Trauma Center: Under The Knife Review

Recently I rented Trauma Center from Gamefly and I thought I'd mention it briefly here. It got decent if not stellar reviews, and I disagree. In fact, I think it exemplifies something that I've come to notice about the DS: I like games that use the second screen, but not the "touch" aspect. Examples of this include Advance Wars:DS (you can use the touch screen, but I chose not to - I found the control was much better using the regular GBA controls) and Mario Kart DS (tapping the screen flips between the two map modes). Trauma Center tries to be unique and use the touch screen, and I ended up sending it back the day after I got it.

The hook is that you actually perform the surgeries in the game using the touch screen. You have a little palette of tools such as a scalpel, suction pump, anesthesia and the like. You touch the scalpel and then make an incision and so forth. That part is fairly neat. I almost immediately got hand cramps, and I even lost a mission because I foolishly used the built-in microscopic stylus instead of the pen I always use for DS - but I'm used to that for the DS so I don't even count it. What absolutely killed the game for me was the fact that you have to make little circle gestures to zoom the camera in and out. Make an imperfect circle and it beeps. Make a wrong sized circle and it beeps. I quit on a mission where several things happen at once and I kept losing because a tumor offscreen would have something bad happen. There was no warning, no overview, no real clue that something bad was happening elsewhere. I found I was just zooming in and out like a freak, frantically checking to make sure I knew where the worst tumor was.

This is weird to me, because it's not even a good metaphor. Stylus as scalpel, sure. Stylus as roll of bandages that you unroll is fine. Stylus as a syringe or vacuum pump that you fill and use seems really cool. But why is making circles in the air zoom or unzoom?

Anyways, it's not a first party game so I can't give Nintendo too much grief, but it was being touted as a good example of the unique gameplay the touch screen allows. Unfortunately, it's just another example of the sucky gameplay the touch screen allows. A year after the consoles release we should have something better.

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