When I was a kid, I used to play “Doctor, Doctor” with other precocious kids in the neighbourhood. I loved playing a “surgeon”, though I had no idea what a surgeon actually did—apart from cutting up people (perhaps that is why I liked being the surgeon!).
Trauma Center: Under the Knife allows you to play a much wiser and mature “Doctor” in a game that is truly remarkable in concept and execution. To call it an “operation simulator” would be wildly inaccurate, but it is the closest you will get to the pulse-pounding, sweat-pouring, adrenaline-rushing emergency room action while remaining seated comfortably in an armchair.
To begin with, you are Dr Derek Stiles, a talented but inexperienced surgeon at Hope Hospital who is often called upon to deal with emergency situations at the hospital. Fortunately (for him), before each operation, he is guided on surgical procedures by a helpful assistant nurse who always seems to know more than him. There is an underlying story about a young doctor coming of age, but it is secondary to the gaming experience; having said that, it provides a breather to the nerve-wracking action.
Once the operation starts, it is entirely up to you to swiftly and carefully follow the instructions to carry out the procedure successfully. Fail that, and you will have to do it over. There is no option to skip it.
The operation itself involves using the right surgical equipment at the right time. Most operations follow a certain limited set of procedures that apply across all cases, such as applying antiseptic gel before using the scalpel to open up the body or applying gel and bandage after suturing a wound.
However, during the procedure, you are required to carry out different steps depending on the nature of the case. For example, when working on an aneurism, you may be required to reduce the inflammation before cutting it out. The entire “operation” is carried out using the stylus and touch screen, which is intuitive and as close to the Real Thing(™) as you will ever get.
If the patient’s vitals drop alarmingly during a session, you can use a life-boosting injection to stabilize the situation, and give yourself some more time. Later on in the game, you will discover the “hidden touch”, which allows you to slow down time for a while; it comes in handy during the race-against-the-clock situations you face in the game.
If you are wondering about presentation, the graphics are decidedly unrealistic, but that is just as well because most people don’t really want to see blood and fluids. Anyway, the graphics keep things downright palatable and focus entirely on getting the “job done”.
Trauma Center may not be an operation simulator but it helps you appreciate some of the complexities of surgical procedures. It is a brilliant, original game that makes full use of the DS’ stylus, and is challenging and fun to play despite the subject.
Game: Trauma Center: Under the Knife
Platform: Nintendo DS
Write to Arjun at firstname.lastname@example.org