Hysteria Hospital: Emergency Ward Wii
The American healthcare system is in a bit of a state at the moment. Despite pouring more money into medicine than any other country in the world, the United States has a worse overall level of health than almost all other developed countries. Infant mortality rates are high, and hundreds of thousands of people are crippled with medical debt due to the lack of universal healthcare and the necessity of purchasing overpriced health insurance from companies who often deny coverage to those who need it most. So what setting could be better for a humorous casual family-friendly video game?
Rather than use the omnipotent resource management gameplay style of Theme Hospital, Hysteria Hospital casts the player as an overworked, underpaid nurse (female or male, no occupational sexism here). Starting off at a quiet rural hospital, the player is challenged to move their way up through seven increasingly large hospitals, each containing nine levels.
The initial tutorial levels work well in introducing new gameplay elements without overwhelming you with a medical textbook’s worth of info, but even at the highest levels, the mechanics of play follow the same simple formulaic routine. Patients must be dragged over to the triage doctor for their initial diagnosis, after which a handy thought bubble above their head indicates what machine or specialist can provide the appropriate treatment. Some patients will need several treatments, and they will often require bed-rest and medication before they’re ready to leave.
Apart from flinging around sick people with the Wii pointer, its only other purpose is to direct your luckless nurse around, to perform his or her duties. These consist of bringing patients their charts (something which needs to be done before every single treatment or procedure), cleaning up beds and treatment areas, throwing away dirty laundry, taking patients their pills, and even picking up a spanner to fix broken down machinery.
While the other duties are par for the course for your average nurse, requiring them to also be a professional electronics engineer for highly-complex medical equipment is perhaps going a bit too far… Luckily, actions can be queued up in advance, which is a lifesaver when there are multiple patients to be dealt with at once. Input is simple, you’ll simply point and click A to select an action, and B can be used to cancel any queued actions.
Later hospitals can have up to three floors, meaning that patients must be bunged into an elevator if their required remedy is upstairs. You can switch between floors with the plus and minus buttons, but on busy levels it’s still easy to forget that you’ve left a terminally ill old man waiting alone in an x-ray machine on the top floor.
A patient’s health is indicated by a number of hearts over their head, which slowly deplete over time and are refilled by providing the appropriate healing method. Due to this being a family-friendly title, sick people will not die when they run out of hearts; they will simply walk out of the hospital in disgust. Presumably all the disgruntled dying people gather together offscreen to die in some sort of ‘elephant graveyard’ style pit full of bones.
Each level gives you a target number of patients to save, and around five minutes to do it in. It’s usually easy to achieve this goal, unless you panic and become overwhelmed, but a few problems arise from the Wii pointer being finicky when selecting objects or people. Also, the numbers telling you which chart goes to which patient are almost unreadable thanks to the fuzzy graphics, leading to a lot of trial and error.
Before each level you do have the option to buy and sell equipment, although this is largely pointless as there are only one or two places that each piece can be placed, and only a limited amount of space to place them in. New machines do have new animations when a patient is being treated, but the gameplay mechanic is always the same.
You can also adjust the salaries of your staff, which is also pointless as you will always have more than enough money to pay them all the maximum wage, so why wouldn’t you? Paying people more money causes them to work faster and more efficiently, which is strange because as anyone who has observed their manager at work will tell you, it works the opposite way in real life.
Hysteria Hospital can be enjoyably challenging when trying to keep track of multiple patients at once, and prioritise the actions of your nurse, but the gameplay is much too shallow and unvaried for me to recommend that anyone purchase it for the RRP of £29.99.
If this were a WiiWare title, or a budget game for under a tenner then it might be worth a look, but as a fully-fledged title it just doesn’t have enough depth to satisfy most gamers. Nevertheless, it can provide some brief frantic fun, and perhaps a glimpse into how repetitive and tiresome the career of a health care worker can be.