Theme Hospital is a business simulation game developed by Bullfrog Productions and published by Electronic Arts in 1997, in which the player designs and operates a hospital. Like most of Bullfrog's games, Theme Hospital is permeated by an eccentric sense of humour. The game is the thematic successor to Theme Park, a game also produced by Bullfrog. The game was a massive commercial success, selling over 4 million copies worldwide.
The game is set in a hospital, and requires the player to build an environment which will attract patients with comical complaints, illnesses, emergencies, and diseases. The game has a somewhat dark sense of humour, which is similar to that of Theme Park in many ways. The player has no direct control over the patients that wander the hospital, although gameplay largely centres on influencing their actions in one way or another. The player does, however, have the ability to pick up any staff member in the building and move them to a different area (to speed up their movement from place to place) and to expel any patients from the hospital (if they are being a nuisance, causing rowdiness or about to die and affect the hospital's statistics). The player may also force the patient into taking a chance of possible cure at the risk of killing the patient (this is useful, for example, if a patient is about to die but has already completed enough diagnostics requirements to identify the kind of disease the patient is suffering from) and rearrange the queue of each of the rooms in the hospital (useful for moving dying patients to the front of the queue so they can receive treatment first).
Each level consists of an empty hospital to plan and design, with set goals in the fields of financial attainment, patients cured, percent of patients cured, and hospital value. Holding negative funds or allowing sufficient patients to die will bring about losing requirements. When the goals have been met the player has the option to move on to a new, more elaborate hospital with tougher winning conditions and more diseases present. The final level in the game, 'Battenburg' consists of an enormous, yet somewhat awkward, hospital with all the diseases and rooms in the game present, all disasters frequent and very high winning requirements.
During development the game featured real diseases which has to be researched and cured, however before release it was switched to fictional comedy afflictions.
The game revolves around buying and placing rooms (or facilities) in a hospital, and hiring doctors, nurses, handymen and receptionists to operate it. Some rooms are fundamentally required for the running of the hospital, such as GP's offices, Staff Rooms, and Toilets, while others provide optional services (such as General Diagnosis rooms, Scanner Rooms and X-Rays). Some rooms are dedicated to the treatment of a specific illness, and a number of rooms contain machinery that has to be repaired occasionally. Rooms are divided into 4 categories: Diagnosis, Treatment, Clinics and Facilities. Some rooms, notably the Ward and Psychiatric, may overlap and appear on two categories.
Patients are attracted to the hospital, in part, by the reputation of the hospital and the cost of treatment there. They arrive with a number of amusing fictional illnesses which must be diagnosed and cured to earn money and achieve targets set by the game. Rooms and equipment to treat fictional and comical diseases such as 'Bloaty Head', 'Slack Tongue', 'Fractured Bones', 'Serious Radiation', 'Hairyitis' and 'Baldness' must be researched before they can be placed in the hospital, while other conditions like 'Heaped Piles', 'Uncommon Cold' and 'The Squits' require research before a cure can be provided using the pharmacy. Advanced levels in the game feature epidemics (not available on the EU PlayStation version) where the player must either pay a fine and take a reputation hit or try to stop a disease infecting other patients by curing infected patients and vaccinating others within a certain time limit and without discovery by the Ministry of Health (catching the attention of the ministry by the means of an infected patient leaving the hospital or the time limit running out brings upon a usually more severe fine and harder reputation hit [although this is glitched in some versions of the game and sometimes fine the players less if they try to cover up the epidemic], while successfully suppressing the outbreak and before news reaches the ministry will bring upon bonuses). Medical emergencies also take place, where several patients suffering from the same disease must be cured within a specified time limit, and earthquakes occur which damage equipment. Equipment may also break down after prolonged use and negligence.
At the end of each year, the player can be presented with several awards based on their performance and management of their hospital. These awards also provides bonuses like additional cash or increased reputation. If the player does badly, however, he/she can lose the game, with the game ending with a CGI full motion video.
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