Two Point Hospital is looking like a worthy successor to its spiritual predecessor – all-time classic, Theme Hospital.
I’ve got to give credit to the folks at Sega – some people there are clearly really very clued in when it comes to my tastes for this retro revival stuff. First there was Sonic Mania, the incredible fan-made return of proper 2D Sonic, and now we’ve got Two Point Hospital – which is the Theme Hospital 2 in all but name.
Consider this a full disclaimer if my above tone doesn’t make it clear: I bloody love Theme Hospital. It’s one of my favourite simulation games ever alongside SimCity 2000 and SimCity on the SNES. The build of Two Point Hospital I have access to is only the first few levels, but so far I’m in nostalgic bliss.
If you’re not familiar with Theme Hospital (you monster!), here’s the rub: these games task you with managing a hospital rather than an amusement park or city. Instead of researching new rides or utilities, you’re uncovering new slapstick diseases and their cures. It’s all about managing the key pillars of a hospital: the patients, your staff, and the hospital itself. You’ll be worrying about everything from litter to epidemics and sudden emergency influxes of patients, all while remaining laser-focused on making money – because without money you can’t expand or even pay your staff.
Two Point Hospital offers all of this well enough, the features of its spiritual predecessor alive and well in everything from the tone to the ins-and-outs of hospital management. What’s impressive and interesting, however, are the steps taken by developer Two Point Studios to expand on the ideas expressed in that classic game with new features and deeper complexity and depth for modern hardware.
These changes are something that I touched on in my interview with the guys from Two Point Studios, but it basically means that the goings on in your hospital have a deeper and more immediate impact on everybody in them. If somebody dies, the people nearby will be shocked and have their mood impacted accordingly. Deaths sometimes lead to ghosts roaming the halls – and ghosts will terrify those who see them, sending them fleeing and thus causing delays in the system as they miss their appointments.
A classic trick in Theme Hospital was to install radiators and crank up the heat to force patients to buy cold drinks to cool themselves down. In Two Point Hospital, this system goes further: there’s now radiators for heating and air conditioning for cooling, different types of drinks and the added wrinkle that your staff are also impacted by these factors. A doctor overheating thanks to a cranked-up radiator isn’t going to be happy or working as well as they could.
Even within drinks and snacks, there are additional wrinkles. One way to get people to buy more drinks is to plop down vending machines that sell salty snacks. A drinks machine that sells energy drinks will cause those who drink from it to get a sugar rush, sending them zipping around the hospital at a faster speed – great for supercharging your staff.
This level of detail, depth and customization follows through right into practically every aspect of Two Point Hospital. When you’re in the hospital view and managing things, it is basically an expanded, deeper version of Theme Hospital. With some of the same staff managing the project as back in the nineties, the same great sense of humor and slapstick attitude is present – and this marries with the great management play to keep you hooked.
There’s even more to it than your starter hospital, however. The eagle-eyed might notice I mention the ‘hospital view’ above – and that’s because Two Point Hospital actually has a larger regional view of Two Point County, the game’s setting. The county isn’t just window dressing – it essentially acts as your progression system.
Each hospital has three star ratings, and as hospitals level up to one, two or three stars further hospitals deeper in Two Point County with more illnesses to counter and more problems to juggle will unlock. The game is essentially open-ended, since you can progress to a hospital as soon as you like and then hop back and forth between different hospitals at your leisure.
Cash and staff don’t transfer, but unlocked equipment does – so you can hop ahead to earn unlocks to get a leg up before returning to try to max out the rating of an earlier hospital. It’s cool stuff, since you’ll never quite hit that point of being trapped in a grind to progress. If you hit a wall, it’s easy to switch to a different hospital instead.
It’s still early days, since the build of Two Point Hospital I have access to only features the first couple of levels, but everything is looking fantastic right now. This looks to be as good a revival as Sonic Mania, and that’s a not insignificant thing to say given that was one of my favourite games of last year. I’m going to keep at Two Point Hospital – and I’ll be back with a report on the final version soon.