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Wot I Think: Two Point Hospital

The doctor will see you now. Again.

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One of the many malicious maladies that can befall your patients in Two Point Hospital is ‘8-bitten’. You’ll know when you’ve got an epidemic on your hands, because you’ll start to notice dozens of low-res, pixel-stricken ill flickering about your corridors. To treat them, you’ll need to research and build a Resolution Lab complete with Debugger. As with many of your accomplishments, the local radio will inform the people of Two Point County of the new advancement. “Patients are promised” drones a pitch-perfect parody of every radio host ever smushed up together in a partridge-esque, play-doh monstrosity “they’ll feel totally next-gen”

There’s a subtle, almost sarcastic reluctance in these words. A weary, wry sigh from the Bullfrog and Lionhead vets heading up Two Point Studios. Good natured, but with just a hint of sardonic self-awareness at the oddness of strapping down a twenty year old comatose classic for a thorough defibrillation. If it is reluctance, though, you wouldn’t know it from playing Two Point Hospital. It’s been given a fresh coat of paint in most of the places that count, but as someone who grew up with Theme Hospital, sitting down with this excellent game (viewed by many as a spiritual successor to Theme Hospital) was just like reuniting with an old friend. Who I then infected with flu, killed during treatment, sucked their ghost up with a Hoover, and charged them a few grand for the privilege.

For those of you too fresh faced to know your Super Toilets from your Boggy Crappers, here’re the basics of Two Point Hospital. Across fifteen locations, you attempt to build and manage reputable and profitable hospitals, while also completing a number of side objectives to increase the star rating of each. Complete some challenges, get a star, unlock a more complicated stage. Hospitals are functionally flat floor plans, which you fill out by laying down rooms. GP’s offices for diagnoses, pharmacies for treatment, various specialist clinics for diseases, and utilities like staff rooms and toilets. You hire doctors, nurses, assistants and janitors, and fill your hospital with things like plants, benches, and vending machines to keep your customers and staff happy and refreshed. Patients pour in, you keep them happy while they wait, diagnose them, treat them, charge them ridiculous sums of money, and they leave. Healthy, happy, and thoroughly fleeced.

At least, that’s the idea. In practise (hehe), you’ll need to work fast to make sure every individual aspect is running like clockwork. Staff aren’t cheap, so hire too many to pick up the slack and you’ll quickly find yourself deeper in the red than a surgeon’s scalpel in the body of a games reviewer recently stabbed for making too many medical puns. Take the janitors, for example. They’re not only responsible for making sure your hospital stays attractive and hygienic by cleaning up rubbish and the occasional pool of vom, but also restocking vending machines, watering plants, repairing machines and occasionally, ghostbusting. My first such encounter was with one Felix Avocado, who I quickly had to trap in a mini-vac to stop him scaring my patients away. I may have also made a note about him being Avocado Toast, but I won’t subject you to that, because it’s terrible.

So even something as seemingly minor as not having enough janitors can have a knock-on effect that ripples through your hospital. Dirty corridors and lack of beverages can wear away at prospective patients, and if they get to breaking point, they’ll storm out, affecting your reputation and the number of customers through the doors. It’s not all that tricky to get a basic set-up going, but you’ll soon want to grow. So kicks off Two Point Hospital’s core loop of establishing order, seeing an opportunity to expand, knocking everything out of equilibrium again, and scrabbling to smooth things out before it’s too late. The apparently simple pipeline of check-in, diagnosis, and treatment can quickly get clogged if you’re not vigilant.

Research and training rooms are here, only now there are a lot more individual staff skills to worry about. One stage puts you in charge of a university hospital with only junior hires available, so you’ll need to be constantly training up doctors for things like psychiatry and surgery, but also perks like motivation and energy bonuses. A new addition is the marketing room, where trained assistants can run general or specific campaigns to attract more patients to your hospital. Nearly every feature in Two Point runs along these same lines. Nothing seriously alters the core of what made Theme Hospital great, but instead works to bring reality in line with nostalgia, providing something as endlessly addictive as that first hypo shot, but for the modern, sophisticated dopamine enjoyer.

Thanks to a few UI tweaks and a bit of streamlining, you’re also going to spend enjoyably little time looking at statistics for a management game. This information is there is you want it, but attractive pop-ups and notifications keep you pretty much up to date. Most systems are contextualised well within the feel of running your hospitals, but there’s still a stray bit of arbitrariness here and there. Although you get some room to indulge your inner interior decorator, placement is much more about efficiency than aesthetics. You could fill your lobby with alternating cacti and Yucca plants, but why bother when sunflowers are twice as effective? You could decorate your GP’s office with a selection of artwork, but it’s much easier to just fill it with gold star plaques. It’s an attractive game on the whole, with a good selection of unlockable nick-nacks, but it can feel like you’re just meeting quotas rather than personalising your creations.

Similarly, Two Point Hospital lacks the option to save blueprints or copy and paste existing rooms, which means time gets spent just repeating optimum layouts. It’s absolutely to the game’s credit that it retains the ability to make the simple act of plonking down items fun and satisfying, but the novelty does wear off eventually. There are also occasional lulls in play. Mostly minor ones, but minute long stretches while you wait for your finances to settle tend to stand out against the game’s usual hectic, exhilarating micromanagement. It’s a genre sin more than anything, and you can speed things up, but it is occasionally noticeable.

Emergency helicopters full of sickies and bonus challenges are back too, as are earthquakes, and new and updated rat shooting, this time with sentient monobrows. I was sceptical with the early trailers, but I’m delighted to say that this absolutely feels like a Bullfrog game, albeit slightly less dark. It’s not that any individual element is hilarious – it’s more of an infinite dads pulling infinite crackers sort of scenario. It just feels comfy, goofy and pleasant, if you happen derive comfort from deeply nihilistic sarcasm, or happen to British, which are basically the same thing. Visuals and tone combined, the whole thing comes across like an overly idyllic staff hospital staff training video, except the grim reality of the situation can’t help from seeping through.

Back of the box take away, then: Yep. It’s a good’un. Theme Hospital occupies a pretty special place in my gaming memories. The sense of relief and joy I got after my first hour with Two Point Hospital was palpable enough to turn into a pill, bottle, and then overcharge for. Plus, if they managed to wrangle this one, it means Two Point Dungeon isn’t out of the realms of possibility…

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Nic Rueben

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