Life and Death

Title           Life and Death
Game Type	Miscellaneous
Players		1
Compatibility	All Amigas
Company	        Software Toolworks
HD Installable  No
Submission      Seppo Typpö ( Profiled Reviewer

Let's start this with personal confession - a long time ago I used to
dream of becoming a doctor. Wearing my white coat and shining stethoscope I
would have walked among the patients, listening to their troubles and
trying my best to cure them. I never passed the entrance examinations to
the med school, which was probably good - since if my performance in
Software Toolworks' medical simulator "Life and Death" is anything to go
by I would have sucked as a doctor, badly.

"Life and Death" puts the player into the role of the glamorous profession
of general surgeon. In this role it is up to the player to work in a
hospital, diagnose patients and make the vital decision how to identify
and cure their possible health problems. This means using suitable tools
for examinations (like X-ray or ultra-sound) and then selecting the right
treatment. Ultimately this means the player has to do some serious
medical operations like surgery in order to save the patient's life.

All this is not easy though. The player starts the game in hospital and
once registered is given his (or her) first patient. Now, in real life
doctors spend several years in med school before they are unleashed on the
unsuspecting patients, but here for the player there are just couple of
manuals to study and explore. I strongly recommend that players do that
before starting the game. There's a neat in-built med school in the game
but it won't give you help until you have run into some serious trouble
which could have meant the death of somebody. So if you want to succeed in
this game, in a proper way, read that manual and try to understand what
you have to do (especially before entering the operation room).

"Life and Death" is beautifully simple to play - pretty much everything is
controlled with the mouse. There are several screens the player can enter
- the patient rooms (where you diagnose the patient), the staff room
(where you select your operation team), the aforementioned medical school
and the actual operation room. Moving around in the hospital and selecting
actions is easy as the game controls work in an intuitive fashion.

While playing the game is easy, succeeding in it is more challenging -
which means there plenty to learn for the budding doctor Kildares out
there. My first gaming session was quite depressing - mainly because I did
not read the manual properly and ended up killing my first patient after
five minutes of play - because of a wrong diagnosis. My second victim was
a patient who I had to operate on - a few seconds of hesitation at a
critical moment during the operation sent the newborn "Doctor Death" back
to the medical school.

After some time I became quite proficient in diagnosing people - this was
helped by the fact that there is not much variation in patients and their
diseases, at least in the easy level I played. Usually a simple examination
and possibly X-rays solved 99% of cases and I usually did not have to pick
up the scalpel at all. "Life and Death" concentrates only on standard
medical problems in your body (torso) but there are no really radical
things like heart transplant surgery in this game. This is propably good
since the typical player will have enough of a challenge completing
a standard appendix removal jobbie.

The surgery part of the game is very tricky. The Player has to learn proper
procedures and also locate and identify all the tools he (or she) needs to
use. One of the few failing points of the game is the sometimes poor
description of objects - it is quite easy to waste valuable time trying to
locate some tools if you have little understanding where and what you are
looking for. The player also has to learn to respond to emergencies like
dropping blood pressure, heart problems etc - the operation team is
usually quick to point out any problems but it is up to the player to
decide how to deal with them. In the operation room your team (if you
choose the right people) offer invaluable advice but leave the decision
to you - something I believe would happen in real life too. In its simple
way the game actually teaches the player how hospitals and their highly
specialised staff work and also about the responsibilites each 'team
member' has.

The game has some neat touches -  like during an abdominal exam (that's
poking somebody's belly with your fingers in layman's terms) the sore
points are highlighted by sampled patient voices. The game package also
contains some nice extras like a pair of rubber gloves and a face mask for
that 'more authentic feel'.

Graphically and aurally the game is only adequate - which is not a
surprise since the game was released 1988. Still the faint hearted should
steer clear - some of the graphical material the game sports could shock
you even after all these years.

It should also be noted that while the game could be installed to hard
disk it had problems running with a 68060 card - this minor glitch will
hopefully be removed by the Patchers in near future.

"Life and Death" is a simulator which gives players a chance to peek into
the mystical world of modern medicine from the safety of their own comfy
chair. If given enough time and preparation (like properly studying the
manual) the game is highly entertaining - it rewards the player with
an experience which cannot be found in the latest beat'em up or other
action game. It certainly is not for everyone - but if you ever had dreams
of becoming 'the man with the white coat' (no, I do not mean a butcher
here!), you could do worse than trying out this game.

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