Have You Played… Theme Hospital?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Historically, videogames have largely struggled to convey humour with any degree of success, however Bullfrog Productions’ dark sense of humour is part of what made the likes of Theme Park, Dungeon Keeper and Theme Hospital [official site] so enjoyable. On paper, the latter probably doesn’t sound like it should be funny, however its 21 weird and whacky diseases – and how you go about curing them – make sure it’s exactly that.

Like 3rd Degree Sideburns, for example – an affliction that causes patients to harbour a “wistful longing for the 1970s“, complete with huge hair, flares and platformers; or Transparency which turns patients invisible and is the result of “licking the yogurt from the foil tops of opened pots”.

TV Personalities sees patients convinced of their ability to present cookery shows; while King Complex has them completely obsessed with Elvis. You can easily see that Theme Hospital doesn’t take itself too seriously which only adds to its charm. Also, seeing a waiting room full of men dressed up as The King will never not put a smile on my face.

Of course it’s not all fun and games designing, building and running a hospital. Like its unrelated forerunner Theme Park, micromanaging budgets, staff and patients quickly becomes a juggling act as you’re forced to decide how your money is best spent while trying to lose as few patients as possible. It’s not often a game makes you ponder the pros and cons of splashing out on a Tongue Slicer Machine. I’d say Slack Tongue is no laughing matter, but it absolutely is.

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  1. Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

    The only people who have an excuse not to have played this game are people who weren’t born yet when it came out!!!

  2. aircool says:


  3. Sakkura says:

    I remember my first while with that game vividly. I’d just bought it when my family went on vacation in our house in Sweden. I spent 90% of that vacation inside cleaning vomit off floors and cutting excess tongue off people, rather than outside, enjoying the sun or swimming in the nearby lake.

  4. vorador says:

    Bullfrog at it’s best, when they were doing classic after classic.

    The Tongue Slicer is actually a must for every hospital, since diagnosis is simple, the treatment is fast and the room is cheap to build. Lots of profit in there.

  5. ryangiglio says:

    This was one of my favorite games as a kid. The GOG version runs pretty well on modern systems and it’s still a blast all these years later.

  6. DuncUK says:

    It’s also possible to play this on an Android device (tablet, ideally) if you have the original already. There’s an open source version of TH that requires the original assets (called Corsix TH) and an Android port that’s free on the Play store:

    link to play.google.com

    The port is remarkably playable and it’s great to have Theme Hospital to play on the move. :)

    • byjimini says:

      Yes, this!

      Got it on my PC, the updated graphics really make it playable again and there’s no frame rate stutter like in the original.

    • a very affectionate parrot says:

      I want to thank you, but it’s 5AM and I’m still playing theme hospital on this great engine.
      Seriously though, thanks, never knew someone had made an engine to get theme hospital working on a modern PC without dosbox and this really made my day.

  7. Unruly says:

    Hospital Administrator is cheating!

    Doctor needed for the head deflator!

  8. pepperfez says:

    I still feel a twinge of discomfort every time I lick the foil lid of a yogurt container.

  9. a very affectionate parrot says:

    One of the most genuinely funny and entertaining games I’ve had the pleasure of playing. Makes me wonder why no one’s tried the same formula since.

    • Eigen Lenk says:

      There’s a game in development in vain of Theme Hosptital called Office Management 101. “Theme Hospital meets Dilbert” they say. Worth keeping an eye on it.

      link to officemanagement101.com

    • TeePee says:

      I share your wonder. Even a half-arsed cash-in job hasn’t been attempted recently as far as I’m aware, and with the number of crowdfunded start-ups at the moment, that’s quite a surprise.

    • Jeroen D Stout says:

      On an abstract level, Startopia had a lot of the same ideas, but evidently was not all about a single hospital.

