Preview: Trauma Team (Nintendo Wii)

Trauma Team is a departure from the previous Trauma Center series, with less of a focus on performing operations and an introduction of five new specialties. Recently I was given the opportunity to watch a demonstration of the forensics part of the game. Thus far, it looks to be a treat for those who like playing detective, and I can’t wait to be able to experience it firsthand.

For those who have played Second Opinion, there will be one familiar face: Naomi Kimishima (formerly known as Nozomi Weaver – insert Prince jokes here). Things have changed substantially since she parted ways with Derek and Angie. Thanks to an incurable disease she contracted along the way, her career as a surgeon has ended prematurely, so she now works as a medical examiner. Her general outlook is now far bleaker, which shows through her demeanor and dress.

An introductory scene established the groundwork of the case. Unlike previous Trauma Center games, the story scenes are presented in comic book format rather than still portraits. They looked fairly good and were more dynamic and expressive than the aforementioned portraits. After the cutscene, it was off to the morgue to examine the body (which resembles a blue luminescent naked Ken doll) for anything unusual by rotating it with the Nunchuk. In this case, we found a slit wrist, which suggests suicide as the cause of death (and raise questions as to just how many despondent people are in this game). Naturally, the real explanation isn’t as simple as that, as further inspection uncovered other injuries that suggest foul play.

With these clues in hand, we used a tape recorder to listen to previously collected witness testimonies. Certain statements that sounded particularly pertinent to the case were singled out and stored as evidence cards. Then it was off to the victim’s apartment to comb through it for more clues, which was accomplished using the Wiimote’s pointer to click on spots of interest. A variety of tools, such as Luminol for detecting traces of blood, were at hand to aid the search and laid out akin to the way surgical tools were in other Trauma Center.

Every piece of evidence you find is stored onto Naomi’s computer and represented by cards. A character called Little Guy analyzes each piece of evidence you find. While he doesn’t look like much – he resembles a Mii and you can’t change his appearance – he proves to be quite capable. Each evidence card has a star rating on it, and as you progress and correctly connect pieces of evidence, the rating goes up. Periodically, you’ll be asked to guess the reason behind a discrepancy or something you’ve found. Each question is in multiple choice format, and at least one option is obviously wrong and seemingly more there for entertainment value than as a serious answer, so picking the correct answer should be reasonably doable if you’re playing attention. On the top left of the screen is a heart meter, which takes a hit each time you incorrectly answer a question or don’t link the right pieces of evidence together. Should you run out of hearts, it’s back to the beginning to try again.

This part of the game shares some similarities with 90s era adventure games and more recent games like Hotel Dusk, Trace Memory, and the Ace Attorney games in terms of examining the environment for clues, talking to people to gather information, and figuring out how the clues fit together. For those who have played Hotel Dusk and Trace Memory, the multiple choice questions should ring a bell. Thankfully, unlike some of said 90s era adventure games, there are no instant lose scenarios or ways to render the game unwinnable. The game does indicate when it’s time to move on, as well as put markers on anything requiring a closer look, so there’s no need to keep clicking on every last pixel to ensure nothing was missed.

While the events in all the doctors’ episodes are all chronologically related, you can elect to play through all of a given doctor’s episodes at once (and thus out of chronological order) if you feel so inclined. On the character/episode selection screen, they’ll all be listed in sequence, so you can see what point of time each episode occurs in relation to the others.

Trauma Team will be released on April 20th, 2010 on the Nintendo Wii. Check back here sometime after that for a full review of the game.