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FEATURED VOXPOP oblivion437 Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that.  It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece.  I strongly recommend anyone...

Trauma Center: Second Opinion Review

By:
Duke Ferris
12/21/06
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
EMAIL TO A FRIEND
GENRE Action 
PLAYERS 1- 1 
PUBLISHER Atlus 
DEVELOPER Atlus 
RELEASE DATE  
T Contains Blood, Mild Language, Mild Violence

What do these ratings mean?

One of the sharper knives in the drawer.

  
No, I don't like it either, but like an unwanted twin, a new term has been born with Nintendo's new console: 'Wii-make'. This term shall be variously used to refer to games that (a) come from non-Nintendo systems with a few motion controls tacked on or (b) originated on other Nintendo hardware and have been partially remade to bolster the Wii's lineup. Case in point: Trauma Center: Second Opinion, which redraws and reorganizes content from the DS title to, ironically, make for one of the best launch titles the Wii has going.
 
click to enlargeThe good news is that Second Opinion isn't a slapdash port, though it's no home run, either. The controls haven't simply been translated in a linear fashion from stylus to remote. You'll use both buttons on the remote to operate the forceps, for example, and some of the best rumble and sound feedback in recent gaming serves to make the game's timed surgical adventures worthy of heart palpitations.
 
Initially, you might have to leap a minor hurdle when learning to select surgical tools with the Nunchuck stick, since there's little in-game explanation of how the onscreen selector works. But the system quickly becomes second nature, and after a few operations I was leaping from one tool to the next with the nimble fingers of a field-tested military surgeon.
 
All that precision goes out the window when you have to use the remote to operate, however. That's not to say the controls don't work -- they actually respond more consistently than a medical resident whipped into shape by a bad-ass head of staff. But the reason the remote works is that there's a lot of leniency built in, at least for most of the game. You'll get used to the fact that you need only be relatively precise to make a suture or incision come off well. And then, when Trauma Center decides to go hardcore, you'll taste the bitter, antiseptic sting of defeat. Over and over again.
 
click to enlargeThing is, that difficulty shift isn't progressive; you might find a really difficult operation in the middle of an otherwise manageable stretch of the game. That might mirror real life, but when the game mechanics are usually teaching you that close enough is good enough, you'll be tempted to toss the remote into the screen, knowing full well you can claim “Um, the strap broke,” later on.
 
Most of the graphics have been re-drawn for the Wii, and the game benefits from the upgrade. Trauma Center is still no lifelike adventure, but the visuals are surprisingly good at evoking a certain queasy biological vision. A widescreen option would be welcome, but the game looks fine in narrow 480i, and better in progressive scan.
 
Obviously this Wii-make went into production quickly, which might explain why there are only a couple of portraits for each character and a lot of white text where the voice acting should be. But the story is outlandish and kind of ridiculous anyway -- it veers from serious assessments of unbalanced patients to ancient Greek healing powers and a global super-virus -- so you might end up skipping through a lot of the text to get right back to the operating table.
 
click to enlargeIronically, while the in-game text emphasizes how the patient is all that matters, there's little in the gameplay progression to support that. While your own skills will develop when you perform better in the operating room, the patient will either live or not, and that's it. So getting 'C' rankings means exactly the same thing for the patient that higher scores do, which doesn't jive at all with the narrative line.
 
Not that Trauma Center offers itself up as any sort of Hippocratic Nirvana; I suppose we should be happy enough that there's no option to go wild and saw open patients at will. Or should we? Driving games are always better when there's the freedom to go off road in some fashion, and Trauma Center would benefit from a little free-spirited slicing, too. The varied objectives are great, but the game can feel far too predetermined.
 
Especially since theres no way to play with a friend, and multiplyer games tend to be where the Wii gets the most fun. Seems to me that as a surgeon, I should be able to get a helping hand. Nurse! Scalpel! Stat!

Even with the linear storyline (which is at least split between two playable characters, one old, one new) it's more fun to operate with the remote than the DS stylus. Trauma Center: Second Opinion may showcase a few beginner's mistakes, but they're nothing to scream 'malpractice' over, and you're far better off mastering the scalpel than any other blade currently on offer for the Wii.

B Revolution report card
  • More surgery!
  • Clear, kinda weird graphics
  • Good Wii controls
  • That could use better in-game explanation
  • Recycled content
  • Needs more depth
  • No multiplayer

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