Put This on Your Box: House meets ER meets CSI meets Ghost Whisperer!
Most Intriguing Idea: Fusing multiple styles of medical drama into a single coherent story.
Best Design Decision: The diagnostics segments.
Worst Design Decision: The mechanics for endoscopy.
Summary: I hadn’t played even a single game from the Trauma series before picking up Trauma Team, but after reading Brad Gallaway’s review I decided to grab it. I’m glad I did, and I’ll definitely be picking these up in the future. In Trauma Team you take on the role of a series of specialists working on related cases. Early on these seem to be relatively self-contained: the diagnostician finds the heart disease that the surgeon operates on, the CSI corners the bomber and the paramedic treats the victims, etc. Later, the plot starts to clearly revolve around a single disease outbreak, covering angles from emergency medicine to forensics. In general, the various specializations are fun and the operations that must be performed are well designed. There’s one notable exception: endoscopy.
Endoscopy itself wasn’t a bad idea, but the motion control for moving the probe was thoroughly unpleasant, using an awkward “push towards screen” move that was unwieldy, uncomfortable, and imprecise. The method for switching tools differed awkwardly from the approach used in every other part of the game, using a button-stick system rather than the stick alone. The missions also suffered from the fact that the design team hadn’t really conceptualized the endoscope as a cable and probe, so the challenges of each level and the maneuvering involved felt quite unnatural. This chain of missions hit rock bottom on a level where the player had to seek out people in rubble using the endoscope. The scenario felt implausible (as it required Tomoe to have brought her endoscope with her to the mall), the level itself was a bland and repetitive maze that heavily relied on sound cues with no visual counterpart, and the only activity involved was moving the probe, which was the least fun of anything that could be done in the whole game.
Fortunately, endoscopy is a relatively small part of the game and most of the other segments are a lot of fun (forensics being the other downer for me). The overall plot and the individual character arcs mostly work quite well, although the story basically turns into a farce every time anyone tries to talk science. The central disease, Rosalia, besides being somewhat ill-suited to a surgery-focused game, reveals some confusion between viruses and bacteria on the part of the creators. The game has admirable gender balance and ethnic diversity. There was some stereotyping, particularly concerning Hank, and also some fanservice with Maria, but I felt like the positives overall outweighed the negatives. Unfortunately, most of the character arcs come to a dead end rather than a real conclusion: Gabriel’s story was particularly unsatisfying in the way it petered out. But, it’s telling that I found these arcs interesting enough to want a solid conclusion. Trauma Team isn’t perfect, but it’s fairly close. With only a little refinement this could be a classic, so I hope the Trauma series continues down this road in the future.