Hollywood Hospital

Taking a trip to one of those 'exhaustion rehabs' is a well trodden path for the budding young it boy or girl. So much so in fact that it's scarcely looked upon as a fall from grace as much as an essential part of the ascension to A-list celebrity status.

But what goes on once the Priory red carpet has been rolled up and celebrities are deprived of their creature comforts with only a plush bucket upholstered in luxurious red velvet for company (and fluids)? The staff get busy with a public soap opera of their own that's what - or at least that's what happens in Player X's Hollywood Hospital.

You see Player X's latest offering plays the clever trick of turning celebrity fascination on its head, making the hospital staff the stars of the show and the celebrities mere sheep, not even worthy of bit parts in the unfolding melodrama.

As such, the game takes shape as a hospital sim where you have to take an active roll in moulding the personal lives of your staff. This means things need to get personal and if your workforce aren't having a good time after hours, you can bet they're not giving the best care to the petulant trumped up celebrities who stream through the constantly revolving doors.

So besides buying machines for treatment and diagnosis and ensuring the basic elements of your facility run like a well-oiled machine, you really need to be keeping a Cupid-like eye on the people you choose to hire.

Every member of staff, be they janitor or surgeon, enters the hospital single and if they stay that way for too long, the weather cloud that floats continually above their head starts to change from sunny to cloudy to flashing with lightning. At this point the only way to get them back on track is to solve their lurve deficit. This is done via some good old-fashioned matchmaking and it's this that generates the game's secondary currency, 'vibes', which are central to your success.

Pairing people up is the key to success here and that means match-making according to their tastes and interests. For example, matching a nurse who publishes books in her spare time with a doctor who owns a Corvette museum probably won't work out, whereas matching the security chap who restores Corvettes in his spare time with the doctor who owns the Corvette museum will result in fireworks.

In this sense the game offers a strange contradiction. The prevalence of same-sex relationships is pleasantly progressive, but there is a Prince Phillip-like attitude towards gender differences. Women are never more than secretaries or nurses whereas the men tend to do all of the doctoring and surgical jobs. It's an odd situation and though it doesn't undo any of the game's fun it does undermine the concept somewhat.

There is a reasonable element of depth lurking beneath the superficial exterior though. While the focus remains the social side of sim gaming, deft financial management is required as well as the ability to act swiftly if you want to keep the books in the black. Similarly you will need to expand your operations if you want to succeed, and spending money on new rooms, new equipment and better training for your staff is key to making profits.

Presentation-wise the game wins top marks for its varied collection of sprites, all of which are well animated and perfectly at home in the colourful 2D toyland locales of the hospital. The controls are similarly slick and despite adopting menu-based navigation, everything zips along competently and you're never left floundering with irksome pixel perfect cursor positioning.

All in all then, Hollywood Hospital succeeds as an enjoyable and full-featured sim while its slight flaws of tone are forgiven by its exuberant personality. Highly recommended.

Hollywood Hospital

A cheeky sim with glossy presentation and hidden depths, Hollywood Hospital is one of the most fun medical establishments we've experienced