Trauma Center: Under The Knife
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-01-16 Nintendo DS Simulation T (Teen) Atlus

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Trauma Center: Under The Knife was originally released in October 2005, and it was a hit then. So much in fact, that it has been re-released in the Fall of 2006.

Strangely enough, I only made my first contact with Trauma Center after having a Wii, and found it difficult to play since I have a pretty shaky hand. It also made me think that the DS version would have been much better and easier to control.

Trauma Center: Under The Knife (a European version, at that) was one of our Christmas presents and it's been a hit ever since we took it out of its wrapper. Even my mom (a nurse) and a cousin of mine (a paramedic) have had their fun with it during the holiday season.

Under The Knife takes place in the year 2018. You play as Dr. Derek Stiles, a young surgeon at the beginning of his career. Through the contact with patients and other medical staff, as well as surgical procedures, the player experiences the drama of saving lives and leaning new medical techniques.

But as the story advances, you also find out that there is a new biological weapon spreading disease as if it were the new plague. This disease is called GUILT (Gangliated Utrophin Immuno Latency Toxin)and the parasites infecting a human body are capable of killing quickly and painfully. There are different types of GUILT and they will make your job as a surgeon a lot harder to deal with.

At the beginning of each stage, vital information from key characters tells you what to expect from each surgery. As your stylus becomes everything from a scalpel to a drain, forceps, laser, ultrasound or syringe, operations become more and more delicate.

The game progresses requiring you to learn and memorize previously used simple procedures and little by little introducing a new tool or challenge. These challenges include turbulence while operating on a plane, different strands of GUILT with unpredictable effects, cardiac arrest, hemorrhage and more.

At the end of each stage you are awarded a score and a rank (S being the highest), depending on how well you've done, how quickly you finished the surgery and how many times you missed a procedure.

From removing shards of glass to burning tumors with a laser, doing research puzzles or disarming a bomb, your job as a surgeon is never boring and always stressful.

It does get a bit frustrating in some stages though. While the touch-screen controls are easy to use, when the time limit is short and there's little margin of error for mistakes, precision is a must. For example, I lost count of how many times I repeated the bomb stage. The very last part of disarming the bomb included a series of red and white wires close together. The purpose is to cut the red and not touch the white. But because of my shakiness, I had a really hard time being quick enough with it.

Aside from a bit of trouble using the ultrasound to magnify (the control wasn't too responsive, particularly in the bomb and throat stages), the game is very easy to pick up and play. And if medical terminology makes you uneasy, the manual even has a little glossary for you.

In the end, Trauma Center: Under the Knife is a must-have for any DS owner. It's innovative, the theme is original, makes great use of the stylus in creative ways and the story is really good and well-written.

I'd recommend it to aspiring doctors/surgeons and everyone else who is just looking for something original and challenging to play. And operating on GUILT is challenging enough! Trust me, I'm a surgeon after all... ;)