#666 Trauma Center: Under The Knife

Posted: 9th September 2011 by Mulholland in Games
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83rd game played so far

Genre: Medical Simulation
Platform: Nintendo DS
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus

And so we have reached the game of the beast, how ironic it is that game 666 is one where you are trying to save people’s lives. Surely a game such as Devil May Cry or Planescape:Torment would have been a little more apt.

Either way, we noticed a small time ago that according to our big statistics spreadsheet we are long overdue a game on the Nintendo DS… in fact we have only covered one in the blog so far (the quite excellent Meteos) and there are nearly 50 of the blighters for us to be getting down and dirty with. So we dove into our big tuppaware box of gaming glory and yanked out two at random… then we figured that since I had already been playing two DS list games in my spare time it would make more sense to use those… sorry Mario & Luigi fans.

Our Thoughts

Let’s begin. Don’t forget to disinfect before you make the cut and be careful you don’t miss. I think it’s the GUILT that you need to be more weary of, that and the lasers. The premise of this game sounds simple… you have to perform surgery on various people to cure them. Not exactly rocket science. True, but it’s a lot like brain surgery. Luckily brain surgery on innocent patient where a few wild stabs have little effect beyond reducing a health meter… far safer than doing it in real life. Smells a lot nicer too.

Trauma Center stands as the first successful attempt to bring the surgical theatre to the world of gaming. It was also one of the first successful games to really make full use of the DS’s touchscreen technology. Especially since there is no way it could have been made before the current generation of consoles, except for a computer mouse which would not have worked anywhere near as well. For some. The narrative style is fairly typical of a Japanese made game in that speech is shown in text below static emotion-filled faces. It makes for a fairly stylized story that feels a bit over the top, not always as believable as you’d want it to be. You also get frightening little control, and they are little more than filler between the actual gameplay. Unfortunately not enough to draw me in. Since this is a game that draws great strength from rather stressful levels where many things can go wrong then it is nice to have a bit of a breather. However, I do agree that when you are used to games with a far more interactive edge it does jar a little bit to basically have the story talked at you rather than enveloping you in the intrique. Because you’re just performing surgery, it doesn’t always feel like the story has an impact – they could’ve shown you movies of penguins waddling up the beach to lay eggs and you’d have had that same breather. Whilst that would be delightful it really would have little to do with the surgery… unless it was fitting a shunt into the neck of a poorly penguin chick. Very much so.

The main gameplay is very decent however. Aside from a few control issues – they clearly had some things to work out here – the game is immersive and feels strangely realistic. There is a real pump of adrenaline as you notice a patient begin to flatline. Mainly as it means you have to give it a few healing injections. Also there tends to be a great degree of frustration since it is likely you just failed on your fourth attempt. Yeah, a lot of this is trial and error, keep trying to fix it. Also knowing when to use your surgical superpowers becomes a real factor in whether you suceed masterfully or fail bitterly. Although I found that the time taken to activate the power sometimes made failure more likely.

The controls can feel a little bit buggy when things get tense.ย  Which, in the end, is a big issue with this game. In particular zooming, which I lost a surgery or two on. It tells you to draw a circle, but actuallyย  wants you to stop it earlier. But the rest of the operations uses the stylus and touch screen so seemlessly that this is not as big of an issue that it could have been. What helps is that it all feels intuitive. There are a lot of different actions to take, but they’re intuitive enough that they don’t feel difficult to remember. Also the icons for each procedure are not at all confusing thus making the operation feel as natural as it can… considering the circumstances. It’s a good game. Even the squeamish can play, as it doesn’t get that detailed. It takes some time to learn this game and come to grips with, but all in all, a solid idea executed well.

Final Thoughts

One reason the DS became so successful is that it opened up the floodgates to many game types that have never been been previously realised. This list is not only made to showcase the best games ever made but also the highly original ones. Nothing says original like a game where you use a touch screen to remove shards of glass from a young woman’s heart. I look forward to seeing how this will play out in the Wii version.