I just had the sudden urge to play good old Bullfrog games. Come to think of it, I loved most of the popular Bullfrog game out there: Populous, Dungeon Keeper, Syndicate Wars...
So I dug up my Theme Hospital. It's a real pain to get it fully working on Windows 7, and eventually I give up and played with a minor graphical glitch. Well, it's either that or no sound. Why can't it all be so simple, Microsoft?
The game itself isn't that easy. I don't remember completing the game at all. There are a ton of elements in the game, and most of them are quite invisible. However, despite that, it's still a great game to play.
A cheesy but cute way of showing levels
So let's have a brief overview of the game. There are three parts to your hospital: Rooms, Staff and Miscellaneous Items. Rooms are the places your staff works and hang around, as well as patients to use. Miscellaneous Items cover from radiators to benches to vending machines.
First we take a look at Rooms. There are 3 kinds of rooms in the game: Diagnosis, Curing and Others. Diagnosis rooms are places where doctors try to figure out the exact sickness of the patient. Examples are X-ray scan, Cardiogram and incredibly good but expensive Scanner (feels alike to MRI scanner).
Curing rooms are rooms where you literally cure the patients. Example room that relate to real life are the simple Pharmacy, Psychiatrist and Operating Theater.
Other rooms are just rooms for general purpose like Staff Rooms, Toilets and Lecture Rooms.
Hiring your staff takes some time to think
Next we look at Staffs. This is divided into 4 different kinds of staff. The most important and complicated is the doctor. Doctors come with 3 levels of experience: Juniors, Doctor and Consultant. Consultant have the best success rate when it comes to identifying illnesses and they can lecture other doctors in the lecture room.
Doctors can also come with specializations. Certain rooms require a specialized Doctor to use. There are three specializations: Psychiatrist, Surgeon and Researcher. Furthermore, a consultant with a specialization is able to teach Junior doctors their specialization over time.
Nurses are required to run pharmacy, wards and the Fracture Clinic (a curing room). To that extent, they are rather important and are generally cheap. You don't really need many of them to run the hospital, thankfully.
Then we have Receptionists, who simply just handle...reception? You would usually forget about them though since they don't really complain about their pay or spend their time resting in staff rooms.
Finally we have the Handyman. I had a ton of problems with these guys as they are always asking for pay increase. These guys water your plants, fix your machines and cleans up the entire hospital. To that extent, they are very important.
Make sure your rooms and items are easily accessible!
Lastly we'll look at Miscellaneous Items. Benches are for your patients to sit down. If they spend their time standing while waiting, they will get impatient and are prone to leaving your hospital due to frustration. So benches are incredibly important to your hospital.
Also there are Radiators which you place to keep your place warm. I have no idea how it affects your staff or patients directly, but having a radiator in each room seems to make less people angry. Finally we have the vending machine, which also helps keep patients happy while they wait.
Need a loan? Borrow from the bank!
So with all that, I have went through the overall mechanics and items of the game. It's very easy to pickup and learn from your mistakes when you start getting the hang of it. The trick is that there are many many elements to the game (some not listed here like Loans, Earthquakes and Epidemics) and you must really keep track of everything if you wish to advance to the next level.
The only real problem is that there are too many invisible variables. How cold is cold? Doctor experience bars are hard to gauge. Why do my patients start vomiting? Where do mouse holes come from? Why are my Handyman angry?
Otherwise, this game is quite balanced and fun to play. I hope everyone who loves simulation games at least give this game a shot. It's probably one of those 'accident' games, where developers throw in their ideas and try to see if it's good. It so happens that it actually is a good game.