IGN Review of Trauma Team
If the popularity of shows like ER, Grey's Anatomy and House is anything to go by, people love medical drama. Considering this, the Trauma Center franchise makes a whole lot of sense, as players are tasked with saving lives as a variety of talented (and entirely fictional) doctors and surgeons.
The latest entry in the Trauma Center series, Trauma Team, features six different medical professionals trying to stop a deadly and mysterious disease threatening the United States. With a nameless surgeon sentenced to 250 years of solitary confinement and a medical examiner that can hear the last words of the dead on her cell phone, Trauma Team can be pretty neat. But, several gameplay stumbling blocks and a few odd plot points keep this game from being as fantastic as it could have been.
Players work through a series of challenges for each character in Trauma Team, from using the Wii Remote to operate on patients (draw a line on the screen to use a scalpel, etc.) to traditional point-and-click adventure style play. Players can tackle the different characters in any order they see fit, and most of the challenges can be replayed on different difficulties and will rank players based on their performance. Once every character's main story progression has been completed, a final arc opens up, alternating between the doctors to bring the game's story to its conclusion through comic book style cutscenes.
The cast members of Trauma Team are all pretty entertaining, though I had a problem with Hank Freebird. The gentle-giant type has been done in anime and videogames before, but (minor spoiler ahead) Hank's role as a costumed hero outside of the hospital didn't click me. I would have much preferred if the developers just left him as the average gentle giant. Aside from that, I loved the characters and their totally outrageous personalities. Trauma Team may be unrealistic, but it's believable enough to enjoy -- especially if you're used to zany Japanese plot lines like I am.
There are six fields of medicine available to players: surgery, first response, orthopedics, endoscopy, diagnosis and forensics. The first four are fairly similar and most resemble the classic Trauma Center experience, while the remaining fields resemble point-and-click adventure games. I had the most fun with the surgery stages, which are tense, arcade-style challenges where players must complete a series of tasks precisely and quickly, while managing a patient's vitals. These scenes define the Trauma Center franchise. First response is also a blast, as Dr. Maria Torres must switch between a number of patients with only a basic set of medicinal tools (like gauze, splints and antibacterial gel). Some of these modes can be played cooperatively with a friend, too, which is quite fun.
I must also give special note to the forensics stages. These chapters were surprisingly long and involved, and the stories surrounding the investigated deaths were intriguing enough to keep me hooked. I was playing some of these levels with my girlfriend, and even she (a non-gamer) was interested in seeing what happened next.
This is where problems start to show up. I appreciate that the developers tried something new and wanted to vary the gameplay experience, but there are a few things that don't work in this mix. Forensics can be interesting, but trying to combine pieces of evidence together -- a fundamental part of the gameplay -- was sometimes unintuitive. This pales in comparison to the problems in the diagnosis sections, however. These stages have players try to gather symptoms through a visual examination of the patient, as well as questioning them, reading EKGs, and using a stethoscope. This is horribly repetitive. You'll find the same symptoms over and over again, and picking options off of lists and clicking around the character's portrait isn't terribly exciting.
Also, image analysis is a royal pain. For example, while examining a patient's x-rays, you'll swap between the patient's x-ray and a normal, "control group" x-ray in order to find abnormalities. Unfortunately, you can't view the two x-rays side by side, which seems like a tremendous oversight.
Though nowhere near as frustrating as the diagnosis chapters, the endoscopy sections can be also be tiring. In these sections, the player feeds an endoscope down a patient's throat and into the stomach and intestines. This requires that player's hold A and B down and move the Wii Remote towards the screen to move the camera forward over and over, which is exhausting.
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