Review: Emergency Room: Real Life Rescues

ercoverEmergency Room: Real Life Rescues
Developer: Rocket Science Games
Publisher: Legacy Games
Genre: Simulation
Release Date: 08/31/2009

Apparently this is the latest game in a series that originally came out of the PC about ten years ago. The series has been dormant for years, but Legacy has decided the gameplay was perfect for the DS and has brought it back.

Despite its name, you won’t actually work in the emergency room of a hospital. Instead, you’ll play as a paramedic and administer treatment on site before bringing them in for admittance into the hospital.

What you get is a game that I compare to two different games. Firstly is Trauma Center, for obvious reasons. However, the game’s style and presentation also reminded me of Unsolved Crimes, which, if you read my review, didn’t give me a good first impression.

Still, I’ve been wrong about games before, so I was more than willing to give this a chance.

Story

The story here starts off much like other games of this ilk. You play as the new hotshot rookie for the EMS unit at Harbor City Hospital. There you meet your grizzled veteran partner, snappy dispatcher, friendly nurse, popular doctor, and evil hospital director. The story mostly deals with you making your mark on the squad while another plot involving the director’s method of saving money.

The whole thing comes off much like a low budge medical drama. The story isn’t anything new, but its pretty solid. Sadly, the characters aren’t strong enough to carry it or make it anything worth caring about. There are rare moments when the characters start to show some personality apart from the cliché lines, but these are cut quickly by an emergency call. I suppose this was a shot at realism; paramedics are usually called at a moments notice, but it can derail everything the story has going for it.

The story is told through the typical text boxes accompanied by mostly static character portraits. Occasionally, the portraits will change their stances to convey a different tone or emotion. However, it doesn’t work all that well due to the graphical design. Instead of just switching out characters when a new one needs to speak, the non speaking character will slide off the screen and the new one will replace them. I found this amusing at first, but it soon become boring as it these scenes took a bit long.

On the whole, the story is serviceable due to a serious tone and tried and true storyline of greed interfering with basic human decency. You’ll have the prerequisite sudden mission where you’re treating a good friend, but there aren’t really any twists. Its not going to push you forward, but it isn’t actively bad.

Graphics

Ugh. The thing that reminded me the most of Unsolved Crimes when I played this game was the ugly graphics. Character models look like some bizarre web comics I’ve seen that use 3D models. They look like plastic, the faces don’t emote very well, and they remind me a bit too much of the dollar store brand dolls my younger sister used to play with.

er1The backgrounds aren’t much help. A lot of the time, it will look washed out or have large sections of color missing. Like in UC, I think this is supposed to be some sort of art style, but it looks ugly from start to finish.

When it comes to treating a patient, you’ll get a view not unlike that of a game of Operation. The plastic looking model will be enlarged, and you’ll interact with it using a variety of tools and equipment. Most of these are passable representations of their real life counterparts. The blood doesn’t look too good though. Instead of flowing, it will just pool and bubble until you sponge it up.

On the whole, this is one ugly looking game.

Audio

There are only a handful of music selections in the game. The one you’ll hear the most is the one during treatments, and it is pretty much unnoticeable. If at any point the patient’s heart stops and you need to perform CPR, the music will change and pick up in tempo. Not only does this add a bit of drama to the proceedings, it gives you your best clue as to when you need to start CPR. What’s here is passable, though hardly notable.

Then there are the sound effects. Again, there aren’t that many of these. Most of the tools you use aren’t the kind to make too much of a sound. Still, you’ll have background noise such as the patient making strained breathing sounds, the beep of a heart monitor, or even some background chatter at points. The most prominent sound is the wail of the ambulance as you race to each mission. And of course, you have that essential beeping sound any time text is being generated on the top screen.

There’s nothing good about what the game does aurally, but it won’t bother you enough to turn the sound off, which is actually a step up compared to some games on the DS.

Gameplay

The only time you can really interact with the game is during emergency calls. Between cutscenes, you’ll get a call and then have to chose from two or three different calls to go on. All this really affects is the order, as you’ll need to do them all before the story will continue.

er2Those expecting the crazy and fun arcade style of gameplay found in Trauma Center are going to be disappointed. For one, you’re never going to cut into a patient. Instead, you’ll check vital signs, examine for any possible lacerations, check for broken bones, and perform emergency first aid before you toss the patient into the back of the ambulance and get them to the real doctors.

Actual gameplay takes place entirely on the touch screen, with vital information (quite literally in this case) on the top. The whole point of this game is looking for signs of what is wrong with the person, and performing the proper actions in response to that. Your first priorities are always to check heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. From there, you’ll need to place a canola so you can administer IV fluids, use an oxygen mask to get the O2 levels up, and even place a splint. If there are any cuts, you’ll need to soak up the blood, disinfect the wound, and then place a bandage on them. You’ll also have to remove clothing to get to the body and legs at some points. You do this with a pair of scissors. Thankfully, there will be no weird looking nudity, as even the old lady you find unconscious in the bath is somehow wearing modest underwear.

Tools are used by choosing one of the three categories on the right side of the screen. The first is for tools to determine the patient’s status. Here you’ll find the stethoscope, glove, and blood pressure cuff. Another category is full of treatment options, such as an 02 mask, sponge, disinfectant, and IV fluids. The final category deals with the heavy stuff such as splints. It also houses the board you use to transport the patient and the option to travel to hospital. The latter of these only appears when you’ve sufficiently treated the patient.

