by William Thompson
previewed on PC
Hospital, a real money-maker
Did you ever want to be a doctor when you were growing up, helping to cure sick people? Then realising that you need really high grades to even get into a college where you have to study further to become a doctor. Oh well, maybe a hospital life just isn't for you. You would just have to meet those sexy nurses some other way. If that is the case, Deep Red Games (developers of Tycoon City: New York and Monopoly Tycoon) may have the tonic for you, as they give all the would-be doctors a chance to run a hospital with their forthcoming game, Hospital Tycoon.
Hospital Tycoon, as its name suggests, is a tycoon-style strategy game set in the wards of a hospital. It is your job as the manager of the facility to make sure that the hospital runs smoothly. Gamers must design a hospital that fills the needs of patients, doctors and nurses. Patients must be cured, whilst the staff need to be satisfied with their jobs. All this while still making sure that the hospital is running at a profit.
A feeling of familiarity...
For anyone who has ever played any other Tycoon-themed games, Hospital Tycoon will seem very familiar. The game offers a number of scenarios, which get increasingly more difficult. The learning curve is made that much easier for newcomers to the tycoon-style games by the fact that there is an introductory scenario which enables gamers to become familiar with the basics of running the hospital.
The game interface, in its current stage, is very simple to use. Everything is centrally located in a small circular section in the bottom left of the screen. This circular panel enables easy access to all that is required, with pull-out tabs for building objects, scenario objectives, the hospital computer and most importantly, the hospital ratings.
Moving around the locations is also very simple. By merely moving the mouse in certain directions, you can determine where you want to visit. Using the scroll wheel enables you to zoom in closer (or alternatively to zoom out for an overseeing view). And holding down the right mouse button whilst moving the mouse left or right, rotates the camera angle so that you can see a full 360 degree view of the hospital.
Placing new objects around the hospital is a matter of selecting an appropriate sized area or location and left-clicking the mouse. When the object is placed down, it will be coloured green to denote that it is OK to place in the position. Of course, if you think it would look better somewhere else, you can always move it around or even delete it (and get a portion of your initial outlay returned to you).
Playing Doctors and Nurses
Hiring staff and delegating tasks is also quite straightforward. Select the staff member required from the available list and drop him/her in their required position. Once positioned, the staff will go about their business, such as directing patients to consulting rooms, diagnosing illnesses, treating patients or even cleaning up spills. But from what we've seen so far, that is just the beginning. You can make the staff interact with each other and create your own Grey's Anatomy or ER. Staff morale can be heightened when they are enjoying working with other staff members. You can make them joke around with each other, or even make them become quite amorous.
Graphically, Hospital Tycoon is standard fare for this genre. The character graphics are similar to The Sims, whilst the indoor locations and object graphics are on a par with games such Rollercoaster Tycoon. The use of the first-person view is a great inclusion though. Once a staff member or patient has been selected, you are given the option of entering first-person view. You can then basically walk around the hospital and see what the hospital looks like through the character's eyes.
Listening for a heartbeat...
In the game's current phase, audio could use a bit of work. Music is plain (if existent at all) and better music could be used to lift the pulse of the game. Sound effects are OK, but can get very annoying at times, especially when there are numerous patients sneezing. This could of course be fixed by treating the patients quickly, but in the time between entering the hospital and being treated, the sneezing can become somewhat irritating. Characters also use the gibberish language that has become wildly used in games. This is not a bad thing though, as it enables gamers to read what the characters are saying at their own pace.
Overall, from what we've seen from the preview code, Hospital Tycoon has some good qualities. The graphics are not outstanding, but do a respectable job for this type of game. Audio can get repetitive and could use a little work to lift the tempo of the game, but otherwise does a good job in keeping with the hospital environment of the game. The game is fairly easy to pick up and play (especially with the help of the introductory scenarios), the interface panel is clear and contains everything you need in one place, and the usual tycoon-style placing of objects has been made very intuitive. The glut of games in the tycoon genre and the popularity of The Sims games could be either a help or hindrance to Hospital Tycoon. We'll have to wait and see.