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Let's Play Doctor: Drama Style

Reviewing: Dreamcatacher Lifesigns: Surgical Unit  |  Rating:
Kevin Roman By Kevin Roman on
Badge: Publisher | Level: 5 | Gaming Expertise:
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I was greatly disappointed with playing Phoenix Wright sequels because of how implausible it can get: prosecutors attacking you in court while nothing happens to them and Phoenix doesn't fight back, there are recycled elements, the interface is terrible with slow text and the psyche locks were too vague to figure out at times. Lifesigns: Surgical Unit was a lot more competent; the game is plausible in terms of the adventure story but the gameplay elements do hurt it. You play the role of Intern Doctor Tendo Sawai whose goal is to save as many patients as he can. You talk to your co-workers as well as patients. The game doesn't really have anything special in a story outside of the scenes where someone gets hurt before you operate on them, but at least it didn't make me loathe the characters. Some scenes though can be kinda interesting, but unfortunately it takes a while for the characters to develop. I do think it's nice that Tendo has a close relationship with his patients; he truly befriends them, even with non-medical problems such as emotional ones.

I did find the music to be decent, with 1 theme that I liked. The graphics are anime-style and I do think the character designs are all right.

The game has a superior interface to Phoenix Wright: You can speed up text, continue playing after you save, and you navigate through areas and talking through people very directly thanks to a map rather than go through a bunch of annoying menus. The game also seals up some areas, which limits time wasted where you could get stuck. I liked this aspect a lot. If all else fails and the people don't provide any new information, then you can check quickly in empty areas.

Another aspect I like about the interface is that in the areas you go to have a person if you can talk to him or her; it cuts down on empty searching since there is no point to going to an area that doesn't show a person's face on the screen before entering it. Also, the game's logic is very coherent; you present profiles to people generally when they prompt you so it limits trial and error. The game even has things that are reminiscent of Phoenix Wright's psyche locks but unlike that game it is done very well. In Lifesigns, you always have enough information to convince the person why he or she should commit an action.

However, the game is not mainly surgery, unlike Trauma Center: Under the Knife; there are only 11 operations in this game overall. Also, the stylus can be somewhat unresponsive. In Trauma Center, I can criss cross one time to suture skin but in this game, I have to do it multiple times just for it to register. Unlike Trauma Center, the operations are a lot slower, but you make a diagnosis where you touch the patients or measure things like pulse, or how they're breathing before doing operations.

The problem with the operations is that a lot of it is trial and error; you have to find your own method of making the tools work since it isn't explained well. For example, I learned that the suture only works when you go over the same area in a zig zag repeatedly and then progress to the next small area to do multiple tiny zig zags. This was unlike Trauma Center: Under the Knife when I'd zig zag across the whole affected area one time. You also have test results before you conclude your diagnosis and you have to compare these results with a normal form; you circle differences. However, the game does become fun with operations once you get used to how the tools work; once you figure out the trial and error of it. At first I didn't like using the electric scalpel; I'd end up either burning the patient or having to reuse it many times because the cut wasn't sharp/hot enough. Then I learned to use it and enjoy it by moving gradually or quickly based on how fast it was about to burn the patient and then releasing. So I guess the procedures are somewhat like a puzzle in that case. This is also true with the suture in which sometimes you have to suture across a wide area horizontally but go downward vertically slower.

There are minigames though, mainly simplistic such as tapping your stylus to collect fruit falling from a truck. However, the fishing game had a nice allure at first, but its biggest flaw occurs when a fish goes into the area where I have the gear on the screen, forcing me to lose. You turn the gear with your stylus to reel in the fish and you tap the fish with your stylus on the touch screen. Overall, it's a nice breath of fresh air, especially the air hockey minigame.

There is some replay value with this game. You buy harder missions with points you get from beating the game, there are decision forks which can give you multiple endings, including a bad ending if you let your last patient die. You can also buy minigames too with the points you do from these tougher operations. It is nice that this adventure game has some replay value to it. One thing I'd like to note is that the operations occur without dialogue in this harder mode; it makes the game a whole lot faster and the harder parts makes you move faster, making it feel intense.

I do recommend people to play this game if they want to play something competent. I don't think there is anything truly captivating about the story or characters, but there isn't anything repulsive/implausible to make me lose the will to play. The main reason I liked this game was the excellent interface which did not let me get lost. I could speed up the text, move from place to place and have a good idea of where to go. I also had enough information when I had to convince someone to change his or her mind without going through an ordeal because I forgot something unlike the psyche locks in Phoenix Wright's sequels. I know I compared this directly to Phoenix Wright, but it is handled well in a lot of ways. The only issue I saw with the English is that there are typos, but you can make out what they are saying in the last episode.