Previous Trauma Center games have focused on virtual surgery, challenging you to hone your operating skills to a scalpel's edge with punishing difficulty. Trauma Team takes a more holistic approach by staffing six different characters, each with a distinct specialty. No two disciplines play the same way, and the resulting variety is refreshing. Hopping between skills and performing different procedures is easy and rewarding thanks to the slick presentation and sharp controls, though players looking for a tough challenge may not be happy with the lessened difficulty. Still, there is a lot of cleverness to be found in both the gameplay and the writing. Of course, neither is without its flaws, and the game sometimes drags its feet when it should be moving things along. Occasional pacing slowdowns aside, this is a lengthy game that is packed with content and priced affordably. The quality and diversity of the gameplay shine through despite its blemishes, making Trauma Team the most accessible and feature-packed Trauma game to date.
The most familiar discipline here is surgery. The controls use the same slick system as before: you select your tool with the analog stick and perform actions with the remote. It is definitely entertaining (even for TC veterans), and there are some new elements to contend with, but surgery is nowhere near as challenging as it was in previous games. There are no supernatural abilities to contend with, only the story of an amnesiac prisoner called on to perform high-risk surgeries in exchange for years off of his sentence. Surgery is more streamlined in Trauma Team because it plays a supporting role instead of being the franchise player. While some may lament the reduced challenge, this old standby ends up filling its niche quite nicely because the other disciplines round out the game so well.
Orthopedics is similar to surgery in that it deals mainly with cutting on an anesthetized patient, but it plays out a little differently. Rather than selecting your tool on the fly, you use the one you are automatically given. You cut, drill, hammer, and screw in sequence, all the while building up a chain meter for each successful action. This meter offers another layer of instant feedback on top of the neon adjectives displayed after every action, upping the pressure as the procedure continues and your chain grows bigger. Another significant difference is in how the cutting action is presented. Pointing the remote to keep your tool in the designated area is easy at first, but it's not long before the camera starts moving of its own accord, forcing you to keep up with the cut line while staying within the borders of the guide. Soon, the camera starts moving out of sync with the guide, and you have to be even more wary. This is initially aggravating, but once you get the hang of things, it becomes a reasonable, if slightly contrived, challenge. The orthopedic doctor is a muscular specimen named Hank Freebird, a relentless optimist whose extracurricular activities, while almost too goofy, somehow manage to stay within the bounds of sanity.
Emergency care is the most intense of all the disciplines and is handled by a similarly intense doctor who loves to take charge and yell at people. Controlwise, this mode is similar to surgery, but you have only a few tools at your disposal, and your focus is on stabilizing patients so they can be transported to the hospital. Burns, cuts, and broken limbs are your common foes, but the real challenge is that you have to handle multiple patients at a time, and they are all losing health quickly. Switching between patients and administering treatment is an engagingly hectic challenge, though you can find yourself forced to rely overmuch on the magical health-boosting stabilizer injection. Still, this is the most frantic action in Trauma Team, and successfully saving a bloody parade of accident victims is very satisfying.
Endoscopy is a much more deliberate specialty, but it's not without its challenges. The trick here is the controls: you have to pinch A and B and move the remote forward or backward, mimicking the motion of pushing or pulling the endoscope through your patient's inner pathways. Steering and tool usage are both relegated to the nunchuk, and learning how to use the analog stick to cut after being accustomed to using the remote is definitely tricky. The controls are sharp, but tough to master. This helps mitigate the fact that endoscopy is one of the more repetitive disciplines, because it takes a while before you get the hang of things. Trauma Team's resident endoscopist is Tomoe Tachibana, the daughter of a modern-day samurai lord, who is on a quest to attain honor outside of her homeland and prove her worth.
Diagnosis and forensics offer the most divergent gameplay from the Trauma Center standard because they don't feature proper medical procedures. In diagnosis, you talk with your patient, use a stethoscope, and run tests in order to identify symptoms. As the cranky diagnostician, you begrudgingly accept a computerized companion program, but not without a healthy share of cantankerous quips. Using this computer, you attach symptoms to diseases and determine your diagnosis. Looking at actual CT scans and X-rays is cool, even though it amounts to little more than a spot-the-difference minigame. Occasionally the progress of your diagnosis hinges on finding one particular symptom that for one reason or another manages to elude you. While Trauma Team generally does a good job of nudging you in the right direction, it is frustrating when one obscure, illogical, or just plain overlooked detail stands in your way. Patience and perseverance are the keys to overcoming these infrequent barriers, and there is always a solution, no matter how vague.
While diagnosis can require some cleverness, it is forensics that more often requires ingenuity on your part, and this gameplay is some of the most unique and clever that Trauma Team has to offer. As the icy Dr. Kimishima, you work with a helpful FBI lackey to investigate crime scenes, corpses, and audio recordings in order to collect evidence cards. By analyzing or combining these evidence cards in logical ways, you can piece together the puzzle and further your investigation. Doing so also requires that you answer multiple-choice questions about the evidence at hand. Some questions are easy, while others are vague or poorly worded; some answers are surprisingly amusing, and the best questions require you to make logical leaps. Forensics episodes play out in clever and enjoyable ways, though they are susceptible to hang-ups in the same manner as diagnosis episodes. While both offer some of the most intriguing new gameplay mechanics in the game, they are also prone to carrying on too long and rehashing discoveries.
Fortunately, quick readers can thumb ahead and accelerate through these doldrums, but the same can't be said for the cutscenes. The story is told through still shots that, while stylish and appealing, often linger too long. All of the aforementioned doctors play crucial roles in the intertwining story, and though they can border on cliche or downright weird, their personalities and escapades come together quite nicely to create an enjoyable narrative. Throughout the game you can switch between characters and disciplines whenever you like, and this freedom helps you set your own pace. Given that forensics and diagnosis episodes are slower paced and take much longer to complete than the other specialties, it's great to be able to hop over to surgery or emergency care to spice things up.
Trauma Team is a lengthy game that will likely take you tens of hours to complete, and just when you think things are wrapping up, well, think again. When you finally complete the game, you unlock a new difficulty level, as well as new doctor-specific medals that are awarded for performing certain tasks throughout the adventure. You can also play four out of the six disciplines cooperatively (diagnosis and forensics excluded), though surgery, in which you share tools and act simultaneously, is much more interesting than the others, which force you to take turns. All told, Trauma Team is an impressive package with a diverse array of engaging gameplay modes. Though the characters and the activities have their flaws, the whole comes together impressively, making Trauma Team a great bet no matter what your specialty is.