Trauma Center: Second Opinion – Review

Trauma Center: Second Opinion ArtWhen I reviewed the first iteration of Trauma Center on the Nintendo DS, I said that it was the first game that truly felt like it couldn't have been done on any other platform. Now that there's a revision of it on the Wii, I guess I'm going to have to eat those words. Although Second Opinion is essentially the same game as the DS's Under the Knife, not only is it just as good, it's the definitive version.

Stepping into the role of Dr. Derek Stiles for the majority of play, Trauma Center: Second Opinion asks players to perform a variety of surgeries such as cutting open a person's chest to remove tumors, carefully reconstructing shattered bone fragments in a broken arm, and eventually, battling malignancies which are more like alien creatures than biological maladies.

The Wiimote functions as a substitute for a range of medical implements while the nunchuk attachment changes the selection depending on the situation. With a quick flick of the thumb, the on-screen cursor can become a scalpel, forceps, a syringe, needle and thread, a roll of gauze, and a few other things as well. It seemed awkward at first since I had originally learned the game using the DS's stylus, but within a few minutes I came to see that although the Wiimote isn't as immediate and immersive as holding an implement and touching the screen with my hand, the nunchuk actually improved speed and control—there's no longer any need to pick an implement with the active (operating) hand.

Under the Knife's clean, attractive presentation and well-written story are still intact. A little bit personal, a little bit political, and a little bit science-fiction, the developers fare better than most in this area. Although not packing the amount of plot found in your average RPG, the still-frame cutscenes are actually worth reading and enhance the game nicely with solid characters and intelligence. In addition to the original content, Second Opinion introduces a new, mysterious female doctor. Although her storyline isn't very long, she has some of the most interesting operations in the game and is tightly interwoven into the reworked endgame sequence.

Since Second Opinion is an update and not really a sequel, I can forgive the fact that there still isn't any choice given to players about the direction of the story or the dialogue between the doctors and nurses. (Being a bit more RPG-ish in this respect would be a fine addition to the formula.) However, the developers were clearly listening to their audience with regard to the difficulty level.

Trauma Center: Second Opinion Screenshot

Under the Knife was incredibly hard, so much so that I actually couldn't finish the final operation even after a whole day of trying. Second Opinion mercifully includes adjustable difficulty settings that weren't available before, and they're a godsend. Procedures that gave me hand cramps and ulcers before are now pleasantly challenging, and the previously impossible "last battle" is now quite manageable. I felt the developers did themselves a great disservice by making such a fantastic game prohibitively difficult last time, and I'm overjoyed to see that this particular problem has been corrected.

I originally called Trauma Center: Under the Knife one of the most worthwhile purchases for the Nintendo DS, and Second Opinion is every bit as vital to the Wii. There's nothing else on shelves quite like these games, and Trauma Center: Second Opinion capitalizes perfectly on the highly unconventional interaction style Nintendo is bringing to this generation's table. Rather than a gimmick or a quick add-on like some other Wii titles, Second Opinion's gameplay feels tailor-made for the Wiimote and clearly displays its potential. I hope more developers follow suit. Rating: 8.5 out of 10.