Using the DS like it should be used, Trauma Center is a game for Nintendo's handheld unlike anything before it (on any console). Barring a few doctor-oriented games in the past (Microsurgeon on the Intellivision), this is a completely original, wild, and oddly fun escapist video game. It's the type of title made for the DS and only the DS.
Taking on the role of a rookie surgeon, you'll be sent into the operating room to cure numerous patients, working within a strict time limit. Sometimes these operations are simple, from basic tumor extraction to glass removal. Late in the game, things are literally stressful as you manage multiple patients with numerous problems and rapidly declining vital signs.
To keep things simplified, a nurse is always on hand to offer advice. You'll understand the basics quickly, and in the frame of a video game, it makes sense. The touch screen is the perfect tool to make this game possible. All medical tools are laid out on two side bars allowing for quick access. How you use them (going on what you've learned in the opening moments) is where things become heavy with a patients life falling right into your hands.
It's also how things become frustrating. Certain tasks do not register like they should. For example, in order to zoom into a problem area, you're supposed to draw a "small circle." The picky coding has no concept of a small circle, and unless it's exactly as the game is looking for, it will give an error. In later surgeries, this is critical as time is short and one mistake is all it takes to destroy the entire delicate process.
That's probably the only real complaint you can throw at Trauma Center. There's plenty of replay value in trying to earn the best rank. The clean graphics make finding the problem easy, and using the right tool to fix it simpler yet. It has a gripping little backstory, even if it does go into the realm of the absurd (lets say this is definitely a Japanese developed title).
It's long been a saying that games are meant to relieve stress, not cause it. Forget that you ever heard that. This is the core concept that Trauma Center relies on. If you fail the same surgery 15 times (and you will), it does lose a little impact, but finally pulling through is a relief. That's when you realize how involved you are in the gameplay. If that's not a sign of a successful video game, we'll never know what is.
(**** out of *****)