Sunday Bits

TODAY: Learn about the dangers of having a Bloaty Head or a Slack Tongue with our Theme Hospital Blast from the Past – The Force is strong with this one, or at least it could be if you check out our Getting Started Guide for Jedi Fallen Order

Blast from the Past

Shoot rats in vomit-filled corridors during an earthquake — it’s Theme Hospital

Bullfrog Productions’ classic Theme Hospital was without a doubt the sickest game around when it launched in 1997. You were an administrator put in charge to build up a functioning hospital in a very dysfunctional world, only it wasn’t just the throngs of patients you needed to see to.

The tongue-in-cheek charm of this management sim is clear from the start with its exaggerated art style, and with how the world just operates for the poor people trapped inside it. The game does actually follow a campaign of sorts that’s represented by a board game. Your piece moves ever-closer to the center as you overcome each new hospital and gradually unlock more diseases, rooms, staff and hazards.

It might seem like a simple task of just mapping out some rooms for patients to shuffle between, but you soon realise there’s a heck of a lot more going on. Your patients aren’t just mindless drones who’ll hang about as they do have needs, like needing to go to the bathroom, get a snack or spew the contents of said snack onto your now very sticky floor.

”Patients are asked not to die in the corridors.”

Staff are just as needy as your patients as they must retreat to the sanctuary of the staff restroom for a time or risk having a total breakdown. Oh, and the ungrateful swines also like getting a raise now and then to keep them happy. Receptionists, nurses, doctors and janitors will be milling around your hospital but it’s never just as simple as that. Doctors have specialisations so not anyone can perform surgery, or talk people through a serious case of ‘King Complex’. You can hire or train your staff, and they do improve their skills but then demand more money. They also have quirky traits that can make them work better and faster, or slower and more prone to complaint.

Ah yes, the diseases. They’re as crucial as anything else in Theme Hospital. Bullfrog came up with some truly hilarious fake conditions to help make us laugh at the unfortunate souls wandering through our reception area. Here’s a few: Chronic Nosehair, Discrete Itching, Invisibility, The Squits, 3rd Degree Sideburns, Infectious Laughter, Sweaty Palms, Baldness, Bloaty Head, Hairyitis, Slack Tongue, Broken Heart, Kidney Beans, Spare Ribs and plenty more ailing them.

Some diseases are certainly more distinct than others and they often lead to all new rooms to be built so you can treat the condition. That means more staff, more radiators, more plants to water, more seating, probably another closer bathroom, more snack machines… it’s a lot to plan out. On top of all that are the special VIP visits you get where your hospital will be judged — pass the inspection though and there’ll be some bonus money in it for you. Better shoot those rats in the corridor before he arrives just to be on the safe side.

“Staff Announcement: Incoming patients with Bloaty Head”

Cash. Your hospital runs on the stuff because you operate in a world of private healthcare and that means those sick people are the only source of revenue. You can tweak prices for diagnosis procedures, treatments and try to squeeze all you can out of your staff before begrudgingly giving them a raise. You can even adjust how much diagnosis patients must go through before a doctor will commit them to treatment. Get it wrong and you’ve just killed someone.

Earthquakes will come to spoil your well-oiled machine later, and in fact damage your machines quite literally. You can also suffer epidemic outbreaks where you’ll need to keep patients in the hospital and cure them quickly. There are also emergency events where you can try to cure as many patients with a particular disease within a time limit. You want those sweet trophies don’t you?

One of the more iconic features of Theme Hospital is actually the announcements. Never will you be without your receptionist giving you hints at possible problems in the hospital. It also adds that extra opportunity for silly humour, which already touches on everything in Bullfrog fashion. Even the animations are comedy routines — just watch someone get cured of Bloaty Head or Slack Tongue and not laugh.

Where to get Theme Hospital today?

It’s real easy to get hold of Theme Hospital today as you can get it from EA’s Origin store or the DRM-free GOG.com, with the latter even having it 75 percent off as of writing for just $1.49.

If you feel that a 1997 game is perhaps a little too old then you might consider turning your nostalgic energies toward its spiritual successor. A new and much more modern management sim called Two Point Hospital is on Steam. It’s basically Theme Hospital but with almost every conceivable quality of life improvement you could want, which isn’t surprising as it was made by former Bullfrog developers. It even has that same dry British humour, and comes with radio stations as well as a suspiciously familiar voice making the announcements.

Getting Started Guide

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

It’s been two years since Star Wars Battlefront II’s slightly disappointing campaign, and now we’ve finally got a completely single-player Star Wars experience – Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order from Respawn, the developer of Apex Legends and Titanfall. It’s inspired by Dark Souls, which means it’s a bit tricky! You’ll need our help, young padawan, so let’s get started in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order!

Don’t underestimate the difficulty modes

It’s easy to miss, but there are actually four difficulty modes in Jedi Fallen Order – Story Mode, Jedi Knight, Jedi Master, and Jedi Grand Master. We totally overlooked Story Mode at first – it’s Easy, basically, and just for people who want to explore and take part in a Star Wars story. If you’re not into Dark Souls games at all but want a more Jedi Knight or The Force Unleashed-level challenge in combat, go with Jedi Knight. The other two are for insane Souls fans who want to be deeply challenged by the combat. Don’t worry though, you can always change modes in Settings.

Controls, controls, you must learn controls

Jedi Fallen Order is best described as a mix between Dark Souls, Uncharted and Metroid Prime – and the thing all three of those games have in common is: you better get used to the controls sharpish. The beginning of the game, right up to most of Bogano, is basically an extended tutorial – but it’s one where you can die quickly if you make a mistake. Bogano in particular sports some truly nasty wildlife, so make sure you’ve got your block/parry and dodge down pat at least.

Use the Force, player one

Lightsabers are fun, that can’t be denied, but yours is not the only weapon you have at your disposal. Cal Kestis is a Jedi, and comes fully equipped to wield the Force in useful ways – inside and outside combat. To start you’ll only have the ability to freeze an enemy or object, and later you’ll get the ability to Force Push or Pull things too. These can help give you an edge in combat if you’re struggling (try pushing an enemy off a cliff!), but you’ll need them to solve puzzles too.

Upgrades will be with you, always

One of the easiest things to overlook in Jedi Fallen Order is the upgrade system. You’ll earn ability points as you complete actions – defeat enemies, scan things, get Force echoes, accomplish objectives etc – and you can use these to upgrade your abilities, but only at Meditation save spots. Here you can boost your health, stamina, Force power, get new combat moves, and more – all of which are vital to combat, especially on tougher difficulties! Don’t forget to spend your ability points whenever you get them.

There are alternatives to fighting – like running away

You are going to have to do a lot of fighting with your lightsaber in the game, but that doesn’t mean you have to get into every fight. Just like in Dark Souls or other similar games, if a fight’s too much for you to handle, you might consider simply running away. Some fights in particular are like mini-boss encounters, and while they can yield big rewards they might be too tough to handle at your point in the game – so don’t feel bad if you just run from them instead. That big frog on Bogano comes to mind…

Let the past die, revisit it if you have to

The Metroid part of Jedi Fallen Order is the least in-your-face, but it influences the entire game’s structure. You can certainly treat the game as linear for the most part – but you’ll be missing most of it. If you check the map, you’ll see alternate paths marked with red or green blocks – red ones you’ll need a new ability to access, but when you get it you can come back and open up a lot more of the map. It’s Star Wars Metroidvania Dark Souls Uncharted! Awesome.

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