These last few days I’ve been playing Theme Hospital on Ubuntu, via the CorsixTH project. The project aims to recreate the game’s engine so it works on modern PCs (the original game was released over 15 years ago), and at the moment is only at version 0.10, so there are still some bugs and some features are missing. To play it you need a copy of the original game’s data files, which I copied off my original CD-ROM, and I also had to follow the instructions here to compile from the source, as the pre-compiled .deb file didn’t seem to work for me.
For anyone who hasn’t played Theme Hospital, the basic idea is that you run a hospital (unsurprisingly), you start off with just an empty building and then have to build various rooms, furnish them and hire the staff, all the while managing your cash flow and keeping the number of patients who die to a minimum. The various conditions you have to treat are fictional, with over-the-top symptoms and treatments; for example Bloaty Head, where patients come in with a large, oversized head, and the treatment is for a doctor to pop them like a balloon and re-inflate them back to normal size.
Once I started playing it again, I was immediately transported back to my youth; Theme Hospital must have been one of the first few games I ever played. I think in a few nights of playing I got further through the story mode than I ever did when I originally played it, probably because I didn’t really understand the mechanics of the game back then. I think I mainly played it because I found it funny, and I still do today; the animations and sound effects combine to produce plenty of laughs. But the underlying game is also great.
It’s a shame that games like Theme Hospital, where you build and manage things (Wikipedia tells me the correct term is “Construction and management simulations”), aren’t as popular as they were between about 1995 and 2005, where, as well as Theme Hospital, there were the Theme Park games and loads of games called something tycoon. I’ve been hearing good things about Prison Architect though, which is in alpha right now, so that may be one to watch.