21 years is an awfully long time when it comes to the video game industry. It's enough for two full console cycles to come and go, for just as many FIFA titles to be released, for Nintendo to put Mario in 100+ games (not that we've counted), and a lot more besides. It also happens to be how long it took for a proper successor for Theme Hospital to materialise. Not that we've gone without management titles in the meantime, it's just there's something about curing hilarious diseases and being a heartless healthcare tycoon that we've missed.
At its core Two Point Hospital is a very simple proposition - you're tasked with managing a hospital, building what's needed to take care of basic human functions, as well as the diagnosis and treatment of any poorly patients who come in for treatment. It starts small scale with one hospital, housed in one building and with a handful of rooms needed, but as you move across Two Point County and face various challenge in your budding health empire you'll need to be able to juggle plenty of things and make some tough choices in order to meet expectations and earn those gold stars. This is also when the game is at its most fun - when you're forced out of your comfort zone - as for the most part, particularly in the beginning, it's pretty smooth sailing and you won't have to worry too much about finances unless you overstretch yourself tremendously.
The basic flowchart here is that a patient comes into the hospital, they're handled by an assistant in the reception area and given a number (presumably, we couldn't zoom in that close), and has to wait for their turn at the GP's office. Then there are other rooms like general diagnosis and cardio where some patients are referred to for further diagnosis. After that, depending on the illness, the patient can be treated on the ward, a psychiatrist (a fair number of Two Point residents need this sort of help), or in special rooms that deal with specific and hilarious diseases (Pandemic - pan-removal, Lightheadedness - bulb replacement, etc). A little further into the game you'll need to train staff, conduct research, and market your business. Oh, and don't forget about selling drinks, food, and magazines, not to mention placing art, plants, and benches. Even radiators, arcade machines, and fountains are available to spruce up the place.
Some patients won't be cured, and some will even perish (if you've got a janitor with the ghostbusting ability he or she will vacuum up the spectre), but the goal here isn't to help everyone, unless zero deaths is your current objective. Instead you're tasked with building a functioning business empire, and that's always going to come with a few fatalities.
Your career sees you unlock new hospital sites as you meet the criteria needed for a one-star rating, but you can always go back and get the second and third stars later. In fact, they're usually easier to get once you've progressed a bit further and have unlocked new rooms, items, or upgrades for existing machinery. The beauty of this setup is that there's always something to go back and do even if you find yourself a bit stuck on a current objective.
We've mentioned money a lot, and the business simulation is a major part of the experience. You can borrow funds if you overextend, but for the most part the financial model is very forgiving and we appreciated the lack of violent swings that some management games have suffered from in the past. It's fairly easy to see what you're doing wrong and scale back to regain profitability. Apart from the standard currency you earn, there's something called Kudosh that is earned through completing career milestones or missions, and this currency unlocks more items for your hospital (the dog painting is a must, of course).
It should be noted that, while you can micromanage to a certain degree, and your staff is one such area where it pays to make sure you place the right person in the right room at the right time (and train them so they're specialised), for the most part Two Point Hospital is a high-level strategic experience where most things are handled well enough without your direct involvement. You're more of a hospital administrator than a chief of staff in that sense.
We should mention the presentation too, as it's an integral part of why we enjoyed our time in Two Point Hospital. The characters have a very Wallace & Gromit-esque look to them, and the animations are quite hilarious if you take the time to zoom in from your God perspective every once in a while. There are also some lovely melodies and a bit of radio chatter from time to time, and that certainly helps set the mood here too.
If there's one point of criticism we'd lob at the administration it's that everything is all a bit too pruned and well-kept for the most part, and we'd love for it to be a bit more random at times. It's those crazy moments when you need to make sure you can cure enough clowns to meet a quota, while at the same time all of your machines break down one by one - these are the truly memorable moments and we wanted more of them. Another thing that feels slightly off is the timescale; it may be meant as a joke, but the idea of spending a hundred days waiting in a hospital sounds quite horrendous to us, but in Two Point County it's par for the course.
Two Point Hospital is a nice timesink that won't rob you of a full night (just one more turn style), but rather it lets itself be enjoyed an hour or two at a time. Thanks to its gentle pacing it's the sort of game that's easy to slip back into, and one that allows for frequent and natural points where you may want to take a break. There are some things we'd like to see added to the game such as something akin to a sandbox mode where you can set parameters yourself and where things get a bit more random (for lack of a better word). Perhaps we'll see that in some post-launch content, but until then and based on the game as it currently stands, we'd still like to give this one a clean bill of health.
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