By Al Giovetti, 03/16/97
UK Developer, Bullfrog, Releases Sequel to Popular and Irreverent Theme Park
Theme Hospital, a business simulation for Windows 95 and MS-DOS, is the sequel to Bullfrog's critically acclaimed Theme Park. Released in 1994, Theme Park sold more than a million copies worldwide and remained a top ten hit for more than 2 years in the UK.
Theme Park is one of the biggest selling games of all time - nearly a million copies sold, still in the charts, and nearly two years since it was released. Difficult to top? Not for Bullfrog... While Theme Park detailed the day-to-day running of an amusement park, mixing cute, colourful graphics with a fully operational economic simulator, Bullfrog is soon to produce Theme Hospital, applying Theme Parks fantastic gameplay to the everyday running of your very own hospital.
Just as in real life, you have to make your hospital function, carefully using your resources to good effect, healing and repairing the sick and injured and giving yourself a warm feeling inside. Of course, things can go wrong and, when youre facing a psychiatric ward full of Elvis impersonators or a bunch of people in Out Patients with Hairy-itis (an affliction which causes all- over body hair, for which you dont have a cure), youll think that youre the one whos going to need to lie down on a couch. While the attraction of Casualty-style blood and guts is obviously there, the development team is keen to keep it to a minimum. "There really isn't that much blood to be seen in the game," says Gary Carr, lead artist for Theme Hospital. We've tried to lean more towards humour, rather than the shock value of guts and entrails. I mean, there are gory bits in there, but we've tried to make it as fun to play for everybody as possible. Id like to get a squeamish reaction from players without using much blood kind of a Tom and Jerry thing.
From the screens, you should see there's a marked difference between this and Theme Park - the sprites are bigger, and the graphics are hi-res only, meaning youll need an SVGA video card to run it; but were sure that youll agree the results are worth it. The most important detail feature that you can't see, though, is how the characters interact with each other and with objects. If a doctor walks over to his filing cabinet, he opens an individual drawer and gets out a file, closes the drawer again, and he will then carry the file over to his desk, say, and place it down in front of his computer. All movements and animations are fluid; everything is moved correctly as it would be in real-life - and man, does it look realistic!
To add to the realism, other computer players are playing against you, creating and running their own hospitals and, if youve access to a network of PCs, up to three other players can take their place. The network game is all-out war poaching staff from the other hospitals, balancing budgets, attracting your competitors patients, researching new cures and machines Just like a real hospital, youre right in the thick of it, and theres no time for stress. And to cap it all, you might even see a few Theme Park characters making guest appearances maybe in the Childrens Ward, maybe in Accident and Emergency.
Just as with its predecessor, business and humor go together in Theme Hospital. Bullfrog takes the idea of building and maintaining a successful business from the midway into the operating room. Making money and having fun are the underlying themes as the gamer is provided with a real world setting in which to construct and operate a hospital.
"Every conceivable aspect of building, designing and maintaining a hospital was meticulously researched by the Theme Hospital development team," says Theme Hospital producer Mark Webley. "That part of the game is quite realistic. However, in order to keep the game from being realistic, to the point of being offensive, we made up an entire list of afflictions, paying careful attention to probing the funnybone." In route to warding off the creditors the quipsters at Bullfrog keep you in stitches by offering up such fictitious diseases as Hairyitis (the uncontrollable growth of body hair caused by overexposure to the moon), Bloaty Head (an inflated noggin caused by sniffing cheese and drinking unpurified rain water), or King's Complex (the uncontrollable desire to wear suede shoes and eat cheeseburgers caused by the spirit of the King entering the patients mind), just to name a few. All illnesses have cures. It's up to the player to discover and market the cures.
"The technology used in Theme Hospital demonstrates the attention to detail which has become a trademark of Bullfrog games," says Bullfrog Vice President of Marketing, Alex Carloss. "The player has control of more than 1,000 different characters that fully interact with each other and every object they encounter. No other simulation goes to the trouble to accurately and humorously portray the everyday aspect of life as Theme Hospital does."
Consideration must be given to every detail from buying furniture and equipment to researching cures for various illnesses. The goal is to establish a first rate medical facility that attracts the best staff and lures and cures hordes of patients, thus making the hospital a financial success. Once a player has succeeded in one part of the Theme Hospital world, tougher challenges await in bigger and more complex hospitals elsewhere.
The player is cast as the administrator and begins the game by building a useful and effective health care center from the ground up.
While building on the successes of Theme Park, the Designer Series moves into the hi-resolution cutting edge of gaming graphics technology with Theme Hospital.
UtilitiesIn order to completely experience the designer series theme, Electronic Arts now offers the original Theme Park, for Windows 95 and MS-DOS, as part of its CD ROM Classics Gold Edition. It is available at a suggested retail price of $14.95.
Multi-player FeaturesTheme Hospital developers are planning a multiplayer option with network and modem support which allows up to four players to run rival hospitals. The free downloadable multiplayer upgrade is expected within one month on the Bullfrog Web site at http://www.bullfrog.co.uk/. Players will be able to steal patients and introduce epidemics, all the while discrediting and destroying one another. It's more maddening than the already certifiable one-player version.
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ReferencesElectronic Arts (NASDAQ: ERTS) Web Site