Reviews// Trauma Center: Under The Knife (DS)

Memories of Terror

Posted 6 Jul 2006 09:30 by
First memories of terror - everyone has them. It might be a wasp sting; wandering off and losing your parents in a shopping arcade; or when Dad shaved his beard off and you thought a stranger had replaced him. One youthful trauma many readers might have experienced would have been at the hands of the harrowing board game 'Operation'. In this sick game, not only are you required to actually remove a patient's broken heart (surely counselling is better therapy?), but the patient lets out a loud buzz if you touch the sides of the incision…

That anaesthetist has some explaining to do! The Government gets grief from its more charmingly right-wing opponents, regarding the apparent lack of British doctors and nurses in the NHS. But righteous collectives, such as the BNP or, to a more extreme degree, the Daily Mail, ought to look to Operation, and the devastating effects it's had on fraying the nerves on generations of potential doctors. But there is a saviour. Through Trauma Center: Under the Knife (TCUK) SPOnG has faced its deep-rooted surgical fears, and can now pretend we've made a success of our lives, just as Mum and Dad always wanted.

TCUK is set in a fictional West-Coast US city, and you play the role of Dr Derek Stiles (or should that be Stylus?), a big-hearted, but slightly tentative, rookie learning the ropes of surgery at Hope Hospital. There are half a dozen or so NPCs to keep the story ticking along, but the one you'll be in regular contact with during the heat of surgery is Nurse Angie. She's your feisty young assistant for the majority of the operations, and certainly lets you know if your ham-fisted attempts are doing more harm than good to the patient. She's enough to bring out the arrogant, egotistical surgeon in all of us, and you'll do well not to let out regular cries of: "Your just a nurse, Little Lady. Why don't you just do your job and mop my brow."

When she isn't letting you know how bad a job you're doing, you can only assume she's there to hand you your weapons of choice. Icons adorn the perimeter of the screen, and by tapping one you instruct her to hand you the corresponding item. Your tools of the trade include the obvious ones like scalpel, needle and thread, bandages and forceps, but also some more interesting ones like the laser and artificial membranes. A definite positive of this game is the gradual introduction of each item, and the hints given on how they are best used. The game by no means holds your hand the entire game, though; once you've learnt what they're all for, it's up to you to decide how you approach the more complex operations further on.

But, with your lack of experience you'll be glad to know you won't be performing a triple heart bypass any time soon. Initially, your duties involve nothing more complicated than removing shards of glass from flesh wounds, or excising benign tumours. However, when you are eventually thrust into a particularly difficult operation, the game reveals Dr Stiles is unknowingly in possession of a special gift, something only a few blessed surgeons have at their disposal - 'the Healing Touch'. This medical super-power enables these exceptional doctors to be so "in the zone" that time actually slows down, allowing them to perform at incredible speeds against the clock. Those fortunate enough to have experienced waiting for treatment from our fine NHS will be all too accustomed to "time slowing down".

What this means in the context of the game is strategic use of this huge benefit, as obviously it isn't unlimited per procedure. The other neat thing about this device is that it's not a question of just pressing an icon to activate it. Apparently, Dr Stiles' father taught him a technique when Derek occasionally had trouble concentrating whilst studying or taking exams. His father told him to imagine drawing a star in his head to help keep his focus. Rather handily, this technique also works when inducing the Healing Touch. So, perfectly draw this star shape on the touch-screen, and you'll be doing yourself a favour when faced with the more demanding procedures.
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