Trauma Center: Under the Knife Updated Hands-On

We bring you an updated hands-on of Atlus' stylus-based surgery game.


Trauma Center: Under the Knife

We got the opportunity to play a few more levels of Trauma Center: Under the Knife to see if we could hack it as a stylus-equipped surgeon. The game is shaping up nicely, and the three levels we saw gave us a little more insight into both the surgical procedures and the surprisingly involved story. It looks like Trauma Center is capitalizing on the interactivity of the touch screen to create gameplay unlike any since the classic board game Operation.

Remember kids, surgery can be fun!
Remember kids, surgery can be fun!

In Trauma Center, you play as Derek Stiles, a rookie doctor who has just completed his residency and is taking over all of the basic surgical procedures in Hope Hospital. There to guide you is Mary Fulton, a nurse who takes great pleasure in teasing you, and who is responsible for explaining how to play the game. The three levels we played were all guided by Mary, although once you know what to do you can work on the patient faster than she can help you, and she'll simply catch up to wherever you are in the procedure. If you forget a step in the process, Mary is almost always there to guide you, although it seems that in future levels you'll be dealing with a much less-experienced nurse, so you might have to work a little harder to keep the patient alive.

Story and basic information is displayed on the upper screen, and all of the surgery happens on the touch screen. The touch screen displays a close-up of the part of the anatomy you're going to be working with, and occasionally, if it's necessary to go underneath the skin, the display will zoom in for a more in-depth view of the area. Whether removing glass from a wound or infected tumors from the distal region of the stomach, you're going to be using multiple surgical instruments to aid you in suturing, incising, disinfecting, and tweezing. Each process has certain necessary procedures, and it's important that you make sure to hit each step in order to keep your patient maximally healthy.

Using the stylus, you must select a tool from one of the sidebars and maneuver it over the patient in unique ways that seem fairly in tune (although obviously much less complicated) with how those tools would be used in the real operating room. To suture, you must zigzag from one side of the wound to the next, making sure that you hit skin on both sides and that your stitches are neither too tight nor too far apart. If the patient's vitals begin to drop, you must pump them full of drugs, which is done by drawing liquid into the syringe and holding it steadily over the infected area.

This is not the time for your guide to go quiet.
This is not the time for your guide to go quiet.

All of the major incisions are aided by a guideline, although it would be both interesting and distressing if that weren't available to you. After you attempt each process, a brief indicator flashes over the wound to let you know if the disinfecting was good, OK, or bad, or if you missed altogether. As long as you execute each maneuver properly, you'll be able to continue on with the procedure, although you are graded at the end of each level based on how well it went.

Trauma Center really shines in the way it mimics the excitement and pacing of real-world operations, without all the necessary panic required when you're dealing with actual human life. If you can remember the order of the surgical processes and work without assistance, quickly moving back and forth between the instruments, you'll be hard pressed to resist saying "scalpel" and "tweezers" to the person next to you. We look forward to seeing how much more complex the gameplay will get, as well as what will happen to the good young doctor when the game comes out this fall.

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