Your chance to play doctors and nurses...

Life And Death logo

Distributor: Mindscape Price: £25.99

Many computer games are about saving people, but most of them have you slaughtering armies single-handed to save the woman or whoever. Well, things have changed a little now. Mindscape gives the chance to play doctors and nurses from the comfort of your own operating theatre... er, I mean the comfort of your own home. No more mowing down hundreds of men with a machine gun - now it is up to you to cure people of various ailments from kidney stones to full-blown arthritis.

You are a trainee doctor who is learning the profession in the newly opened Toolworks General Hospital. (Now you can tell its is only a game - whoever heard of a hospital opening lately?). The authorities have decided that the best way for you to learn is by hands-on experience. Yep, it's in the deep end for you.

On entering the hospital the first thing you have to do is sign in so the hospital knows who exactly is doing the damage to its reputation. From here on in, the innocent patients are at your mercy as you attempt to show just how good a doctor you are.

The receptionist tells you where your next patient is so that you don't keep them hanging around too long - after all, some of them don't have too long to hang around. On entering patients' rooms you see them lying in bed looking all sorry for themselves.

The first thing you have to do is look at the clipboard at the bottom of the bed to see what the patient is complaining of. From the clipboard you can order any test to be done, refer the patient to a specialist or you can decide to operate yourself.

Before you complete your diagnosis, however, you must physically examine your patient. This entails prodding them in the stomach to see whether it hurts or not. Correct diagnosis is essential if you want to further your career. After all, giving someone open heart surgery for indigestion is not exactly what you would call good doctoring is it?

If your diagnosis leads to surgery you had better prepare yourself for some of the most complex gameplay you are ever likely to see. You see, surgery is not just a case of opening your patient up with a quick slash of a scalpel, ripping out the problem and then a quick stitch to finish up.

First up you have to select the right surgical team. Some team members won't work well with certain others, so you have to get the balancing act just right. Then you have to prepare yourself, although this involves nothing more than making sure you are wearing gloves.

The fun starts as you prep the patient. The first time you operate I can guarantee that the patient will be dead in under a minute. There is so much to do to ensure longevity that you just won't think about some of what you have to do. Remember you have to anaesthetise your patient, sterilise the work area, inject certain drugs, the list just goes on and on.

The scene is just as gruesome and bloody as the real thing. In one of my ops there was so much blood all over the place I couldn't see what I was supposed to be cutting and this lead to the inevitable result - death for the patient. In fact, until you get the hang of all the aspects of the game you will probably end up killing lots of people. Fortunately, the game doesn't end when you kill someone, you just get a reprimand from the head surgeon.

For those who prefer to learn as they play there is a classroom you will be called to after each treatment to learn where you went wrong and what to do in the future. Other doctors will page you from time to time to offer advice and information on the patients and their conditions but it is down to you to decide what to do and when.

Life and Death has been a long time coming - it has been on the cards for over a year now. Already a sequel, subtitled The Brain, has been released on the PC which promotes you to the role of a brain surgeon. Sounds gross!

Anyway Life and Death is a very nice looking game. Gross but nice. To sum up, it may be a little repetitive if you keep getting your diagnoses wrong, but that should act as an incentive to do better.


Life And Death logo

Mindscape * £25.99 * Mouse

Why do surgeons wear masks? It's so we can't recognise them in a Police line up? Playing will make you wonder. It's a medical adventure where you've given the power to heal (or kill) in a struggle to cure the stomach troubles of the world. If such a concept sounds strange, that's because it is. Do people actually want to play a surgery simulation? Can the thrill of cutting folks up on the table justify a game?

Paper Mask
Life and Death is an abdominal adventure. You sign in as a trainee doctor who's after some hands-on experience with real live - at least for the moment - patients. As an abdominal specialist, kidney stones, intestinal gas and appendices are your bread-and-butter. You're task is to poke around peoples turns, work out what's wrong, then treat them.

The routine is simply enough. You wander the lobby until a patient's ready for examination. When you're told where they are, a quick click on the relevant door whisks you into the room ready to play doctor.

This is where Life and Death is at the patient front line. Their life is in your hands, quite literally, as the first line of diagnostic defence is your own digit. A thorough prodding of the person's stomach shows where they're hurting and is the main source of clues on this medical mystery tour.

Touch them in a tender zone and the Amiga squeals on the patient's behalf, while repeated prodding in unaffected areas gains little more than a "feels fine doctor".

Carry on doctor
Hanging on the end of the bed is a chart that tells you the patient's symptoms and together with the info gained from the prodding pains, you must diagnose their condition. As many of the symptoms are similar for totally different ailments, this introduces guesswork and gambling in the process. But, well, they signed the release form, didn't they?

Treatments are recommended on the clipboard. You, the doctor, have to mark up the board so the staff know the course of treatment you've decided upon. Usually, these are referrals to renal specialists or observation to let intestinal gas work itself out. Get the treatment wrong and not only does the patient quickly croak, but you are called back into the lecture hall for a riot act recital about incompetence.

Every mistake forces you back into the classroom, where the hospital's head honcho tells you exactly where you went wrong. You have to comply, clicking through each information screen even if you don't read it. It forms a useful method of error correction but can be frustrating as when you're told for the 15th time that X-rays weren't necessary. The patient lived didn't they? They had medical insurance?

Flatliners
For the first few hours Life and Death is mainly concerned with wandering from room to room, guessing illnesses and hopefully curing peeps. The manual offers good advice as to which symptoms indicate which problems, but son you begin to wish for that 'live' one. An appendicitis and an operation! This carrot is needed as there is precious little to do on the diagnosis front. The game rapidly falls into a prodding, X-raying and murderous malpractice routine.

Operations provide the prime motive for continued play and prove to be tense experiences. There's a strict procedure that has to be followed on the table and too many mistakes summon the chief of surgery who promptly throws you out.

After waiting for the chance to get at someone's insides this is the last thing you want. So, once again the manual and educated guess-work take over as you scrub, sterilise, anaesthetise and cut your victim.

M.A.S.H.
The need to get the procedure correct makes operations intense. The manual gives good guidelines, but you have to flip around and find the relevant bits. With the machine that goes ping sounding in the background, comments from your colleagues and the medical gibberish to overcome, Life and Death starts to pay dividends when the blood starts to flow.

Operations are realistically tricky and the first attempts are doomed to failure. If the patients are lucky they may survive, if you're lucky the lecture in medical school won't be too long. Unfortunately operations soon become as routine as the diagnosis. Once you've learned what to do and what to look for then the tension begins to evaporate.

Life and Death lacks long-term variety, there simply aren't enough different things for doctors to mess up, and it really needs state-of-the-art pics to bolster the medical nightmare. Unfortunately, Life and Death's graphics are solid and functional not inspirational. They support the game but do not promote it.

Dr Doolittle
In a game with no point except curiosity, there has to be vast amounts to see and do. Life and Death initially delivers, with a confusing array of treatments, symptoms and actions. What needs to be done becomes apparent all too quickly though and the game loses pace. Operations provide a strong secondary interest infection, but this too is quickly cured once the correct techniques have been practised.

Life and Death is a bold idea that doesn't quite make it through to the conversion operation, somewhere the gameplay catches cold. It's fun for a while but don't expect the patient to live long.


Life And Death logo

Lust auf Dokterspiele mit der "Freundin"? Und zwar nicht bloß so oberflächliche mit 'nem bisschen Fummeln, sondern gleich richtig : Betäuben - Aufschneiden - Rumwühlen! Ja?

Der Halbgott in Weiß braucht hier kein Medizinstudium, das einzige, was er studiert haben sollte, ist die deutsche Anleitung. Life & Death ist nämlich weniger ein Spiel als ein unterhaltsamer Einführungskursus in die schneidige Kunst der Chirurgie. Daher wird auch nicht gleich drauflosgeschnippelt - vor dem Operationsvergnügen kommt erst mal die harte Arbeit der Diagnose!

