In Life & Death, players assume the role of an abdominal surgeon at Toolworks general hospital. This originally black and white game allowed the player to interact with the environments in a point and click interface. In this precursor to Trauma Center, typical surgery instruments were available for the player to use in any order, as a close up of the patient's body is seen laying on the table. It is still one of only a few realistic medical games ever developed, allowing the player to diagnose treat a variety of conditions including kidney stones, arthritis and appendicitis.
The player must prep the patient by scrubbing down, applying anesthesia, and cauterizing incisions. Before surgery, however, the player must make a visit to the patient's room, where he or she is allowed to study the patient's medial chart for any clues to diagnoses.You can start poking parts of the patients abdomen and see what they say (just don't poke to much). There are also a number of tools to help, like the x-ray.
The game had an interesting bit of physical DRM. Most games of the time came with a dictionary or an instruction manual, and to play a new game you would have to type in a specific word on a specific page of that book. This led to much wasted copy paper. The physical DRM of Life and Death was a paper "beeper" that had multiple wheels to align. You would have to align the wheels according to a number that the receptionist gave you before you could start a case.
The player can choose two members of the medial staff to accompany the surgery, offering expertise from their field. For example, the cardiologist will offer advice on the patient's blood flow, while the nurse walks the player through simple procedures, such as suturing and clamping.
Once you have found out what's wrong with the patients (after a few deaths), you get to the best part of the game: OPERATING! This is by far the hardest part of the game. You'll have to follow all kinds of medical procedures. Incisions are made using the mouse. This is the only part of the game that is animated.
Clicking on the various doors in the hospital will take the doctor to their labeled rooms. The School room debriefs players on previously failed cases, with the instructor offering specific criticism of the player's actions. He may comment that the player was "padding the bill" with unnecessary gauze or stitches, or that the player's "impersonation of Jack the Ripper" was unacceptable behavior. The School room also provides the player with a brief overview of diagnosing cases, and simple surgical steps. Once in the OR, the player can exit the surgery by calling the Chief Surgeon to step in and take over the job. At the time of release this game was unique in it's kind.