owe it to yourself to try out the madness that is Trauma Center. Once you start playing, you’ll be a hooked.

The DS is capable of more than the simple 2D models that Under the Knife 2 provides, but the art direction makes up for the lack of technical proficiency. 4.6 Control
Tight, intuitive controls are a significant improvement over those of the original. Thanks to the well-done control scheme, playing doctor has never been easier. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voice over work is sparse throughout the title, but what is there is well-done. The game’s music is great and syncs up with the story scenarios delightfully. 4.4

Play Value
Multiple difficulty modes and a solid 10-hour story mode ensure you’re getting your money’s worth with Under the Knife 2.

4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Go back to Nintendo DS for the next chapter of the award-winning Trauma Center: Under the Knife that returns to the tactile, stylus-based experience that made the original a smash hit.
  • Derek and Angie are back! Caduceus’ preeminent surgical team returns to confront the aftermath of the devastating GUILT epidemic in a brand new story.
  • Just what the doctor ordered: with a new easy-play mode, improved tool utility, and clearer directions, playing doctor has never been so much fun.

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