In a time where anything and everything is fair game for a remaster, remake, sequel or loving homage, it’s perhaps a bit surprising that it’s taken so long for Two Point Hospital to be made. Inspired by the classic Theme Hospital – for many people, the best of the Theme games – and made by a team of Bullfrog, Muckyfoot and Lionhead alumni, there’s good reason to be excited for this game and its quirky, irreverent take on healthcare.
As an aspiring healthcare CEO, you’re looking to revolutionise healthcare throughout the country, whether it’s the a small town like Flottering, seaside city of Blighton, a hospital right in the middle of an industrial district Or the tropical Sweaty Palms. Each hospital will have its own particular scenario, different challenges to overcome and new diseases to tackle.
People with all manner of weird and wonderful ailments will walk through the front doors of your hospital, from nasty bouts of light headedness – turning the patient’s head into a great big light bulb – to clowns needing to be de-clown-ified, cubists that need to go through the Recurvery Machine, and patients believing themselves to be Freddie Mercury-esque pop stars, right down to the bright yellow jacket and exagerrated walk.
There’s a great deal of inventiveness to some of these diseases, but whatever you find yourself faced with, the core idea is to research then build the lab or ward, fill it with whatever equipment is needed to cure the patients and staff it with a qualified nurse or doctor. That makes it sound simpler than it actually is, because you’re constantly trying to juggle the resources to manage all of this and improve the healthcare you can provide. It can be rather pricey to get a doctor or nurse in place to do a good job, for one thing, as they all have various perks and specialties that can bump up their wages, and you might want to upgrade the machinery in a lab to be more effective.
Of course, you also don’t want your hospital to be an utterly miserable place to visit or work in. Managing the flow of patients through your hospital needs them to have enough waiting areas, snack machines and things to read or watch, and the staff need a room where they can go to relax when their shift is over, to recover their energy. Putting up posters for certain ailments, adding potted plants in corners of rooms, upgrading the equipment and adding more furniture, which is unlocked using all add to the prestige of a room, and bump up your hospital’s rating.
Building a successful hospital is a constant juggling act, and even the third hospital managed to completely overwhelm me under hordes of pan heads and clowns. I even spotted a mime or two. You can earn a three star rating for each hospital, but instead of being a kind of Angry Birds high score chase, you’re given different objectives to try and complete to get each star. It could be relatively straightforward, to get the Hospital Level up to 6, own a second hospital buildings and cure three patients in a certain lab, but then there’s the requirements for the second and third star, giving you an incentive to go back once you’ve unlocked more diseases and cures. Along the way, the staff might have requests, there can be events like a barbershop quartet that need curing, and hospitals in different regions have requirements like needing air con in hotter climes to stop people fainting. That’s never a good look!
It’s not long before you’re having to make difficult decisions about staffing and resources. Training up staff will give them new perks and specialties, but it takes time and requires a teacher to also drop what they’re doing or be hired from outside the hospital, leaving you short staffed unless you hire replacements. Upgrading machinery will make it more effective, but then you need janitors staff that can fix it when it breaks down, and they might as well also be trained ghost catchers for when someone inevitably dies on your watch, and decides that haunting a hospital is what they want to do.
What’s a real pleasure in Two Point Hospital is just how friendly and intuitive much of this is. The graphical style is certainly evocative of the old Theme Hospital, but it’s also been brought bang up to date and feels modern. Getting around the interface is also fairly simply, even if some parts of the game like unlocking furniture aren’t explained terribly well, but it’s also nice and forgiving with how you can rearrange your hospital on the fly. You can quite easily pick up a room and shift it around without any costs, unless need to adjust the doors and windows, and things.
There’s also just the great sense of humour that you’d expect from a British team with tons of experience from Bullfrog and Lionhead. Everything’s a pun, from the illnesses to the randomly generated doctor names, every silly illness has got suitable animations and similarly silly ways of being cured, even the hospital radio and tannoy have got their quirky, cheesy patter down to a tee.
Two Point Hospital is coming together really nicely. This game is the dictionary definition of charming, but it won’t take you long to realise the depths of the hospital management sim beneath.