I'm a huge fan of ER. The US medical show that details the daily lives of the doctors working in the Chicago Emergency Room has been a constant fixture in the TV schedule for well over ten years, so Trauma Center for the Wii got me rather excited; well, it got me excited last December when it should have been released. For reasons unknown, the game has only just received a release in the UK so gamers across the nation can finally pretend to be Dr Carter, or more realistically the bumbling Dr Morris.
Initially, then, players of Trauma Center: Second Opinion will likely be quite disappointed. Rather than the action packed, rather glamorous storylines of ER, the story feels more akin to a soap opera. You play as Dr Stiles, a 26-year-old who is perhaps a little too confident for his relative new status as a doctor. When the friendly and helpful nurse leaves and a young newcomer enters the operating theatre, things take a turn for the worse, and it's up to you to prove you're up to the task of being a doctor.
Fans of the DS game will find that Second Opinion is more or less an enhanced port of the original game, albeit with vastly improved visuals and changes to missions. It's the new Wii controls that will stir the most interest though, with the prospect of scalpel, tweezers and needle controls all mapped realistically to the Wii-mote. Of course, the reality is a game no more realistic than a mid-afternoon episode of Doctors on BBC1, but it's still highly entertaining and often incredibly tense.
Each operation begins with some information about the patient and a run-down of what needs to be done. Rarely do things go smoothly though, with complications arriving right on cue for maximum disruption and panic. Just as you think you've removed the last piece of glass a giant shard will emerge from another organ, or tumours will suddenly be spotted with the ultrasound moments after you thought you'd removed every last one.
'Slicing people up with a scalpel is soon followed by using a laser, draining blood with suction, blocking blood flow with tongs, applying generous amounts of disinfectant...'
Throughout the game you'll get to perform pretty much all the procedures you'd expect to as a surgeon. Slicing people up with a scalpel is soon followed by using a laser, draining blood with suction, blocking blood flow with tongs, applying generous amounts of disinfectant, stitching patients up and finally applying bandages. Each operation will require you to use numerous techniques and to finish up in time.
All the while the patient's heart rate is falling so you need to administer adrenaline or at times even use the defibrillator to shock them back to life. Up until now you might be thinking that Second Opinion is a fairly light but authentic feeling medical simulation; however, things go way into the territory of magic when you discover your ability to slow down time. Special doctors have a 'healing touch' and it just so happens you're one of them, so during tricky moments you can draw a star on the screen and trigger a period of hyper concentration.
It's really the intuitiveness of the controls that make the game what it is, which is surprising given that Second Opinion should have been a launch title for the console. Subtle changes to the DS control scheme, like the Nunchuck analogue stick being used to select your tool, make things a hell of a lot easier and the overall difficulty seems far more balanced.
Sadly the game is entirely a solo experience, so there's no chance for a friend to assist during procedures. Thankfully the single-player storyline is well thought out and covers a number of quite mature topics that you might not expect given the game's fairly fun appearance. While all the conversations in the game are text-based, with no voice acting at all, the still-drawn cutscenes still manage to convey emotion and throw up many surprises.
Many gamers sighed when Nintendo failed to bring Trauma Center: Second Opinion to Europe for the launch of the console, and rightfully so. Even nine months into the system's life, this 'should have been launch title' is right up there with the best the Wii has to offer, delivering solid controls and a thoroughly entertaining single-player storyline.