I am, I don’t mind admitting, a man who is not ashamed of his baser instincts. So when confronted with the possibility of playing what appears to be a German cult classic hospital sim from 1995 featuring a combination of grotesque visuals, bad taste slapstick humour and absolutely shameless perversion, I was absolutely, definitely 100% on board. And thus here we are with Biing! Sex, Intrigue and Scalpels, a game that I wasn’t sure what to make of when I first started playing — and which I’m still not 100% sure I entirely understand now!
In Biing! (as we shall refer to it hereafter) you take on the role of a sleazy hospital manager. Well, technically you don’t have a hospital to manage at the start of the game: there’s just a few offices and nowhere to actually do hospital things. So it’s up to you to hire a bunch of plots of land, build some suitable facilities in which to do aforementioned hospital things, hire “qualified” (and I use the term loosely) individuals to staff said facilities — and then, finally, at last, actually do those hospital things.
On paper, it might sound rather like Bullfrog’s classic Theme Hospital, but in practice it’s a very different sort of game. Biing! certainly incorporates elements of economic and management sims — your main measure of success is how much money you make, and a significant proportion of the game involves ensuring that you turn a profit — but in execution it actually has much more in common with rapid-paced time management games.
You see, in Biing! you’re kind of expected to do everything. Patients arrive? You need to check them in and send them to a waiting room, then remind the doctors and nurses to stop bonking each other and instead get on with the jobs they were actually hired to do. Then you need to make sure that each room is stocked with the equipment it needs to perform its primary function, and that the doctors, dentists and nurses have the specialist items they need to perform various types of treatment.
Once examinations and treatments are underway, you can leave them to it for a little while, but when the various… procedures are over and done with you’ll need to hand over the bill to the patients and collect the money before repeating the process, ensuring that you’re dealing with as many patients as possible as quickly as you can in order to meet your daily expenses and, ideally, turn a profit.
On top of all that, you need to attract people to your hospital in the first place; this can be achieved through a combination of advertising campaigns and sending hooligans out with baseball bats to “create” patients for you to treat. And just when you thought you’d got your head around the basic day-to-day operation of your hospital, you remember you have 15 computer-controlled opponents you’re supposed to be competing against, too.
Yes, there’s a hell of a lot to think about in Biing! — and one can’t help but feel that the game has made its own interface deliberately obtuse in an attempt to induce mild panic in its players. Heavily icon-based in that inimitable mid-’90s style, Biing! doesn’t make anything easy for you — whether that’s getting simple information on how well your hospital is doing or making sure your staff are doing their jobs correctly.
In other words, don’t come to this one if you’re not a fan of micromanagement, because you’ll be spending most of your time in this game micromanaging. If, on the other hand, you relish the chance to zip from room to room, barking orders at people and making sure things run as smoothly as possible, you’ll have an absolutely great time — because come to it with the appropriate expectations and Biing! is a ton of fun.
Biing! is packed with ridiculous, satirical, dark and deliberately sexist humour — though the game makes a point of saying up front that it knows exactly what it’s doing and while it’s not exactly sorry for it, it at least acknowledges that some people might find it offensive. But as saucy as it is and regardless of your feelings about its overall tone, it’s hard to deny that the graphical scenes that make up the various rooms in your hospital are packed with visual detail, and this attention to the smallest things extends to the text descriptions of the various treatments unfolding, too.
Not that you have a lot of time to do so, but if you happen to keep an eye on a patient’s chart while they’re receiving treatment, you’ll find that the game takes great pleasure in describing each and every thing that is happening to your poor punters in excruciating detail. It’s both hilarious and unsettling, and combined with the constant digitised sound effects going on in the background, makes for a very distinct and slightly deranged atmosphere to the whole experience.
Biing! starts deceptively slow. You’ll find it’s numerous in-game hours before you get even a hint of a patient walking in through your front door, but once they start coming in, there’s a constant stream of things to do, and never quite enough time to do them all in. Because as well as reminding all your dumbass doctors and nurses what they’re supposed to be doing at any given moment, you’re also in charge of hiring and firing, training your staff, extending and expanding your hospital, keeping the storage room full of bits and pieces, making sure patients left waiting for a long time don’t get too pissed off and all manner of other things.
It’s a weird game that, at times, doesn’t seem to quite know what it wants to be. Except it actually does know precisely what it wants to be. It wants to be Biing! — and Biing! is very much its own distinct thing, quite unlike anything else out there. It doubtless won’t be to everyone’s taste — for reasons relating to both its content and its mechanics — but if you take the time to get to know it and understand what sort of experience it’s trying to create for its players, it’s really, really hard to put down.