Atlus’s Trauma Center sparked a boom in “medical” video games in the console space, but the craze has extended to surprisingly few Web games. Hospital Town is one of the first “medical” Facebook games to catch our eye and it offers a promising social take on the genre. While there are action mini-games to play in Hospital Town, the bulk of the gameplay is more sim-like and focuses on hospital management. You need to assign patients to beds for treatment, check them out when they feel better, and decorate your hospital.
As a game, Hospital Town is strikingly well-designed when compared to most other social games. Everything you need to do in order to advance is broken down into a series of jobs offered to you by one of three NPCs. There’s one line of jobs that evaluates how much money you make, one line that asks you treat progressively more difficult illnesses, and one line that asks you to add certain decorations to your hospital. Jobs unlock either at a certain experience level or when you finish prerequisite jobs. If you simply finish jobs the NPCs offer you, you’ll find you quickly begin to thrive.
Hospital Town features well-implemented 2D graphics, offering you a top-down view of your hospital. Moving objects around is easy and even at the default hospital size you’ve got plenty of room to work with. You can also customize an avatar, but the art here is considerably less attractive than the rest of the game. You can’t buy many outfits for your avatar and the ones you can buy aren’t all that interesting. Likewise, it’s hard to make a avatar that doesn’t look somehow menacing and angry. The rest of the game’s aesthetic is pure cuteness, so this feels a bit odd.
Hospital Town‘s social dimension isn’t well-developed yet. It doesn’t revolve around gifting as much as in Zynga‘s games, though you can send friends gifts. Instead, Hospital Town emphasizes the idea of periodically visiting someone else’s hospital to play mini-games and obtain items. The mini-games are simple takes on spotting differences in two scenes, the board game Operation, and whack-a-mole. You gain some extra coins for playing them and can later explore your friend’s hospital.
At this point Hospital Town‘s main weakness is a tendency for the gameplay to drag once you’ve gotten past the first few experience levels. There’s a hard limit on how many beds you can have, which usually means having to put the game down for as long as a day while the timers on patients receiving treatment count down. Then you can check them out and free up the beds you need. You can buy virtual items that heal patients up faster, but these cost real money. What Hospital Town needs more than money sinks is just a little more to keep you occupied while all of your beds are tied up.