The DS is all about innovation and creating unique gameplay, and Trauma Center definitely fills these shoes. However, a few major flaws drastically hold this game down from being the absolute killer app that it could have been.
Trauma Center is a surgery simulation that is entirely controlled via the stylus and is linked together by an ER inspired story line. The player assumes the role of rookie doctor who happens to be a little lazy. He isn?t exactly the doctor type, but learns a lot from each passing operation he performs.
Because of the doctor?s rookie status, the game has a clever way of holding the player?s hand. Either the nurse on the top screen will tell the player what to do while in the operating room, or a veteran doctor will tell the player what to do before you put the sterilized gloves on. But many times while in the OR, the player will have to figure things out for himself, which often results in seeing the Game Over screen. But I guess that is why doctors get paid a lot, eh?
Operations are a lot more involved than simply cutting open patients and plucking out a tumor. Instead, the player must first sterilize the area with some disinfectant. Then use the knife to make an incision. The magnifying glass must then be used to zoom in on the problem area. Once the tumor has been found, an injection of brown liquid must be used to decrease the swelling. After the tumor shrinks, it must be cut out with the knife. The tongs are then used to grasp the loose infection. After it has been successfully dropped in the pan, a special bandage must be applied with some sterilizing gel. The doctor must then use this hand to rub in the liquid. The magnifying glass must be used again to zoom out. Another layer of topical gel follows stitching up the incision. The final action involves wrapping the wound with a gauze bandage. While each operation isn?t exactly the same, all of them require a process similar to this. There are about ten or so different types of operations to perform, but each requires the basic same set up of disinfecting the area, then making an incision, zooming in, etc. The game can grow to be a little repetitive.
The game uses many tools a doctor would use, all through the use of the touch screen and stylus. However, some just don?t work as well as they should. The biggest flaw while performing surgeries is the use of the magnifying glass. All surgeries have time against them. Zooming in and out at different parts of the operation only hinders the flow of gameplay. The system has two screens so you shouldn?t have to zoom in and out. Also, some tools could be a little easier to use. For example, many times the player will have to drain blood. To do this, the proper tool must be selected followed by a poke at the bloody area. Then, to actually drain the blood, the stylus must be flicked in an upward motion. However, if this bloody area is at the top of the screen, you?re screwed because you can?t move the stylus up anymore?unless you zoom out. But by the time you do that, the patient will either be dead or about to die. And I never once got the bandage tool to work on the first try. I actually lost a patient once because the game wouldn?t let me wrap the bandage. Nothing is more frustration than going through an entire surgery without complications only to fail by putting on a stupid piece of gauze.
Besides from the slight use of repeating surgical elements and a few minor problems with some of the tools, the player will also become pissed off from the Game Over screen that will be seen many times. Once an operation has been completed in the main story mode, it is unlocked and can be played again at any time through the title screen. However, some operations are so difficult, they will take no less than a dozen times before they are completed. And you can only advance in sequential order. That means if the player cannot beat a given level, it would be reason enough to put the game down forever.
One operation in particular pissed me off beyond belief. Early in chapter 2, the player must remove multiple aneurysms by using a long sequence of tools. However, there are so many of these aneurysms, there is absolutely no room for error and everything must be completed in an extremely rushed fashion. Yes, eventually the player will learn how to slow time, but it still makes this operation incredibly difficult. This single stage alone was enough for me to want to put down the game.
The graphics in Trauma Center are not too realistic, but this is a good thing. Players might get a little too squeamish it they were. The graphical level that this game is at is a perfect fit for the DS system. Everything is detailed enough where you can clearly see what is going on, just without all the extreme gore, blood, and sinew. Otherwise the game would have gotten a ?M? rating. The story is told through static anime images but could have benefited a little more if there was a little more animation when characters converse. The audio department is the same way. The music will speed up and create tension when things start going wrong, but the game could have been better with more voice work. On occasion, the nurse will grab your attention by yelling ?Doctor!? or other one-word exclamations. It is a shame that more voice work was not added.
Trauma Center is definitely a unique game. It is also a game that really can only be played on the DS due to the stylus controlled game play. However, this game will manage to frustrate players within a relatively short amount of time. Repetition and some really difficult operations will be more than enough to push any gamer away. And no matter how flawlessly and fast you perform each surgery, you will never wind up with a higher grade than a ?B? rank. If you like playing unique games, then Trauma Center will definitely fit the bill. In fact, everyone should play this game because it is so unique. But there are still too many flaws to mark this game as one of the best on the system. Every DS owner should experience this game, but it might be best to wait for a price drop. This game is like going to a buffet; it starts off just fine, but only grows more painful the more you have. Trauma Center asks a lot from its players. Perhaps, a little too much.