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Trauma Center: Under the Knife Package Art

Trauma Center: Under the Knife

At E3, there was always a crowd gathered around Trauma Center. Itís a concept everyone can wrap their head around; many kids dream of being a doctor, and there are people like me who would probably vomit the second the patient was opened up. While the game by no means prepares you to take a position at the ER, it is an exciting and fun game that doesnít try to be a sim, but doesnít make things easy either. Tack on a storyline that, while a bit melodramatic and unbelievable, addresses real-life issues, and you have a great game that exhibits that third parties are "gettingĒ the DS.


Graphics are clear, effective, and impressive without being gruesome. Organs and vessels pulse with life, tumors and foreign objects are articulated so that you know they arenít normal tissue. When you must operate on a sizable area a handy magnification tool keeps things manageable. Blood is depicted as a red mist that is a good indicator something is wrong. Trauma Center is not true to life, but things are simplified enough so that you can tell if something is a stomach or lung or heart. Basic knowledge of human anatomy is helpful.

Outside of the operating room, a story is told in text-only cut-scenes using anime-styled characters. Luckily none of them are superdeformed, and while yes, there is a cute anime nurse she isnít ridiculously endowed, thank goodness.


Finally, a DS game where the voiceovers do not irritate the listener. Voice work is sparse, but well done and very telling. With so much going on in the process a notice that vitals are low, time is running out, or other complications by an audio reminder is very helpful.

Sound effects are less realistic than the graphics, and little chirps accompany a successful activity. Of you want to hear a realistic depiction of what a scalpel cutting into lung tissue sounds like, study up on your GMATís. The sound effects they do have are conducive to gameplay, which is most important. All of your tools sound different when used, which adds to the variety and keeps things fun.

Background tracks are effectively employed to raise tension. Even if you have a surgery well in hand the music still is dramatic and convincing. The loops are a little short, and there isnít a lot of variety in them, but it works.


Using the stylus, you use a variety of tools to fix your patient. While many people would be quick to compare Trauma Center to the board game Operation, the child-hood favorite really only had one tool: the forceps. You must also master the scalpel, laser, suture, and other tools (a total of ten). Many operations will require you to use all of the tools at your disposal. You may start by disinfecting an area, cutting it open, using sonar, lasering it, removing it, and closing and bandaging the wound. And thatís a fairly minor procedure.

As the missions progress you will be forced to juggle multiple elements at once, and there are some interesting fictional diseases that lend themselves quite well to gameplay. Players will often be forced to switch tool sets on the fly and keep a breakneck pace. Fortunately you later learn the ability to slow down time once per surgery if things get too crazy. For instance, one operation required the a wound be drained, then tugged, then stitched while a crazy viral agent that needed sonic locating and a precise incision be made before I could take a laser to it. Add in the injections to keep the patient healthy, and that is seven implements being used in a window of thirty seconds. Luckily the icons are clear enough that you wonít pick the wrong one.

For the most part, the game controls like a dream. There are only two tools that function less than great. The first is the drainer. It requires an upwards sliding motion to suck the fluid out. This is an issue when the object is located on the upper third of the screen, as the upward slide is instead replaced by several frantic upwards strokes to accomplish the same thing. This can sometimes give the game the impression that you are trying to relocate the tool, which negates the progress you were making. It is irritating, and I had to repeat a few missions as a result. The other is the magnifier, which is occasionally finicky about what it counts as a circle. These minor gripes aside, the game is a superb example of stylus control.

This game is fairly difficult. Almost every new surgery seems like a life and death struggle, and more often than not youíll fail. This difficulty is fairly earned, though. It is a skill based game and the dozens of different operations will keep you involved. Of these operations a few can be a little too dependent on chance, meaning youíll likely lose a few times with no real chance of victory. These are a small percentage, though, and most of the time if you kill a patient it is your own darn fault. If you need to hone your skills and improve as a doctor you can go back and play any of the previously completed missions in Challenge mode. You are assigned points for how much time you use, how stable your patient is, and how skillfully you operate, and S ranks are exceedingly rare. Expect the bare minimum C rank on most operations your first time through, as complications frequently arise right when you think youíre on top of the situation.


None, but you could conceivably pass around the game and see who can get the highest score, sort of like Operation without the board.


Trauma Center: Under the Knife is one of the best third party offerings on the DS so far and comes highly recommended for DS owners, especially if you donít have a load of friends to play multiplayer against. It is compelling to play, looks and sounds great, unique, and most importantly fun. This game is a must have for any gamer looking for something new. The things holding this back from the top spot are one or two questionable tools, an occasional issue of luck, and the fact that even in challenge mode you canít skip directly to the operation itself.

final score 9.0/10

Staff Avatar Matt McDaniel
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"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes"

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