Game: Lifesigns: Surgical Unit
Genre: Medical Simulation
Platform: Nintendo DS
It’s certainly been a crazy year for video games from start to finish. Now that things are finally starting to slow down a little bit, it’s time for me to go back and check out some of the smaller games I may have missed in recent months what with the constant slew of epic new releases. This week, that meant tearing myself away from phantom hourglasses and tactical fighting to try out something different: the recently released medical game Lifesigns.
The advertised premise for this game was that the player would get to not only perform surgeries, but also diagnose different medical conditions through research. I’m on record as being a really big fan of both the Trauma Center and Phoenix Wright series, and I thought that this game was going to combine aspects of both to create something equally fun and addictive. Was I right? Hell no!
This game can most easily be described as a Japanese hospital soap opera. Every employee at the hospital seems to be much more concerned with the intimate details of each other’s lives that patients and surgery. There’s the rumors about who’s dating who, the doctor who’s hung over from her date the previous night, and the anesthesiologist who has just been kicked out of his house by his wife. Combine these caricatures with a whole lot of poorly written dialogue and absolutely no action and you’ll be tempted to shut off your DS pretty quickly.
The game starts with a cut scene that turns out to be a dream in which you are on a date with one attractive female doctor, only to be interrupted by a nurse, and then the entire thing devolves into ridiculous and unfunny shenanigans. Not just the dream—the entire game. The dialogue is so cheesy that it made me uncomfortable. Shouldn’t the dull gossip be secondary to the medical action?
When a patient finally did wander into this soap opera, the “diagnosis” mainly consisted of rubbing the stylus all over the patient’s abdomen and chest area (or, as my classy friend Coop described it, “feeling the patient up”). There’s really no instruction given, so it’s not that surprising that Coop went in that direction. It took me a few minutes to figure out what they wanted me to do, but somehow I squeezed out a diagnosis of appendicitis. Awesome! Can I do surgery now? No! I have to listen to more crappy dialogue from the guy I work with who I forgot was actually my biological father!
The only reason that I played the game as long as I did is because I really, really wanted to cut someone open. I figured that if I stuck around for the surgery, it would be worth it. It was a long wait before I got to do anything, and it really wasn’t worth the time. To call it “the poor man’s Trauma Center” doesn’t even begin to describe how the main aspect of gameplay falls short.
Lifesigns has none of the fun, or the charm, of the Trauma Center or Phoenix Wright games. If you want to look at the actual notes I wrote while playing it, they range from “WTF?” to “GIVE ME AN OPERATION!” to “Please kill me.” I don’t know how this game managed to take an already-successful formula and screw it up so badly, but it sure did. Please learn from my mistake and don’t waste your time.