December 14, 2006

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Trauma Center: Second Opinion (Wii)
Atlus, 2006

There are few things as fun as performing surgery on my Wii.

The Wii-make-ness of this game — as Trauma Center: SO is somewhat of a highly polished port of Trauma Center: Under the Knife for the DS — shows up in weird areas in this truly enjoyable surgery simulator. So slick is the presentation here that one wonders if Atlus hadn’t wanted to develop TC for the Wii initially and somehow got relegated sideways to the DS. The Wii-mote and nunchuck smoothly transform your hands into those of brash but talented young surgeon Derek Stiles, resident surgery monkey at Hope Hospital.

There is an overly complicated plot concerning a mysterious, possibly evil, virus that you must battle by curing patents of their various life-threatening ailments. Sometimes you’re lasering polyps from a singer’s throat, or setting the bone fragments in a shattered arm, or my favorite, slicing out tumors from somebody’s lower intestine. Using the nunchuck thumbstick you select your tools — sutures, syringes, lasers, ultrasounds and, most ingeniously, forceps whose control scheme calls for the same pinching motion that real ones do — and aim your Wii-mote at the various malignant tumors and infected lesions. You must constantly monitor your patients’ heart rate and apply stimulants when running out of time or low on blood pressure until your’e forced to resort to the defibrillator to shock borderline corpses back to life. It’s a well-designed system that, while probably not exceedingly accurate, does an excellent job of making a game out of slicing parasites out of somebody’s stomach.

Trauma Center: SO, as with its DS predecessor, is more of a “Huh, who thought that video games would try this?” than an exceptional game. In addition to the bizarre General Hospital-meets -X-Files plot that sucks the life out of the game between surgery missions there are a few notable glitches. Most offensive is the tendency for your assistant nurse to tell you what to do (like “fix it!”), as opposed to how to do it, especially in the earliest stages of the game. Also oddly absent is any meaningful voice acting. Now, I realize that there is no such thing as good voice acting in a video game, but if I have to read this much Japanese RPG blabbery again I think I’ll return the game to the library (har har!).

A few significant additions have been made to SO over its DS counterpart. Most notably there are easy and hard settings for each mission (although your palms will still sweat on easy mode) and there is a second playable character with a batch of new missions. The new features along with the impressive level of polish on the surgery missions outweigh the niggling flubs that TC:SO might have. It’s a unique game that could only exist on the Wii, and every adventurous gamer deserves to give it a chance. B

— Glenn Given