Trauma Center: Under The Knife
Developer: Atlus | Publisher: Atlus | Release Date: 2005 | Genre: Simulation / Visual Novel| Website: Official Website | Purchase: Amazon | Size: 128Mbit
If you have ever wanted to poke around inside people with sharp objects, then Trauma Center: Under The Knife is as close as you’ll get without becoming a doctor (or serial killer.) It is the tale of a rookie surgeon, Derek Stiles starting out at Hope Hospital. You’ll have to assist Derek with saving the lives of the people on the operating table. Do well and you will uncover a sinister medical terrorism plot that can change the world.
While a tad melodramatic at times, the plot is engaging enough and told via a 2D visual novel style between operations. You will get to know your fellow staff members and also learn more about Derek. Once it is time to operate, the view switches to a 3D model of the surgical area. Squeamish folk don’t have to worry as the visuals are not gruesome. You’ll see some blood and organs, but it never veers towards the gory.
Initially you are guided through the operating procedures by the nurse but once all the tools and steps have been introduced you are on your own. There are ten tools at your disposal and you will often have to switch between them very rapidly. You will have to select the right tools for the job and use them in the correct order to keep your patient alive. You are ranked after each operation so make sure you follow the instructions correctly. It can feel a bit restrictive, but then again a lot of medical procedures are performed according to strict guidelines.
Don’t mistake Trauma Center for a simulation game however. It is much more of an arcade game and will test your reflexes. Operations have to be performed within a strict time limit and you are only allowed a certain number of mistakes. It is definitely not a game that is easy to pick up and play if you have been away from it for a while as it is easy to forget important steps or procedures. Derek eventually discovers that he has the “healing touch” which is basically the medical equivalent of bullet time but the game still remains quite tough.
The entire game is controlled with the touch screen and for the most part it is a sterling example of how to make proper use of the DS hardware. The tools are all easy to access and use apart from two that gave me some hassles. The “drain” tool requires an upward movement of the stylus in order to suck up excess fluids. Sometimes this has to be done near the top of the screen which makes it very tricky to use effectively. The magnifier tool is also a bit finicky and did not always work as intended for me. This can be annoying, but luckily not game breaking.
The audio in the game fits the action perfectly with some good tension building tunes that play during the operating scenes. The tunes did however loop a bit too soon for my liking. The sound effects are good, but not really realistic which is probably a good thing considering the subject matter. The game has no speech apart from a few often repeated snippets so be prepared for a bit of reading.
Trauma Center: Under the Knife is definitely a departure from the other DS titles available. Building the whole game around the unique input method definitely makes a difference. I am tempted to say that it is a cut above the rest of the games that simply shove touch screen controls into already established genres, but that would violate my “no medical puns in this review” rule. If you don’t mind a challenge, can stomach a story that veers heavily into melodrama at times and can distinguish between a surgical laser and a syringe then this is the game for you.
*Review originally published in 2005.