A few years back, I played a bit of Theme Hospital after picking it up super cheap on GOG. It was one of many great titles created by Bullfrog Productions, a legendary company responsible for the likes of Populous, Dungeon Keeper, and many others. When I learned of Two Point Hospital, my interest piqued at the spiritual successor to a classic game. Whether or not it lives up to its forebears is a matter of the details.
Two Point Hospital has players managing the Two Point Foundation in Two Point County. Developed by Two Point Studios (they're going for a theme here) and published by SEGA, the game takes you through fifteen different hospitals across the fictional county. Each hospital has unique challenges for players to overcome along with a three-star goal system. You only need to get one star to advance to the next level, but the more hardcore players can go for two or three by meeting successively more difficult goals.
A level will typically begin with an empty hospital and a number of assigned goals. These might be something like curing X number of patients of specific diseases or maintaining a good reputation. Players usually have multiple different metrics to meet before they can earn a star and progress further on in the game. Levels split into sets of three; you have to get one star in two hospitals to unlock the third. After you accomplish that, you move onto the next region of Two Point Country and get to work with another three hospitals.
A particularly interesting element of the game is the idea of your foundation. You have to research new treatment options and upgrades for your equipment, but you thankfully don't have to undergo this task at every level. I made use of Mitton University as my research hub by exiting the map I'm on, researching whatever I needed to at Mitton, and heading back to the current level. I didn't need to have a research room on most levels thanks to this strategy. However, research was one of many little things that the game drops the ball on.
Research begins with spending $1,000 to greenlight the project. After that, it runs until it's completed and you have to manually start it again. This makes sense for picking individual things, but the endgame only gives you two options for research - money or Kudosh (special money for cosmetics). If you have a bunch of high-level researchers (as I did), it quickly becomes an annoyance of having to stop the game every minute or so to re-engage the research. This is something that I should be able to automate. It's not the only feature of convenience that's missing: you can't disable the hints or turn off edge scrolling, either. There's also the issue of no copy/paste function for rooms; I would have thought that this would have been self-evident to anyone who played the game for long enough and it's surprising that it wasn't in for release.
Two Point Hospital also makes use of a lot of randomization, sometimes to your detriment. Employees can have up to five different skills trained and it's entirely possible to begin the game with nothing but expensive characters with way more skill than you'd need in the early game. If you do find a good prospect, there's no way to save their application in the queue. You can't specifically request or filter out the types of employees you're looking for, either. A good portion of my 58 hours in the game was spent staring at the Hire screen and waiting for just the right thing to come up. I would occasionally relent and hire someone who was close enough, but then I'd run the risk of burning money on a less-than-ideal employee.
The click detection is poor. Trying to select a room to move it when there are rugs on the floor is an absolute nightmare. I would think it would be a simple matter of the game checking what's under the tip of the cursor, but something would always mysteriously be in the way even though my mouse was halfway off of it. I'd have to rotate or tilt the camera sometimes in order to click on the thing I actually wanted to click on. I found this very aggravating, to say the least.
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Pathfinding for both patients and staff was tricky at times. I had occasional moments where someone traps themselves in the hospital. This forces me to move furniture or edit the room to fix the problem. It was rare, but having to watch out for stuff like this broke the flow of the game for me. I would have preferred to keep an eye out for problems with the hospital. Unfortunately, I also had to keep an eye out for the pathfinding breaking as well.
It took me over 20 hours to feel like I had a good understanding of Two Point Hospital. It felt like some of the mechanics go unexplained, and there isn't really any in-game resource that clearly spells things out to you. The General Diagnosis Room is effectively rendered obsolete by the Fluid Analysis room, but I only learned that once I had built both of them and saw that absolutely no one was using General Diagnosis anymore.
The problems with randomization, the interface, and lacking quality-of-life features are a real shame, as Two Point Hospital holds up strongly in all other respects. I found the writing particularly funny, especially with the game's use of clever puns or jokes when naming diseases or medical equipment. The snarky announcer was a great way to bring your attention to problems in the hospital. If things were running smoothly, she would instead bark out humorous non sequiturs.
Graphically, the game does a good job of modernizing the aesthetics of its spiritual predecessor. It still maintains the same sort of Wallace and Gromit art style, beautifully updated into full 3D. The animations are smooth and full of life, especially some of the more humorous ones like the treatment for Cubism.
Two Point Hospital's music is absolutely sublime. I played the game roughly over the course of a week and I found the music stuck in my head as I was drifting off to sleep at night. The different DJs on Two Point Radio broke up the monotony of the music and occasionally injected their own brand of humor into the mix. The radio station and the music that plays on them is one of the best bits of fluff in the game and makes the overall experience that much better.
I went into Two Point Hospital with a bit of time in Theme Hospital and a general love of management games. In it, I found a title that has an excellent presentation but iffy functionality. I hope to see some of these issues resolved in the coming weeks and months because they certainly detracted from what would have otherwise been a fantastic game.
Two Point Hospital was reviewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
What do you think of Two Point Hospital? What other classic games would you like to see get a spiritual successor? Let us know in the comments below!
Two Point Hospital keeps the spirit of Theme Hospital and improves on the gameplay, but buggy pathfinding and missing quality-of-life features brings the whole experience down.
- Solid Core Gameplay
- Humorous Writing
- Catchy Music
- Buggy Pathfinding
- Few Quality Of Life Features
- No Sandbox Level/Map Editor