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Startopia meets Theme Hospital in this jaunty space hospital sim

Galacticare has that one guy from Twitter who does Matt Berry impressions

An alien doctor treating a large, many armed alien patient in some kind of brain mind-meld-y machine in Galacticare
Image credit: Cult Games

You know me, folks: I love management sims, and I love people in physical distress. Wasn't I only delighted, then, to play a bit of Galacticare, an upcoming hospital management sim in the same sticky vein as the hospitals Theme or Two Point. The twist? These hopsitals are in space! Like those managment games, your task is to build a hospital that runs as smooth as some kind of alien baby's bottom (the alien probably has tentacles), where you want to treat people and prevent them from dying as much as possible, but largely because death is bad for your profit margin more than any altruistic impulse. I mean you can be altruistic if you want, I suppose, but if you run out of money it's harder to build more weird bone-fixing machines.

The tone - though Galacticare has strange diseases like being eaten from the inside out by a singularity, and wacky treatments including a sort of laser disco machine - is actually much closer to kind of satire-ish hijinks of spacestation management game Startopia than I had expected, thanks in part to the extremely dry AI helper offering input, and the many alien species who'll come to you for treatment.

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I've only played a bit of a preview demo build so far, but the levels in Galacticare are pleasingly vibes-based in their pacing, relying less on overall goals and more on the successful navigation of surprise scenarios. My favourite was the second level, which puts you in charge of the hospital near Burning Moon festival (Galacticare also has lovely backdrops, so you can, for example, see the holo-stage of the festival below your hospital buildings).

That level is largely tied to the progress of the festival itself. As the running order goes on, the festival owner organiser then pops up with comms messages revealing he is - well, imagine my shock - a money-hungry capitalist who wants to avoid losses and PR disasters more than he wants the festival to be good. You'll also run into the owner of a rival medical corporation who sounds almost, but not quite, exactly like Matt Berry.

Another neat little twist comes from the aliens themselves. One of the first group I met were all a) old people and b) clones. They're like very cute little grey raisins, and they specifically like decorations that are "curious" - which is a sub-category of items you can place that largely consists of anatomical models and brains in jars. There are extremely huge boys who appreciate big rooms and wide corridors, and hot space angels who are, for some reason, inordinately fond of adequate seating. It's kind of fun trying to keep all these requirements in mind, while also, you know, providing a service.

A laser machine treating a patient in Galacticare
An overview of a hospital in Galacticare, with the patient information screen on the left hand side
Image credit: Cult Games

There are other extra management sim bits as well. All doctors, no matter how expensive they are, come with a downside, including clumsiness, dropping litter, or, err, enjoying hurting people, so... you know. That's nice. But these flaws are balanced with an upside like working faster or making people happy. You can also push people to the front of the queue if they look particularly sick, and there's a giant space whale with a ship on its back that'll turn up to sell you upgrades and extras sometimes - including more of the robots who act as your entire janatorial staff.

All in all, the Steam demo (which you can play yourself when Steam Next Fest kicks off next week on the 19th) suggests Galacticare is striking a good balance between satire and self-awareness, being wacky without becoming zany - death! - at least as far as tone and design is concerned. I think the acid test will be more in whether the demands of patient numbers (which increase fairly rapidly, especially in the early part of a level) become a case of unfun water treading rather than meeting challenges with efficiency. That's always the main thing with a management sim, I find. Unfun Water Treading is probably an illness in there somewhere, too. Galacticare is out later this year.

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