"“House”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, and “Scrubs” – name any popular show that has to do with the medical field (ignoring Dr. Phil), and chances are it is made up of two-thirds drama and one-third actual medicalspeak . As such, with Atlus’ 2005 release of Trauma Center: Under the Knife for the Nintendo DS, it wasn’t surprising that the character interactions and story was every bit as important as the gameplay. Because of this, however, people complained as the storyline quickly absurd: Dr. ..."
“House”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, and “Scrubs” – name any popular show that has to do with the medical field (ignoring Dr. Phil), and chances are it is made up of two-thirds drama and one-third actual medicalspeak . As such, with Atlus’ 2005 release of Trauma Center: Under the Knife for the Nintendo DS, it wasn’t surprising that the character interactions and story was every bit as important as the gameplay. Because of this, however, people complained as the storyline quickly absurd: Dr. Styles is a rookie doctor who quickly finds out that he is gifted with a hereditary power offered by the ancient Greek god Asclepius called the Healing Touch, which allows him to concentrate to the extent that time itself slows down. He must then use this new power to battle GUILT, a new virus engineered by Delphi, an international bioterrorist organization equipped with the doctrine that medicine only delays man’s suffering and death, is not natural, and as such should be reversed.
Thankfully, a remake and side-story later, Trauma Center’s sequel, aptly named Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 tones this down drastically. While the fulcrum of the story’s second half DOES rely on the return of GUILT, it is still interspersed with several regular operations, such as performing an appendicitis and tying up the incisions, installing a pacemaker, and reforming the shattered bones of a crash victim. The game even opens up in a fictional African country in the middle civil war peace negotiations; the setting provides many opportunities for more ‘normal’ situations, such as treating organ punctures caused by bullet wounds or dealing with infections brought about by weak immune systems. Only in the crux of the final chapter will you be fighting off an outlandish supervirus nearly every operation. Disappointingly, however, the plotline sometimes has some major issues with pacing, going too slow sometimes, and going too quickly at other points in time. A few major characters that helped carry the previous story all get a few appearances as well, but are ultimately shrugged off to the side, relegated to irrelevance.
The Hippocratic Oath isn’t about drama, however, and when you are thrown into a situation where you need to operate, TC2 hands you the tools you need. At the system’s core, eight different surgical instruments are used to operate on a patient, many with multiple uses, all operated through use of the touch screen; the antibiotic gel can disinfect wounds, while the knife can be used to open a patient up or make incisions. The forceps can extract foreign objects and close shut large cuts, while the needle and thread can be used to close up these cuts and prevent further bleeding. TC2 throws at you several clever scenarios to make unique use of these eight tools; in one case, you must use the ultrasound to identify a parasite lurking underneath a patient’s organ, then use the knife to cut at it and draw it out, and finally finish it off with an intense use of the laser. On one occasion, you even get to pick open a lock (albeit it isn’t quite nearly as exciting as defusing a bomb). Unfortunately, sometimes the game holds your hand too much in figuring this out, as your assistant Angie almost always tells you what to do next.
And when GUILT does make its return, very little of it is recycled. Three of the viruses will undergo mutations to throw on a whole new twist to defeating it, while four whole new GUILT viruses (dubbed in-game as “Neo-GUILT”) absolutely break any mold you may have carried over from Under the Knife. GUILT is still the peak of the game: each mission offers up challenging play, as you must rush to keep the patient from dying and sew up various wounds and cuts, all while trying to draw out the GUILT virus and destroy it. GUILT will not go easily either – for every time you deal a critical blow to it, GUILT shall double its efforts to take out the patient before you can take it out. The memories of Kyriaki, Tetarti, and Pempti haunt Derek Stiles still, and by the end of the game, four more will take their place in the depths of his nightmares.
Of course, every single surgery that you perform will have some implicit risk in it: after all, you are opening a person up. Each patient has a health gauge with their vitals going to a maximum of 100. If the person’s vitals hit zero, you lose. The loss of vitals can be slowed down by sewing up cuts and wounds, stopping hemorrhaging, extracting foreign objects, and defeating foreign viruses, and vitals can be increased through the use of the gel and stabilizer fluid. One can also lose if they run out of time, with a 5 minute mission being the norm.
And you can expect to see the game over screen often, because Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 is hard: not cheap hard, but hard nonetheless. Vitals can drop double digits in the span of a second, wounds that are only partly treated can open back up, and aneurysms can spawn and multiply like they’re rabbits; to top it off, a few operations will even take up multiple screens, and you have to scroll around, identifying any new problem area that pops up, and sometimes having to deal with wounds on opposite ends of the operating area. Thankfully, Atlus created three different difficulty levels for this game: while Easy is still a battle of the will, it is doable for beginners (but will still kick your ass often), while Medium is for experienced veterans. Hard is for sadomasochists. The replay value is also boosted by a scoring system; a C rank (Rookie Doctor) generally means you were too slow or made too many mistakes, while an XS Rank (Medical Prodigy, only obtainable in Medium and Hard) is proof of flawlessness and speed.
There are some frustrating intervals, however, mainly due to the game’s fault. On one occasion early on in the game, for example, you have to treat a burn victim. To do so, you have to cut off healthy skin tissue and transplant it onto the burned area via use of the forceps. The system will often reject your placement of the tissue; unless you have it in an absolute, exact spot, you will get a Miss, the victim’s vitals drop, and you shall have to repeat the whole graft process.
Even so, you can tell that Atlus tried really hard in the development of Under the Knife 2. After you complete the game, you can go through the X-Missions, which are bastardized versions of the GUILT missions with an evil, sadistic bent. The game’s entire look was also re-engineered; in comparison to the original Trauma Center anime-influenced art style, UtK2 takes a more realistic, edgier, grittier design first seen in the Wii’s New Blood that really pays off in making the whole game seem fresh. Only a few tracks from the previous game made it past the chopping block, with most of it being entirely new music.
By the by, however, Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 is still more of the same: the same basic interface of operation remains (although with some refinements and additions), the two main characters and most of the supporting cast stay the same, and the storyline is simply a continuation of the original Trauma Center. However, considering the quality of that game, even with some minor flaws, there is nothing wrong with more.
Community review by darkstarripclaw (July 26, 2008)
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