Doctor required in InFLATOR room!
Release Date: Feb 1998
Platforms: MS DOS/Playstation
This game has no right to be as much fun as it is.
Theme hospital was published by EA. Bullfrog developed the original PC version, but it’s the Playstation version I’ll be talking about here, and that was handled by a team called Krisalis. It came out in February 1998, and we got our hands on it the following Christmas. It was a present given to my sister, but that didn’t stop me from getting stuck into it!
You’re asked to enter your name, you catch sight of some kind of board game and then you’re presented with this.
After clicking accept, that’s it. It’s you, playing as the cursor, with a large empty building. 15 year old me didn’t care much for manuals and neither does 32 year old me. So the controls were figured out gradually, by committee (Cazzie and I sat in front of that TV for quite a while on Christmas day 1998!) Once you’ve learnt Theme Hospital’s rules, it’s a joy to set up each room, with it’s unique equipment and several optional bits of furniture. You have to be careful though, because if you run out of room, it costs money to expand! Next, you have to employ Doctors and Staff to work fo you. But choose wisely!
Patients come to you with a wide variety of ailments, from a Bloated Head to Alien DNA to *sob* a broken heart! Curing them will require diagnosis, research, and some cold hard cash to get the fancy-dancy curing machine into your hospital!
Are you looking after your patients? They’ll need somewhere to sit, things to drink and maybe somewhere to poop if they need to! You’d better get your skates on, hadn’t you?
Each level has specific targets that need to be met, and this is the real challenge behind the Theme games. You’ll have to build your reputation, cure a certain number of people, acheive a certain dollar value….. you’re eased into all this, but as you get further into the game, it gets tough to keep all those sliders at the right level. Good performances are rewarded at the end of each game year, with little trophies and boosts to your bank balance or your reputation. And you’re ranked against your competitors.
To keep “build rooms, cure people, meet goals” from getting stale, the game throws you curve balls every now and again. You may get word of an emergency: a large number of patients with the same disease, and curing them all in a time limit can net you a hefty bonus. A VIP could tour your hospital (at which point you’ll have handymen sweeping the floor in front of him like an Olympic curling team) or….. there could be a rat infestation, an earthquake…. or a contagious disease causing everyone to vomit! Eugh.
There is no game music in the Playstation version, leaving your Receptionist and the various sound effects to fill the void. Cheers when you cure people, and cash register sounds when you agree to give your top surgeon a hefty wage increase.
A couple of gripes before we finish: Some of the menus and functions of Theme hospital could be a little easier to locate. Once the game told me people were freezing and I should turn the radiators up. I spent 20 minutes trying to find out how to do this! Also, the staff should be a little easier to select and manage. Why is my star Surgeon sitting in the GP’s office talking to patients? People are sat outside the operating theatre waiting and slowly dying!
Aaaand breathe. I made a video of some gameplay for you, starting level 10. Just to give you a taste. Hope you enjoy!
I found this game to be a LOT of fun, both back then and now. I went out of my way to give this a real good go recently, and managed to beat the game. It’s charming, silly and something a little different! Has a few rough edges but on the whole it’s a great experience. Would recommend to anyone!
Graphics: Cute, Cartoonish characters and nice animation – 8
Sound: No music, which is a shame. Well-placed sound effects though – 6
Gameplay: Keeps you thinking and planning. Most menus/icons are well thought-out – 8
Lifespan: Takes a while to beat, but once you’re there you probably won’t come back. – 7