by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Not Theme Hospital
Tycoon games are a dime a dozen but occasionally one comes along that cannot be so easily dismissed. Is Hospital Tycoon such a game? I'm afraid not, but I am certain you will have looked at the score to the right already and knew that before you started reading. I am a sucker for these types of games and, however rare the good ones are, I keep trying. I also know that if you are like me, you may want to try the game out regardless of review scores and popular opinion. Knowing that the game comes from Codemasters instead of some budget publisher cranking out Tycoon games at the speed of light made me curious too. Combine that with the obvious likeness to Bullfrog's Theme Hospital and one might be tempted think this game is actually worth the $29.99 that it is on the shelves for. Before you shell out your cash, I urge you to read on.
When Theme Hospital was released back in 1997, it was a fairly innovative title. There weren't that many Tycoon games yet, let alone Tycoon games with a sense of humor. The graphics were top notch, the gameplay had some issues but overall it managed to entertain the average gamer for quite some time. Nowadays you can't even pay for gas without hitting a budget-stand filled with Tycoon games and it's damn hard to do something interesting in this genre.
Before you read on, I would like to stress the fact that this is -not- the sequel to Theme Hospital. I'm not sure who owns the rights to Theme Hospital but my guess would be that it is Electronic Arts as they bought (and butchered) Bullfrog years ago. Hospital Tycoon is at most a spiritual successor.
Enter Hospital Tycoon
Hospital Tycoon puts you in the director's seat of (surprisingly) a hospital. Your task is to ensure that everything operates smoothly by hiring staff, building treatment rooms and filling them with the required medical appliances. Your hospital needs to be kept clean as well, the staff needs a place to relax and your patients will want to wait around in a pleasant environment that does not only provide care but also sustenance.
In Story Mode the game attempts to be a virtual soap that consists of series and episodes. In each episode the player is asked to complete certain missions and at regular intervals the game zooms in on particular characters in your hospital to show all sorts of soap-like happenings. Uhm?
In many ways Hospital Tycoon is a blatant copy of Theme Hospital. The gameplay is pretty much the same, it feels the same and it attempts the humor too. Where the game differs most is that it doesn't succeed at being humorous, the graphics may be 3D but the in-game characters look less comical and the fantastically sarcastic voice-over of Theme Hospital has been replaced with Simlish.
Ah yes... The Sims. Hospital Tycoon attempts to borrow some elements of The Sims as well and again fails miserably. Your doctors, nurses and other staff talk to each other and little icons appear over their heads to show what they are talking about. They end up liking or disliking each other. This feature could have deepened gameplay but there is no apparent effect at all when two staff members hate each others' guts. So, what's the point of this feature? It is almost as if it was meant go deeper but was cut for some reason.
No Pros and Cons at this time