At any point, you can press the X button to ask for help from your partner. He’ll tell you exactly what you need to do next, but won’t do it for you. This becomes a crutch early on, as the procedure changes on a case by case basis, making it far too easy to use the wrong tool at the wrong time. There is no limit to how many times you can ask for advice and it doesn’t affect your score, so feel free to use it.

At the end of each mission, you’ll have to answer a question as to what you believe was wrong with the patient. This requires you to know a lot of medical terms like tachycardia and pulmonary embolism, as well as what they all mean. Thankfully, the instruction booklet has a mostly useful glossary for you to use.

Most of the touch controls involve one of three things: tapping the screen, sliding the stylus, or dragging an item from one place to another. For the most part, the controls are functional if not a little imprecise. Placing a bandage can be a real chore as you try and figure out how big the game wants it to be and trying to slid a small needle into the canola can be really difficult as the stylus will get in your way. There are some frustrating moments, but most of the time you’re in no hurry. Theoretically speaking, your partner is supposed to relieve you if you take too long, but I only had this happen on the final level.

Speaking of which, the final level is one of two that have a specific treatment you must perform that doesn’t work well at all. There are two cases where a foreign object is poking out of the skin. In these cases, you can’t remove the object, which makes sense. However, you need to apply bandages around it. For some reason, the game has a lot of trouble determining where the bandages should god and it can take forever to get it right.

er3The biggest problem with the game is that it will occasionally glitch out. On probably four or five separate occasions, I lost the ability to use any of my tools or even ask advice. I couldn’t click on things, and usually had access only to the stethoscope. Sometimes I could get my options to come back, but the most part, when this happened I had to reset the game. It got really annoying when it happened. It seems to occur when you do something out of the game’s idea of order.

Apart from that, the control and gameplay are functional, if not very interesting. There is a certain feeling of repetition. Some tools are almost never used, and other are used multiple times each case until you get sick of them.

Replayability

Once you’ve played through the main story, you really only have one option left for replay.

You can select any mission you’ve completed and play it again to try and get a better score. Since the game is more about following procedure than skillful use of the stylus, a couple of plays should yield the highest score.

Beyond that, you don’t have any options to change the difficulty, bonus missions, or anything like that. Its a pretty standard set up, but at least the chance to get better scores is there for those who want it.

Balance

Since the game is more about knowing what to do as opposed to performing actions quickly and precisely, the game ends up being incredibly easy. Almost every mission uses roughly the same tools, so you’ll get used to everything pretty quickly.

The ability to ask for help at any point during a mission also makes it extremely hard to find yourself lost. In fact, the only time I failed a mission was the last one, and that had more to do with the control issues I talked about before than any real difficulty.

If you’re looking for a challenge, then you’re only going to find some semblance of it when you’re trying to max out your score.

Originality

This game pretty much follows the format for these types of games. The story is something you’ll find in every medical show on TV, albeit minus any interesting characters. The gameplay is simple and doesn’t deviate from the norm.

I can’t think of too many games that center around paramedics, but that’s not going to bump up the score too much here.

Addictiveness

As I’ve mentioned, the game is pretty repetitive. I must have used the stethoscope about a hundred times. When you’re using the same few techniques for each mission, there is a pretty good chance of getting burned out.

er4Occasionally, there are moments when the game will let you know what happens to those you treat, and in one case, you have to treat the same patient twice. However, once you’ve transported them to the hospital, more than likely you’ll never hear about them again. So, the only thing that might hold your interest is the main plot.

Finally, the game isn’t very long. It took me somewhere between four and five hours to complete the game the first time. The game moves a brisk pace, so at least you won’t be working on the same patient for long.

Appeal Factor

I’m not sure who this game is supposed to be for. The title reminds me a lot of the fisher price rescue heroes that are really popular with younger kids. However, the game deals with much more mature subject matter and the plot is very serious minded.

For mature players, the game doesn’t offer the quality, challenge, and/or fun of Trauma Center, and the plot isn’t good enough to hold an adult’s interest.

The best thing the game has going for it in terms of appeal is its budget price of twenty bucks.

Miscellaneous

This is yet another DS game that forgoes any sort of extras. Outside of the main story and replay mode, you can view the credits and change the volume. That’s it. If you’re looking for a feature rich game, you’re just not going to find it here.

I just want to iterate that this isn’t a bad game at all. There’s nothing the game does well, but for the most part it is very inoffensive. If you end up with a copy, it can be a decent enough way to kill time.

The Scores
Story: Below Average
Graphics: Very Bad
Audio: Mediocre
Gameplay: Below Average
Replayability: Below Average
Balance: Poor
Originality: Awful
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Pretty Poor
Final Score: Pretty Poor Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
diehardjackEmergency Room: Real Life Rescues is a mostly functional game that suffers from not having a proper audience and also just not being polished enough for me to recommend it. If you are really into these kinds of games, you’ll at least find some enjoyment out of it and it will be a good time killer. If you have only a passing interest or didn’t like Trauma Center at all, this game just isn’t for you.

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