SummaryBullfrog getting everything right
The GoodEverything about the game avoids being dry and long-winded, leaving the serious approach to Civilization and the like, and ensuring that the general appeal of the hospital idea isn't wasted. The graphics are bright and cartoony, and the sound effects enlivened by some comic speech ("Will patients please try not to be sick in the corridors?" is a good example).
The largely-fictional illnesses are a good idea, enlivened by a few amusing diagnosis sheets and some entertaining animations of the specialised ones being cured. The combination of ward and operating theatre, plus the multiple uses for psychiatry and pharmacy, put a premium on hospital planning.
The importance of money within the game, and the occasional compromising of patient safety in response for money (such as epidemic cover-ups and refusing to treat risky patients if you have a 100% cure rate for the year (and need the £10,000 bonus this offers)) present a neat satire on commercial medicine.
Several new features are added as you play through the levels, including training staff, which is a minor feature on level 4 but a HUGE deal on level 5, as the local doctors are all trainees. Levels which are prone to earthquakes and epidemics add some variety as well.
The BadThere is a slight unfinished feel to the game, evident in a few oversights, bugs and 'features'. It appears possible for other hospitals to buy the land that is available to you, but (having got as far as level 8) this doesn't seem to happen. The UK box has a sticker crudely obscuring details of a multi-player mode which was dropped at the last minute. Some training-related messages appear garbled, for example. Objects occasionally get stuck, which makes it harder to adjust your hospital's design to accommodate a new room, for example.
The epidemics don't work as well as they should. If a patient leaves the hospital, the Health Authority are immediately notified. Fine, but this also often happens when a patient moves from one building within the hospital to another.
A few things such as setting the temperature of the radiators are the kind of Micro-Management that should be avoided in games like this.
The Bottom LineSuperficially a sequel to Theme Park (hence the nonsensical title), Theme Hospital sets you as manager of a small-town hospital. You must hire staff, place rooms and other objects, and ensure that people are treated well enough to keep your reputation high and get your bank balance high. Succeed on the first level and you will be offered increasingly tough assignments, each with different success targets.
The game hooks you in quickly, and as long as you can cope with the occasional spells where everything is running smoothly but you have to wait to build up enough cures or money, there are enough changes on each level to keep the interest going. It's funny, original, unique, and worth checking out today.