Anyone who has experienced puberty will be old enough to remember the “Theme” series of titles released primarily for Windows machines by Bullfrog. Whether it be Theme Park which became the foundations for Rollercoaster Tycoon, or Theme Hospital which became the foundations for… well, nothing ever succeeded Theme Hospital. Until now that is.
Two Point Studios is a development team consisting mostly of people who used to work for Bullfrog (a bit like Playtonic Games is mostly people who worked for Rareware and so were ideal for Yooka Laylee from their Banjo Kazooie days). Because they aren’t Bullfrog and don’t have the rights to the Theme Hospital brand, Two Point Hospital is a spiritual successor that has taken elements from games that have come since the original, and tried to improve the game’s overall recipe (again, see Yooka Laylee as a good example).
The concept is simple. Build a hospital, hire the right staff, and make sure as few people as possible die in your wards. Sounds boring right? Wrong. Two Point Hospital is the first game in a while that has made me genuinely laugh for some time. Whether it be the Anchorman style opening advert for your hospital (“52% of our patients believe they leave feeling better than when they arrived”), the cheesy in-house hospital radio DJ (“I’ve been humming that tune all week, which is impressive, because I’ve never heard it before!”), or the information given to hospital inspectors when doing their annual checks (“Many of our staff have been medically trained, or at least made to watch E.R.”). The writing throughout this game is very funny and very British.
It’s not just the writing that makes this game fun to play. The illnesses themselves are well thought out from start to finish. Using one illness as an example (there are many more but I won’t spoil them all for you) is lightheadedness, where your patient literally has a lightbulb for a head. This is treated in the De-lux Ward (get it?) where patients have their heads unscrewed and replaced with their original human heads. And if a patient can’t be cured and as a result dies, they come back and haunt your hospital. The way to resolve this? Hire a janitor with ghost capturing capabilities. Yes, the phrase “who ya’ gonna call?” does get used as a direct reference here. And if you don’t manage to do this quickly enough, patients are scared away and your hospital’s reputation decreases.
Reputation is one example of where Two Point Hospital has evolved since Theme Hospital and has taken inspiration from more modern titles such as The Sims and SimCity. Your ingoings and outgoings are affected by multiple layers of quite deep logic, such as popularity, reputation and cleanliness. And you’re not just judged by what the software itself believes is good enough, as your scores are ranked based on where they sit alongside your friend’s scores on Steam. One of the ways you are judged is the Annual Healthcare Awards, where you earn achievements based on how well your hospital performed in the last year (a year is about an hour in realtime if played at the normal pace). If you win awards, your hospital reputation increases and you not only earn a better star ranking, but more items and better staff (with amusing characteristics such as “doesn’t agree with red jams” or “hasn’t been to space”) are unlocked to use in your hospitals.
I say hospitals in the plural sense, as this is another way Two Point Hospital has followed suit with modern games. Instead of just having a single hospital to maintain at once, your map opens up similar to running multiple cities in SimCity. Spend too long with one hospital unlocked, and others can start to deteriorate. The further into the game you get, the more you juggle in order to maintain each hospital’s ranking. This sounds far more daunting than it actually is, as the hospitals you’re not directly maintaining appear to slow down in time (insert a different kind of Doctor joke here if you’re a sci-fi fan) unless you return to them at your own leisure. It’s simply another layer of challenge to keep you coming back and making sure nothing has gone wrong in the meantime when you’re six hospitals in and haven’t checked in on your last five branches in some time.
Controlling the game hasn’t changed much since Theme Hospital, but then the old mantra of “if it ain’t broke” stands true in this game. The places where the controls have altered are where technology has evolved since the original title. You can now move entire rooms into other parts of the hospital to keep your wards organised, and if you are running out of space you can also resize your rooms The Sims style without losing any attributes to the rooms you’re editing. Other ways the game has improved is the animation which is a lot smoother and enjoyable when zooming in and watching treatments take place, and the soundtrack is a great balance between The Sims and a genuinely crap hospital radio station from the nineties.
One game that Two Point Hospital seems to have taken inspiration from very quickly, is the recently added daily missions from Pokemon Go. Additional money and reputation points are achieved by completing sets of three challenges in a certain time frame. Missions such as cure twenty-five patients, make $250,000 in profit and achieve a three-star rating are examples of how a set of daily missions may look. Again, this gives the game replayability that the original Theme Hospital simply couldn’t do for its time.
As a fan of this genre, I find Two Point Hospital is a game I will most definitely keep coming back to. Whereas other reboots of games such as Rollercoaster Tycoon and SimCity seem to have lost their way or even become too simplified for veteran gamers, Two Point Hospital has just enough of the old magic whilst introducing new elements to keep both old and new gamers happy. I look forward to seeing how much the Steam community gets involved, and where the inevitable DLC in the future takes the franchise. Let’s hope this is the start of a Bullfrog style resurgence, and a Two Point Theme Park style title is on the cards if this game does as well as it should do.
Beard Score: 9/10
Players: Single Player, Multiplayer