Theme Hospital



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It is with Theme Park that Bullfrog initiated the Designers Series in 1993. Based on the industry of amusement parks, Theme Park with its original interface and amusing graphics, became an immediate success which wasn't limited to only the PC world, but also conquered the other platforms including the consoles. With their strong experience, Bullfrog decided to work on another title, and thus started Theme Hospital. Like the name suggests, Theme Hospital is a game that will put you at the command of the public health, at the head of a hospital where you will manage everything from hygiene to research through human resources management.

As in the first title of the Designers Series where the player had to plan the arrangement of each attraction in the park, the player will also have to choose the layout of the various medical services needed in a modern hospital. At first, only a few basic rooms will be available such as GP's offices, General Diagnostics, Psychiatry, Ward and Pharmacy. Having selected their location as well as the fitting of furniture and medical devices in each room, it is important to think about your patient's welfare, and it starts with benches for them to wait on, refreshments in case they were to become thirsty, radiators to heat the corridors, plants to cheer them up, and toilets for urgent needs. Should you forget about these details, they will quickly become unhappy, impatient and will rather leave your hospital and see whether your competitors offer a better comfort. Before that happens, various indicators will allow you to respond to their needs. For example, toilet paper will show they need to relieve themselves, and a cup will indicate that they are thirsty, but there are many more signs for you to pay attention to. People waiting in queues, patients in emergencies, contagious patients, people not willing to pay for treatment, etc. It's up to you to give an adequate response to each of the problems that will arise in your hospital.

Indicators will also be used for your staff. Whenever they become tired, hot, cold, fed up by your working policy, or waiting for patients, you will notice it immediately. There too, you will need to come up with a solution. Lower the heat level if they are too hot, increase their salary if they want more (or fire them if they want too much), build a staff room to allow them to relax from the daily stress and tiredness. For the essential, the staff is composed of doctors (of various abilities ranging from junior to consultant), nurses, receptionists and handy men. At the beginning, all the specializations (such as psychiatrist, surgeon, researcher) will be available, but later in the game, only consultants will be able to train junior doctors into specialists. Notice that even a specialist can work as a doctor in most of the diagnostic rooms, but for some specific diseases, you will need the proper doctor to cure the patient. The nurses will take care of the treatments that don't need to be monitored by doctors, such as the ward, the pharmacy and the cast remover. To clean up your hospital, you will need to hire several handy men. Their task vary from cleaning up the floor to giving water to the plants through fixing diagnostic and treatment devices. Beware that if you neglect the hospital's cleanliness, you can face the disastrous effect of the vomit virus, which can be resumed in short by people doing nothing but vomiting at every corner and leaving disgusting traces everywhere. Keeping your hospital free of infectious germs is a question of organization. Be sure to place bins, and hire enough handy men in hopes to avoid the epidemics. You can also set the priorities for each of your handy men, whether they should pay more attention to cleanliness or repair medical apparatus first. Finally, the receptionists will orient patients to the different offices, and call doctors when they are needed. Just be cautious that the waiting queues do not get too long!

In the graphics department, Bullfrog as usual, did its best. The highly detailed SVGA graphics and the 3D isometric view provide the player with an excellent playground in which he or she can perceive the slightest activity. Plants drying up with heat, smoke from broken devices, littering in the corridors, patients wandering around or waiting to be cured, everything is brought to life on the screen with splendid details and a brilliant animation. It is just like you were a giant that ripped off the roof of an hospital to watch what the people were doing inside. With the mouse, you can easily scroll in any direction to view the other parts of the hospital, click on a member of your staff to see his or her status, build new rooms, alter old ones or remove items. The interface is once again very simple, and can be assimilated in a minimum amount of time.

