If you can swallow the crazy premise, there's a pulsepounding experience to be had in Trauma Center: Second Opinion.

User Rating: 8.2 | Trauma Center: Second Opinion WII
You almost have to admire the sheer audacity of a game like Trauma Center: Second Opinion. The game refers to itself as a "medical drama simulation," yet there's nothing the least bit realistic about it. On the contrary, it's gloriously over-the-top, chock full of totally nutty things like surgeons with magical powers and viruses that scurry wildly about peoples' insides. But if you're willing to buy into the game's outrageous take on surgery, you'll find that there's a genuinely pulsepounding experience to be had here.

Trauma Center first appeared on the DS in late 2005, making terrific use of the handheld's touch-screen functionality as it presented a series of operations that you had to perform, letting you use the stylus to cut people open, cure them, and sew them back up again. Second Opinion isn't a sequel to that game; it's essentially a re-tellng of the same story, with the gameplay modified to make use of the Wii remote and nunchuk, and with a few extra missions and a new final chapter tossed in as well. You play (most of the time) as Derek Stiles, at first a fresh-faced, disorganized, irresponsible young doctor who quickly finds himself skyrocketing to surgery superstardom when it becomes apparent that he has a gift called the Healing Touch, allowing him to concentrate so intensely on an operation that it's almost as if time slows down. Derek is soon recruited by a medical agency that's caught up in a battle against a terrorist organization which has engineered viruses that it's using as weapons, and many of the surgeries involve treating patients who have come down with one of the forms of this disease, called GUILT. The story is told simply, with character portraits and text balloons, which may sound disappointingly simple, but it works well enough, keeping things moving along briskly from one operation to the next. One of the most immediately striking things about the gameplay in Trauma Center is how perfectly suited it is to the Wii. You use the nunchuk to quickly switch between surgical implements, and the remote to apply the currently selected implement. The game has a terrific built-in learning curve with some basic early surgeries familiarizing you with the different surgical tools, but it's not long before the game's pace and challenge ratchet up significantly. It can be genuinely nervewracking to watch a patient's vital signs drop during an operation, and genuinely thrilling to successfully complete the procedure and narrowly save the patient's life. On the normal difficulty setting, the game gets quite tough in some spots, which makes completing the tougher operations all the more rewarding, though the game nicely offers easy and hard options for those looking for more or less of a challenge. While the game is never unfairly difficult, it can be a bit frustrating to have to rely on trial and error, going through an operation a few times to familiarize yourself with it enough to get it right. The frustration is compounded by the fact that each operation has multiple parts, and it's usually not until a few stages into an operation that it gets tough, so having to go through the first few steps over and over again just to get back to the problematic part can get tedious, even though they only take a few minutes or less each time. It's also worth noting that the game does what it does really well, but that's absolutely all it does. This game is very limited in scope, and even though you'll encounter many types of crazy viruses, infections and injuries throughout the game, there is a kind of sameness to many of the game's missions. Pretty much all of them involve some cutting, some injecting, some suturing, and, of course, some zapping with lasers. There isn't much room for creativity on your part, either. The game is not about deciding what to do, but about reacting quickly and doing what needs to be done.

Visually, Trauma Center isn't impressive, but the clean graphical style of the game, while basic, certainly works quite well, and the character portraits you see between operations have considerable personality. The sound is similarly basic, with some sound effects like footsteps and applause accompanying the story sequences and a few speech samples here and there from key characters, such as Derek shouting "I will save this patient!" before an operation. The music can get pretty melodramatic at times, which actually fits in nicely with the game's overblown story.

The game may take you about ten hours your first time through, though you can certainly plow through it all in considerably less time if you skip the story sequences and know just how to tackle each operation. There are some especially challenging bonus missions you unlock upon completing the main story, and perfectionists may enjoy doing operations again to get better ranks, but that's about it.

A simulation it is not, but fun, it definitely is. Trauma Center: Second Opinion is a fast-paced action game dressed in scrubs, and it makes really terrific use of the Wii remote and nunchuk to provide a challenging, exciting and unique gameplay experience.