A Cut Above the Rest?

We scrub up to get our hands on Nintendo’s upcoming surgeon-sim, Trauma Center: Under the Knife

A Cut Above the Rest?

When we first heard about Trauma Center, we were naturally intrigued by the prospect of playing Doctor but unsure as to exactly how much fun it would be. Having had a proper hands-on examination, however, we can confidentially declare that not only is this patient in good health but it looks set to be yet another innovative hit for Nintendo.

Whilst the presence of a back-story involving a new strain of virus and a host of other characters promise to add plenty of hospital drama, in truth the main challenge is less E.R. and more Operation. Where the family board game required you to use metal tweasers to remove plastic organs from a patient, here it’s the DS’s touch screen and stylus that come into play as you wield a variety of surgical instruments to inject medicine, drain fluids, carry out scans, make incisions, operate, bandage, swab and a whole lot more. Admittedly, draining goo from a sore doesn’t sound like fun, but in practice it’s amazingly compelling.

Much of this is undoubtedly due to an incredibly intuitive control system, enabling you to select your weapon from the side menus and then use it to perform the appropriate motion with the stylus upon the patients’ body displayed in accurate anatomical detail on the bottom screen. In the early training levels we played, this is supported further by the presence of a nurse shouting instructions, highlighting the instruments to use and showing a dotted line on-screen to follow. Suffice to say, when these aids are progressively removed the challenge increases and the pressure mounts as you race against the clock to make the right decisions and prevent the patient going into shock. Even if the life on the line is entirely digital, trying to save it is surprisingly motivating, even more so than the score and rating that's awarded on completion of your surgery. Certainly more so than the over-reactions of the animated Japanese medical staff which we found a little jarring in this context.

If the later levels can maintain both the variety and the innate feeling of satisfaction at having done something valuable, then Trauma Center could have this new genre all sewn up. We’re looking forward to going back into surgery in April.