The Simpsons, Aardman Animations, Twin Peaks, Prison Architect and, quite naturally, Theme Hospital - these are the major inspirations behind Two Point Hospital, an upcoming sim/management game from some of the folk responsible for Bullfrog's Theme glory years. Two Point Hospital, a combination of management and comedy in a fantasy healthcare centre, is due for release - via publishers Sega - later this year, and the first trailer is below. I also had a big chat with lead devs and Bullfrog/Lionhead veterans Gary Carr and Mark Webley about the game over here.
Here's your first look at Two Point Hospital, which aims primarily to set out its comedy credentials, and a return to Theme Hospital's made-up diseases and cures - in this case, the wordplay/visual gag double-punch of 'Lightheadedness':
"We didn't want to throw away the charm of the original," explains co-founder Gary Carr, ex of Bullfrog, Mucky Foot and Lionhead, "but this its own entity. Whenever you read back about the game, it's always nostalgic and people remember things slightly through rose-tinted spectacles, but people did talk about the humour a lot and I think we've managed to do that again." However, "Even though thematically it shares a relationship with something we made back in the day, it's a very different experience."
The last 10 seconds of that trailer is in-game footage, the devs assure me, and built in the Unity engine. The current state of the game is that they're feature-complete but still pre-alpha. They won't be drawn on a release date outside of 'later this year', but tell me that they don't plan to go down the early access route for Two Point Hospital - full release is the plan, possibly with a closed beta ahead of that.
Though Two Point Hospital would seem to have much in common with its 1997 predecessor, the plan is for more modern humour and interface sensibilities, plus a more sandboxy rather than strictly level-based approach. "It feels like you can play it in a number of different ways and get different results," says Carr, "which was my negative about the original - I felt I had to play it a certain way. So I think we got that right.
Two Point Hospital is but stage one of larger plan to bring Theme Park/Hospital games in the Bullfrogian image back, however. "We want to build out a world of sim games, and this seemed like a good starting point because of our history," says Carr.
The two inspirations there are The Simpsons' Springfield, with its self-contained locations such as the power plant and Moe's Tavern, and Twin Peaks' sense of visual landmarks and traditions. "We knew with Two Point County we would at some point build a hospital facility in our linked-up world, we just thought it was sensible to do that first, because it was one of the things we were known for in our past. Our bigger picture is to be multiple themed sims within Two Point County."
Two Point Hospital is due out on Steam in "late 2018." The game's site is over here.
For much more on Two Point Hospital, including the Prison Architect influence, why Carr and Webley are returning to sim games now, how they believe game humour has changed since the 90s and why they think the genre has often lain fallow in the intervening years, please request a relocation to our interview ward here.