In early 1998, I was dying to play a new sim. Unfortunately, I owned just about every decent sim that was on the market at that time, and I couldn't wait until SimCity 3000 was released. I stumbled across Theme Hospital, and since Bullfrog's name was on the package, and because the images on the box looked rather entertaining, I decided to buy it. Big mistake.
The premise behind Theme Hospital is that the player is running a hospital which must stay within budgetary constraints, while having to heal the highest number of patients at the same time. In order for his hospital to heal patients, the player must build rooms that can perform certain diagnostic and curative functions. The hospital must be staffed by employees such as doctors, nurses, handymen, and receptionists. Certain creature comforts are also available for purchase, like drink machines, benches, fire extinguishers and radiators. By combining these elements, the player must construct as efficient a hospital as possible, curing various ailments and depositing fees in the hospital's coffers, while trying to not run out of funds.
This title is packed with cartoon-style graphics, a type of animation with which I am not particularly enamored. However, the graphics are very well done, so fans of this sort of animation may appreciate this aspect of the product much more than I did.
In general, all this may sound rather entertaining. However, I found that the entire premise wore thin quite quickly. I was mildly amused with the title's "bathroom humor" for a little while, but then, it got old. Part of the "treat" of this title is supposed to be watching how the cures take place. However, there are only so many times that one can be amused by seeing a Bloaty Head patient get deflated, or by seeing a Slack Tongue patient have his taste buds removed by a Slicer Machine.
One thing I was completely frustrated with was the seemingly constant attention that had to be paid to some very small things. For example, let's take radiators. If there are not enough radiators in the hospital, the patients are uncomfortable and fewer show up at its front door. If there are an adequate amount of radiators, patients get warm and they will frequent any well-placed drink machine, an activity which will help to line the hospital's pockets. However, due to the height of the walls, some radiators can actually be hidden from view, which causes a real problem if the player ever decides to redesign his hospital's floor plan. Mandatory attention to small things like this limited my enjoyment factor for this title.
There are better, more creative sims on the market other than Theme Hospital. For the fan of a good sim, this is not one that is worthy of long-term hard drive space.
Graphics: The graphics are nice, if you are a fan of the cartoon-style of artwork that is in this title. You'll be spending a lot of time looking at it, so make sure it suits your tastes before you buy.
Sound: The sound is good, as there are different effects for doors opening and closing, drinks being dispensed, and so forth. There's quite a lot of audio variety, which is one aspect of this title that keeps it from scoring even nearer the bottom of the scale.
Enjoyment: After the first couple of hours, my enjoyment of this title decreased dramatically. Even though I enjoy adolescent humor at times, Theme Hospital is no Beavis and Butthead or South Park by any stretch of the imagination.
Replay Value: Once a level is conquered, there is little reason to play it again.
Theme Hospital is a level-based hospital management simulation where players have to start on an empty building, and then assemble rooms with all kinds of material, from desks and file cabinets for the general diagnosis to the expensive ultra-scanners and x-rays to diagnose such bizarre diseases such as Bloaty Head, Slack Songue or Alien DNA, and treat them with with even more bizarre machines like an Head Inflator or a DNA fixer. There several additional rooms, such as a staff room for your employees to rest, a toilet so that patients don't have to relieve themselves in the corridors, a research department to get the most advanced diagnostic and treatment technologies and a training room where consultants can teach a thing or two to rookies, making them capable doctors. The size and layout of each room can be set by the player, according to the available space. In addition to rooms, the player must provide radiators, seating for patients and drink machines.
However, rooms don't run by themselves. Most diagnostic and clinics can work with regular doctors, but others like the operating theater and the research room require specialized staff while the ward, pharmacy and the fracture clinic require an attending nurse. At the same time, the hospital can't run without handymen cruising around the hospital to water up dry plants, clean up litter and vomit (after all, people go there because they are sick) and fix machines, while receptionists direct patients to the proper rooms.
As levels advance, the player faces increasingly harder situations: VIP visits, emergencies, epidemics and earthquakes, which can either take a toll on reputation or on the bank account. On the other hand, as more and more equipment is required, additional plots of land are available for purchase in later maps.
People who downloaded Theme Hospital have also downloaded:
Theme Park, Sim Theme Park (a.k.a. Theme Park World), Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, Sim City 2000, Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Age of Empires, Transport Tycoon Deluxe, Age of Empires III
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