If you played PC games back in the 1990s, you may be familiar with classic games like Ultima, Wing Commander, Dungeon Keeper, SimCity, and Theme Hospital. Some of these games are no longer compatible with newer platforms, especially Mac OS X. So when GOG.com, short for Good Old Games, announced that they were bringing a part of their massive catalog of all-time classics to Mac OS, I immediately bought one of my favorites, Theme Hospital.
Note: This is not a new game. This is a classic game originally released in 1997. GOG.com simply repackages it for the modern OS X platform.
I Need a Doctor!
Theme Hospital is a business simulation game where you play as the manager of a series of hospitals run by The Health Ministry of Theme World. Throughout the game, you advance from one hospital to the next, taking on greater challenges each time. In order to succeed, you need to provide the best medical services while keeping your cash balances positive.
The game has everything that you need to run a hospital: a hospital building, a team of medical staff, and enough cash to build facilities and purchase other items. As you advance in the game, you can buy new lands to expand your hospital and research new drugs to cure weird diseases. Using the fn (function keys), you can access various statistics such as financial statements, treatment policies, research fund allocation, staff management, and an interface for taking out loans from the bank.
As you would expect from a simulation game, Theme Hospital continously spawns out new patients with different diseases to come to your hospital for medical services. Some of them may be cured, while some may be sent home or even die at the hospital. Each successful treatment increases your reputation and each unsuccessful one decreases it. Be on the lookout for any VIPs that come in for medical services; if they are pleased with your treatment, you will get a cash bonus. If they aren't, your reputation will suffer.
Things You Need to Know
Theme Hospital comes packaged with DOSBox, which allows you to emulate an Intel x86 PC complete with sound, graphics, mouse, and keyboard input. This is necessary for running many old MS-DOS games. On OS X, the game is packaged as a Mac application with a DMG installer, which runs flawlessly without any crashes. I was able to save up to eight different persistent game states even after quitting and relaunching the app.
Even though there are other ways you can play an MS-DOS game on OS X Mountain Lion, GOG.com has certainly made it very easy. You don't have to mess with Wine or own the original CD-ROM. Their game packages also include a DRM-free copy that runs on Windows.
A cute point is when you purchase Theme Hospital from GOG.com, you will receive a 58-page manual. This reminds me how older games used to ship with big manual books.
Things I Like
Theme Hospital is filled with dark humor. You get to see fictional diseases like Bloaty Head and Slack Tongue, humorous staff profiles, and funny animations when such diseases are treated. However, the hospital is run like a real hospital; there are receptionists, waiting benches, diagnostics and treatments, vending machines, radiators, trash bins, and many more.
I also like how easy it is to learn to play. The game has a tutorial that is enough to help most gamers pick up all the required skills to play. Complexity is introduced gradually, and further in the game you will learn to handle outrageous demands from staffs, patients, and emergency events.
Finally, it's the multiplayer aspect of the game that I highly appreciate. Back in 1997, I never played networked gaming because I had to pay Internet by the minute. It was also impossible to get a network switch back then as a college student, so I only used crossover cables to connect two PCs to play the games. Today my colleagues and I experienced the multiplayer aspect of the game for the first time, and it was a lot of fun. I got to come up with rivalling strategies, such as how to bid against other players in an open land auction.
Theme Hospital was a solid game back in 1997. I had a lot of fun playing the game back then, and now I can relive my joyful experience again thanks to GOG.com's simple digital distribution. I also enjoyed playing the multiplayer game for the first time. I can't wait to stop writing and resume playing.