What will be however longer to learn is how to run a hospital well. Fortunately, the first minutes of the game will introduce you to the basic notions of the game through a tutorial mode. You will learn the first steps to provide your hospital with the most basic services. After this first contact with the game's interface and principles, you will be all alone to manage your hospital. Nearly alone, because an advisor will sometimes pop up on the right bottom of the screen to give you a few warnings. If his presence bothers you too much, you can disable that feature. Theme Hospital is divided into several missions, each mission being another hospital with new goals to attain. When you successfully complete one, you will be offered a new position in another hospital where greater challenges await you. As you get farther in the game, several new elements will make their appearance. First, new diseases will afflict your patients, emergencies will enter your daily routine, and natural catastrophes such as earthquakes will add to the tragic. The new diseases will require your researchers to work on supplementary diagnostic machines and possible treatments, and improve the existing apparatus and drugs. Otherwise you will be submerged by patients that you will either have to send back home or keep in the hospital until you find a cure, hoping they won't leave your hospital before. As earthquakes will damage the medical equipment, don't forget to inspect your hospital after every shock.

Obviously, Theme Hospital is a fun game, but after a while, and despite the new elements that appear later in the game, the game play irremediably becomes repetitive. Although the box claims over 30 different diseases, there are less than ten with symptoms that you can actually see on the screen such as the slack tongue, bloaty head, fractures, transparency and hairy-itis. For those only, you will see the results when they are cured, whether it was with drugs or by following a particular treatment in one of the clinics. Others will simply go to the pharmacy once diagnosed, and leave the hospital happy if it wasn't too expensive and they didn't wait for too long. It is also frustrating sometimes when during emergencies your doctors are wandering around somewhere in the hospital rather than running to help their suffering patients. The best solution to this AI "bug" is to right click on your doctor to move it yourself directly where he should be. Also, what happened to the motto of Bullfrog? Where is the multi-player support? Will it be added later through a patch (again only available if you have access to Internet)? There are no such words in the manual although the multi-player (up to four on a network and two with a modem) support was clearly mentioned on the box before a sticker covered the inscription...


For Bullfrog fans, Theme Hospital despite the current lack of multi-player will remain a definite must. They will appreciate the humor, cartoon like animated sequences, authentic sounds (especially in the toilets), and a game play which, even if it is not as great as in other Bullfrog productions, is still enjoyable. Others might want to try out the demo first to make their decision.

Written by Frederick Claude

Click here for screen shots.



System Requirements:

MS-DOS version

486 DX2-66 Mhz or higher,
Min 8Mb RAM,
Hard disk with 25Mb free space or more,
MS-DOS 6.22 or higer,
VESA 1.2 compatible 1Mb SVGA video card,
Double speed CD-ROM drive or faster,
100% compatible Microsoft mouse and driver,
Sound Blaster or 100% compatible, Ensoniq Soundscape sound cards supported.

Windows 95 version

Pentium 60MHz or higher,
Windows 95,
Min 8Mb RAM (16Mb strongly recommended),
Hard disk with 25Mb free space or more,
Quadruple speed CD-ROM drive or faster,
DirectX 3.0 compatible sound and video card.


Bullfrog Ltd.,
20 Nugent Rd., Research Park,
Guildford, Surrey GU2 5AF,

Web site: Bullfrog Productions


In North America:

Electronic Arts
P.O. Box 7578,
San Mateo, CA 94403-7578.

Technical Support:415-572-ARTS Monday through Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm PST
Fax Support:415-286-5080

Web site: Electronic Arts

In Europe:

In UK:

Electronic Arts UK Ltd.,
P.O. Box 835,
Slough, Berkshire, SL3 8XU.

Technical Support:+44-(0)1753-546465

In France:

Electronic Arts France,
3 Rue Claude Chappe,
69771 Saint Didier au Mont D'or Cedex.

In Germany:

Electronic Arts GmbH.,
Verler Str. 1,
333332 Gutersloth.

In Sweden:

Electronic Arts,
Business Campus,
Johanneslundsvogen 2,
194 81 Upplandsvasby.

In Spain:

Electronic Arts Software S.A.,
Edificio Arcade,
Rufino Gonzalez 23 bis,
Planta 1a, Local 2,
28037 Madrid.

In Pacific:

In Australia:

Electronic Arts Pty. Ltd,
P.O. Box 432,
Southport, Qld 4215.

Technical Support:1-902-263-163 2.00 per min Seven days a week 8:30am to 10:30pm
Game play, hints and tips:1-902-262-062 1.00 per min

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