chlomo's Theme Hospital (PC) review

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Doctor Required In GP's Office!

When I got this as a kid I thought it was the most boring possible game I could be given, a hospital management sim? Sheesh, what next, paper folding simulator? Anyway one sunny afternoon I gave the game a go and before I knew it I was entranced. It's like watching an ant colony with the patients and doctors sprites walking around doing their jobs until you get a notification saying one wants to be a videogame producer and will leave if you don't pay him 3 times what he rightfully deserves to earn.

So Theme Hospital see's you taking the reigns of a hospital administrator and has you design your own hospital, you have to manage everything from important stuff like finance, research, construction, hospital policies and staff and then the less important stuff like how many sofas to put in a staff room and whether the handymen should focus on whether to clean up vomit or water plants. There's a lot to consider that goes into making a hospital successful, choose your staff carefully because true to life, some people are just lazy scumbags, and some faintly smell of cabbage. Build your rooms carefully because leaving items out and not placing enough windows can decrease staff performance. Make sure you decorate your hallways appropriately with benches and drinks machines and for the love of all that is good and holy make sure you build some toilets.

Once your hospital has been constructed the patients will flow in and it's a testament to how well you do things if you don't really need to interact with it much after that, but don't worry on the PC version at least, you won't be able to sit back for long. As the poorly flood in you'll be hit with problem after problem be it that you haven't got enough diagnosis equipment to fully diagnose a patient and you'll have to decide whether to guess the cure or not, you'll have health inspectors and famous people walk around and judge the place, the staff will want more money to do less work and there won't be enough GP's Offices. Whilst this stuff is very mundane they throw in spicier things like earthquakes that can degrade your hospital machinery, epidemics that can spread from patient to patient unless you can stop it before you have to pay a fine, emergencies where your staff have to cure a set number of patients before the time runs out AND THEY ALL DIE.

This is the main bulk of the game, making improvements, hiring new staff, fixing things, researching new things and keeping the place afloat. Each level has a criteria for winning, usually it's cure a number of patients, have a certain amount of money, be worth a certain amount of money and have a decent reputation. Seems simple enough but many of these feed into each other, if your reputation is bad, people won't turn up as frequently and your hospital won't make as much money, eventually if you can't bring the place back up to speed you'll dip into the red and before you know it, game over.

All of this stuff is fascinating as you try and balance things delicately, holding off another month until the staff you're really after turns up to hire, sending people home to avoid them storming out because you can't afford the clinic they need. Being able to make the savvy decisions is what separates the successful from the unsuccessful.

But it's not all clipboards and spreadsheets, the classic bullfrog humour is in this game in spades, patients suffer from king complex where they all dress up like Elvis or arrive complaining that they're invisible. The "new disease discovered" pop up is worth reading every time to see what silly way the patients contracted these ridiculous diseases... don't eat pizza you found under the cooker is all I'm saying. Hiring new staff shows you their traits and hobbies like collecting WW2 Shrapnel and says how their slow and fussy. The receptionist will chime in over the PA system every now and then and say some really silly things and of course because there are toilets, there's toilet humour too. Fun for all the family.

Theme Hospital lures you in with it's bloaty headed patients and makes you stay with it's surprisingly deep management simulations, really one of the few games I can play for hours refining it.

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