Man fängt als junger Stationsarzt in der Abteilung für Unterleibchirurgie des Toolworks General Hospital an. Nach ein paar guten Ratschlägen vom Chef in der angeschlossenen Medizinschule schickt uns Schwester Monika zum ersten Patienten. Der wird ein bißchen abgetastet, um die Herkunft der Schmerzen genauer zu lokalisieren, dann liest man sich auf dem Krankenblatt die vorhandenen Symptome durch. Tja, und schon schreiten wir zur Therapie: Handelt es sich nur um ordinäre Blähungen, läßt man sein Opfer einfach ein paar Tage beobachten, bei Verdacht auf Nierensteine ordnet man eine Röntgenaufnahme an und überweist den Patienten anschließend an einen Kollegen, vermutet man dagegen eine bakterielle Infektion, wird medikamentös behandelt. Sollte es sicher aber um handeln, folgt endlich die Stunde der Bewährung - es darf operiert werden!

Auch im OP muß man wieder absolut alles selbst machen, und das möglichst nach den Regeln der Kunst: Erstmal Hände waschen, Schutzhandschuhe überziehen, die vorgesehene Einschnittstelle desinfizieren, den Patienten betäuben (damit er sich nicht wehrt), den Herzschlag per EKG überwachen, schneiden, klammern, nähen usw.. Ist die Sache trotz aller Bemühung schiefgelaufen, gibt's énen Rüffel vom Chef, und man muß noch mal in die Medizinschule. Halb so wil, der Patient findet sich schließlich in der Regel am Friedhof wieder...

Das Diagnostizieren wird zwar schnell langweilig, weil man die diversen Symptome samt den entsprechenden Therapien bald auswendig runterbeten kann, aber der Schwerpunkt der Angelegenheit liegt eh beim Operieren, und das ist schwer, sogar verdammt schwer. Wer's nicht glaubt, kann immer noch den Schwierigkeitsgrad höher stellen - es gibt drei Stufen plus einem speziellen "Nightmare"-Modus für ganz Hartgesottene.

Die Grafik sieht besser aus als bei der (Bereits 1988 verschienenen!) PC-Version, ist aber trotzdem nicht sonderlich berauschend: soundmäßig sind nur vereinzelte Schmerzensschreie und Türensschlagen zu hören. Die Maussteuerung klappt recht ordentlich, klickt man jedoch zu hastig herum, steigt das Programm manchmal aus.

Schlußdiagnose: Eine ungewöhnliche Simulation wie man sie seit dem vorsintflutlichen "The Surgeon" nicht mehr am Amiga gesehen hat - nicht unbedingt hat - nicht unbedingt lustig, aber fesselnd! (mm)


Life And Death logo

After a three year wait (just like on the NHS), Mindscape's game of infernal affairs turns out to be brave, original... but no cause for surgical high spirits.

Oddly, the title screen for this game displays a notice claiming a copyright date of 1988. Presumably, this refers to the PC version's release - the Amiga conversion has taken a ridiculously long time to get finished. That's not the only odd thing about it though - I mean, how many games can you recall that put you in the shoes of an abdominal surgery specialist? (Okay, apart from Barbarian.)

Still, that's exactly where you find yourself here. As a novice surgeon at Toolworks General Hospital, you spend your time prodding at the stomachs of people with a wide range of internal defects, ranging from intestinal gas to full-blown appendicitis.

It's your job to decide, with the aid of X-rays and ultra-sound scanning, exactly what ails your patients and what action to take about it. Beware though - their lives are very much in your hands and mistakes invariably (well, most of the time) result in your charges shuffling off this mortal coil, not to mention your wrists receiving a severe slapping from the chief of surgery.

If your diagnosis involves any actual cutting-people-open-and-hacking-around-with-their-bits type of stuff, then you have to perform the operation yourself, and this is where you get into the real guts of the game (sorry).

Choosing the most suitable members of your staff to help out is no arbitrary matter. You need the two most appropriate assistants from a choice of six (and be careful, some of them don't get on too well with each other, and this may affect their efficiency in the theatre). Then it's time for you to oversee or perform every aspect of the process personally, from washing your hands and putting on your latex gloves (a real pair of latex gloves are supplied in the box to help generate that authentic atmosphere) to actually chopping bits out of your patients and tying up all those loose and gooey ends afterwards.

Any potentially stupid mistakes will be stopped in their tracks by your assistants, who will recommend the correct course of action to you, except at the high skill levels (three are available) where they become markedly less helpful. Otherwise you're on your own - if you mess up badly and cause your patient to die (as you certainly will many, many times in the beginning), the chief of surgery will call you back to medical school and sarcastically point out what you did wrong and what you should do next time. He also performs this service when you get the initial diagnosis wrong, or when you fail to follow correct procedure at any time. And that's it.

Whatever else you say about Life & Death, it's certainly a brave and original concept in these days of licences and coin-op conversions. However, bravery and originality alone do not a great game make. At first it seems like a stupendously good idea, and for the opening half-an-hour or so the game proves both novel and entertaining. From then on though, you've seen everything that's in (as well as most of the things that are in your patients) and interest begins to wane.

Life & Death is in fact a very simple game masquerading as something incredibly complex. Unfortunately the diagnosis section doesn't really form an essential part of the game, is largely window-dressing, and therefore becomes an irritating obstacle.

Operating is the only truly active and satisfying section of the whole thing, as none of the other options actually call on you to do anything. On diagnosing kidney stones, for example, you simply refer the patient to a urologist and that's your involvement with that particular case over with.

Even the operations are a bit of a bind, being high on nitpicky detail (the number of layers of skin you have to slice through before you get near any organs for instance, is unnecessary and daft) and incredibly unforgiving of mistakes. This may very well be highly realistic, but hey, if you want realism, what are you doing playing a computer game? If you really want to open up someone's guts go to medical school or join the armed forces.

Mindscape is at great pains to point out that Life & Death is 'a game for fun, not education'. Trouble is, it achieves neither - the game even fails to properly educate you about how to play it. The instructions in general are woefully inadequate - I actually had to phone Mindscape for several elementary pieces of information before I could get anywhere - and the programming is lazy. I found bugs that crashed the game as well as loads of spelling and typographical errors.

Okay, these are minor points and they don't actually affect the gameplay, but when you pay £25 for a piece of software I don't think it's unreasonable to expect someone to have bloody well spell-checked it first. Life & Death is sloppy, annoying and bursting with loads of really niggly little, er, niggles.

Here's one example, but there are lots of other I could have picked. When you X-ray a patient, the programmers have gone to the trouble of putting an on-off switch on screen that you have to click to switch the machine on. Fine, so why when you do so does the switch still read 'off'? Is this just laziness, or what?

Another example: there are speech samples which crop up when you examine a patient ('Ouch', 'Eek', 'Ow', 'Oh my God, that's incredibly painful, please stop it now', etc), but no matter what sex the patient is, the samples are still of a man's voice - which is just silly - especially when the game runs in 512K (including the speech), but claims to be enhanced on one meg machines. I haven't come across any enhancements even after several hours on the one-meg version, but extra speech would have been one of the most obvious ways to use the extra memory.

Life & Death oozes unexplored potential. The idea of limiting its scope the abdominal area is quite possibly one of necessity (can you imagine how much memory would be needed to store the internal working of a whole body?). But the guts are hardly the most exciting part of the body, and it would have been considerably more interesting to have had, say, the upper chest area (heart, lungs, some bones, etc.) to work with.

What really kills the game in the end, though, is the repetitiveness. There are only about half-a-dozen possible diagnoses, and you can find yourself spending long, long minutes identifying viral infections over and over again before being called on to actually do anything of a vaguely surgical nature.

Even when you are so required, each operation is very much like the last one, and the whole thing unfortunately becomes something of a bore. I hate to be so down on something so innovative, but there's no way around it. Life & Death is a missed opportunity.


Life And Death logo

Dr Merrett, armed with his HM Customs-approved rubber gloves, enters the clinically-white area of the Mindscape hospital. Ready for another average day, his hand some features sadly covered by his germ-proof protective mask, he may perform one or two miraculous life-saving operations without even breaking into a sweat. His cheery smile obscured by his facemask, Merrett raises his eyes at the buxom receptionist who, after giving him his rota for the day, swoons at his feet [and then he wakes up! - Ed].

