Our latest instalment of Pixel Perfect is the hospital sim Theme Hospital. Developed by Bullfrog during the “Golden Age” of simulation gaming, Theme Hospital was a huge success and sold over 4 million copies worldwide. Its simple design and fast-paced gameplay has allowed it to stand the test of time and it still holds up today.
The game sees players take on a variety of different responsibilities in the running of a hospital. Players must design rooms, hire staff and research cures, while also making sure that the hospital has a comfortable temperature and that both staff and patients are content.
At the beginning of each level, the player is introduced to a certain condition; usually this involves keeping your reputation high or acquiring a certain amount of money. The player is then given a few minutes to set up the basic rooms required and to hire some staff before the initial patients arrive. Planning is essential when designing your hospital. For example, if the diagnosis rooms are too far apart, doctors would waste a considerable amount of time walking from one side of the hospital to the other. However, the player can literally pick up staff and move them but, most of the time, your attention is focused elsewhere.
Player interaction is vital as the AI is incredibly stupid. If a doctor is left in a corridor, he will begin to wander around aimlessly and handymen often walk straight past rubbish. This can lead to some frustrating moments in the later levels as everything needs to be running smoothly at all times.
The gameplay is incredibly fast-paced and a lot of things are happening at any given time. Players have to make sure each room is occupied to prevent queues building up and patients leaving due to long waiting times. Your staff usually spends most of their time lounging around in the staff room, as they are all lazy and, honestly, don’t deserve to work in your glorious hospital. So, making sure staff rooms are located near where each individual staff member works is essential. I strongly recommend disabling announcements, unless you like hearing, “DOCTOR REQUIRED IN GP’S OFFICE!” 500 times in a monotonous and piercing voice. To each his own, I guess.
To keep the gameplay interesting, events like Emergencies, Earthquakes and – in the later levels – Epidemics are introduced. During Emergencies, patients with a serious disease are dropped off to at hospital by helicopter and the player is given a certain amount of time to cure them before they die. Earthquakes move the screen around and damage your machines, which then need to be repaired by your handymen. Epidemics are the most hectic of these events; here, patients rapidly spread a disease throughout your hospital and the player is required to vaccinate the infected with the aid of your nurses. If you fail in your attempts to cover up the epidemic, you take a massive hit to your reputation and you are also fined.
While the game is initially very easy, later levels may require a few attempts to accomplish as bankruptcy and poor conditions may cause the hospital to close and require the player to start again. To prevent this, always be sure to hire the best staff, keep training doctors and keep enough handymen running around to make sure the hospital runs smoothly.
Theme Hospital is a must-have for any fans of simulation games or anyone wanting to take a trip down memory lane. With its dark humour, simple interface and unique gameplay, even people who missed it the first time around should definitely try it out. Get it now on GOG.com for just $6!
*This retrospective review was made possible by GOG.com, who provided us with a code for Theme Hospital.