Surprisingly, the DS hasn't seen a great deal of Trauma Center clones after that title's original release, but I suppose that's because a medical game genre doesn't present itself with a great deal of options. Really, the original Trauma Center was almost a riff on the classic board game Operation, only with a more complex situation and a bit of drama thrown in for good measure. However, Emergency Room: Real Life Rescues for the DS takes that idea and runs a little further with it by showing what happens to patients before they even make it to the emergency room. It feels like a realistic representation of the amount of effort that goes into making sure a patient is stable enough to even make the trip to the hospital.
The game puts you in the shoes of beginning paramedic Troy Baker, and you're taken in for training under the slightly rough edges of veteran James Reardon — Jimmy to his friends, of which he apparently only has a few. You're introduced to a couple of other main cast members, such as the guy in charge of the hospital, a doctor, Jimmy's niece … and that's about it. This is where the story of Real Life Rescues comes into place, and while the majority of the game has you going from location to location to tend to patients, there's a bit of plot in between each rescue. I actually enjoyed the plot for a majority of the game; it felt like an odd "ER" offshoot and worked out pretty well for the game.
However, the crux of the game, the actual rescuing, is what had me hooked. It's a bit easier than Trauma Center, and while you do get graded on each operation, you can't completely fail a procedure. I ranked quite low on a couple, receiving a D grade and being reprimanded by Jimmy, but I was always allowed to continue to the next rescue. If you want to retry them for a better score, you can do that from the main menu, but there's little reason to do so unless you're the type of person who hates to get anything less than a top score. As far as what you're graded on, it was difficult to tell whether it was based on timing or whether you bothered to perform the optional steps. From the available options that pop up when you're working on patients, not everything is highlighted as a requirement, so you can't waste time or flounder around too much.
As the game begins, you get to practice on a dummy model, and Jimmy runs you through a few of the basic steps that you'll always want to do, like checking respiratory functions, heart rate and blood pressure. These three things need to be done every single time, regardless of what's happened, and it does feel a little awkward to perform these steps on an obvious gunshot patient, but then again, what do I know about actual medical procedures? Once these three steps are done, you'll want to perform your next set of moves, which vary by the case. Certain patients will have trouble breathing, so you'll need to give them some oxygen or check their blood oxygen levels. Others will have heart issues, or their heart will completely give out, so you'll need to use other emergency measures to bring them back to life. In the beginning, Jimmy will run you through the necessary steps, but later on, you'll have to select his help from a menu to figure out what to do next.
You run into a pretty solid variety of patients along the way, so it'll take some time before you figure out the proper procedures for every patient. However, once you've mastered the basics, the game becomes a little easy if you're just trying to get through each case and advance the story. As I mentioned before, you do get graded, and I'll admit the majority of my cases were given B's and C's, with only a handful of A's. I'm usually not too hung up on score, so there wasn't a great deal of pressure to go back through and retry things. Because of that, the game wasn't too lengthy for me, but obviously, if you want to go back and get things 100 percent right, it'll take much longer to finish the game. I had a lot of fun with all of the various steps and things that you can do, the odd scenarios presented, and the fairly decent dialogue between all of the characters.
The presentation of the game is a little cheap, and the art style is really plain and ugly, using some odd 3-D models that make the characters look really unattractive. While a simple art style works well for the actual gameplay, it would have been nice to spruce things up a bit in between. Aside from the main game, there's nothing in the way of extras or interesting things to check out. Once you've seen all of the cases, that's pretty much all there is to the game. I couldn't find any new characters, scenarios or challenges, and this certainly kills any replay value that the game might have had.
Although I enjoyed Emergency Room: Real Life Rescues, I can certainly say that it isn't for everyone. It's an interesting approach to the Trauma Center formula, and I'm glad to play another game in that funky sub-genre, but at the same time, I'm waffling on whether I'd recommend this title for purchase. If there were something to check out after the main game was completed, I'd be more inclined to suggest this game, but as it is, it's a pretty bare-bones title. It's certainly worth playing, but perhaps only as a rental.
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