home > review > Trauma Center: Under the Knife Review
GamesFirst! Online since 1995
ups: Challenging, original, great use of stylus
downs: A little short, can sometimes be ridiculously hard

View Image Gallery || Get Prices

Trauma Center: Under the Knife Review
game: Trauma Center: Under the Knife
four star
posted by: George Holomshek
publisher: Atlus Software
developer: Atlus Software
date posted: 02:06 PM Fri Oct 14th, 2005
last revision: 02:07 PM Fri Oct 14th, 2005

Click to read.Every once in a great while you play a game that grants you a profound personal vision and teaches you a life lesson. Trauma Center: Under the Knife did this for me, and that lesson was, \"Don\'t become a doctor.\"

Seriously, the day I pick up a scalpel is the day you should turn to all-natural remedies. In addition to a new-found respect for why doctors make so much money, Trauma Center also provided me with a really great time. And while surgery games are nothing new, the way Atlus designed this original puzzle/action game for the DS makes it a blast to play.

Welcome to the hospital:

Trauma Center puts you in the shoes of newbie doctor Derek Styles, a guy who seems to think he\'s pretty hot stuff. But while he may be a little nonchalant about things at first, he is about to get a serious wake-up call. When you first start off, the hospital\'s most experienced nurse will almost literally hold your hand through the beginning few surgeries. When she decides to transfer to another hospital, you are given a new assistant: a smart, young, blond nurse who is not overly thrilled with her assignment to your inexperienced hands. While she may be resentful at first, you and your new nurse will soon be brought together by a series of dramatic events. The story, while not incredibly deep and punctuated by some rather cheesetastic moments, I found to be surprisingly good, adding a healthy dose of mystery to the already dramatic surgery environment. Unfortunately, the story does come up a little on the short side, and when you do beat the game it leaves you wanting just a little more.

Expect animation:

Instead of using animated cut scenes to advance the story, Trauma Center uses a style more akin to an anime comic book. The speaking character is shown in an appropriate pose while the speech is in text. The characters are well drawn and at least have enough different facial expressions to get their points across. Obviously the real meat of the visuals (no pun intended) lies in the surgeries themselves. The organs are well done and it is easy to see what you are working on. I\'m sure the inside of a body could look more realistic, but then that begs the question, \"Do you really want that?\" Audio wise, there is really nothing special here. There a very small amount of voice acting with the occasional, \"Doctor...\" and, \"What is that?!\"

The music, for the most part, does a good job of fitting the situation and actually adds to the pressure and keeps you on your toes.

I have to do what?

Of course, gameplay is what really matters, especially in a game like Trauma Center. Using the stylus to cut incisions, suture wounds, or perform almost any other action is all very intuitive and relatively simple. Almost every action you do is given a score of \"Cool\", \"Good\", or \"Bad\", with \"Cool\" being worth the most points. After you finish a surgery, your accuracy scores are totaled, along with any bonuses, and you are given a rank of C, B, A, or S. One thing I did find was that it is sometimes difficult to tell why the game scored one move as \"Cool\" and another \"Good\" even though it looks like they were the same, thus sometimes making it difficult to improve your technique. All of the medical tools you need are located right on the sides of the touch screen and are activated with a quick touch of the stylus. They all work very well, except for one. The magnifying tool is used by drawing a small circle wherever you want to zoom in. Unfortunately, \"circle\" is a loosely defined term. Sometimes I would draw what looked to me like a perfect circle only to be greeted with an \"incorrect\" buzzer, and other times I would accomplish a zoom by drawing little more than a backwards \"C\" shape.

And believe me, when every second counts, screwing up a zoom can mean the difference between celebrating victory and watching your patient die. All of the other tools, however, work very precisely and put a lot of pressure on the user to be accurate and not screw things up.

I feel all woozy...

Actually, this high amount of pressure is probably Trauma Center\'s biggest drawback. While pressure is good and tries to simulate the real life-and-death situation, sometimes it just seems like the game is mocking you by giving you so much to do at once. This was one of the most difficult games I have played in some time. While the majority of the surgeries are challenging - yet fun at the same time - some surgeries are ridiculously hard and create what we like to call some serious \"aargh-factor.\" One of my fellow writers here at GamesFirst! came by wondering what in the world I was yelling and cursing at. Most of the time beating these impossible levels requires you to either fail over and over and over again until you finally figure out a strategy that might work, or until you just happen to get lucky.

But you got skills:

Fortunately, you do get some help in the way of \"The Healing Touch,\" a special ability you receive early in the game that grants Derek super-focus. Once you learn this technique, which is nothing more that drawing a star on the screen, you can slow time down to a crawl for about 30 seconds so you can take care of business when all hell breaks loose. But be careful, you can only use the ability once per surgery, thus adding a little more strategy to the game.

While the story itself may be a little short, Trauma Center\'s replay value is helped immensely by its Challenge Mode. In this mode you can go back and replay any surgery you have already performed to try and achieve the almighty S rank, or to simply brush up on your skills. I also liked the fact that I didn\'t have to beat an entire chapter of story before I could replay a surgery from that chapter. As soon as you complete an operation, you are free to play it again whenever you want.

Trauma Center is one of the most original and most challenging games on the DS to date. While it can sometimes make you want to throw your DS out the window in frustration, it is still a great game. If you are up to the task, Trauma Center offers a tremendous amount of fun, and a challenge the whole way. For those of you looking for a new game to try and burn the end of your stylus off, Trauma Center is definitely worth a look.

Click images for larger version

Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger.