Release Date: July 1, 2008
Most video games aren't built around the concept of saving lives. There is a healthy dose of games that allow you to save lives, but it's usually in between shooting aliens or running over criminals, with the task of rescuing folks serving as a sideshow to a hideous monster's death by rocket launcher. Games dedicated to the practice of saving lives are few and far between, and Trauma Center: Under the Knife was the more enjoyable of those games. Combining the Nintendo DS' innovative touch-screen with surprisingly interesting writing and well-designed missions, Under the Knife was one of those Nintendo DS titles that just worked. Unfortunately, it was also soul-crushingly difficult and required lightning-quick reflexes, so most gamers gave up in frustration after the first quarter of the game. Fortunately, after a brief stop on the Nintendo Wii, Trauma Center has returned to the Nintendo DS, and Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 is shaping up to not only be a worthy successor to the original title, but also one that is quite playable for gamers who don't eat Ninja Gaiden for breakfast.
Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 places gamers back in the shoes of Dr. Derek Stiles a few years after the events in the original game. After defeating the man-made super virus GUILT, Derek has been taking a much-needed break from super-operations, and he and his nurse-slash-love interest Angie have traveled to Africa to help out in the wake of a civil war. However, Derek's "vacation" is to be short-lived, as his return to America is met with the outbreak of Post Guilt Syndrome. PGS is a new sickness appearing in unfortunate souls who were infected by GUILT, and it requires a skilled hand to treat. Before long, the PGS outbreak is overshadowed by the return of the terrorist organization Delphi, the outbreak of two unique evolutions of GUILT, and the rise of the Hands of Asclepius, a mysterious new medical organization that is using illegal techniques for the seemingly benevolent goal of creating more doctors with Derek's special Healing Touch. A doctor's work is never done, it seems.
The gameplay in Trauma Center 2 hasn't evolved much from its predecessors, although those coming to the title without having played the Wii games will find a significant amount of new features not in the first DS title. Making their way to Trauma Center 2 from the Wii versions are a number of new operations, including restructuring bones, using skin grafts to fix burns, and even fixing bullet wounds. On top of that, there are a few new surgical tools, such as the defibrillator, the air compressor and even a handy penlight for use in dark situations. While many of these tools may seem familiar to those who own a Wii, they're not entirely the same as their Wii counterparts due to the control difference. Furthermore, a few of the tools have been tweaked to be easier to use, such as the drain and forceps, both of which have been revamped to be less particular, which prevents the aggravation of watching the title register a nonexistent error.
New features aside, most of the gameplay is simply a slightly more polished version of the same excellent gaming found in the original, and there is nothing wrong with that. The primary change is that Trauma Center 2 is a lot more forgiving than its predecessor. Stages tend to be less painful, and earning high scores is much easier and more intuitive, so it's closer in line with the Wii titles than the first Nintendo DS offering. Using Derek's time-slowing Healing Touch no longer carries as large a penalty as it did before, vitals drop slower and less extremely than before (even on the Hard mode), and overall, Trauma Center 2 doesn't quite require the same skills that drove most players to tears in the first game.
Returning, admittedly in a less prevalent form, is the man-made super-virus, GUILT. There are actually two different evolutions of GUILT in Trauma Center 2: Mutated GUILT and Neo-GUILT. The former is an evolved version of the virus that you faced in the original Trauma Center: Under the Knife. However, Mutated GUILT always has a few surprises in store for returning doctors, so one shouldn't assume that things are going to be as easier. Mutated Kyriaki, for example, is a significantly nastier beast than its predecessor. The original Kyriaki was a tiny parasite that used razor-sharp blades to tear open its poor victim's insides, but the mutated Queen Kyriaki not only does that, but also lays eggs inside the victim. If you don't cut out the eggs before they hatch, you'll find yourself facing five or six beasts instead of one. All the while, the Queen continues her rampage.
Neo-GUILT involves four new strains of the terrible virus, each of which has its own unique method for defeat. For example, the Sige is a tiny yellow creature that moves at unbelievable speed and can only be harmed by a scalpel when it's stopped in its tracks by antibiotic fluid. Once you injure the Sige, it will burrow deep into the patient and unleash a noxious white gas that blocks the player's screen, forcing him or her to blow into the DS microphone to clear it. If that wasn't bad enough, it will even create trapped copies of itself when it suffers enough damage! While there are not many Neo-GUILT cases, they should still be approached with caution.
All in all, Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 isn't changing too much of the formula that was found in the original Trauma Center, and that is a very good thing. Difficulty aside, the original title was excellent, and Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 offers more of the same quality gameplay, without changing the formula enough to drive away fans. In addition, the lowered difficult level will ensure that gamers who reached the aneurysm level in Under the Knife and gave up in frustration won't encounter the same difficulty here. New blood and old doctors alike should be quite pleased when Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 hits stores this July.
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