It’s been 21 years since the release of one of the greatest management simulation games of all time, Theme Hospital. If you played it back in the day, it’s likely that you think of this Bullfrog classic fondly. From Bloaty Head to King Complex, Theme Hospital had you managing a hospital to cure all manner of bizarre ailments. The game is so beloved that someone created an open source HD mod, CorsixTH, to allow it to be played on modern systems with enhanced graphics. Now, Two Point Studios has brought us Theme Hospital’s spiritual successor, Two Point Hospital.
Two Point Hospital immediately evokes a sense of nostalgia for fans of Theme Hospital. There are weird diseases like Lightheadedness, Cubism, and Bed Face, to name but a few. The game has a very similar visual feel to Theme Hospital, although there is much more cosmetic variety among the characters running around your hospitals, and they look like they stepped out of an episode of Wallace and Gromit.
Doctor required in diagnosis
The game presents you with a campaign to follow, where you’re given a series of hospitals to build and grow. You can earn up to three stars at each hospital, but (fortunately) you only need one star to unlock the next hospital in the campaign. You can even return to previous hospitals later if you want to get those two extra stars (and perhaps unlock some new stuff). What’s really cool about the campaign though is the fact that you keep everything you’ve unlocked and continue research projects started in other hospitals. This had me returning to earlier levels to get some research done before retrying a tricky later level.
As far as difficulty goes, there’s no difficulty setting, but the game starts you off with some pretty easy goals to ease you into things. After the first few hospitals, things start getting tricky. Besides diagnosing and treating patients, you have to make sure they’re not starving, dehydrated, bored, too hot, or too cold. You also need to make sure they don’t end up queuing for so long that they die or storm out before receiving treatment (I don’t want to say ‘cure’ since there’s a good chance your staff will administer ineffective or even fatal treatments). At the same time, your staff have similar needs, plus they need to take breaks to recover from their long shifts (and I mean long – time is measured in days in Two Point Hospital, so you’ll see things like machine upgrades or staff rest breaks taking 20 or more days).
Ghost loose in ward
Staff can be trained to work longer, be more friendly with patients, or improve their skill at general practice, or ward management, or research. They also gain experience as they work, and they’ll eventually ask you to promote them, which in turn makes them work better and faster, and opens up more training slots so they can further improve their skills. I love this system, though it took me a long time (plus reading up on the Steam forums) to realise that I should be training specialists instead of staff with a bunch of random skills. However, training can be expensive if you have to hire outside trainers, and it’s quite time consuming, so those staff won’t be working for as long as the training takes. This can create (even more) chaos in a busy hospital.
The campaign opens up a variety of hospitals with different challenges. Standouts among these include a teaching hospital, where all your staff start out as untrained graduates, and a public hospital, where all services are free (for patients), and you have to meet certain goals to get outside funding.
Speaking of busy hospitals, this is where the game gets really challenging. Patients have to visit a GP several times during the course of their diagnosis, which makes the queues outside your GP offices quite long. It also means that you’ll be using a lot of precious space for GP offices. Even with half a dozen or more GP offices, a big hospital is still likely to have long queues for these rooms, which in turn means that patients often die while waiting to confirm their diagnosis with a GP (this is especially irritating when it’s clear that the patient has Premature Mummification because he’s covered in bandages!) This, in turn, will hurt your hospital’s reputation and cure rate, and will probably make you want to tear your hair out. I hope a future patch will at least add the option to copy and paste rooms.
Queue frustrations aside, a well-designed hospital works pretty well, curing patients and earning money to keep you in the black. If things get hairy (like those pesky monobrows you have to contain), you can take out a loan, but managing your cash flow is critical to ensuring your hospital keeps going. Once you start down the debt and death spiral, things can go very badly for your hospital as ghosts start roaming the halls and scaring patients, or an epidemic breaks out. Strangely enough, despite the huge range of diseases present in this game, there seem to be only two types of epidemic. Epidemics are both fun and frustrating, as they require you to look for patients or staff exhibiting behaviour specific to the disease, and manually vaccinating them. In a big, busy hospital, this can lead to you missing one infected person, and a few minutes later you’ll have 20 infected people and not enough vaccines to deal with them.
Two Point Hospital immediately evokes a sense of nostalgia for fans of Theme Hospital. There are weird diseases like Lightheadedness, Cubism, and Bed Face, to name but a few.
Automatic vending machines are refilled manually
The campaign opens up a variety of hospitals with different challenges. Standouts among these include a teaching hospital, where all your staff start out as untrained graduates, and a public hospital, where all services are free (for patients), and you have to meet certain goals to get outside funding. Most other campaign levels aren’t quite as interesting, and some have goals that lean towards frustrating, but you’ll likely feel a sense of accomplishment when you finally beat a tricky level.
The game is not without its bugs, but given that there was already a patch the day after release, I have no doubt these will be dealt with as soon as possible. I also hope some additional info screens will be added. At present, there’s no way to know how profitable a certain vending machine is or an easy place to view all your monthly expenses, leaving you to guess why your hospital is losing money.
All in all, Two Point Hospital takes the good things about Theme Hospital and brings them into a modern game where you can lose dozens of hours curing the citizens of Two Point County of Hurty Leg and 8-bitten and Verbal Diarrhoea. If you enjoyed Theme Hospital back in the day, you’ll love this game. If you enjoy management sims that don’t take themselves too seriously, you’ll probably love Two Point Hospital.