Trauma Center: Under the Knife Review
Reviewed on DS
Surgeon Derek Stiles just completed his residency and started his new posting as a surgeon with Hope Hospital. Derek must face the challenges of saving patients from disastrous accidents and afflictions such as cancer, but his tremendous gift for healing soon puts Derek at the vanguard of a force battling bioterrorism.
Trauma Center: Under the Knife truly explores the full potential of the DS. The game does not simply replicate with the touch screen functions that could have easily been performed using the DS buttons. Instead, Trauma Center transforms the DS touch screen into a window on the surgical theater in which Derek Styles operates. As Derek, you tap on the boxes lining the screen's sides to choose different surgical tools and set to work cutting, suturing, injecting, lasing, and even massaging a patient's heart back into action. At its root, Trauma Center is a reflex-intensive puzzle game, but the medical theme makes your actions with the stylus both more intuitive and much more satisfying.
The game is an entertaining puzzle game and surgical simulator, but don't expect to use Trauma Center to prepare for medical school. Trauma Center is set in the year 2018, and surgery has progressed a great deal in just over a decade. In addition to conquering most cancers and AIDS, medicine has discovered a true wonder – an antibiotic gel that can sterilize any part of the body, inside or out, and can instantly heal small wounds and cuts. Moreover, while the medical terminology is easily sophisticated enough to fool those of us without medical backgrounds, not everything named by your surgical assistant is in the right place. Of course, this doesn't detract from the entertainment value of Trauma Center.
Derek's early surgical career teaches him the basics of surgery, as he deals with accidents, heart failure, cancers and aneurisms. But that's only enough to familiarize Derek with his instruments and begin to understand his true gift, the Healing Touch. The Healing Touch allows Derek to slow time and perform feats beyond even the greatest of ordinary surgeons.
Not long after the Healing Touch is revealed to Derek, he is contacted by Caduceus. Caduceus is a low-profile branch of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, authorized to work outside of conventional governmental authority to treat "incurable" diseases. And Caduceus is facing its greatest challenge, yet. Patients around the globe are coming down with a bioengineered disease designed to destroy humanity. Only Derek is fast enough to cope with the horror of GUILT – Gangliated Utrophin Immuno Latency Toxin.
Once Derek faces the different strands of GUILT, Trace Memory further departs from real medicine and more closely approaches its puzzle roots. Even so, the various strains of GUILT pose both mental and physical challenges, requiring quick thinking and dexterity to treat – ultimately revealing the horrific origin of GUILT. Throughout his career, Derek encounters challenges that go beyond the call of conventional medicine. He'll solve genetic puzzles, operate while traveling on a turbulent plane, and even use his surgical skills to defuse a bomb.
There is quite a bit of soap opera surrounding the many operations, as Derek interacts with his patients and coworkers, and this will require some patience from those who don't enjoy the console style of role-playing games in which you scroll through dialog a few lines at a time. Still, there is an engaging story and plenty of incredibly involving gameplay. If you were to complete every operation on the first try, the game might only take six or seven hours to complete, but expect to replay operations as you hone your skills. And once you complete the main storyline, there are even more difficult surgeries to test even the most advanced surgeons.