Trauma Team is the latest motion-controlled medical sim in Atlus' Trauma Center series. This time out you wield the scalpels and stethoscopes of six different medical experts, making for a decent stab at variety. But not all segments work equally well, and the B-grade anime personalities may try your patience.
- Intense surgical moments
- Wii motion controls work well
- Great Atlus-style character designs
- Diagnosis and Forensics become tedious
- Dopey characters speak stilted dialogue
- Slow-paced cutscenes drag
Operating under the principal that bigger is better, Trauma Team, Atlus’ latest anime medical simulation, lets you play as six different specialists in fields ranging from plain old surgery to “CSI”-style forensics. This attempt to broaden the well-established series is appreciated, even if there are a few flies in its ointment.
Whereas previous Trauma Center games focused on surgery, this time out you’ll also find yourself diagnosing illnesses, providing first-response care, grafting together bones (orthopedics), solving murder mysteries, and snaking a long, camera-equipped tube into “inaccessible areas of the body,” as the game delicately puts it (endoscopy). All of the above is accomplished through varying applications of the Wii’s motion controls, and just about everything works really well. Repeatedly sliding the Wii Remote forward to guide a tube into someone’s intestines feels a lot more visceral than just moving an analog stick. Trauma Team is one of the few Wii games that would truly suffer from a more conventional control scheme.
It’ll probably take you a while to get comfortable with ‘em, though. Medical school’s not easy, a fact you might begin to appreciate as you slowly work your way through Trauma Team’s tutorial-dense opening missions. Practically every 10 seconds, a window’ll pop up telling you how to use this tool or that medicine, to the point that it makes the gameplay feel a bit disjointed. The early game is actually a bit of a drag in general, as the anime-still intros and outros often take longer to unfold than the operations themselves, and their stilted dialogue and goofy, poorly written characters are just this side of tolerable. It’s a shame, as the overall storyline is interesting and would’ve been better served with sharper writing. Nurse, I need a better script, stat!
Surgeon on, though, and you’ll slowly be rewarded with some memorable medical gameplay sequences. My favorite was a later surgical mission in which I had to finish up a complex multi-stage operation within 10 minutes. I lost a lot of time reassembling the patient’s fractured ribs, leaving only a few minutes for the final stage. I cut, I stitched, I vacuumed up blood with newfound efficiency, fairly flying between the various tools. As I sewed the final stitch the countdown came to a halt: 1.68 seconds. Hey, maybe surgeons deserve the big bucks after all.
Time to Eat Your Brussels Sprouts
Trauma Team’s stab at variety has its ups and downs, as not all of the medical disciplines translate equally well to the game. The surgical, orthopedic, and first-response missions are the most fun. It’s no coincidence that they’re all pretty similar mechanically, with lots of fast-paced stitching, patching, sterilizing, bandaging, and reconstructing. The details vary, but the motion controls remain admirably consistent. Endoscopy is more of a toss-up, with gameplay that’ll remind you of a pokey, more intestine-y version of Descent. It’s a clever use of motion control, but it’s probably more riveting for the patient than the player.
The real problems come in diagnosis and forensics. Both present a linear narrative through a point-and-click adventure game interface. This isn’t a bad idea in theory, but the investigative gameplay systems are ultimately uninspiring. Worse, each such mission can take the better part of an hour to complete, during which time you can’t take a break to do anything else. Oftentimes I’d get stuck for lack of one little detail, sending me on a tedious pixel hunt to find the one little aspect of the murder scene or illness that I’d overlooked. The forensics segments are particularly trying, as the clue-matching system often devolves into just trying every possible combination until the game finally moves forward. Brute force, my dear Watson.
The first 10-15 hours of Trauma Team let you choose the order you’ll tackle the missions in, and I groaned every time it seemed prudent to take on a diagnostic or, Hippocrates forbid, a forensics stage. Each one is longer and more involved than the last, and flipping between CAT scans to spot minute differences has nothing on fastening screws into bones or zapping tumors.
Trauma Team is a decent game that’s held back by its weaker elements. Three of the six gameplay types are fun, one is borderline, and two are a drag. The cast is enjoyable to look at but annoying to listen to. The story builds toward an exciting crisis but takes its good old time getting there. There’s a lot to like here, though the worst aspects are akin to taking medicine. You’ll need to endure more than a little trauma to get to the good stuff.