Growing up I used to love the Theme series developed by Bullfrog Productions, as well as their strategy title Populous: The Beginning. From making my own theme parks to setting up a clinic to treat people with weird and wonderful diseases, there was so much fun to be had. And there has been a big call to revive those simulation titles, which lead to the recent release of Two Point Hospital, and now, Help Me Doctor.
Where the likes of Two Point Hospital has stuck true to the original Theme series though, creating what is essentially an in-depth management sim. Help Me Doctor has kept it basic. Extremely basic. And as much as I want to like it. It just keeps giving me headache after headache, and the only cure I can think of is to delete it from my Switch library.
The story, if you can call it that, is of a Doctor who wants to open his own surgery. Despite some resistance from the Ministry of Health. But they have no choice but to let you do as you wish because all your papers are in order. Sadly, that is it. There is no goal, no aims, nothing to work toward realistically. just don’t lose all your money and go bankrupt. You literally grind for no reward.
From day one, patients walk into the building, register at reception and wait for you to call them in. Once called, they’ll sit down and present you with three symptoms from which you have to diagnose them with one of many weird diseases. In addition, you’ll also have to check their paperwork, to ensure everything is kosher.
The aim is to get through as many patients each day as you can to make money. But diagnosing people whose paperwork doesn’t match up, or leaving them undiagnosed/with the wrong diagnosis can lead to fines. Sadly, as good an idea as that is, there are so many bugs involved that even if you try to go down the path of being a legitimate medical professional, you’ll likely still be screwed over.
How does it screw you over? Where do I begin? Part of your role is to spot discrepancies in paperwork and send these ‘patients’ away. However, I have spotted mistakes before where ID numbers may miss a digit off for example, and yet I get told their paperwork was fine. In other scenarios, I have checked, double-checked and triple-checked the details, to see all is ok. Only to then be told I missed a discrepancy.
Now you may just think, perhaps you did make a mistake. And at first, I thought I did too. But then I began writing things down. Passing it over to my partner to check, and still, on occasion, it said there was a discrepancy. I even began checking the case of the letters, because that was sometimes one of the discrepancies I spotted. I checked everything and it just kept screwing me over.
Then, occasionally, I’d press A to bring up the symptoms, and nothing. It wouldn’t bring anything up. Which was fine if there was a discrepancy. But if not, then I had two choices. Don’t diagnose them and pay a fine, or diagnose them randomly, risking I am right, but if not, paying another fine. This game shouldn’t be called Help Me Doctor, but instead, You’re Going to Need Help from a Doctor instead.
If that wasn’t enough, as you play through the game, you’ll be passed scenarios which pop up on the screen. Normally you are given warning of these by the director of the medical board. Things like a new drug company trying to push their product, or a VIP planning to attend your clinic. It’s up to you what you decide to do, but it doesn’t really matter as you end up getting screwed over again anyway.
Sometimes scenarios just pop up when you’ve called in a patient, which causes symptoms to mess up. Other times, you can’t see what you’re doing, or they time out when making a decision. But the best way is despite what you pick for some you get screwed either way. For example, one day the tax office systems are down. You can try to avoid paying them (leads to a fine) or you can be good and pay them anyway (they end up taking too much).
At every point in this game, you get screwed. Now, this could be an ironic take on the US Healthcare system, because many people get screwed there. I mean, not treating someone because they aren’t made of money or an insurance company found a loophole not to cover treatment is despicable, and makes me thankful we have the NHS here in the UK. but the odds of this being the case is slim.
Don’t think we’re done here. I’m not finished complaining yet. As I mentioned above there is a real lack of story and no progression to it. But there is no progression in the whole game. You can’t upgrade your surgery, you can’t buy new equipment or decorate your office. You literally just sit, diagnose, earn money to pay your bills and that is it. When I play a game I want to escape my normal mundane life, not relive it in a different form.
Despite all of the bugs and annoyances above, the ideas in Help Me Doctor aren’t bad. I mean, I do like the way you have to inspect paperwork to ensure everything is legit. And that you can make moral choices along the way. It’s just that you tend to get screwed if you don’t do things by the book, and because there is no progression or morality system in place, it’s almost pointless having the options there in the first place.
If the developers actually implemented some kind of customisation features or ways to improve and build on your empire, maybe moving to larger locations and hiring more staff, it’d be on to a winner. Well, once it drenches it all in bug spray. It’s a shame, because if it was more detailed or even just had like a leaderboard system so you can compete with others to see who can make the most it’d be better than what has been delivered.
Even the music is an annoyance as it is just mind-numbingly dull, but luckily you can switch it off. I suppose the only area I won’t berate is the graphics, they look ok and are probably the game’s strongest characteristic. But even then, I’d suggest there is a lack of polish there too as the design is very dated, and the patients almost walk in with a motion you’d expect from the living dead.
Help Me Doctor was a game I wanted to like. A game that had a lot of promise and a few good ideas. But, ultimately, it failed to deliver the goods. My diagnosis would be to steer clear. It is full of bugs, lacks any kind of progression system, and there is no clear goal to achieve. It’s infuriatingly bad. But I’m not a doctor so you don’t have to listen to me. But purchasing this title may lead to symptoms such as severe headaches, a rise in blood pressure, and an incessant need to scream into a cushion.
Help Me Doctor TL;DR:
- Some good ideas and potential, but not implemented well;
- Lacks any progression or sense of achievement;
- Full of bugs that just make playing the game unbearable;
- It will screw you over at every opportunity.
Help Me Doctor is a 1-player game released on Nintendo Switch on February 10th, 2020. It is developed by IceTorch Interactive and Angry Angel Games and published by Ultimate Games. You can check it out on the Nintendo eStore by clicking HERE.
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