Game: Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2
Genre: Medical Simulation
Platform: Nintendo DS
When Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 was announced earlier this year, I was pretty excited. I have been a fan of this series since its DS roots, and while I enjoyed the Wii installments in the franchise, I can’t say I was as attached the new characters as I was to Dr. Derek Stiles and his assistant, Nurse Angie. I was thrilled to hear that they would be returning in a direct sequel to the first game in the series, although I was also wary that the game would run into some old issues upon its homecoming. While the game is definitely not perfect, it is a solid entry in a fun series that has always offered a unique gaming experience.
Story-wise, the game is a sequel in every possible way, bringing back many of the characters from the first Under the Knife, and referencing many of its important plot points. While the last Trauma Center game, New Blood for the Wii, took itself a little too seriously, I was happy to find that Under the Knife 2 has more of a silly, purposely over-the-top tone just as the first game did. I was a bit disappointed that the storyline was basically just a copy-and-paste of the first game, however; I expected many of the same operations, but when GUILT returned, I can’t say I was overjoyed. They couldn’t have at least come up with a new disease?
If you’ve ever played a Trauma Center game before, then you already know what to expect: Derek, a member of the prestigious medical group Caduceus, performs operation after operation, saving lives and ridding the world of fictitious deadly diseases. As far as the actual operations go, not a lot has changed. You’ll still be removing tumors, extracting glass shards and bone fragments from accident victims, and eradicating the deadly GUILT virus from patients left and right. Some of the new operations from New Blood have been incorporated as well, most notably the burn victim/skin graft procedure, with a few all-new puzzles thrown in just for fun. There’s plenty of content, but nothing feels especially innovative or fresh. However, that doesn’t mean the game is not just as fun and addictive as previous installments.
One major improvement that the game did make was the tool selection process. In the first Under the Knife, the tools were on a small circle in a lower corner of the touch screen, making it hard to pick the right one quickly and efficiently. In fact, that was probably the first game’s biggest problem, and something that the Wii versions did infinitely better. However, the tools are now lined up on either side of the touch screen, and while it was a simple change to incorporate, it makes the operations go much more smoothly. I was glad to see that the developers were aware of this problem and actually took measures to improve upon the mechanics of the last game.
I was also happy to see that this game didn’t bring along the ridiculously unbalanced difficulty of New Blood. Although you can change the difficulty level as the game goes along, there were very few times that I felt the need to tone it down (and when I did, it was usually only to speed up the process for review purposes). There is a fine line between challenging and frustrating, and luckily Under the Knife 2 fell on the challenging side most of the time. Being able to change difficulty levels for each surgery came in handy, though; since I enjoy replaying the operations to improve my score, I found it nice to be able to go back and play on a higher difficulty level just for fun.
For everything that the game does correctly, though, something just didn’t feel right while I was playing it. I was having fun, I was sucked in, and every time I failed and killed a patient (oopsies!), I wanted to go right back and try it again. However, that feeling of playing something new and original has faded, and too many of the procedures just felt repetitive. Early in the game, when it is revealed that GUILT is back, I actually groaned; I already destroyed GUILT in the first game, and I wanted something different! The first Trauma Center was a breath of fresh air for the DS, but Under the Knife 2, while still very enjoyable, started to feel a little stale at some points during the game.
Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 is definitely a solid addition to any DS library. If you didn’t like the previous Trauma Center games, there’s nothing that’s going to draw you in now, but for long-time fans or those who have been mildly curious about the series, Under the Knife 2 is a good choice. If it had just thrown in a few more new tricks, I probably would have given the game much more glowing praise, but unfortunately, it too often relies on past procedures for gameplay. If you can get over this, then definitely give it a try.