For your symptoms: A prescription of silliness and fun.
There’s something quite lovely about seeing a group of people dressed up in yellow leather jackets, clumsily stepping to a beat with their gangly legs towards the GP’s office. The source of their silliness is the illness ‘mock star’; the cure, therapy. It’s a dreadful affliction, forcing the victim to randomly pull out a microphone and stand (don’t ask where from), then dance around it, imitating one of the world’s greatest ever performers, Freddie Mercury. This absurdness is the infected embodiment of Two Point Hospital and exactly why it’s a blast.
The quirky hospital management simulator is Two Point Studios’ debut game but don’t be fooled, the company is made up of industry veterans: Ben Hymers, Gary Carr and Mark Webley (among others) who have collectively worked at Lionhead Studios, Rare and most importantly – for the context of this game – Bullfrog Interactive, the studio which created Theme Hospital.
Just as weird as it’d be to see your doctor for a bad headache and not mention you coughed up half a lung (figuratively or literally; if you’ve experienced either of these symptoms please see the appropriate medical professional) so too would it be strange not to mention Theme Hospital when talking about Two Point Hospital. One look at a screenshot or piece of footage from the 90’s classic and it’s easy to spot the DNA which runs through them both – the delightful, incredibly British humour which mixes whimsy together with illness and death, adding in a dash of playfulness; the attention to detail and animation when it comes to the variety of illnesses patients suffer from; and, of course, indulging the basic part of the human brain which relishes in designing an efficient machine.
Like the signs of a healthy heart, rhythmically spiking on an electrocardiograph machine – fancy speak for a heart rate monitor (yes, I Googled that) – Two Point Hospital hits the same beats Theme Hospital did all those years before and it shows how strong the core design is.
In Two Point Hospital you’ll make your way around Two Point County, attempting to build the perfect hospital for each area. By perfect, I mean an establishment which exploits the employees, working them to the bone, cramping rooms for efficiency and overcharging the patients for basically everything – wait a minute…
Your grand designs to have a logical layout for your ludicrous medical facility should be thrown out the window as building each hospital is scrappily done, adding and organically growing to meet the demands of your patients and staff, all the while managing a budget.
Money management is absolutely crucial as you try and balance having the right amount of rooms, facilities and staff. There are four of the latter to choose from: assistants to complete clerical work; janitors who, shock horror, clean, fix and maintain equipment; nurses who perform the work doctors don’t want to do; and doctors, who are the initial point of medical contact for patients as well as researchers. The game revolves around making financial decisions about whether a new bench is needed to keep your patients off their feet, or giving the staff more than a sofa and a blank wall to stare at to make them happy versus building a new ward and hiring a nurse to help alleviate the plagued mob moping in the hallway.
You’ll want to cure those patients, though. Not for any altruistic, feel-good reason, but for money. Every sickly Samuel who gets treated pays up, allowing you to expand and improve your tax machine – err, hospital. Alongside their forcefully-donated wages, patients give the hospital reputation, which convinces more ailed cash-cows to hobble into your clinic.
However, you’ll want to monitor not only the patients’ health and make sure they don’t die before seeing the staff, but their happiness and contentment. Placing items which can satisfy their basic human needs can avoid them storming out in a fit of frustration, which loses you money and reputation.
Just like real life, constructing an efficient medical facility in Two Point Hospital is done for golden stars earned by completing ‘winning conditions’ for each hospital which allows you to move onto the next section. It’s a nice system. Rather than being able to fail, even if you run out of money you can still run the hospital just without being able to buy anything; loans come in very handy here. You’ll also work towards goals which serve as enough fodder to keep you going, even if they do act more like tutorials by getting you to try a new facility or cure 50 patients.
Moving to different hospitals does offer a bit of variety. Alongside adjusting where and how you can build your rooms, some areas will limit the quality of staff you can hire – you’ll have to train them up to increase the amount of successful cures – as well as shaking up the environment (literally, be prepared for earthquakes.) But what really keeps you going is the desire to see what new sickness has inflicted the populace.
From lightheadedness, a sickness where people with light bulbs on their head are required to have them unscrewed and replaced with a more traditional cranium, to people who have the colour drained from their face and need it sprayed back on, there’s an abundance of silly and wonderfully ridiculous diseases in this game. It’s hard not to grin stupidly when playing Two Point Hospital.
Accompanying the illnesses, the items, facilities, hospital announcer and radio host are all wonderfully written. They combine brilliantly with animations which turn the game from a standard management simulator game into one which flourishes and flaunts under its quirky personality.
The complaints with Two Point Hospital are ones for the genre it’s in and no doubt hindered Theme Hospital. For example, sometimes it can feel like it’s playing itself as the people scurry back and forth like a colony of ants, occasionally interrupted by your need to micromanage, and it can start to feel repetitive quicker than you’d hope.
However, if you loved Theme Hospital back in the ancient era of the nineties or feel like playing a game where being a clown is considered an unfortunate ailment, Two Point Hospital will satisfy your needs, making you laugh as it does so.