Just like Dr. Mario, I’m not a real doctor. I can’t write prescriptions, and you shouldn’t take my medical advice, no matter how many fancy plaques I place around my facilities. I also shouldn’t be allowed in patient rooms, and I absolutely should never be allowed to administer cures. What I can do, however, is build amazingly efficient hospitals, capable of wringing every precious dollar out of needy patients, balancing their need to “not die” with my need to “buy a Tesla Model 3”, and “live that baller life”. As I remember my strict adherence to the “Hypocrite Oath”, I busted out my best construction hat and began my journey at Hogsport.
If you are an old school gamer, you might think to yourself “Self, this game looks a lot like Theme Hospital”. First, you might want seek professional help for this “talking to yourself” problem, but then I might tell you that Two Point Hospital is made by the best and brightest from Bullfrog, Muckyfoot, and Lionhead, now reborn as Two Point Studios. Mark Webley and Gary Carr, two of the veterans that built Theme Hospital have taken the very best parts of that original title, stripped away the limitations brought on by having less hardware power than a modern iPhone, and created something that is equal parts nostalgia and new additions. Without further ado, let’s till the dirt and make some money…er…cure some patients!
The first patient
I’m going to assume you’ve never played Theme Hospital (and if you have, consider this a refresher course) and walk you through the basics of your fledgling healthcare empire. Each area starts the same way — a blank canvas awaiting your direction. By your hand, these sterile(ish) cold hospital floors will be transformed into the mechanism to wring every dollar out of the pockets of your patients. You’ll also probably cure a few of them, too.
The first thing you’ll need to build is a General Practitioner’s office. Using simple drag and drop techniques, you’ll size and place the room, place desks, fire extinguishers, plants, and other various and sundry items to spruce up the joint. With the room built, you’ll select a hiring panel to pick a doctor with the appropriate skills needed to man the space, and you are off to the races. Placing a receptionist desk and hiring a receptionist, and picking up a nurse to staff your freshly-built pharmacy doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what you’ll eventually do, but it does represent the basics of hospital creation. It’s the whole lot of crazy that I have yet to describe that makes it all fun.
Unlike other simulation titles, Two Point Hospital never takes itself seriously, and that’s one of the very best parts about it. A patient will wander in with a very bright light bulb for a head, having been diagnosed with “Light Headedness”. Building a clinic lets you fix this malady by having the patient take a seat, unscrew their head with a giant claw, and screw a new 3D-printed head onto the patient shoulders. It’s also an opportunity to relieve $1000 from their pockets. Later research will send your floppy-shoed, clown-dressed patients to a miniature big top tent built right inside your hospital, where they’ll step in front of a spinning zoetrope and shed their pointy hair and honking noses. Each ailment is more ridiculous and fun than the last, and the treatments are equally as bizarre and entertaining.
In Theme Hospital, each level existed in a vacuum; Two Point Hospital instead asks you to build a medical empire. Each hospital you build is interconnected as one large HMO, and you are free to fleece patients at any of them, bouncing between them, at will. Any advancements or research that you unlock can be brought back to previous levels and implemented there, including efficiency upgrades to your equipment. This does expose a shortcoming whereby the levels are built with specific goals, so there’s little reason to bring a Chromatherapy clinic to Hogsport — the levels don’t scale after you’ve left them. It’s a minor nitpick, but it does mean one of the nicer features, that is to say the ability to go back, doesn’t have as much purpose as it could.
The fourth level unlocks the fracture ward, and that’s good timing as it coincides with a level that features seismic activities. It also suffers from terrible temperature instability, meaning you’ll need to pay attention to heat and cold in your hospital. Each hospital after the third location has a similar twist like this to challenge your otherwise smooth medical empire, though none are as tough as the teaching hospital where everyone is fresh out of medical school, requiring that you juggle your usual patient wallet-raiding while training your doctors to…you know, be doctors.
Vomit in the corridors
There are some elements that aren’t explicitly spelled out for you to uncover for yourself. Allow me to help. When you see a lone nurse trying to deal with a massive emergency as their entire ward is being overwhelmed, you might wonder why you can’t staff up the room. Well, it turns out that you can. Clicking on the room allows you to assign additional staff to help get patients relieved of their money…er…treated and on their way. This and a few other smaller elements aren’t explicitly spelled out, leading rookie players to instead waste a lot of precious real estate building multiple clinics when simply adding more staff would do.
