Bought for: £5.99
Bought from: Blockbuster UK
Format: Nintendo DS
The world of medicine is remarkable. Roman philosopher Cicero said “in nothing do men more nearly approach the gods than in giving health to men.” Surgeons will surely top any list of those in the medical profession. The dexterity, patience and skill required by these men and women is staggering, and very good fodder for an excellent DS game.
Released in 2005 by Atlus, Trauma Centre: Under the Knife is ER, Operation and cheesy US daytime drama all mixed into once little DS cartridge. Players take on the role of Dr Derek Stiles, a new surgeon at the fictional Hope Hospital, operating on different patients who require surgery for a variety of reasons.
All these operations are linked by a broad story that arches over a number of chapters. These cutscenes are played out in a style instantly familiar to anyone who may have played a 90s Japanese RPG, with anime-stylised portraits all talking in their text boxes. It’s a functional, but can be tiresome wading through boxes of dialogue. The story is perfect daytime TV fare and the incredible cheesiness of it all just adds to the charm, making some of the tedium all the more bearable.
The operations all play out on the touch screen, with each surgical instrument requiring a different technique. As the operations become more difficult, the range of swipes, pokes and swirls becomes ever more varied, not only is a fast stylus hand needed, but also a sharp memory to recall what tool is needed at what time.
In my time playing Trauma Centre I felt a real feeling of tension, the heart monitor and time limit sit ominously on the screen, turning from the everything-is-ok green to warning amber to crisis red. The constant reminder that time is against the player can lead to a lapse in concentration and, on occasion, complete memory loss as to what to do next.
Atlus’ medical drama doesn’t hold players by the hand, it can be most unforgiving as later chapters are played. Procedures aren’t really explained more than once, so forget what to do next and in my case this meant resorting to gamefaqs.com a couple of times to remind me. This wasn’t so helpful on a recent flight to London while in the sky and forgetting what surgical implement to use next.
For all its awkward difficulty, Trauma Centre has some really fun moments. One of which (spoiler ahead) is operating on a bomb. Yes, an actual time bomb requiring surgical speed and precision to diffuse. It’s another little change from the norm, something that the game does like to throw up every now and then.
Such was the success of the original DS game a sequel was released and a Wii version as well. For the price it can be bought for now, and for anyone who perhaps has a new 3DS and fancies something cheap to keep them ticking over until the next wave of 3D releases, Trauma Centre is an excellent handheld title that really does demonstrate nearly every kind of use that the DS’ touch screen can do. If the Japanese ever did ER, it would probably end up like this.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Gamespy: You’ll likely never see a better utilization of the DS’ touch-screen, nor will you play a pseudo-sim this engaging.
Game Informer: It’s the fast-paced, procedure driven puzzling gameplay really sets Trauma Center apart.
GamesTM: A drama-heavy storyline adds to the already deeply tense, ER-style atmosphere, making this a must-have DS title.