Mindscape's Dr Kildare simulation, Life And Death, finally makes it to the Amiga in all its gory glory - with appendectomies and trapped wind galore. As a trainee Doctor, Mindscape set the player the unenviable task of diagnosing and subsequently curing a series of patients of their bodily anomalies.

The premise for a game based on the world of operations and generally slicing open innocent people who've only come in with in-grown toe nails, is an extremely enjoyable one, but, of course, there are certain limitations to consider. As a novice surgeon, I would have really liked to be able to dive in with my series of scalpels and saws and dismember a few patients and, quite literally, show them what they're made of. However, before the player is allowed to start dicing up the specimens, a series of smaller, more mundane, sequences must be bypassed. Starting in the hospital reception area, the player must first enter medical school before they are shown their first patient.

From the school, the would-be Doctor is asked to give his opinion on the courses of prescription available to the assorted oddballs currently awaiting surgery. Initially, minor operations such as diagnosing wind and gallstones ease the player into the game, but later on there are some decent ops to be had.

The whole game is mouse controlled, with the pointer guiding the player into and out of class and theatre, and also used to collect and utilise the various implements during surgery. Using the customary point 'n' click system, the assortment of scalpels, sponges, and blood supplies can be selected and used - whenever relevant, of course. In addition, during the course of an operation, the surrounding surgeons assisting you will be on hand to give advice if you're making a pig's ear of things.

The main problem with Life And Death's gameplay is that it's too linear. I would have preferred to have had a variety of operations to experiment on, rather than be dropped straight in at the deep end. There's no doubting that the idea is a viable one, it's just that the computer picks you up on the tiniest mistakes and, whilst this probably is true of the real thing, it just doesn't make the game very enjoyable. The operations themselves - when you finally access them - are quite fun, but are still rather 'trial and error' and I seriously doubt the game's lasting appeal. However, the more patient and methodical among you may not have this problem.

The next game in the series deals with the brain, personally I can't wait for Life and Death: The Post Mortem, when we can cut up some corpses without fear of reprisal.


DIY BRAIN SURGERY

The second game in the Life And Death series will he based on the intricate subject of brain surgery. Allowing the player to carve a niche for themselves In this difficult career(!), The Brain offers a wide number of drills and bits with which to conduct exploratory surgery into an innocent patient's grey matter. Where the series will go after this, we aren't sure, but we've got a few suggestions First of all, we'd like to see Life And Death III: The Colostomy Bag, followed by Life And Death IV: Jimmy's. The latter of which invites the player to operate whilst looking at his or her best for the camera.


Life And Death logo

Mindscape/£25.53/Out Now

Amiga reviewAmaya: Mindscape's medical sim is initially curiously appealing: the prospect of slicing someone up in the name of medicine seems too exciting to pass by. However, my patients tended to die before even entering the operating theatre!

At Toolworks General you can choose the difficulty level by deciding whether to be a novice, intermediate or advanced doctor. Then it's a quick trip to medical school (where you'll be banished to if you mess up) and off to find your patient.

A prod about the stomach area and then you choose your diagnosis - but, just like our own dear NHS, if you ask for an unnecessary X-ray you'll be told not to waste money.

Most of my patients seemed to suffer from kidney stones, so it was a long, cruel wait before I discovered a case of appendicitis and raced into the operating theatre. Once there, the operating process is frighteningly realistic - you have to know exactly when to apply the anaesthetic, how deep to make an incision etc. This is actually quite tricky and my patient 'slipped away' without so much as a drop of blood. I also found that the point and click mouse system wasn't as user-friendly as I'd hoped and that the game had a couple of bugs.

Although the sound mainly consists of doors opening and closing, there are some impressive digitised squeals when you poke patients where it hurts. The graphics are quite nice, if a bit static, but my overall feeling was that such a superb idea could have been far better implemented.

However, you do get a free pair of surgical gloves and a mask with the game so if you get frustrated, you can always practice on your friends.