Hey, remember Theme Hospital? Bullfrog’s 1997 hospital simulation game, putting you in the shoes of a hospital manager, making a functioning hospital? It was good. I had it on Playstation. I remember spending a lot of time on it until every line by the delightful British announcer lady became embedded into my skull. And then, years later, I found myself thinking ‘why don’t they make simulation games like this anymore?’
I guess Two Point Studios was thinking the same thing.
Two Point Studios is made up of a bunch of ex-Bullfrog and Lionhead employees, so if anyone was going to understand the simulation genre, it’d be these guys. So. Two Point Hospital, does it live up to the original? Is it better? Is it something new entirely? Let’s take a look.
Two Point Hospital puts you in the shoes of a hospital director/manager/omnipotent hospital God(?). You’re given a piece of land and told to make it into a fully functioning hospital. This means hiring staff, creating rooms and managing all of it. There’s a lot to manage, by the way. But Two Point Hospital really takes pride in introducing management concepts to you one at a time, managing staff, finances, the hospital, patients, outbreaks, there’s a lot of factors to keep on top of.
I think it would be easiest to explain the concept by walking you through a level I completed recently. Upon opening the level, I’m given a handful of directives to obtain my first star of a three star ranking system. I’m given an empty piece of land, $200k and told to make a functioning hospital. Okay, I think, as I do the basics. Setting up a reception desk, a GP’s office, some basic treatment rooms. Patients start coming in, and I start earning money. This is going well.
Then I’m given a new room to build. Each new hospital usually offers you one or two new scenarios at a time, whether that be making sure your hospital is well heated or sanitized, or building rooms to treat specific diseases. In this case, there was an outbreak of Jest Infection. For those unaware, that means clowns. Clowns flooded my hospital, needed to be cured of being… Clowns.
How does this happen? I built a room to treat it. The treatment in this case is taking them into a circus tent and flooding them with overwhelmingly negative imagery until they’re too depressed to possibly be clowns anymore. This is successful. I’ve treated the outbreak. I’m a hero for making the world a slightly less clown-ridden place.
This is a game that really likes to have its tongue firmly planted in its cheek in terms of humor, and this has always been what’s distinguished Bullfrog simulation titles from others. It’s also what Two Point Studios seems to be doing, which I’m incredibly thankful for. There’s a lot of humor found in all kinds of places, from the announcer, dripping with sarcasm, but also providing helpful cues in terms of what’s happening in your hospital and what you need to fix, through to the newly implemented radio, playing both chill background music and hilarious in-game radio shows.
The game itself is also a shining example of the simulation genre. A genre I never had too much to do with, being someone who’s easily overwhelmed by multi-tasking. Two Point Hospital, as stated previously, makes sure to introduce you to one pr twp concepts at a time through each level. I never once felt overwhelmed, even though I had to keep track of so many things. Staff’s happiness, their pay, their fatigue, patients happiness, hospital attractiveness and prestige, my finances, there’s… A lot. It sounds like a lot, at least, but it’s never too much of a concern. You can easily play the game without worrying too much.
But if you want a perfect game, like the original Theme Hospital, there never seems to be a perfect solution to everything. I can put a snack machine on every corner and still have hospital patients complaining they’re hungry enough to throw a tantrum and storm out.
The game also has an issue in terms of waiting. There’s a lot of waiting in this game. Any given level, to earn three stars, takes me 1-2 hours. And a lot of that is me waiting for things to happen. Waiting for staff to be trained, waiting for patients to be treated, waiting for staff to feel they’re good enough to be promoted so I can fill some stage criteria. The game could benefit from more speed options, if anything.
Two Point Hospital also, for some, might feel a little too familiar. If I were asked to classify it, I would call it a remake/reboot/HD version. In that it’s taken the base game, made it prettier and slapped a few new diseases and functions in, but it’s still very much Theme Hospital to the point where if you’ve played the original to death, there might not be too much for you to get excited about here. There’s also no sandbox mode, which could put a lot of folks off.
For me, though, I found it a perfect retread of an old love, while still adding enough new content to keep me intrigued. Though I did find myself getting a little bored at times, wishing there were ways I could be a little more hands on to speed things up or streamline things.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure I’m qualified to be a doctor now.
Two Point Hospital is out now for PC, Mac and Linux.