Thursday, December 30, 2010

Trauma Center: Under the Knife (DS) - Session 1

Time: 1 hour

Experience with the Franchise: None. This game was recommended to me by Issam, who played Trauma Center for the Wii.

What Happened this Session:
Gameplay is split between story mode and operation mode. During the story, dialogue is carried out between characters, represented as flat illustrations who have different poses and expression swaps depending on their mood.

The story is that I'm a young, irresponsible doctor, and my nurse mentor is leaving. I get a new one, who yells at me all of the time, since I'm apparently a jerk. I impress her during a complicated operation where she loses her cool - and I stay cool and manage to 'slow down time' and save the patient. It turns out I might have 'the Healing Touch' according to the man in charge of the hospital, who tells me all about it, and promptly tells me I should 'forget about it, since it's too heavy of a weight!' - (it's because he has the healing touch as well, but botched an operation once and it destroyed his confidence.) Now I'm learning how to control this magic ability (I am a descendant of the God of Medicine!) by imagining a star.

The operation part of gameplay consists of learning procedures and using them - so, I start by using disinfectant on an area, then use the scalpel to make the incision, we zoom in, I find tumors with ultrasound, cut to them, drain them, chop them out, remove them, etc. It's a lot of small maneuvers, but understanding how to do them in the right order.

What I Liked:
Time format. This game plays in 10min episodes, so it's easy to pick up and put down. This also makes it feel as though you are progressing quickly.

The pressure. I've listed it in the 'what I didn't like' section as well. :) The mechanics in this game are extremely simple, and yet there are a number of things which make it interesting despite this fact. The first is that no operation is the same (granted, I've only been playing for one hour). Next, you get 'good's and 'cool's on everything you do - so you find yourself naturally striving for the latter - which you seem to earn by doing things with speed and precision. Also, you have to monitor the patient's vitals, and inject them with... you know, something green, when they drop under a certain number. The pressure of doing everything correctly is what makes the relatively simple gameplay fun.

Penalty for failure is small. I already feel too much pressure playing this game, since I've got people's lives in my hands, so I think it's reasonable that there really isn't a lot of consequence to failure. You see your guy all out in the wind with his coat, and you feel really bad since you could have killed someone - and then you get to try again, so it's ok. The balance works because you still manage to feel the failure.

The story. It's an easy story to make fun of a little (why would the Dr tell me I have the "Healing Touch" - which can cure incurable diseases, and follow it with "but just forget it!"?) but I love games which understand that they are games. I like that a bit of fun and fantasy is brought into a game like this, which could easily be very dry.

What I Didn't Like:
All the.. operation stuff. Blood and guts talk makes me really uncomfortable... so I'm not really sure why I picked this game up to begin with. :) I'm able to look past it during the operations, for the most part, but when they describe what's happened, such as - this guy crashed into a window on his motorcycle and has glass shards embedded in his arm, or the polyp in his throat is hemorrhaging and your first task is to drain the excess blood - I get grossed out. Even just writing that I feel unnerved. This is obviously just a matter of personal taste, and it seems that the game is fun enough overall for me to move past this.

The pressure. I find this game a bit exhausting because of all that stuff I mentioned above about them making you feel the pressure of an operation. This is just a matter of personal preference, and I'm not really sure what it means for me and this game in the long run.

I got stuck - and no one helped me! In one operation I was removing tumors and had thought the operation was complete (I think this was my 2nd or 3rd operation). I ended up sitting for the remainder of my time wondering what to do ('is it a bug?' etc) and failed the operation. The 2nd time around, it turned out I had just missed the fact that there were 3 tumors, and I'd only gotten 2. Since I was still so early into the game, I wish there had been some sort of safety net or reminder. That being said, since the penalty for failure is so small, it was ok.

Dr. Stiles (me) is sort of a jerk. I dunno, I'm never really down with playing as a guy that's supposed to be a jerk. The other hospital staff make fun of him, and talk about how he's late for work and stuff. I know it's so I can grow and stuff... but it's sort of annoying since you feel like you're trying really hard during gameplay, and then your guy says something stupid.. I'm not really sure what the best alternative to this is. It makes for a more interesting story when the main character isn't perfect.

How Do I Feel About Continuing?
Not sure! I'm going to pick it up again for sure (I'll be on a plane tomorrow, so it seems like a good use of my time), and then maybe I'll make some sort of decision about whether or not I like this game.

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