For all the hub-bub surrounding the Wii’s ability to simulate bloody, violent behavior, it’s reassuring to find a game that is both bloody and violent but that also gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Yes, this is the Wii’s other violence simulator, only this time you get to commit realistic, brutal acts in a socially acceptable way.
Just over a year ago when the Wii first launched, Trauma Center: Second Opinion arrived on the scene and put a scalpel in our hands. For my money, it had better Wii controls than those of any other launch title. When I wasn’t busy playing Wii Sports, imagining myself in a smoky bowling alley that smelled of stale, cheap beer, I was busy doing God’s work and saving lives in Second Opinion. It gave me hope for what was to come with Nintendo’s radical new take on gameplay.
Unfortunately, Trauma Center: New Blood amplifies as many problems with the first game as it corrects. If you played the Second Opinion, you’ll instantly feel at home with the controls. You’ll find the same wonderfully intuitive tool selection mechanic complimented by the less forgiving Wii-remote pointer. There are some new additions, like co-op play and limited online leaderboards, but overall the game is much more of the same.
The story’s presented using the exact same style of cartoon stills and voiceovers. The marvelously hokey sci-fi anime storyline of the first game has been toned down to tell a much more standard medical research drama. Though there’s substantially more melodrama in New Blood, the story’s every bit as much fun as it was in the first game. Sure, there are still little alien-like critters running around inside people, but there are many more standard surgical procedures this time around. New Blood is less of a shmup than Second Opinion, and instead, plays more like a surgical sim.
If you haven’t spent much time with the series, you’ll find the single-player mode in New Blood very demanding early on. It assumes that you’re reasonably familiar with the controls and doesn’t give you a lot of guidance on how to use them. There are a few tutorials, but they skip some of the basics of slicing and dicing.
The strong point in the control scheme is still the use of the nunchuck to select your weapon… I mean… surgical tool. For more demanding surgeries, you’ll feel like a pro as you zip around, switching quickly from tool to tool. The weak point, though, is the Wii-remote’s lack of precision Since the difficulty level’s been significantly ramped up for this game, the pointer’s imprecision stands out glaringly. Not only does it suffer from a slight lag between your movement and that of the on-screen cursor, it also doesn’t always go quite where you mean it to. Second Opinion is far more forgiving, so these shortcomings didn’t stand out as much, but New Blood asks you to do surgical tasks so quickly and accurately that it becomes obvious that your failure usually lies with the controls, not with you.
For example, early on in the game, you are faced with the incredibly difficult task of grafting skin onto a burn victim. You have to create the grafts, cut them off, apply four of them to a single lesion, and finally apply gel. The problem is that you have to do this quickly enough to prevent blood from ruining any of the grafts you’ve applied already. The speed and accuracy required for this surgery was nearly enough for me to toss up my hands in complete resignation (the remote was safely fastened to my wrist, Mom). I eventually made it through, but not before I fantasized about the horrible things I would do with that scalpel to the next anime cut-out that popped up on screen.
Atlus has also awkwardly altered the ultrasound tool. You no longer need to “ping” the ultrasound to see an anomaly, but if you want an anomaly to stay visible, you need to click it. Additionally, it no longer zooms in on an affected area; instead, you use the ultrasound to move the screen to scope out other areas. Occasionally, this leads to inadvertently hidden lesions and tumors that lie right on the edge of the screen.
The use of “Healing Touch” powers helps in the many demanding surgeries, adding another layer to the gameplay. These supernatural powers grant you abilities above and beyond the average surgeon. If you play using Vaughn, your Healing Touch will slow time. With Blaylock, it’ll prevent damage from being inflicted on patients. Additionally, playing in co-op greatly compensates for the difficulty of the single-player game, so it’s entirely possible that New Blood was designed with co-op exclusively in mind. Loners beware.
I love the slick presentation of this game and its anime-like feel. The graphics and sound haven’t changed from the prior game, but that’s not a bad thing. There are enough new characters, new voice actors, new situations, and new surgical tricks to keep your interest. Similar to the board game Operation, steady hands mean not having to hear the pulpy thud when you mess something up. It’s enough motivation alone to make you a better faux-surgeon.
Trauma Center: New Blood doesn’t completely fulfill the promise made by its predecessor, but it still gives me hope for the series’ future. If any third-party Wii game was going to offer something exciting and new for hardcore and casual players alike, this was going to be it. Alas, you can expect more of the same, except for a substantially increased difficulty. New Blood is still a load of fun, but it also comes with a load of aggravation. Now a year into the console’s cycle, some of the controller’s kinks should have been worked out. If you want to play without undue frustration, clone yourself or grow two arms, whichever seems more medically feasible.