Trauma Center: Second Opinion
If you know your DS games, chances are you’ll already know what Trauma Center is all about. As young, gifted doctor Derek Stiles, you perform a series of increasingly more complex and challenging operations on extremely sick people as a biological-terrorist plot for world domination slowly unveils itself in the background. Told through a series of still images and an awful lot of text, the plot is a slightly bonkers science-fiction medical drama, but the real spectacle happens on the operating table. The operations themselves are tense and full of unexpected twists and turns – one minute you’re undergoing a routine tumour removal, and the next you’re fighting a mutant virus or removing giant shards of glass from inside a man’s heart. It’s surprisingly varied, and very dramatic.
On the DS, Trauma Center worked brilliantly – the precision of the DS touch screen allowed for some extremely skilful play, and indeed towards the end of the game the missions were so difficult that anything other than extremely skilful play resulted in immediate failure. But we’ll admit, we had our doubts as to how well it would translate to the Wii. The premise makes sense, but how could Atlus transpose the immense challenge and precision of movement to the Wii without either dumbing down the difficulty too much or making it far too hard?
The answer, as it turns out, is ‘very well’. Second Opinion feels even more immediate than Under The Knife; we’d even go so far as to say that it’s quite realistic in places. Most of the operations from the DS game make reappearances, but they have all been adjusted and rejigged to take full advantage of the Wii control mechanism. There are also some new operations which are, without exception, ingenious. You’ll find yourself physically twisting bone shards around so that they fit into place and grasping bits of glass with your fore-finger and thumb (the A and B buttons) in order to remove them – it’s quite unlike anything you’ll ever have played before, and really exemplies the depth and sophistication that the Wii controller is capable of. There’s no arbitrary waving around here.
Second Opinion is more a puzzle game than anything else, but it is a tenser and more involving puzzle game than any other. Your surgical tools – everything from the humble scalpel and forceps to lasers, suction and ultrasound – are all mapped to a direction on the nunchuk, and all the actual operating is done with the remote. By its very nature, this is a difficult game. It requires immense speed, accuracy and steadiness of hand, and keeping it up over an extended period of time can be extremely demanding. Thankfully, if an operation really is proving too difficult, you can switch from Easy to Normal to Hard at any point. It’s an absolute godsend when you get stuck (and believe us, you will).
The aesthetics are the only area in which Second Opinion is slightly lacking. The style is suitably abstract – organs look just enough like their real-life counterparts to maintain the illusion of realism, but never genuine enough to bother the squeamish – but the backgrounds are weirdly foggy and a touch grainy, almost as if they’ve been taken straight from the DS game. This looks, at best, like a GameCube game from two or three years ago, and although the characters have been redrawn in a slightly less cartoon-ish style for the cut-scenes, it would have been nice to see a little animation, or maybe some voice acting beyond the words ‘Let’s begin the operation!’ and the occasional random shout of surprise.
Still, in the heat of the moment, though, there’s no time to raise an eyebrow at the basic graphics or bemoan the reasonably basic sound. Trauma Center’s great strength is that it really puts you in the moment with its intense story, severe difficulty and extremely intuitive, realistic controls. It’s unique, intense and more sophisticated in terms of concept and control than any other first-generation Wii game except Zelda: Twilight Princess. If you’re dispirited by the endless minigames that less-inventive developers are shoehorning into their Wii titles, this alone is enough to restore your faith.