Flashback Friday Feature! – Theme Hospital
So as something new for Invision this week, I have decided create a Flashback Friday Feature. The idea is to bring all of you gaming fans a little bit of nostalgia which might just sending you searching through the attic, under the bed or in your old, dirty garage for those special games which once made you weep with joy.
Today I want to talk to you about, a true classic; Theme Hospital! For those of you who played this game, you already know how fantastic it was, and having played it again recently I can tell you it certainly still is too! For those who have not, a brief introduction is in order. Theme Hospital is a simulation game in which you, you guessed it, run a hospital. It may not sound like the most attractive idea in the world, but this one came from Bullfrog, so for those of you in the know that is evidence enough that fun is a guarantee! Treating patients with symptoms such as bloated heads, slack tongues, invisibility and a psychological problem that makes them think they are Elvis, this is no serious sim, and there is certainly plenty to laugh about.
You play from a top down view, building the rooms you require to run your hospital into an empty building which you are given at the start of each level. Anything from GP’s to Slack Tongue Clinics is available to you, and it is up to you to manage the space you have in such a way that you think will give you the best shot at completing the goals of each level. Even when you have the right rooms for the job however, you have to make sure you have the right staff to fill them. Doctors, Nurses, Handymen and Receptionists pull together to create your hopefully not-so-deadly force which will lead you to victory, or should you pick the wrong staff, to failure. From here it is just a case of good management; making sure staff are in the right places at the right times and not slacking off on their jobs.
Other elements of the game include handling emergencies, which can bring in big money if you succeed but burn your reputation to the ground if you fail, and managing VIP visits to the hospital, which again can lead to healthy cash bonuses if they like what they see. Everything is important however, from supplying enough benches and drink machines to watering the plants and keeping the radiators warm. And yet while all of this is going on, the game is still delightfully pleasant and easy to play. It is well suited to gamers of all ages. Personally I first played the game at the age of around five or six and still enjoy it just as much now. Having returned to it more recently it did of course seem easier than it used to, most likely because I actually now know what I am doing, but the fun factor is certainly no less at all!
The game looks a little over-colourful for its hospital based setting full of death and ailments, and the almost techno-style Casualty-like music which plays in the background makes things seem even more warped than some of the problems you are asked to treat. You soon forget about these things however, when you have to get down and dirty with keeping people alive at all costs, even if it means sending patients who are dangerously close to death home in order to keep the reaper away and maintain your reputation. And the reaper really will come if you don’t too, so look out! Otherwise, all you have to do is zap any rats who you catch running around your hallways with the cursor and there you have the complete Theme Hospital package.
Nobody quite made these types of games as well as Bullfrog did back in the day, and in recent times few if any have stepped up to that challenge successfully. Perhaps the brightest light here is Introversion Software, developers of upcoming prison-sim Prison Architect which is currently an early access title on Steam. During an interview at Rezzed 2013, Director Chris Delay and the team spoke to me about the Bullfrog legacy, citing it as a real inspiration to them and expressing the desire to bring back their style of simulation games to the gaming world. We can only hope that they do so successfully and reopen the doors to such titles so we do not lose a fantastically fun genre and style of gaming in the future. Bullfrog knew that management simulations did not have to be straight-laced and down to earth; they fit the funny with the function and made some great games along the way.
If you fancy having a crack at Theme Hospital or you want to grab yourself a copy to relive a blast from the past, you can pick it up and download pretty cheaply via the link at the end of this article. It is a title well worth wasting hours of your time on, and if you choose to grab it this is exactly what you will do! Now get going, and enjoy!
You can pick up Theme Hospital at: