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Have You Played... Theme Hospital?

Third degree sideburns.

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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Joe Donnelly