Trauma Team


posted 5/3/2010 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms: Wii
After working on some crazy first response emergencies, it’s always nice to take it slow and steady with orthopedics. Hank Freebird, Army Ranger-turned surgeon is Resurgam’s resident sawbones with a masked vigilante streak. You won’t be doing any of his superhero moonlighting but you will get behind a drill, saw, plates and screws. Trauma Team’s orthopedics is the most realistic in the series, and probably the game’s most creative use of motion controls. It’s all about lining up your instruments just right and using fine control and pressure and when you nail a procedure perfectly it’s very satisfying. Drilling in just deep enough and then affixing a plate with screws takes precision and patience, and placing pins with gentle strokes of a hammer is more of an art than a science. While first response is chaotic surgery, orthopedics is very much a Zen experience. There is no time limit, no dropping vitals and delicate accuracy is paramount—just don’t make too many mistakes.

Resurgam’s chief endoscopist is Tomoe Tachibana, a young medical prodigy and Japanese heiress. She used her money to pay her way through med school and commissioned a custom set of gold-plated endoscopic tools. Endoscopy is the biggest variation on the standard surgery model because it’s basically surgery in 3D. You use a lot of the same tools but the controls have significant differences. You navigate with the Wii remote, pointing it to shine your light, and push it forward to advance through a patient’s viscera; yes, the regular old Wiimote can recognize depth and Atlus has done possibly the best job of using that feature and making it work accurately. It really feels like you’re threading a cable through some guy’s esophagus.

The added depth can throw experienced players for a loop and makes old procedures feel fresh, but I had a few issues with tool use. The game auto-locks onto affected areas—tumors, polyps, blood pools and the like—and you can’t work on them until you’re locked on. It was cool that being too close or far away affected your ability to work, but the lock on problems made fast-paced operations harder than they needed to be.

The biggest departures from the series are the diagnostic and forensics tracks. You can tell that diagnostics was modeled after “House MD”—the similarities between Greg House and the sardonic, heavy-smoking Gabriel Cunningham are undeniable—but Trauma Team’s diagnostician and his missions have their own distinct personality. For starters, Gabe is partnered with an overly-helpful AI computer called RONI. The bickering between the two is highly amusing but RONI turns out to be a helpful tool. Gabe can do the old fashioned stuff, like checking charts, observing abnormalities and using the trusty stethoscope, but RONI is basically his version of House’s diagnostic team, recording all the symptoms and putting them in order. Diagnosis takes keen attention to detail. You have to examine everything the patient says, their appearance and medical scans like CTs, X-rays and MRIs. Narrowing down the candidates and hunting for symptoms becomes addictive quickly; diagnostics is the most pleasant surprise of the game because it takes the compelling puzzle aspect of a House episode and adds its own unique style. Trauma Team manages to make something as mundane as analyzing a blood panel an entertaining part of the gameplay.

If you’re a fan of the Ace Attorney games then you’ll love forensics. Naomi Kimishima, the surgeon with a shady past from Trauma Center Second Opinion, retired in the intervening decade after being diagnosed with a terminal disease. Now she’s a medical examiner for the FBI. You’ll be doing a lot of the things Phoenix Wright does—examining crime scenes for clues, listening to recorded testimony—but the theme is much more serious. One of the biggest sources for info is the victim’s corpse and personal effects; they’re presented in standard Trauma Center abstraction but it’s still a little morbid. As you find evidence it is arranged in a series of cards. You can then make connections between different items or send them off to Naomi’s FBI contact Little Guy for analysis. As your investigation progresses you have to answer multiple choice questions about the case, using deductive reasoning.
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