Consult Physician Before Use

Platform: Wii

Gamers have been subjected to many things over the years. Fighting the Nazis: Check. Hunting dinosaurs: Been there. Stuck on a hostile planet surrounded by both vicious aliens and all-consuming parasitic lifeforms: We've got the T-shirt.

But never before has a game thrown players so deeply into this specific world, a place of violence, death and often chaos. What world is this? The operating room, of course. "Trauma Center" is an impressive game. The dialogue is succinct and powerful, the technology is realistic without being unnecessarily complex and the gameplay is challenging, innovative and evolving. It's not often I get to review games like "Trauma Center," but it's a good thing when I do.

"Trauma Center" is a game about a young doctor named Derek Stiles. Stiles is special because he is an incredibly inefficient surgeon—always late for work and not half as thorough as he needs to be. The player takes control of him at an early stage in his career and guides him to become an important figure in medicine. The story is wildly different from what one might expect, so I won't spoil it. I will say, however, that each character has an excellent personality, is likeable in their own way and adds something special to the plot—something that many story-line-heavy games fail to accomplish.

"Trauma Center" is a port. The original version, "Under the Knife," is for the Nintendo DS. While they're technically the same game, save some extra content, the difference between the methods of control (the DS' touch-screen compared to the Wii's motion sensing controller) are so great the experiences are widely different. The graphics are all drawn with utmost attention to detail, and it's difficult to tell that the game was made to be played on a smaller system. The reason for this is most likely the art style, which combines expansive, static backgrounds with well-drawn characters—simple, but effective.

The gameplay is new and challenging, using both the Wii's remote and the control-stick add-on. In the left hand, the player controls what tool should be used. The right hand uses the A and B buttons to activate the tools; it's confusing at first, but you get the hang of it quickly. The challenge comes in using the right tool quickly and efficiently. You can't waste time draining blood from a hemorrhaging kidney, and you can't make a mistake cutting open someone's trachea.

Depending on the difficulty level, "Trauma Center" becomes unforgiving quickly. The game takes you through many difficult operations, from setting a shattered arm, transplanting a kidney and, most importantly, fighting dangerous diseases.

While many may think being a doctor isn't game material, "Trauma Center" is definitely a step in the other direction. Despite being overwhelmingly tough at times, something about "Trauma Center" makes you want to keep playing. And, with what is clearly a new kind of game, I'll introduce a new kind of scoring system.


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