      • a very affectionate parrot says:

        For some reason I’ve never played Startopia even though I was really interested in it as a kid when I saw the ads for it in PC mags. Never heard it compared to Theme Hospital before though, if it has a similar vibe I really hope it goes on sale in the current gog sale thingy.

        • Sin Vega says:

          Startopia is definitely worth playing, it’s the only successor to the Bullfrog management games that can really claim to have nailed the personality, and it’s a varied and colourful and fun game in its own right.

          Its campaign is clever too and sort of shows off a bit – the first levels are basically tutorials that demand you develop your space station as a specific type of station instead of having everything, with scripted events and special parameters that fit that experience best. So one level has you making a space trading station, one makes you focus on space farming the biodeck, one makes you a space prison warden, and one makes you run… a space hospital.


    • oriInTheForest14 says:

      Someone is making a game about toilets.

  10. Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

    Doctor required in inFLATOR ROOOOMUH…

  11. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    I think it needs to be pointed out that like almost all of Bullfrog’s greatest games, it tends to be highly repetitive, particularly in the later stages. But I replayed it the other day and it’s still very charming and eminently accessible even for someone like me who doesn’t like management sims very much.

  12. HorzaPY says:

    Did that Theme Hospital remake by fans ever get off the ground?

  13. RobbieTrout says:

    My main gripe about Theme Hospital is that you can’t rotate or zoom the view. It feels very constrained, compared with Dungeon Keeper (also a Bullfrog game) which came out at the same time.

    BUT it’s a fantastic game! Loads of humour.

    My worst moment was when I absent-mindedly said sure, we can take in an epidemic of the Squits, and forgot about it while I was at the other end of the hospital trying to put in some new treatment rooms. I made no arrangements whatsoever for this influx of diarrhoeic patients — no extra staff, no extra toilets, nothing. Completely forgot. After ten minutes or so of fiddling around with the architecture, I wandered back to the reception area. The entire reception, waiting room, and nearby corridors were literally ankle-deep in… well, you can guess. It was horrifying. I nuked the whole game — there was no way back from that.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Zorgulon says:

    Absolutely loved this game. Along with Dungeon Keeper. Prison Architect is good, but it doesn’t compare to the Bullfrog classics. Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing, but I can still load them up on GOG and have a good few hours. Not perfect games by any means, but carried off with such humour that they might as well be.

    • ludde says:

      Prison Architect has had a lot of content added to it, but lacks direction and challenge.

      It’s fun for a while, but not much to come back to.

  15. PancakeWizard says:

    Worth mentioning the black humour that is the auto-autopsy machine. A research device that takes in live patients.

  16. xfstef says:

    I still play it.

  17. Sin Vega says:

    One of those rare games that everyone loves if they give it a chance, even if they don’t usually play games much. And one of of many management games that I thought I was good at until my sister completely caned it.

    Theme Park was more formative and dearer to my heart, but Theme Hospital is probably the definitive Bullfrog game.

    • Someoldguy says:

      I feel I ought to like TH more, but Theme Park was also the one that I really loved. I’m really hoping that the imminent Planet Coaster captures it’s magic.

  18. Sinomatic says:

    I do believe I’ve got it perma-installed.

  19. geldonyetich says:

    Yea, I have played Sim Hospital. N’er shall the plights of sufferers of Bloaty Head or The Squirts be far from my heart.

  20. Rituro says:

    Between Theme Hospital, Theme Park and Syndicate, my PC growing up was never wanting for Bullfrog goodness. My siblings and I spent hours upon hours playing Theme Park/Hospital to death and loving every minute of it.

    I still hold the bragging rights of getting to the secret rat level first.

  21. Moneymancer Marklew says:

    Ah, installed it from GoG a few weeks ago, after introducing it to a friend and having him hooked on the game, which in turn got me the urge to play it too. It really aged well, better than any other Bullfrog game!


  22. tigerfort says:

    I should probably reinstall the GOG version and have another play; it’s been a few years now since the last time I bought a tongue slicer.

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