When the first Trauma Center, Under the Knife, was released for the Nintendo DS all those years ago, it was a cult hit: removing tumors with the stylus was an amazing experience that anyone without a weak stomach could get into. When the game was re-released for the Wii at launch, Second Opinion became more refined and even more entertaining. Now, a completely original title has been released for the Wii, and it’s just as good as the last, if not more so.
It’s been ten years since the outbreak of GUILT left it’s scar on humanity, and for doctors Markus Vaughn, a serious surgeon with a past of fame and horror, and Valerie Blaylock, up-and-comer with a strong spirit and steady hand, the field of medicine is about to become a lot more interesting. In Alaska, there is not much going on, but soon, Dr. Vaughn’s past catches up with him and Valerie discovers latent abilities that will make the two of them the foremost in the study of human health.
This time around, the story is embezzled with a wide array of multicultural and diverse characters, each one having their own tale to weave and personality to assert. The events are also much different as well, including research, terrorism, and even guerilla warfare in many different locals. While not utterly fantastic or epic, the story is crafted with detail and will be a driving force in the gameplay, making you want to carve up each patient now with remorse or sweet irony.
Visuals are still very unique and stylized, with character cutouts being detailed and the backdrops, lively. Human anatomy still retains a level of unrealism, but the creative colorization of vital organs makes them look real without being sickening. Blood is well placed and fluid, the various wounds and instruments look almost identical to their real counterparts, and the whole design allows you to differentiate between anomalies, something the DS original did not have enough of.
And, as always, the music of the series remains surprisingly good, with conference room tracks being uplifting, operation themes atmospheric and adrenaline-laced, and sound effects retaining a thankful level of realism. All of the music is very well done and placed, further enhancing the sort of mood that each situation wishes to convey.
Story is also further conveyed with full voice acting. Every part, large or small, has a person to voice it – even the dog or military grunt. The voices of Markus, Valerie and Elena are great, with the others being correctly matched to the characters and personalities of each, something very well appreciated when compared to walls of text. There are no voices in recent memory that were ever bad, something wonderful after the always hilarious Resident Evil.
Even so, you did not pick up a surgery game to listen to the next great hit or look at pretty pictures, you are here to cut up some fools, and maybe save a person here and there if you are so inclined. Well, I am happy to inform that the stellar gameplay is just as good as Second Opinion, if not better.
Operations are performed by pointing the cursor at the screen, then pressing the A or B button to perform the task relevant to the tool you are holding. The scalpel cuts, the sutures stitch, the syringe pokes, the laser burns and so on. All in all, you have eight tools of the trade, each one having surprising uses when the situation calls for it. You can never know until you have entered the person whether the forces will be used to pull out rifle rounds, shards of glass, or even turn tiles in the deadliest toy puzzle of your life.
Mission types are thankfully varied this go around; the previous game was an onslaught of surgical battles with GUILT, while the new pathogen of Stigma shows up for the occasional bought. Other operations will include the removal of tumors or appendixes, a kidney transplant or a Pacemaker instillation – there are no two missions that are exactly the same. Removing tumors is easy and rewarding, and the fights with aforementioned Stigma are challenging and entertaining.
One of the more interesting additions to the gameplay, other than the wide assortment of new medical problems, is the ability to move around inside the person’s body. It used to be that you were stationed with one view of the heart or lungs, but now, you can used the magnification tool to move your view to other parts of the organ, usually revealing additional wounds. While it isn’t much, it is nice to see that the whole of the battlefield is being used, rather than just a little square.
When the game hits the point of now return, when the patient is in cardiac arrest with seventeen lacerations and a shell in his heart, each doctor can perform the Healing Touch, a maneuver that enters the doctor into a state of hyper-focus. Vaughn slows down the very passage of time, while Blaylock can suspend the target with a heart rate of one until the move runs out of mojo. The Healing Touch is a great addition to the gameplay and is even required in some states, making it a useful tool. It’s nice to know that I won’t die because my doctor practices witchcraft.
Controlling the scalpel and sutures was intuitive in the first game, but with advent of the Nintendo Wii, they are even more fluid and unique. The pointer moves just the right speed, meaning that you won’t fly to the wrong area or get arthritis trying to get to the next laceration, with the Nunchuck being used to select the tool you use. It looks great when you’re watching someone, but you may oftentimes find yourself trying to drain a tumor with the sutures or burn an infection with the drain. While it only takes a moment to switch back, it’s something that happens many times over the course of your career.
Perhaps my greatest issue with the game, other than the following problem, is the cruel lack of instruction for some operations. While the first few are walks in the park with the senior surgeon holding your hand, others are infuriating due to the lack of direction to move in. Sometimes, the instructions are just vague to start with, and you sort of have to play etch-a-sketch with the laser, while others, your guide is drowned out by other messages telling you to what you already know, leaving you wondering why the person suddenly kicked the bucket.
Secondly, the difficulty of the game is surprising, even to a fan of the series. While Easy is basically a training course, Normal difficulty requires a very steady hand, some concentration, and a very astute understanding of what is going on and what to do, not always possible to the influx of messages during operations. Hard mode is incredibly difficult, and the extra stages unlocked midgame, as well as after the Epilogue are enough to make any person throw things though the television. Yes, this applies mostly to the endgame and Hard mode, it’s still somewhat confusing to see how anyone can complete the X-Missions with even an “A” rank.
In the end, this game is absolutely brilliant. While it may not sound like fun to sew up cuts and remove gall stones, once you start getting into the more advanced works of skin grafts and even brain surgery, the game becomes addictive. Great visual design, surprisingly good music and sounds and refined gameplay make this one of the better Wii games on the market. The only problems, albeit minor, are the lack of directions when you really need them and the great difficulty you will experience. In the end, this is a game I would heartily recommend to anyone.
Still…don’t try and cure aneurisms in the brain in real life. That’s why we have real doctors with real licenses and real hobos with real cardboard saying “MEDECAL LISENSE.”
Outside of the operating room, New Blood's visual style is magnificent and detailed - inside, Stigma and other wounds look unique and keep the consistent design.
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Trauma Center remains a unique experience that's always fun, but also remains extremely challenging, even with the lower difficulties.
As with all other games in the series, the musical score continues to be excellent, boosted by the fantastic voice acting.
With online competition for rankings and several unlockable missions, you'll keep operating as long as you can stand the off-putting difficulty, should you wander that far.
Trauma Center remains an interesting, unique, and entertaining series, and the Wii's New Blood is remains a largely unnoticed gem amongst the leftover slag.