There are a few bugs remaining at launch, such as doors to the bathroom that don’t appear when you construct the room. This means you’ll have a lavatory that is more “liberated” than one might want. Similarly, your patients will occasionally become a bit stupid, preferring to literally die playing video games in the hallway rather than seeking treatment. I’ve also had instances where my well-run hospital received an influx of trauma victims that I didn’t see too personally to manage the room queue, only to see that my hapless medical morons managed to cure zero of them. These are all patchable issues, to be sure.
The largest issue I have with Two Point Hospital has to be the most difficult nut to crack — pathing. As the hospital gets dense with offices and patients, you’ll more frequently get messages that people are stuck and can’t reach their destination. You’ll also see more frowning faces with messages that patients (or even staff) are Very Hungry, Very Thirsty, Desperate for the Toilet, or Very Bored, despite having ready access to all of these things in the building they’ve been ostensibly roaming for nearly 300 days.
In latter levels, the finances become a real challenge, as you might expect. Patients come in with a variety of illnesses that require research and treatment rooms, and you have general care and feeding of your hospital and staff to attend to, but you can only extract so many dollars from your clientele. They are dying, but they aren’t afraid to keel over in your hallways with their money still in their pockets, and raising prices can cause a hit to your reputation as a fairly-priced provider. As a result, you’ll often see wild swings as the calendar marches on. You’ll be flush with cash, only to find yourself in the red as the next month begins and the bills come due. The finance panel doesn’t provide a great amount of detail in the profit and loss sheets, so some guesswork is required. Unlocking a marketing department and running ads to pull in patents to cash-rake for your more expensive procedures usually does the trick.
Patients, please be patient
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the music and audio in Two Point Hospital. Borrowing the concept from The Movies (Webley and Carr did make that game for Lionhead, after all), Two Point Hospital has DJ Rickie Hawthorn spinning “muzak” tracks and some general commentary in the background. It really nails the charm and feel of the original game, but updates it nicely for this new outing.
Speaking of updates, there are a lot of them in the engine that powers Two Point Hospital that help bring it to life, while simultaneously solving many of the problems that Theme Hospital left on the gurney on release. In Theme Hospital, rebuilding a room meant stripping everything out of it and essentially rebuilding it from scratch. Now, you can simply select the room and clicking the + or – to resize the space. You can even grab it, contents and all, and then move it to another part of the hospital. With a wobbly snap it will spring back into production, ready to accept incoming patients moments later.
The original game was isometric, meaning it was shown from a 3/4 view looking down on the people from a slight angle. It meant only having to build the art assets from one angle, and much of that game from limitations in computational power and system requirements. Well, it’s 2018, so the team has freed the camera, allowing full control over the angle of view. Spinning it around, tilting it (pitch), and seeing your hospital from any angle is a game changer, making it far easier to build and populate.
Managing staff has also become simpler. Each staff member has training slots that make them more unique than their job description (though their names are often funny enough to make them memorable). These can be an improvement to movement speed, a knack for customer service, or a special skill like the ability to convince patients that they are a Psychiatrist. As they earn experience by doing their job, they can earn promotions. You can improve their existing skills, raise their pay, or even send them to the classroom to learn new ways to relieve patients of their hard earned cash.
There is a minor multiplayer offshoot for Two Point Hospital. The game features a leaderboard-esque system where you can challenge your friends (or more specifically their hospital) to achieve certain objectives within a timeframe. This can be earning $100,000 in an in-game month, or curing a certain amount of patients in a similar span, but it’s an asymmetric opt-in experience, so rest assured you won’t have somebody doing a Dark Souls-esque sabotage on your freshly-polished hospital floors.
In all, I came away very impressed with what easily could have been a straight port of Theme Hospital for a new age. Instead, we get a fantastic reboot of a genre, an update that fixes a lot of what will make this game appeal to a modern audience, some brand new features, and a fresh batch of genuinely funny diseases to diagnose and cure. It’s hard to ask for more than that. Now if you’ll excuse me, my medical empire needs more golden toilets — my patients are the discerning kind of squatters.
Two Point Hospital
More than Theme Hospital for the modern age, Two Point Hospital brings fresh features and new maladies to a genre full of try-hard games that tried to be what this game is. With charm and wit to spare, Two Point Hospital is the game patients have been patiently being patient for.