When we first fired up touch screen surgical simulation Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2, it seemed so similar to the first game that we wondered why publisher Atlus didn't just leave off the number at the end of the title and instead add the word "again." Luckily, we loved the first one, so this wasn't a game-breaking offense. Although you'll have fewer surprises, the near-future sci-fi surgical procedures that make up the meat of the game are just as gripping now as it was the first time around. Plus, there actually are quite a few differences; they're just more subtle than we'd hoped.
Just as before, you play as surgeon Derek Stiles, part of an elite government team of doctors who specialize in treating unique diseases - specifically, a man-made pathogen called GUILT, which appears in several, increasingly bizarre forms. And as before, that means you start out using the DS stylus to carve out tumors, extract bullets and reconstruct shattered bones, and end up doing crazy things like excising tiny intestinal sharks and laserblasting teleporting tumors in the eyeball. You also occasionally use your mutant ability to slow time, all while your hot assistant bosses you around. So, it's nuts.
So what's changed? The graphics have improved a smidge and the story is new and arguably better - though it's technically a continuation and features mostly the same people. There are more levels of difficulty, which is nice. Also, there are a few new strains of GUILT for you to combat, though neither they nor the actual procedures you use to combat them deviate a great deal from what you've done before.
For example, there's a new GUILT strain that behaves similarly to the first game's shark things (Kyriaki, which also return here), but it's faster and spews vapors you have to blow away by puffing into the DS microphone. And while you don't get a fistful of new tools, there are a few new colors of serum, and you might find yourself doing new things with the tools you have, such as holding the scalpel in place to saw through a tough tendon. That's new, if not revolutionary.
Ultimately, Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 is a visit to the doctor that's more than worth your time. By all means, play this game. It's just that, if the first Trauma Center was a heart transplant, this is more like your fourth visit to the chiropractor: it feels great while you're there, but you can't help wondering if something a little more drastic and different from your previous check-up would improve your life even more.
Jul 8, 2008