At first glance, Microïds has created a Theme Hospital clone called Hospital Manager that promises to deliver a fun managing experience akin to that of Bulfrog’s classic 1997 to mobile gaming.
To my disappointment, Hospital Manager is a broken mess of a game; it crashes consistently, lacks freeform game mode and has a wealth of bugs. The biggest let down is that even though it is a paid game, it also has In App Purchases (IAP) that I consider to be pay-to-win (P2W). This left me needing some shock therapy as the poor quality of such a promising game left me sick to my stomach ;)
Gameplay – An Unrewarding Management Experience
Hospital Manager is all about time, cash flow and staff management while placing a wide variety of objects and rooms in your healthcare facility in order to please the patients that come in with the most outrageous illnesses, yet the absense of a freeform game mode in which a player can just build and play to their hearts content without a specific time limit, delivers an unrewarding management experience.
The game explains how all this work through a three part tutorial very well, taking the player through all the steps necessary to understand exactly how all the aspects of the game work.
After I quickly ran through the tutorial, I started the first of 16 levels available that all have a set goal to achieve such as not letting your reputation drop below 300 at the end of a given time period. After the time is up, your game abruptly ends and you are left to start on the next level, leaving your old hospital behind.
Each level in Hospital Manager starts with the player cutting the ceremonial ribbon by tapping on it. Afterwards, patients start slowly showing up. It is the job of the player to ensure the correct facilities are in place to accommodate said patients.
The first and most important is the general practitioner (GP)’s office in which patients will be diagnosed with illnesses ranging from being a zombie, possessed or the rockstar syndrome to name but a few. After I placed all offices required, I came to realize yet another problem which persisted throughout the game. There is not enough space to actually place all the rooms needed on each and every level, so without a break room or sometimes even a research facility, leaving very little I could actually do to remedy the situation.
The next part of gameplay revolves around hiring a variety of staff, such as maintenance, additional doctors or even a clown who can cheer up waiting patients. These staff members can be trained to perform their duties better by tapping on them and then selecting one of three training options, such as a speed increase or the ability to generate more income. The research lab can be used to increase training speed, learn treatment methods that work faster and more efficiently, so zombie patients will spend less time throwing up in your hallways and more time paying their medical bills.
Placing objects in the wide hallways will keep patients rested, lighten their mood or even feed them. Objects include vending machines, benches, fake Van Goth paintings and trash cans. New and improved items can be purchased if you have made enough money from patient care, leading to a wide variety of items to choose from.
The variety is great, yet I found a bunch of items not working correctly, as the game’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) seem to bug out quiet often. For example, placing a vending machine right next to a patient that is hungry did not in any way help him/her get up and buy something, while a painting that is said to lighten patients mood had no effect almost half of the time.
Building up the hospital is therefore a frustrating experience each and every level, with not enough space for every room needed, buggy AI and the lack of freeform play, meaning all the hard work I put into my hospital is lost when a level finishes, which takes around 15-20 minutes.
Graphics and Sound – Cartoonish Charm
Graphically, the game looks like a slightly upgraded version of Theme Hospital with some weird and wacky characters thrown in the mix, such as the comically animated zombie patients, creating a charming looking game.
Bursting with colors, the game is indeed a treat to look at, yet animation glitches as patient numbers increase become glaringly obvious, as the game feels so very cheap after seeing more and more doctors and patients clip into a wall or walk right over a bench.
When I started playing, I expected to hear some great background noises such as patients coughing, zombies growling for brains or at least more medical equipment sounds, yet that was not the case, as the overpowering sound throughout the levels was that of the cash register and a few “pings” when my reputation went either up or down with a repeating chatter of patients thrown into the mix from time to time.
Stability and Performance – Somebody call an ambulance
Even though the graphics is charming, it is by no means high end and neither is the sound. Surprisingly enough, the game still suffers from framerate issues on both my tablet and phone, which can run graphically demanding games such as Nitro Nation Online without any problems, so the game engine is in dire need emergency medical care.
Drops in framerate I could still handle, as a management game does not require lightning fast reactions or smooth gameplay.
Consistent game crashes however, does break gameplay so much that I could not believe they released it on the Google Playstore in its current state. Every 5 to 10 minutes, the game would just freeze completely and then around two minutes later it would crash back to my mobile device’s desktop. To make matters worse, the last two minutes of progress was lost every single time, so I could only play a few minutes at a time. This type of stability issue is in my books completely unforgiveable, as a game should not release in a state such as this.
IAP – Pay to win at its finest
As a game that you already need to buy, IAP should never be about giving the player a massive advantage. As the game is all about reputation, money and time management, Hospital Manager’s benefits that can be gained from IAP are completely P2W and for me felt like putting in a cheat code.
At the start of each game you can purchase options that help a player so much it is hard to ignore, as increasing reputation or money by a percentage makes managing your hospital significantly easier. The power of dropping some cash does not stop there, as during the game players can choose to increase all patients mood, increase doctor speed, clean the hospital and increase the chance of their doctors succeeding simply by spending some diamonds that are obtained by punching in your credit card details.
Diamonds can also be earned by completing levels, yet 5 to 15 diamonds for finishing one of the 16 levels is way too little to be a truly valid option. Diamond purchases range from R13 for 100 to R300 for 3500, which is around the same cost as going to a real GP for a consultation.
I must admit I was truly excited to play Hospital Manager as from the launch trailer and description of the game it really did look like the new Theme Hospital, which I absolutely adored.
Unfortunately, there is no freeform type of game mode, the game’s AI seems to be buggy, it crashes every few minutes and has IAP that could only be called P2W. The only really nice things about Hospital Manager is its charming cartoonish graphics and the weird diseases patients have contracted that brings some humor to an otherwise shockingly disappointing mobile gaming experience.
Hospital Manager has been recently released for Android and iOS devices. The game costs R32 to download and can be found on the Playstore here and iTunes here. It requires a small download of around 30mb as well as Android OS version 3.2 and up, so it works on a wide variety of devices. During my time with the game I used my Nexa Orion 10.1, a powerful yet affordable Quad Core 10 Inch Tablet to treat wacky diseases in this broken clone of Theme Hospital.
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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd