The doctor is in.

Depending on where you live in the world, there’s a pretty good chance that your local hospital is suffering from a real doctor shortage. And if that is the case where you live, there’s a pretty good chance you live in the same world as Hospital Story, a new time management game about an ER with a terrible doctor-to-patient ratio.

In Hospital Story, players will manage the care of numerous patients as they come in to get their various ailments taken care of. You’ll never know quite what these ailments are, but you’ll at least know how to take care of them. A thought bubble above a patients head indicates what medical station they need to be at, and it’s up to you to guide them there. Once they arrive, they’ll need to get care from a doctor. With another quick tap you can make that happen to. Then it’s either off to another station for further treatment or straight to the cash register to pay up for a job well done. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

If it does, you’ve never worked in an ER.

With far fewer doctors than patients and a non-stop flow of new sickies to take care of, players will be tapping up a storm to keep things flowing smoothly. You’ll need to prioritize some patients over others based on how close they come to death (this is indicated by a quickened pulsing of the thought bubble above them), make sure to keep seats in the waiting room empty for new faces, and try to rotate everyone from admission to discharge in around 15 seconds or so. Hospital Story is frenzied time management at its finest.

As each day draws to a close, you’ll be able to take the money you’ve earned and spend it on upgrading your equipment and staff. You’ll be given a surprising amount of options here, so you’ll need to think about which purchases will give you the most bang for your buck that day. Do you buy more stations to help move people from the waiting room to the main floor quicker? Do you invest in more doctors and nurses in an attempt to see more people simultaneously? Or would your money be better spent simply upgrading the things and people you have now? In a rather unconventional way, the shopping experience in Hospital Story reminded me of the tough shopping decisions you need to make in tower defense games – and I mean that as a compliment.

As the in-game days go on, more and more shopping options will open up to you. The catch here is that you don’t really earn enough money to go hog wild on spending at any given time. You’ll either have to be happy with a purchase or two every other in-game day, or choose to spend some of your real world cash for their in-game dollars or premium in-game coins.

Hospital Story

Hospital Story

As far as freemium implementations go, Hospital Story is actually one of the better uses of the business model. The game is free to download, free to play, and doesn’t limit the amount of time you can spend in the game. The only time they ask for money is if you want to indulge yourself on a spending spree rather than wait patiently to earn your dough in-game. All in all, it’s a perfectly fair deal.

In terms of production, Hospital Story goes after a charming 8-bit art style that reminded us quite a bit of Kairosoft’s line of simulation games. In fact, between the art and the “Story” naming conventions, some might argue that Dream Cortex is trying to cash in on the success of Kairosoft’s branding. Regardless, Hospital Story is a game that stands on its own two feet.

The only real complaint to be had about Hospital Story is that it’s very much a one trick pony. Players will tap and drag patients from location to location, day after day, until they finally grow tired of it. Thankfully the shopping component really feeds that “just one more day!” quality that cute little titles like this depend on to stay engaging.

It may not break any new ground, but Hospital Story is a good deal of fun that’s hard to put down thanks to how well it pulls off each of its parts. As a free download, it’s hard to lose with a game this fun.