Good day to all you Completionists. As we start to see the last few entries on this A to Z, and reach the more challenging letters, I’ve returned to my childhood for this entry.
A better time? A more carefree time certainly. One where my biggest worry was the amount of homework dumped on me and playground bullies were still moulding my fragile brain. It could have been a lot worse though. I could have missed out entirely on two of my favourite games. One we have already met (assuming you’re a frequent reader of my rambles). Another is what I consider the peak of a once dearly loved series.
Let’s start with one of my all time favourites: Theme Hospital.
What do I love about this game? I love the humour – dark, sarcastic and morbid. Many of the illnesses seen in Theme Hospital are hilariously depicted; Bloaty Head requires popping and re-inflation. Slack Tongue sees sufferers being placed in an old timey wrangle. Hairyitis causes one to look like Cousin It, and King Complex is a psychiatric disease known to fool patients into imitating Elvis Presley.
Of course it’s silly, but each of the illnesses come with requirements for diagnosis, treatment and can even arrive in the hospital as an outbreak. On top of managing patients, you must also manage your staff. Like any good medical facility, it helps to have happy, well paid and well rested staff. Doctors have specialisms, you can manage the cleaning tasks the janitors do and even the souless receptionist (who never moves from that front desk) has hobbies and possibly an attitude problem. Ask the psychiatrist to also help out in general practice and also then do a shift in cardio and you might find him asking for more money, more rest or walking out for good.
Theme Hospital is very much based on a non-UK healthcare system. Patients pay for their diagnosis, their treatment and the Kitkat out the vending machine. Whilst you can’t do much about the price of a Kitkat, you do have the ability to fiddle with the costs of treatment. It’s a strange thing to do as a Brit used to NHS systems (as a user and provider), but you will almost certainly need to do it at some point to keep those books balanced.
Along with the nuances of day to day goofy hospital life, we require a charming goofy soundtrack and occasional voice clips. Some of the sound tracks stil burrows its way into my brain today, and I do enjoy quoting the game at my brother. I revel in the little noises – the short scream as those bound for the afterlife fall into a hole to hell. The clatter of doorways opening and closing and the PA announcement made when the game knows you are cheating.
Theme Hospital is a joyous game with a sudden sharp difficulty curve. I loved it when I started playing it, I love it now and I will probably love it forever. I’m also keen to get my latex gloves on Two Point Hospital, a sort of spiritual successor to Theme Hospital, with the same kind of humour. I’m sure when that finally happens, I’ll be comparing it here.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1-3 (THPS)
When I was younger, skateboarding in games was a big deal. It didn’t really catch on as a hobby in the village I lived in, but almost everyone who owned a PS One or PS2 owned some form of Tony Hawks game.
We owned a PS One and THPS2, which was a great game although multiplayer with my brother was a bit of a nightmare. It didn’t have a “story mode” as the later games did, but a career mode allowed you to progress through a series of levels completing a varety of tasks, such as amassing a certain score, collecting things or pulling certain tricks at certain times. Multiplayer added a few different game types; Grafitti was a favourite in my house – puling tricks on street furniture (such as grinding down a staircase) would “tag” that object in your colour. If the other player pulled a better trick, in this case a longer grind or a grind with an ollie coming off the rail, then the object changes to their colour.
THPS3 is by far my favourite in the series. It added a fair amount of “technical” changes and updates – new abilities to continue tricks for longer combos, balance bars for lip tricks and grinding, and perhaps most importnatly for me as a young gamer, FEMALE skaters. I was never into real life skating, but I could at least live through my custom lady skaters.
Add to this a bunch of unlockable characters that I recognised – Darth Vader, Wolverine, and a particular favourite, the Neversoft Eyeball. Levels were more varied than THPS2 and included interesting areas to play in; cruise ships, aiports and even Roswell. I certainly recall a lot more of this game than I do of THPS2, but I remember it feeling like a much more open and colourful game, though this may be in part due to abilities of the PS2 compared to its predecessor.
It’s been so long since I played a good THPS game that I don’t recall a vast amount about them It’s a shame the HD remake THPS game wasn’t a complete re-make of 1, 2 and 3 as I think this would have been a must have for me. As it is, I depend a lot on soundtrack compilations on Youtube and my memories when I want a blast from the past. Sadly there seems to be no way to play the older THPS games anymore, and even emulating is getting harder to do.