Hospital Havoc is quite a simple, fun game that debuted as an iPhone application almost a year and a half ago and doesn't seem to have changed much since. This is apparent in both the gameplay and graphical simplicity, and while it is a lot of fun, the lack of variety and abundance of bugs add a touch of caution to our recommendation.
The game carries the feeling of an old-style arcade game like Root Beer Tapper or a more modern one along the lines of Diner Dash; it's quirky, simple and puts the focus on accumulating points. You have a number of beds in which you're to place patients, who queue in a column on the left side of the screen. Your goal is to get them all cured and gone in the quickest, most sanitary way, and to make sure that when they do leave that they're still alive. You accomplish every task with a click of the stylus, a smooth and simple control scheme that's easy to learn: you'll do this to place them in a bed, tap them again to begin diagnosis, wait and repeat this once to pick up the prescription, and so on to complete the process. Most of these tasks do not require you to stand around until their completion, and separate patients take different amounts of time at each step. You'll have to wash your hands as much as possible and have your nurse change the sheets of recently emptied beds and take out the trash. The cleaner the hospital is, the more points you get, and power-ups that last for brief periods of time will also appear on screen for you to collect.
Things get more fun and challenging as they become more hectic. Each patient comes with a decreasing life meter that you've got to pay attention to, and you can have your nurse hook them up to medical machinery to slow death's approach. You can also only carry two items (prescriptions and medicines) at once, and there's a limited amount of beds to fill, so keeping your eyes on each of these and having to frantically see to each patient while still making time to rush back to the sink or hook up equipment makes playing this game a difficult and entertaining experience.
Hospital Havoc's sense of humour definitely helps keep things interesting and captivating. You'll realise that this is not your average medical simulator as soon as you treat your first patient who forgot to put his eyeballs in or diagnose a person who's on fire (the treatments for which are a set of eyeballs and a fire hose, of course). Jokes like these are routine occurrences in the game, and they give everything a bit of classic silly gaming charm and never get obnoxious. The overarching simplicity also adds to this; hearing patients say "ouch!" and "I feel so much better" in the same way each time accompanied by the simply styled cartoonish graphics can bring a smile to one's face. It just works. At the end of the day, though, the technology ultimately feels underutilised and the repetitive animations stale and unimaginative. The same goes for the amusing ailments; there are only about ten of them total, and more of them would have definitely improved the experience. None of this is ever terribly distracting, but it feels like the developers could have done a whole lot more.
There are three modes of play, all of which are very similar. Career takes you through five tutorial stages and fifteen progressively harder levels, each with a different focus and a goal of reaching a certain point value by the end without anyone dying. Scenario features seven more stages, each with a more specific set of rules, and Continuous Play lets you customise the time limit, number of beds and whether power-ups, cleanliness and machines are available, and you're to complete a round without three patients passing.
While there's quite a limited number of levels, all of which are extremely similar, the game does keep track of your high score, adding to the replay value, though sadly there are no leaderboards. The five-tier difficulty setting, the logic of which the game lays out in detail in the help menu, also helps to entice you back to the wards for one more game.
Bugs are difficult to factor into an evaluation as we're never sure how widespread they are or if the developers will fix them before a game makes its debut in a different region, but we felt that two that we experienced were worth mentioning. Firstly, the game froze an awful lot, though almost always on a level load screen after the game automatically saved. Secondly, we could not change the difficulty on Career mode from Normal. The other two ways of play did not have this flaw, and perhaps this isn't a problem that everyone will experience, but we hope that the developer will come up with a solution soon as we found that it significantly affected the replay value.
Hospital Havoc is simple and fun with a great sense of humour and a lot of replay value. It's ultimately pretty thin and repetitive, but it can still provide an entertaining, addictive and challenging experience.