Grey's Anatomy: The Video Game (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
Although we talk about how awful the majority of TV and movie tie-ins are, most of them are aimed towards the pre-teen market. There are some exceptions however and the PC has seen games based on Desperate Housewives and even ER. We're now in a different era of gaming too and, with as many females playing games as the more traditional male demographic, it was only a matter of time before popular series such as Grey's Anatomy found their way onto the platform. Turning an 'adult' program into a game though is perhaps a little more challenging than the likes of Spongebob, or the many Cartoon Network properties the have been given the gaming treatment, and a simple platformer won't do here. The initial screens looked attractive enough but is there enough substance here to please the average fan of the series?
Like the TV series Grey's Anatomy is played over a series of scenes and fans of the series will be delighted to learn that all the main characters are featured throughout the game. The actual gameplay is more like an interactive comic book than anything else, with you making decisions at various points. These will alter the direction of the story so for instance 'flirting' will send you one way, whilst 'playing hard to get' the other. It really is that simple and with the series writers on board, there's a fair bit of text to read too. Obviously, as the action takes place in a hospital, you'll also have to perform the odd medical procedure although this never gets too difficult. After completing each scene you're given a rating (which is based on getting everything right on the first attempt) and then it's on to the next scene. If all that sounds simple it's because it is, except for some of the incomprehensible mini-games.
It's all touchscreen and with an extensive tutorial woven into the first 10 minutes or so of the game, it's straightforward too.
The bulk of the visuals are of cel-shaded cast members who seem to vary in quality so you sometimes have to peer at the name tag in the bottom screen to work out just who it is. The various operations are well represented although they are a little on the clinical side with little blood and absolutely nothing to shock. The other visuals are in the various mini-games and while some utilise 'photo shopped' images of the cast (which look much better than the main game images) the remainder are simply icons with clarity clearly more important than anything visually ground breaking.
While the sound effects during the various 'procedures' are excellent, the music is something entirely different. Yes, you do get the original theme during the game's intro but the rest of the game's soundtrack (which plays throughout the game) is best described as incidental. This is fine if you are watching the TV, but as a game soundtrack it's incredibly repetitive and does nothing to enhance the gameplay.
Your touch screen interaction here is roughly divided into two different categories: story and medical. The story section is the bulk of the 'gameplay' and while you have to tap though screens of dialogue you also interact with the characters in order to make decisions. This is generally split between 'challenges' or 'choices' both of which take the form of a collection of odd mini-games. There are some classics here, for instance, you have to realign mirrors to redirect a laser and there are even some rhythm and memory games. The problem is that they can be confusing and you sometimes select the wrong option and change the story arc. Fortunately there's no right or wrong and the game been programmed so the story will roll along whatever you decide.
The medical sections are a bit more interesting and maybe a little too simple and fans of Trauma Centre will be able to do this blindfolded. You're not allowed to do anything complicated to begin with so it's a not exactly a steep learning curve although you are still against a timer. Procedures generally involve things like cleaning wounds, applying dressings and eventually stitching the odd thing. There's even an opportunity to use a drill but this is only to screw metal plates back onto your patient's skull.
The first thing we have to say about Grey's Anatomy is that it's clearly only for fans of the series so if you have no interest in the everyday happenings of Seattle Grace then there's absolutely nothing here for you. If you are a fan though, you'll be pleased to learn that it's actually turned out a lot better than we expected. The production values are reasonably high and the story perfectly complements what you see on the small screen. Even the various medical sections have been well implemented albeit overly simple. The worst part of the experience unfortunately is the actual decision making and while you have to congratulate the developers for the sheer number of mini-games included, they don't actually enhance the gameplay in any way with some slowing it down altogether. This, mixed with the appalling soundtrack, will frustrate some gamers so you will have to decide if re-watching that DVD box set you have is a better and more entertaining option.
Pro: Great Presentation and Sound Effects.
Con: Confusing Mini-Games, Repetitive Music
Final score: 5.7