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Lifesigns DS is a mix of ideas that perplexed as much as they enticed. Biology or medical students may find some educational entertainment here, but other than them I struggle to see who would play it.
How do you review a game that is virtually unplayable? This is the quandary I've been facing up to whilst squaring up to deal with Lifesigns. Since the first irritating encounter that I had with it over a week ago, it's been sitting on the shelf gathering dust. But - heigh-ho - people have to hear something about it, so here goes.
I lead a hectic life as a full-time teacher with three children aged 7 and under, so the idea of playing a game where you become a trainee doctor handling serious emergencies and performing critical surgery is less than appealing to me on a good day.
When you fire it up for the first time, the immediate impression is good. You're introduced to your hero via a montage of curiously appealing Manga-style graphics. However, the introduction (involving a botched romantic encounter with a female colleague) quickly becomes a surreal encounter of a weirdness on a par with Luis Bu˝uel's short film Un Chien Andalou. As the clunky dialogue is slowly revealed on-screen it becomes tortuous, then simply boring. Finally, you discover that this whole introduction is nothing but a dream. Great - you've just wasted five minutes of your life on something that is almost completely incidental to the game.
What makes the DS such a killer concept is its simplicity and immediacy: flip the screen up and start shooting enemies.
Then comes the story itself. As a student doctor you move around the hospital examining patients and building up kudos in order to unlock new areas of the building and develop better relationships with the rest of the staff. The game play is meandering and clunky. Examining, and advising the first patient, is both irritating and frustrating: I tried several times to perform the correct actions to move the encounter on, but to no avail. In the end, I simply gave up.
What makes the DS such a killer concept is its simplicity and immediacy: flip the screen up and start shooting enemies, or whatever. All of the best and most addictive DS games I've played exploit this simplicity. Even the mentally taxing games such as Scrabble and Brain Training are enduring favourites because you can get straight into them with no messing about. Lifesigns blithely ignores this approach with some of the most sluggish game play around.
The game contains a lot of medical terminology that could be useful to someone with an interest in a medical career.
It is quite hard to figure out who this game is aimed at. Stressed out parents looking for something quick and fun will be disappointed. Teenagers who are used to much more intuitive and user-friendly interfaces will quickly put this aside. At times, (startlingly) the graphics appear almost hentai, which rules out the pre-teenage demographic altogether. Obviously, the game contains a lot of medical terminology that could be useful to someone with an interest in a medical career. However, the slow and clunky game play is unlikely to keep even the most dedicated Biology student interested for long.
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