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Trauma Center: Second Opinion

Being a surgeon is damn tiring. Aching fingers and wrist, strained shoulder, squinting eyes. No wonder the big bucks are there for saving people, although it’s all going to be spent on physiotherapy in the end.

Those who have played Trauma Center: Under The Knife on the NDS will be familiar with the proceedings and of the pain – both physically and mentally – that this game can bring. Similarly, Trauma Center: Second Opinion initially holds your hand through the surgical tools, starting with the basics of making and suturing incisions, using forceps to remove cut cells or connect arteries, and understanding the uses of the surgical laser. Each of these and other tools are taught through tutorial-style medical cases, where you’ll also learn which need to be used in combination in order to complete the task quickly and effectively. Knowing the basics isn’t nearly as important as remembering the sequence in which to use them, because the numerous strains of GUILT that you’ll encounter will require a clear head (as well as a steady hand).

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Starring as Derek Stiles, you’re tasked to raise from newbie surgeon to saviour of the world as medical terrorism takes a leap into the unknown with a mutating death-dealing virus. After getting through all the tools, you’re soon into your first procedure to remove the man-made GUILT (Gangliated Utrophin Immuno Latency Toxin) parasite from a patient. Reasons as to why and how its abound, and with hints of human guinea pigs, terrorism and euthanasia thrown into the mix, it makes for an interesting take on the softer side of medicine-related issues. They’re not deep by any means, but composing a medical drama without some sort of moral issues just wouldn’t be justifiable.

As you progress, you’ll encounter other strains of GUILT that require different removal techniques but will also be honing your previously learnt skills. Far from seeming as a method to stretch the game or becoming tedious, you really have to know these techniques inside-out because the later operations will give you little to no help at all (which isn’t useful when you haven’t played for a long while). It’s no different from the NDS version, and the same can be said for the rather ungrateful difficulty spike towards the latter quarter of the game, but there’s one thing that the Wii has over its handheld cousin; the Wii Remote controls.

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The reasons for this are two-fold; firstly, the nunchuck allows immediate access to the surgical tool required, each positioned in one of the eight directions and memorised through constant use. It becomes second nature to flick between the tools, knowing what should follow next, being in a trance-like state, clicking-pointing-sliding-dragging with the Wiimote in time for each tool. Secondly, the Wiimote can and should be held like a (comically large) pencil with elbow resting on the knee, all of which promotes a steady hand and increased accuracy with a slight bit of cramp from playing too much. (Try playing with the controller as a normal remote and then switch; the effect and benefits are immediate and you will not go back.) Compare this to the NDS touchscreen – which, it has to be said, was well arranged – and these advantages are an absolute God-send (over what could have been the possible alternative of point-and-click) against what eventually becomes a rock-hard game that will have you cursing at you’re failure. No longer can you complain that the touch didn’t register properly; the direct control you are given over the surgical tools means that your aggravated screams will be due to your own incompetence and nothing else.

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Oh, and drawing the star for the Healing Touch is that bit easier to pull off with the Wiimote. This time-slowing skill allows for you to compose yourself, prioritise the events on screen, and clear the mess that’s in front of you. Although it’s available from about a third-way through, it’s probably not really necessary until you find yourself failing the same task time after time. Some of the operations becomes so trance-like that it’s not necessary to use the skill, as you zip between the tools at an unnerving pace.

“…the direct control you are given over the surgical tools means that your aggravated screams will be due to your own incompetence and nothing else.”So far, so port-like. Indeed, the first five chapters (each containing ten episodes of a mix of operations and storyline) are more or less a facsimile of the NDS version. There have been changes to some of the operations, most notably the inclusion (if a little underused) of the defibrillator that involves pushing the controllers forward and then pressing buttons on both to stop a moving bar within an indicated region. Five additional operations (with another master surgeonness) are available after each of Derek’s chapters that provide a story of the ‘other’ side, where the GUILT research is being held. And if you manage to get through all of that without throwing the Wiimote into the television, then there is the sixth and final storyline chapter with ludicrously hard operations that will leave you crying like a girl. Seriously, it’s like the developers have a personal vendetta against you. (I won’t even bother to mention the ‘bonus’ extra operations that see you fight against each of the GUILT strains; for all the other chapters you’re allowed to dynamically choose Easy, Normal or Hard difficulty before starting the operation, but with the extra levels it’s set to Extreme. That really doesn’t bode well, does it?)

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TC:SO is a simple premise with simple controls but demanding levels of mastery. You can certainly get a lot out of it, even before the huge difficulty spike of completing five operations in ten minutes, and you’ll have experienced practically everything the game has to offer (including the ingenious flashlight/camera-flash operation in the middle of the night). It’s a real challenge and one that somehow manages to persuade you to have another go; you can beat it this time round, right?…

Even for those that have dabbled in the NDS version, it’s still quite recommendable. Yes, overall it’s not much different but playing it in a surgical-posed manner adds that connection between you, your tools and the actions on screen (more so that the NDS stylus provided). The challenge of not being able to lean on anything, having to judge your own weight and motion to complete the tasks, makes it that bit more appealing. The ‘just one more go’ addictiveness is still there. Knowing that, if it wasn’t for the hand cramp, you could do better, right? It just requires a little quicker thinking, better planning, more accuracy, risk taking. The stress on the mind and body you’ll incur; this must be what it’s like being a master-class surgeon.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2007.

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