Dr. Stiles is still such a cut-up!
If you missed Trauma Center: Under the Knife on the DS, the revised Wii version is a must-play. This is a highly original game that makes very good use of the Wii pointer function. Playing doctor is still challenging, but the newly selectable difficulty levels make the game much more accessible to the average player. In fact, you can bump down the difficulty for a tough operation and then jack it back up for the next one. There is also a fair amount of new content for Trauma Center veterans, although they will be able to charge through the main game quickly.
The story revolves around a young doctor, Derek Stiles, who is fresh out of residency and is starting his new job at Hope Hospital. Derek is a lazy guy who understands little about what it takes to be a good doctor, but events beyond his control soon teach him important lessons about maturity and responsibility. He is accompanied by a beautiful assistant named Angie, who is determined to help form Derek into a great surgeon. After a few routine missions like removing glass debris from a patient's arm or excising benign tumors, the duo encounters a deadly, alien-like pathogen called GUILT which takes on several forms and always attacks the vital organs. Most of the game is spent battling the different strains of GUILT.
New to Second Opinion is another doctor, Naomi Weaver, and her storyline is much darker and more mysterious. Her chapter opens up one episode at a time as you progress through the main part of the game with Derek. After the original story is completed, another new chapter is unlocked, this one bringing the two doctors together for more complex operations and even more fascinating bits of story. In general, the game's plot and characters are well written and genuinely dramatic; Trauma Center definitely would not be the same experience if it just went straight to the operations. When replaying a mission due to failure or to improve your score, you can skip the briefings with the minus button.
The Wii remote's pointer is used for all surgical tools, while the nunchuk allows you to change tools on the fly. The nunchuk makes selecting tools much faster than in the DS version, but it's very sensitive, and the zone for each tool is so small that you may not get the right tool until the second or third try. This issue more or less evens out the two styles of selecting tools. The pointer itself works great for almost everything. It's desensitized enough that you should have no trouble holding the scalpel steady, but the cursor still moves quickly enough to stitch wounds in a flash. Some players may still wish for an option to adjust sensitivity within the game, but these settings will be fine for most aspiring surgeons. The one serious problem with the pointer is the difficulty of drawing a star for the Healing Touch ability. There is a major difference between drawing a shape with the DS stylus and drawing in the air with the Wii remote. Furthermore, the game is rather picky about the number of lines used in your star and whether the lines are closed from beginning to end. The result for my playing is that I learned to use Healing Touch less often, because it usually took me two or three tries to activate it, and that might be too late in the more difficult operations.
As with the original DS game, what's great about Trauma Center is that as you progress through the story and other characters begin to recognize Derek's growing skills, you can also feel your own skill at playing the game improve dramatically. The game is very challenging, as it requires you to operate both accurately and quickly, and those attributes tend to oppose each other. There is a great feeling of accomplishment when you succeed, and the situations grow so dire that by the end of the game, it really does feel like you are performing medical miracles. The game is well balanced so that even when you fail, you want to try again because you know you can do better. As I said before, if you get truly stuck on a mission, you can go down to the easy setting to get past it, and then you can jump back up to normal if you think the last operation was a fluke. The hard level is even tougher than the original game, so hardcore Trauma Center fans should get a kick out of playing through on that setting. There are also special bonus missions at the end that are extremely difficult – I failed in less than a minute on the first one, even using the Healing Touch.
Although the original Trauma Center is a fantastic game, I wouldn't say it's for everyone, due to the extreme difficulty. Second Opinion fixes that issue while providing options to make the game even harder for veteran players. It also provides a dozen or so new missions (or about 1/3 more content) and interesting, though not perfect, Wii controls that are fun for everyone to learn. If you're tired of launch titles that feel like tech demos or mini-game collections, Trauma Center is just what the doctor ordered. (Sorry!)