Review: Two Point Hospital07 Sep 2018 0
Review: Two Point Hospital
Released 30 Aug 2018
The Theme series of management games is legendary among strategy fans, thanks to its amazing gameplay and unabashed humour. Developed by Bullfrog in the 90’s, Theme Park, Theme Hospital, and Sim Theme Park are still among the top 10 management games to ever grace the PC screen, and most of the team is back again 20 years later with another home run. Two Point Hospital is, simply put, one of the best management games you can ever play.
The main goal of Two Point Hospital is to run your own health centre. Upon starting the game, players are given access to a small peaceful region to build their own health centre and learn the ropes of the game, being gradually introduced to every single mechanic, such as room building, furniture placement, and staff hiring.
As a hospital develops and starts treating more and more patients, the Two Point Ministry of Health rates them with one, two, or three stars, with one-star being the requirement to unlock the next hospital site. Those areas are all placed in a main world map and unlocked linearly, increasing in difficulty while simultaneously teaching players new mechanics and aspects of the gameplay. It is a wonderfully well balanced progression system that allows you to both advance at your pace and continue developing any hospital that you already built, and it also does a great job of steadily introducing new concepts and mechanics without bogging anyone down with endless, boring tutorials.
The biggest fun of Two Point Hospital comes from that freedom to build your own place at your own pace. Nowadays, some people forget that we used to have games solely about constructing things; games like Roller Coaster Tycoon or Dungeon Keeper were all about designing your very own base, room shape and all, and select what and who goes where -- it is a wonderfully engaging experience when done right, capable of generating the same sort of time-vacuum that Civilization’s infamous ‘one more turn’ effect does.
Thankfully, Two Point Hospital is an old-school game as far as the management side goes, giving players control of room shapes, object placement, and staff assignment with a freedom seldom seen in this era of standardized AAA games. Every aspect of gameplay reflects that focus on choice, allowing each player to tailor their whole hospital to their liking.
While the genre’s genesis harkens to ye olden days, all game mechanics are thoroughly modern. From controls that allow you to grab and plop characters and rooms anywhere on the building to a colourful and clean UI, there is not a single aspect of Two Point Hospital that doesn’t scream ‘excellence’. The claymation graphics are especially charming, with crisp models and textures running absurdly well even in 4K resolution and giving an ageless cartoony feel to the game that will probably work on its favour as the years go by.
The music and sound design deserve their own spotlight, both infusing the game with atmosphere and keeping you entertained. The soundtrack somehow manages to never get boring and remains constantly entertaining, featuring wonderful compositions intercut by interesting radio DJs. My favourite one is a catty, pompous, and over-refined effeminate British locutor named Sir Nigel Bickleworth which heavily reminded me of Frasier’s excellent Gil Chesterton, constantly berating the fact he must be on radio to share his “unending expertise with simpletons”. I liked him so much that the inability to choose a specific radio station and listen to him all the time actually bothers me a bit.
On the sound design side, we have great sound effects complemented by wonderfully effective PA announcements, that serves both as a gameplay warning (“Doctor needed in Psychiatry”) to the whimsical (“Security Alert: Please stay alert”). Those announcements were instrumental in warning me of staff shortcomings and highlighting exactly which departments were understaffed, although their infrequency meant I could not rely on them to keep me apprised of any serious problem.
Aside from being a very good management title and a very polished game, the main draw from Two Point Hospital is its humour. The game has soul, and it shows its heart in every corner: candidate application forms lists both useful traits that affect employee performance (‘Motivated’) and the purely flavourful (‘Hates ordinal numbers’), while diseases range from psychological disorders that turn people into mimes or Freddie Mercury impersonators to a ‘Pandemic’ disease where people’s heads are stuck in pans. Even the Ministry report is surprisingly endearing and amusingly pessimistic, creating a light hearted atmosphere that sucks you in for hours at a time.
Similarly, little details like a yearly Healthcare Award show and employee feedback when about to be fired contribute to the game’s uncanny sense of charm, showing more heart in its pinky than most titles do in their entirety. The game requires very little emotional investment, but it does manage to leave you feeling extremely light-hearted after any play session.
The one main problem I have with Two Theme Hospital (I see what you did there -ED) is the room design and its insistence of assigning minimum sizes to virtually every one of them. For some reason, the game demands most rooms to be a minimum of 3x3 grid size, which severely limits freedom player and placement on the hospital layouts available. Making matters worse is the game’s obtuse requirement that each disease have its own room, meaning every single game soon enough devolves into making dozens and dozens of 3x3 and 4x4 rooms that occupy all of your precious space yet will only be used irregularly.
In the end, Two Point Hospital is one of the best strategy games of 2018, managing to surprise me with its extremely competent game design, amazing polish, and superb production values. It has a few faults, like any product, and all of them could be easily fixed by patches should the developers choose to. Regardless of changes, Two Point Studios debut title is a serious contender to the bastion of modern classics.