Managing a hospital may not sound like a barrel of laughs, but this classic light hearted simulation from Bullfrog manages to make presiding over matters of life and death incredibly challenging. Curing the likes of Jellyitus, heaped piles and unexpected swelling (Who among us has not suffered from the latter?) can become a surprisingly cheerful business.
Much like SimCity, you start from humble beginnings and with a pile of cash, building up the size and quality of your hospital as you progress. As with all games of this type, there are plenty of problems for you to solve along the way, making your job far harder as you desperately try to keep your patients happy.
Unfortaunately, the fun proves to be somewhat short lived, as there simply isn't enough variation to keep you sat in front of your monitor for any real length of time. Fun for a week or so, but after that you'll soon realise Theme Hospital s a little on the shallow side.
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High on humour, high on fun and low on the tedium normally associated with this sort of simulation, Theme Hospitalis a refreshing take on a genre that often takes itself too seriously. As the title suggests, the game puts you in charge of your own hospital. You won't be able to do much at first (there isn't really much you can do with an empty hospital), but once you've taken on some staff and kitted out your hospital with the basic necessities, you'll be ready to open your doors to the poorly folk in your area.
After your patients have been diagnosed by a GP, they're sent to the pharmacy, various clinics or operating theatre for treatment - if you've got the technology, that is, otherwise you'd better get on with some research. As you complete the levels you're rewarded with the discovery of new equipment and an interesting variety of new diseases - psychiatric patients believing they're Elvis (decked out in rhinestone-encrusted white suits, of course), and horrendous afflictions such as bloaty head, invisibility and hairyitis. You can even watch the cures being carried out, complete with sound effects (watching the 'sheer' lopping off a 'slack tongue' makes you wince). But there's more to it than just curing patients. The overall aim is to be the most successful hospital in the area (there are three others competing), and naturally the more people you cure the more money you earn. But patients leave and go home if there's nowhere for them to sit, if they have to wait too long to see a GP or psychiatrist, if the corridors are rat-infested or no one's cleared up the mess of a vomiting epidemic. It also pays to hire the most competent staff and keep them happy with salary increases and a staff room. Then there's the maintenance of your equipment, decision making as to whether you can cope with emergencies, balancing your budget, and on and on.
Theme Hospitalis an essential purchase for anyone with a sense of humour and even a vague interest in resource management or strategy games. Our own Production Editor, Thea, has confessed to losing extremely large portions of her spare time to heavy-duty Theme Park sessions, and that in itself is quite enough reason for you to consider this a must-have for your collection.
All the Sim (City, Earth, etc.) and Theme games have one thing in common: You create something to watch it grow and prosper. Theme Hospital builds on the same idea, improving in some areas and lacking in others. Where the game works well is in the "cute and fun" department. Like Theme Park, Theme Hospital has a lot of character and personality. When you water the plants, they perk up. To cure a "bloaty head," a doctor pops, then reinflates it. The game is just too cute. But Theme Hospital does not capture the same magic that some of the other games in this genre have. The rigid nature of the game limits your creativity. In Theme Park you can build anything, anywhere--that's why the game was so much fun. In Theme Hospital, you only make a few design decisions: how big to make the rooms and where to put all the furniture and items. No matter how far you get in the game, most of your hospitals will end up looking similar. This makes the game feel more repetitive than it really needs to be. Too bad, because building the hospital is the best part (the business aspect is kinda boring). Theme Hospital may entertain you for the first day or two, but you may find the design limitations too...limiting Now if we can only take care of the "bloaty l heads" around the EGM offices...
If you want an example of how badly mouse-based gameplay transfers to the joypad-driven PlayStation then this is it. Everything from the PC original is here--the English humor, the cartoon look, the bizarre illnesses and the fact that it gets boring after a certain point. It's a reasonably tough game, but with the additional problems caused by the over-fiddly controls I guarantee that you will get frustrated.
It's hard not to like Theme Hospital's surreal mix of in-depth sim and goofball humor, just like Theme Park, the game forces you to experiment constantly with different hospital layouts, staff, types of research, etc. And the goal-based stages make for addictive game-play-for a while, at least. After a few levels, I got to the point where i had seen enough quirky diseases and wasn't all that excited about reaching the next stage.
I wasn't sure what to think of TH when I first booted it up. I've heard good things about the PC one, but I still thought it might be lame (since it takes place in a hospital). I was wrong. The game's a lot of fun to play and has a very unique feel, even though it presents challenges similar to other games in the genre. On top of this it's really funny, like all the gross things patients do while they're sitting around the waiting area.
The makers of the light-hearted simulation/strategy game Theme Park are bringing out a sequel. Theme Hospital lets you run and manage a bustling (or bumbling) house of medicine. You must lure patients in with promises of cures for strange diseases like Bloaty Head (which is fixed by popping the head, then reinflating it) or Slack Tongue (the tongue is rolled through a machine and quickly sliced off). Make enough money and you'll be able to afford better doctors and newer technology. Expect the same humorous attitude that made Theme Park such a memorable game.
Theme Hospital is the sequel to the sim game Theme Park. This time, the wackiness befalls the medical industry as you take full control of a hospital, doing everything from hiring, managing, and training staff to adjusting the room temperature and floor plan. Bland as it may sound, TH is a wildly addicting, funny game...and one of the most challenging sims you'll ever play.
Technically, TH isn't going to turn any heads. Since the game was developed for mouse control, the directional pad's response is a bit jerky. Fortunately, though, precision isn't all that important here. The game's options are also pretty complex, and you'll have to learn them before your hospital makes money. The graphics, which are small to allow for a large viewing area, aren't visually spectacular, so fans of visual thrillers, beware. The patients with bloated heads and illnesses like Hairyitis and King Complex (Elvis envy), though, are worth a squint.
Theme Hospital shines with its dry sense of humor, but gamers unfamiliar with sims should rent it first. TH's challenge is high, and your reward is a sense of accomplishment from constructing a successful working model--but its loony patients and loonier doctors will have you laughing along the way.
- Economic use of space Is a must, so build hallways between rooms. And be sure you have bathrooms near the enhance!
- Ah--the new hospital. Slow down the game to minimum speed and build the receptionist's desk first, then build the General Practitioner's offices.
- Block off unused areas of the hospital with benches or the handymen will wander away from their duties.
- To get off the Hall of Shame quickly, stay at each hospital as king as it's making money--they'll keep offering you higher salaries for your next job.