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Windback Wednesday – Theme Hospital

Theme Hospital. This game consumed so much of my youth, it’s not even funny. It’s as if Theme Hospital was made to be one of these games that you sorta go “Okay, perhaps I’ll play it through again… Just because I remember it being good.” Then you play it… And you remember that it’s actually quite slow during the gameplay, so you’re constantly set to speed setting 5 (That’s the fastest)! Well okay, that doesn’t sound like a good thing but it actually is. I’ll explain more about that as we take a trip down memory lane.

The game was created by Bullfrog Productions back in 1997. Bullfrog were well known around this time, one of the most established British games companies out there in fact. They were in charge of the highly successful Theme Park franchise, which still goes on today under the guise of RollerCoaster Tycoon. The latest in the RollerCoaster Tycoon series, RollerCoaster Tycoon World, is set to be released this year and utilising the Unity 5 engine.

hospitallogoI’ve mentioned this game is slow and that’s not a joke. When you start the game at the general speed, it comes across as very slow and perhaps somewhat clunky. We could attribute this to age (1997), or we could be more realistic and say: Well we actually kind of need it to be relatively slow so we can do the building aspects. This is where Bullfrog were geniuses for their time. In Theme Hospital, you get the chance to speed up and slow down time. Whenever I’m building my hospital at the start of the game, I like to set the speed to 1, the slowest you can go. This gives you more time to build and more time to think about what you’re doing. What you’ll see in the video is that I do indeed put it on a 1 setting at first, then I speed it back up again when I’m actually playing, slowing down for only a few events.

It’s a crafty little trick which I’m sure Bullfrog did for the gamers out there who like to plan their buildings more than others. I’ve seen some people play this game constantly set at speed 5 which is the beauty of this game: You play it in your own pace. Okay, so the same can be said for the Final Fantasy’s of the world and to a lesser extend the Call of Duty’s… But ultimately, a Hospital Management Simulation would need you to seriously consider specific elements. One interesting point: So long as there’s a way to each office, nothing stops you blocking off whole sections. This is useful and dangerous for the players, as of course if you make people walk around a whole building to get to a room, that’s valuable time, leading to death of patients and perhaps even ticked off VIPs.

Here’s a little tip for you, which you’ll be able to see in the video. Do you notice that I, someone who claims to have played for many years, am actually using the tutorial on the recorded level 1? The reason for that is simply that you get extra time. You get time to make the GP’s office, build a reception desk and hire a receptionist all before you actually start the game. It’s quite minor but it’s still a small little advantage over to you, so… Yay!

Let me know if you’re keen to see more Windback Wednesday videos and discussions… also let me know if you think I really should be investing in a whole new machine (I don’t think I want to, I know I have to!) Did you have many experiences with Theme Hospital yourself? Did you enjoy it or dislike it? As ever, please leave your comments below, over on Facebook or Twitter and let me know what you thought of this issue of Windback Wednesday.

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