“Doctor required in GP’s Office!” is a phrase I heard oh too often in my youth, a term the receptionist would often throw out when doctor’s got too tired and would go off to the staff room. Theme Hospital was produced by Bullfrog Productions, all the way back in 1997. I was a young boy back then, but the game would always capture my imaginations. Indeed, we here in the UK have the NHS, but the idea of running my own American styled hospital was always a lot of fun. Fast forward to 2018 and we’ve got a new contender for the Hospital Management genre – A very specific niche indeed. It’s been over twenty years since Theme Hospital, so how does Two Point Hospital compare?
|Developer||Two Point Studios|
|Platforms||PC (Windows, OSX, Linux),|
Before we delve into the nitty gritty of this review, let me take a moment to explain I may have some bias, as I loved the original Theme Hospital. Some of the original developers of Bullfrog Productions and Lionhead Studios, another company I genuinely enjoyed growing up, were involved in the creation of Two Point Hospital. So when the developers have worked on titles like Theme Hospital, Dungeon Keeper, Fable – You know you’ve got a great mix. However, I’m committed to pointing out what makes this game different from the original, along with the good and the bad of the new title.
If you’ve played Theme Hospital before, there’ll be a lot of similarities between the two, so I’ll begin by focusing on the core gameplay. This will sound very similar to the original, before I delve deeper into the complexities that make Two Point Hospital different.
Each level is a hospital, which you have to build up from scratch. Your rooms are completely your own layout, including the size of your rooms, albeit this differs from Theme Hospital which had to be built in squares, as you can make a custom shape. Want to add one extra block to your room? Go for it, so long as you meet the basic room requirements. Once you’ve created a shape for your room, you must add in important items to make the room operate. Another mini-difference here is the “Prestige” of a room, which is sort of mentioned in the originals, but in this the more decorations and objects in a room, along with the size, the better the prestige. This makes staff work better and make patients happier.
Once your room is set up, you can hire a doctor or nurse to work in it. The staff are key to having a successful run, so make sure you pay attention to who you hire and you don’t just hire for the sake of it. Once hired, they will require a staff room and toilets, so they can rest and relieve themselves as they need to. Your staff and patients will require access to food and drink, so be sure to add in vending machines. This is a slight deviation to the classic, as previously it was only really patients that went for the drinks machine.
Along with creating rooms and hiring staff, you’ll be encountering many patients, whom will need to be sign-posted to the correct rooms. As such, you’ll need a reception desk, or registration area, to get your patients to the right places. Their recovery is what will get you a tonne of cash, so you want to do your best to find the perfect balance of staff, equipment and hospital feng shui. All in all, this game is one of micromanagement.
As you play through a level, you need to meet specific requirements to get through the level. Two Point Hospital likes to rely on a star rating system – Getting to one star means you can continue in the campaign, but you’ll ideally want to get the 2 or 3 stars, which require you to work a bit harder for it. This may stem from doing lots of training of your staff, or promoting staff – Perhaps curing 200 or more patients. It’s all prety simple stuff, but it’s a game that if you start to snowball out of control, you’ll barely be able to stop.
There are a few really big changes, which actually make the game a lot more interesting and actually more complex than the classic. The game’s main mode is the “Career” mode, which implies there may be more modes in the future (I hope I’m right). In this mode, you play as an organisation (which you can rename on the Level Select screen) and it’s your goal to make your organisation as wealthy and as reputable as possible by building a well-established and highly-regarded hospital franchise. You do this through earning stars and money, which all contribute to making your organisation more recognised across the world. The more tasks you do throughout the career mode, the more Kudosh you earn as well, meaning more interesting items to use in each level.
As you play through, you unlock Kudosh. My first thought was one of utter dread: Did they seriously include Micro-Transactions in the game? Thankfully, they did not, as Kudosh is earned by doing various goals during your organisations tenure during hospital management. The goals can be as simple as “cure 100 patients”, or it can be as strange as “unclog 100 toilets”. Each seem to give you approximately 100 Kudosh, which can be used in-game to buy items which can improve the quality of your hospitals; from making it more attractive, to increasing the comfort of your patients.
Speaking of improving the quality, I need to briefly chat to you all about the new traits of the staff. Your staff can now not only be trained in being specialists, but they can be trained to be faster, or generally better. Furthermore, they have traits built into them, such as being hygenic, green-fingers (meaning they’ll help your janitors out with watering your plants) and more. There are new perks, such as the Janitor’s ghost fighting abilities and there’s even a new boredom mechanic that both staff and patients suffer. It’s important to keep on top of the traits as best you can – A great new addition to the title, as it adds another layer for micro-management.
At first glance, I was a bit confused about the way the eyes of the characters look, but over time I’ve grown to love it. Each character looks incredibly unique, which is impressive. I really love the consistency of some of the illnesses, such as the clown condition “Jest Infection”. The interaction between the clowns and mimes are truly hilarious, but even more impressive are the mummies and the “Lightheadedness” victims, who glow brightly. The game is vibrant, colourful and visually interesting.
At the moment, there’s no OST out to share, however I can assure you that the music is as catchy as the original. I’ve had one of the main songs of the game stuck in my head for a little while now, so they’ve got that down. But more importantly, the announcers are back. This really helped solidify the game as a true spiritual successor to the classic title, as the announcer was always one of the most quotable parts of the game. Furthermore, there’s a radio that plays – And listening to the jingles and ads are actually really fun.
If I were being honest with myself, I’m loving this so much mostly because of how much I enjoyed the original. Theme Hospital has and always will be a game that means a lot to me, as it was one of those titles I could pick up and play for hours on end. Having said that, a replacement for Theme Hospital never came to light, even with ambitious titles previously such as Project Hospital (which was more realistic, but at the expense of the cartoonish values that Bullfrog are known for). When I first started to play Two Point Hospital, I knew I found a new title that’s truly a spiritual successor to Theme Hospital.
However, there are some negatives – But there’s only one that comes to mind, which is the difficulty. The game is tough, sure, but it’s not skulldredgingly so. For the price paid, at £22.49 (including a 10% discount for early bird buyers), it feels like there’s not a crazy amount of challenge. I love when games throw some hard obstacles at us and Two Point has yet to deliver that – But this is incredibly early days, to the point where I could easily see the developers actually patching the game to include some form of difficulty change.
Now, I won’t lie, saying anything about the difficulty really is nit picking at the game. What we’ve got here is a highly polished, exceptionally well executed nod to the original. But it doesn’t stop there – It’s not only wonderfully made, it’s also different enough to the classic to make it worthwhile. I mentioned up top that there is some difference in gameplay, but I really do love the addition of the Kudosh feature. It gives me something to work towards – Other than a new hospital. I love the “organisation” approach and all in all, I genuinely love what sets this game apart, as well as what makes this game so similar to the classic. I may need to see a doctor, so excuse me whilst I boot up for some more Two Point Hospital. Share your thoughts below, or over on Facebook and Twitter, even if you just want to say “I love Theme Hospital.” If you loved Theme Hospital, you’ll adore Two Point Hospital – An excellent improvement on a classic Bullfrog Productions title.