"Play control had the potential to either make or break the experience, depending on whether or not it delivered. Fortunately, it did. The Wii remote works wonderfully. You may find your hand shaking as you make that first incision, but isn’t that what you’d expect? And the scheme mimics things perfectly."
“If this doesn’t work, at least we can say we tried.” Those are the words a nearby doctor says when you find yourself locked in a dark room, forced to defuse a bomb or face premature death by explosion. It’s an unintentionally funny moment in a game that’s all about serious themes like euthanasia, survival of the fittest, terrorism and the meaning of the medical profession. Somehow, though, it doesn’t seem out of place in Trauma Center: Second Opinion.
Trauma Center was originally developed with the DS in mind and released on that platform to resounding success and primarily positive review. Second Opinion on the Wii is simply a retelling of the original game, with more polished visuals and a few side scenes that add to the plot’s depth. The whole ‘Second Opinion’ subtitle is amusingly accurate in this case. At its heart, the game remains untouched in most areas that are important. You still get an involving plot, you still meet the same characters and you still wonder why (in spite of three difficulty modes) everything has to be so dang difficult.
As the game opens, players are introduced to a young doctor named Derek Stiles. He’s fresh out of med school, where showing up late for work and letting someone else handle all of the big responsibilities worked because no one really expected better. The difference is that now they do. You will follow Derek on a quest for maturity and the satisfaction that comes from knowing he chose the right line of work, that he’s an expert in the field.
Since this is a game, there are certain plot elements thrown in to keep things interesting. There’s the afore-mentioned bomb, of course, but it’s simply one of the cheesier moments in a game that otherwise manages riveting narrative with surprising consistency. Trauma Center: Second Opinion is full of interesting faces and hidden agendas, anxious people who just want to save their loved ones and the world.
Early surgeries are fairly straight-forward, as are the story’s introductory scenes. You’ll open bodies up with a scalpel, root around for awhile, then fix the ailment and close everything back up with a bit of disinfectant and some stitching, maybe a bit of gauze bandage. As the game and its plot progress, though, ‘simple’ becomes yesterday’s fond memory. Suddenly, you’re fighting against replicating viruses and tumors with minds of their own. You’re cutting things to bits and using a special skill known as the “Healing Touch.”
It turns out that Derek is blessed with a talent from an ancient god. When things get tense, he can focus and suddenly everything moves in slow motion as he does his usual slicing and dicing. His gift permits him to cure illnesses that would send other doctors running, but the narrative sequences are quick to point out what a tremendous burden this truly is. Sick people come to him convinced that his success is a certainty. They tell themselves that he cannot fail because he has such a good reputation. That would be enough pressure for anyone, and it’s certainly enough to send Derek into moments of quiet introspection in the rain.
As the player, you get to watch those events and press the ‘A’ button to scroll through dialogue. Since people have so much to say between operations, you might be tempted to keep scrolling through the walls of text without reading any of it. Don’t do that, though; you’d be depriving yourself of half the game’s appeal and you might miss a vital clue that gives you a better idea how you need to perform that next surgery.
Surgery, of course, is the real reason anyone would buy Trauma Center: Second Opinion. Angst and self-realization can only take a game so far. At the end of the day, it’s all about the scalpel. As a gamer, you need to feel like you’re there in the operating room, like you’re the one holding the needle or reaching for the bandage.
Play control had the potential to either make or break the experience, depending on whether or not it delivered. Fortunately, it did. The Wii remote works wonderfully. You may find your hand shaking as you make that first incision, but isn’t that what you’d expect? The control scheme mimics things perfectly.
When you have to tweeze glass shards out of someone’s intestines, it’s not just you pressing a button or dragging a stylus across the screen. No, you have to press two buttons at the same time, in a manner that really feels like you’re part of the action. It may sound like a pointless distinction, but it really isn’t. You have to keep your grip steady as you move the object over fragile territory to the tray the nurse has extended toward you. You might panic as you make each move, enough that you see the ‘Game Over’ screen more than a few times, but you’ll keep at it because every time you fail, you’ll know that one more attempt might be the one that allows you to succeed.
More than just the control scheme has been altered in the move from the DS to the Wii, too. Some additional operations have been added, like when you have to hold both the nunchuk and the Wii remote forward to send an electrical charge into the body of a flat-lining patient. You’ll have to twist your arm slightly as you rotate bone fragments and work to reassemble a shattered joint. Stuff like that never happened before. The stylus was fine for incisions--and may still be the better control method for that part of a given surgery--but the remote is better everywhere else. It’s fun to go back through the familiar game and feel a whole new level of immersion. There are completely new surgeries, too, performed by a mysterious (and sexy) new character.
In the end, then, Trauma Center: Second Opinion has barely changed at all. It has the same main plot the original featured and the graphics have improved slightly but still don’t look like they’d be terribly out of place on a handheld when it comes to those moments in the operating room. There are multiple difficulty levels, but you’ll still face a challenge even early on, well before you get to those brutal moments near the end of the game. The only change you should be worried about is the control setup. It’s leaps and bounds ahead of the intuitive interface pioneered by its predecessor. If you thought Trauma Center had seen its best days on the DS (as I did), consider giving it another chance. If, on the other hand, you liked it before… prepare to love it now.
Staff review by Jason Venter (November 21, 2006)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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