GAMING

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Theme Hospital

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chris-littlechild - September 3, 2014

It's a bitch, being a big-shot hospital dude. You get sued when your drunk plastic surgeon gives the guy with piles a boob job, you have to play golf all damn day with other fancy rich bastards, and you can't even steal yourself some drugs for your dodgy cousin Merv.

Let's not, for balls' sake, ever make a video game out of it. Except, y'know, this one, which we'll allow because it's giving us something to prattle about for this week's installment. Otherwise, we'd have to fill this page with news of our parakeet Mr. Featherington's bowel movements or something, and who the eff wants that?

Anywho, yes. Theme Hospital hit the PC in 1997, the follow-up to the menu-fiddly construction-a-thon Theme Park. Like the previous effort, it's a game full of eccentric, piss-takey humor, a welcome distraction from the slightly nerdly genre that is the management sim.

Your objective is to build a series of hospitals and see them prosper. You begin with a plot of land and an abandoned building or two, which you can buy and begin adding rooms to. Your hospitals become increasingly fancy-ass as you progress, but you begin by adding the basics. Reception area, suitably boobtastic and loose-moraled receptionist, a GP's office to analyse patients' illnesses, and some simple surgical rooms to cure them.

Well, this being a Bullfrog game, that's ‘simple surgical room' in the freaky-as-balls sense. Some of your visitors will be suffering from inflated heads, for instance, and there's a cure for that: having your head popped and re-inflated to its regular size by some rather creepy equipment.

What's this, a Justin Bieber gig? ZING!

Black humor is the name of the game, and it's rife throughout Theme Hospital. Its toontastic visuals ensure you aren't too horrified, but mass projectile vomiting in the hallways --nausea spreads, after all-- and destroying rats with a shotgun isn't pretty at all. Then there are the poor bastards suffering from King Complex, which gives them the uncontrollable urge to become Elvis impersonators. Wig, spangly pants and all.

There's a fair amount of micromanaging to be done, but it's all accessible enough. You'll have to balance staff wages and other costs against your income, while watching the overall performance of your hospital. Cruising through the game's menus, you'll be up to your ass in pie charts and graphs and such. Fans of the stat-tastic will be right at home, but the rest of us won't be left scratching our manly hairy chins in confusion.

Just make sure your maintenance man gets his ass in gear when machinery starts to break down, and that visiting VIPs don't see bodily fluids gushing down the hallways like that elevator full of blood from The Shining, and you're probably good.

In sum, if you're a fan of strategy games with a big ol' side order of quirky weirdness, Theme Hospital comes highly recommended.

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