Pros: Varied gameplay, engrossing stories.
Cons: Some surgical procedures are just plain dull.
A brilliant surgeon is let out of prison to perform a special operation. An orthopedist moonlights as a masked avenger. A diagnostician bonds with a very smart machine. A medical examiner confronts her own mortality.
These are the stories of Trauma Team, a quirky medical simulator that combines arcade medical procedures with ghosts, talking computers and plagues.
Gameplay - Intro
The last game I played in the Trauma Center series was Trauma Center: Second Opinion. It was an interesting but very frustrating game in which you had to scalpel and suture at high speed to save patients dying of a mysterious disease that turned the body into a fast-paced video game.
While that game focused almost entirely on surgery, Trauma Team offers a great deal more variety, ranging from the surgical procedures of Second Opinion to endoscopic surgery and puzzle-style diagnostics.
Trauma Team follows the careers of six doctors, each with a different specialty and a different story, told through a series of missions.
Gameplay - The Conventional Surgeons
Feisty Maria Torres is a first responder who has to deal with multiple patients at accident scenes, switching from one to the other and trying to keep them all alive. She’s a tough girl who refuses to rely on anyone, but her biggest problem is she has begun to have visions of a ghostly girl.
CR-SO1 is a convict who is referred to by his prison number rather than his name. A brilliant surgeon, he has been convicted of a terrible crime of which he has no memory.
These two doctors offer gameplay similar to what I recall of Second Opinion, although with less of an unrealistic video gamey feel. You treat wounds, fix broken bones, cut patients open, remove tumors and do a lot of suturing.
Gameplay - The Specialists
Things are different with Tomoe Tachibana, an endoscopic surgeon whose family has a shady history. In her case, you are shoving an endoscope through a patient’s body, which is done by continually pushing the Wii remote forward. The goal is to find polyps and injuries and treat them with a laser or medication. I enjoyed this less than more conventional surgery, and absolutely hated timed missions in which I was forced to explore branching, mazelike tubes. I have hated mazes since the days of text adventures, with their famous “twisty little passages, all alike,” and Trauma Team did nothing to change my opinion.
I liked the orthopedic surgery of Hank Freebird even less. An eccentric who moonlights as a superhero, donning a cape and mask and using his massive strength to bring down street criminals, Hank’s levels felt more like mini-games than surgery. Much of the gameplay involves cutting, which simply means using the Wii remote to guide a cutting device along a dotted line. One also spends a lot of time drilling holes and inserting screws to just the right depth. It was all repetitive and annoying, offering less challenge than pure grunt work.
Gameplay - The Thinkers
For me, the biggest surprise was the final two doctors, Gabriel Cunningham and Naomi Kimishima, whose non-surgical missions could have been from an entirely different game.
Gabriel, a likeable, cynical diagnostician, begins the game by acquiring a remarkably intelligent diagnostic computer. Gabriel’s interaction’s with the computer are quite funny, as he lectures it for telling him what an x-ray is (the computer explains that her programming insists on it, allowing the game to give information that no doctor would need) and bantering in between diagnoses as the computer develops an increasingly human and sympathetic personality. Gameplay involves collecting symptoms by physically examining a patient and comparing x-rays and MRIs with “normal” ones, then checking these symptoms against a list of likely diseases. At times finding the tiny flaw in an x-ray is maddeningly difficult, but overall Gabriel’s missions are a lot of fun, offering the sort of gameplay that would work well in a game based on House, M.D.
While Gabriel works on the mystery of what is wrong with people, medical examiner Naomi works on what was wrong with people. Each mission is a little murder mystery reminiscent of the investigative part of the Phoenix Wright games. You examine the body and the deceased’s clothing, listen to testimony from witnesses and search the crime scene for clues. Then you sift through the clues on your computer to find connections. Often when you find a clue or make a connection you are asked a multiple choice question (i.e., “this proves the patient was a) shot b) stabbed c) boring”) to make sure you understand your solution. These missions are the most mentally taxing; I enjoyed them, but I was often also utterly exhausted by them.