Playing doctors and nurses

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 August, 2008, 12:00am

Fast-paced medical action is a stylus tap away with Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2, a new video game created and published by Japanese developer Atlus for the hand-held Nintendo DS system. Combining the medical simulation and visual novel genres, the single-player game is a sequel to the original smash hit Trauma Center: Under the Knife (2005), which was also made for the Nintendo DS, but found another home on the Nintendo Wii console with the remake Trauma Center: Second Opinion (2006).

The surgical simulation series is better suited to the Nintendo DS because of the console's stylus. This input device effectively conveys the feel of the surgical instruments used in the game, such as a scalpel. Emulating TV medical dramas such as ER, the game weaves interpersonal relationships with themes such as racial discrimination and politics to forge a compelling storyline.

Set in 2021, Under the Knife 2 's story picks up three years after the events of the original game. Surgeon Derek Stiles, the lead character, and his faithful nurse, Angie Thompson, work at a Red Cross field hospital in the war-torn African country of Costigar, treating landmine victims and other patients. They subsequently return to the US to investigate a new infectious disease caused by deadly man-made parasites.

The game features about 40 surgical missions, ranging from fixing broken bones and removing bullets to more complex procedures such as liver transplants and tumour removals. Each operation, which has a five-minute time limit, is linked by a dramatic sequence, making gameplay run 10 minutes on average per chapter.

Under the Knife 2 is more accessible to all levels of gamers than the original because of its easy-play mode, improved tool utility and clearer directions. While graphics are cleaner and more slick, the icons for surgery will be familiar to players of the original game. One negative is the pointless dialogue that serves as filler material in between operations.

Overall, this is a great game and a must-buy for Nintendo DS players.

Pros: Strong storyline, intuitive controls and addictive but accessible gameplay.

Cons: Some useless dialogue between surgical missions.