Wii owners, don't be like me and risk missing Trauma Team. The game is out but it's not too late to give it the preview it deserves.
Trauma Team was released in May to little public attention and no Kotaku review. That isn't because it stinks. No, I spent five hours playing it this weekend and I now think it is one of the best Wii games in my gaming library.
Maybe it was the more than three year gap between the previous Trauma centre Wii game and this new one that allowed me to get complacent and risk missing it. I really liked that late 2006 Wii game and was impressed how the Wii Remote and Nunchuk could be used to imitate a variety of surgical tools, all used during high-pressure, clock-ticking, patient-dying surgeries.
I should have been excited for the sequel, Trauma Team, but somehow I let it drift from my thoughts. A few weeks ago, however, I picked up a copy. This past weekend, I played it.
Trauma Team is brilliant. It is the first ensemble workplace drama video game I have ever played. This isn't some solo occupational adventure, some Ace Attorney or you-can-be-a-cop kind of game. This is game about an ensemble cast - six medical professionals - whose work sometimes intersects. Each of the six characters has their own campaign, each of those campaigns sporting different gameplay. We've got the ex-con surgeon whose gameplay is similar to the Wii-Remote-as-scalpel surgery gameplay of previous Trauma centres. We have a first-responder whose missions involve patching up multiple patients right after (or during) horrible accidents. Her gameplay is more about juggling multiple treatments. Another character somehow has Decent-style play (flying through organs!). And two others have non-surgical investigative modes of play, more akin to what is in the Ace Attorney games. One of those characters interviews patients, checks their MRIs and CAT scans before logically diagnosing them; another checks out corpses.
What is so clever about all of this isn't just the gameplay variety but the logical way in which the campaigns overlap. It makes sense that the patient you diagnose in one campaign will be on the operating table in another. It makes sense that a character in the background of one campaign is the lead character of another.
The characters are fascinating. Anime clichés some of them, yes, but I don't mind that one surgeon might also be a super-hero on the side or that another seems to be in denial that he is a dad. And who can't be intrigued by a convict surgeon who gets five years off a 250-year surgery for an operation well done?
I don't know how the six campaigns will unfold. I don't know how the good and varied gameplay will continue to expand. But I know that I am hooked. Why have no developers done workplace drama in video games like this before?
And how did I almost miss Trauma Team on the Wii?