Hysteria Hospital: Emergency Ward Wii
Published by: Oxygen Games
Developed by: Gameinvest
Ask someone to name their favourite Bullfrog Productions game and they will usually answer with "Theme Park" or "Dungeon Keeper." Personally I wasn't that impressed with Theme Park and I think it's aged horribly. Dungeon Keeper was OK but by far my favourite Bullfrog title was Theme Hospital. The game was both addictive and humorous and it's always amazed me that there was never a sequel. Upon taking a quick look at Hysteria Hospital: Emergency Ward, you're probably going to come to the conclusion that what we have here is a Theme Hospital clone but that isn't really the case and the games don't have as many things in common as you'd think.
Hysteria Hospital offers two modes: a story driven campaign and an Endless mode which lets you choose from three levels of difficulty and then play until nine patients have walked away from your hospital without being treated. The main campaign includes over sixty missions that are spread over seven different hospitals. You'll get to choose either a male or female nurse to control. The story goes that your nurse has graduated from the University of California and after a string of failed job applications, they are offered a job in Maryville Hospital. In each mission (a mission is supposed to represent your shift) you need to cure the required amount of patients and earn a certain amount of money. Initially it's fairly straightforward but the difficulty gradually begins to rise. In between levels you'll get to purchase new equipment for your hospital (which you can also sell if you need extra funds) and increase the efficiency of your medical, pharmaceutical and maintenance teams.
In Hysteria Hospital you don't have the level of control over things like you had in Theme Hospital. In Bullfrog's game you could hire and fire the staff, design the layout of the hospital and even change the temperature of the radiators. In Hysteria Hospital you'll simply get to order your nurse around and lift patients first to the diagnostic counter and from there to the quick treatment centre or whichever other department they need to go to. Patients have to be moved around. The only autonomous movements they will make are to enter the hospital and to leave it if you're not looking after them. To give orders to the nurse you'll simply point the Wii remote toward the object you want them to interactive with and press the A button. Orders can be queued up and this is something which is essential as the missions become more complicated.
Initially this lack of control is disturbing but you soon cotton on to the fact that you're not meant to have a great deal of control in the game. Patients won't wait around forever. Each of them has a health indicator (a number of hearts displayed above their head) that will begin to deteriorate if you keep them waiting so you have to deal with them as quickly as you can. They will eventually leave however if the health indicator empties. Occasionally you won't be able to treat them but thankfully you do have the option of putting them in ambulance (and later on in a helicopter) to send them elsewhere for treatment. Whilst you're not punished for this, missions are time limited and it can prove costly offloading patients you really could have done with curing.
As the game progress, it all becomes very hectic and you'll even have hospitals that have multiple floors. Thankfully there are some things you can do to ease the strain somewhat. For a cost, you can adjust three management parameters in between the missions. Raising Salaries increases the efficiency of the medical staff, increasing the Pharmacy rating increases the speed of the pharmacist and finally, increasing the Maintenance rating will reduce the chance of your medical equipment malfunctioning. Occasionally your nurse will be able to grab a coffee from the pharmacy and this temporarily increases his/her movement speed allowing for more things to be done in less time.
For the most part I found Hysteria Hospital to be a fairly enjoyable game. There are a few problems however, none of which are game-breaking but nevertheless they can be annoying. Very occasionally the game doesn't select the thing you've pointed the Wii remote at. This doesn't happen a lot but it's annoying when it happens considering the hectic nature of the game. In each mission the idea is to cure the required number of patients and to make a certain amount of money. On failing a mission, the mission summary doesn't make it clear if you've failed by having an insufficient amount of money. At first I thought I had run into a bug as I'd cured enough patients but on redoing the mission I realised I hadn't made enough money. The game really should have made it clear in the summary however. The game is also guilty of getting a little too repetitive. Sure it's good that you work in bigger hospitals with multiple floors and have to deal with impatient pensioners as the game progresses but it still feels like you're doing the same things throughout the game. The replay value of the game is pretty much non-existent as the Endless mode doesn't really do anything to keep you coming back for more.
Visually, Hysteria Hospital looks decent. The developers opted for a cartoon style and it works well and suits the tone of the game. Some of the animations in the game are actually quite humorous and will bring a smile to your face the first few times you see them. Thankfully the game keeps the camera fixed and just at the right height to afford you a clear view of the action at all times. The frame rate is rock solid throughout and the load times are never long which is certainly welcome.
Hysteria Hospital is mostly fine for deaf gamers. The game's few cutscenes are text only. Tutorial messages are shown in text. Objectives are shown in text prior to the start of a mission. Missions are time limited and the timer is displayed on the top right corner of the screen. The amount of money you have earned and the amount of patients you've helped to cure is also displayed on screen. The game makes good use of icons to convey information. You'll see icons appear above a patient's head that indicate where they need to go. There are some unimportant announcer comments that are given during the course of a mission. There are no subtitles for these but you will see a megaphone icon appear on the lower left of the screen. These comments are of no importance but some are actually humorous so it's a shame that deaf gamers will miss out on them.
There can be no denying that Hysteria Hospital: Emergency Ward won't be everyone's cup of tea. Those expecting to have the level of control found in Theme Hospital will certainly be disappointed but the misconception will be their fault and not that of the game. The game does have its problems however. When failing a mission the game should make it crystal clear why you've failed and a game that can be as hectic as this shouldn't cause problems (no matter how occasional they are) when trying to select things. However, there's no denying that the game can be enjoyable and at times it's quite humorous which is something you don't often see in games today.