I’ve always been more of a spiritual fan of the Trauma series of games than an actual fan. While I appreciated their unique concept and clever use of the DS stylus and Wii Remote, they were always just a bit too finnicky for me. I may as well have had a cloak and a scythe, I killed so many patients, because I couldn’t deal with the timer, or my hand wasn’t steady enough, or I forgot what instrument to use. The newest game in the series, Trauma Team (Wii), takes away all of that frustration without getting rid of any of the challenge, and even throws in some new medical specialties, too.

In case you’re not familiar with the Trauma franchise, they cast you as brilliant young surgeons slicing and sewing your way to greatness and acclaim. The instruments and techniques are, understandably, simplified versions of their real-world counterparts, but close enough to give you the general idea of what it might be like to, say, remove a tumor from someone’s lung. Trauma Team varies from the formula a bit by having you play as six characters specializing in different fields of medicine: surgery, endoscopy, orthopaedics, first response, diagnostics, and forensics.

Though each specialist’s handles vastly different cases from the rest, you’ll use the same general techniques throughout the game. You’ll select your instrument from a wheel using the thumbstick on the Nunchuk, then apply it by pointing the Wii Remote at the appropriate area and hitting the A button. Unlike previous Trauma titles that expected you to remember the specific order for procedures like dressing wounds, Trauma Team thoughtfully provides icons indicating what tool you need next. This allows you to enjoy the actual challenge of the procedure, as opposed to watching your patient’s vitals drop while you try to remember if you’re supposed to be using the laser, the drain, or the gel.

You can switch between the specialists as the mood suits you, or just plow straight through one storyline after the other. The doctors’ stories interweave and overlap, so it’s actually quite enjoyable to mix and match, but you’ll undoubtedly find your favorites very quickly. The surgeon and endoscopist play roughly the same, the biggest difference being that in addition to performing intricate surgeries, the latter also requires you to navigate the endoscope by gesturing forward with the Remote. It’s a bit awkward at first, but after you bump into a few intestinal walls, you get the hang of it. The orthopaedist’s cases rely more on a steady hand and good timing as you trace guidelines with your scalpel and drill screws into bones at just the right depth.

The first responder (think EMT) puts a slightly different twist on the gameplay by not only limiting the tools at your disposal, but also forcing you to triage your patients. You’ll have to stop treating one patient to quickly stabilize another, shuttling back and forth to make sure the most victims survive, all while trying to save lives with little more than a box cutter and a ballpoint pen. It makes for some very tense, but very exciting, situations.

For those looking for a more cerebral (and less likely to induce high blood pressure) experience, there are the specialists in diagnostics and forensics. Their cases play out like detective stories, requiring you to ask a lot of questions, compare tests and lab results, carefully examine bodies, and, above all, think. There’s no clock to race or rank to achieve, just a single right answer that needs to be found. While both of these specialties are a wonderful break from the go-go-go pace of the others, they can be a bit tedious if you’ve missed some small detail and have to comb through your findings over and over until you find it – the type of thing with which old school adventure fans are very, very familiar. Still, it’s a minor quibble about what is otherwise some very creative and refreshing gameplay.

Most of the specialties also offer the opportunity for co-op play, with players either divvying up the instruments or flat-out taking turns during the procedure. There aren’t really any tools to use during the diagnostics or forensics levels, but those specialties are more puzzle based, which makes shouting advice from the sidelines not only fair play, but advisable.

Trauma Team thoughtfully provides you with the option to skip the cutscenes and just get right on to the surgery, if that’s what you’d prefer, but I’m going to urge you not to miss one single moment of storyline. The Trauma games have always had rather bizarre plotlines, but Trauma Team really goes the extra mile when it comes to weirdness. You’ve got the master surgeon who’s currently serving a 250 year jail term for a crime he can’t remember committing, the doctor who follows “the path of honor” had her own endoscope made out of gold and who disappears like a ninja, the forensic scientist is in witness protection, and a masked superhero. It’s all completely goofy, surreal, and marvelous. The beautiful anime-style artwork that graces the comic book panels that display the scenes sure don’t hurt, either.

Bottom Line: It’s a kinder, gentler Trauma Team, and that’s a good thing. It’s also got the most variety, offering both twitch surgery and medical puzzles.

Recommendation: If you find the idea of a medical sim even remotely intriguing, this is the Trauma game you should be playing. Sheer fun from start to finish.

Score: [rating=4]

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