Simulating big business in games is big money. The 90’s were home to cult business sim hits such as Theme Park and Theme Hospital, which combined a ragtag mix of dark humor and micromanagement in one package. It’s a wonder why this genre hasn’t lasted longer than it did. And it’s even a bigger mystery that the business sim genre has only made its return this year. Thankfully for us gamers, Theme Hospital finally has a spiritual successor after more than 20 years since its release. Two-Point Hospital, by Two-Point Interactive and Sega, is this generation’s only entry in the business/hospital management genre. In a gaming landscape filled with competitive/esports games, will Two-Point Hospital serve as lighthearted reprieve from the monotony?
An Apple A Day
Like with its Theme Hospital predecessor, Two-Point Hospital puts you in the shoes of a burgeoning hospital administrator. Your company wants to make it big in the healthcare business, and the most lucrative way to go is building hospitals and making a name out of it. It’s not just one hospital, though. The game is set in a landscape with multiple towns and cities for you to set up facilities with. It’s simple: the mother company gives you a decent chunk of money as an initial investment, and leaves you on how to budget the fund in constructing the town’s hospital. Of course, as the intrepid hospital head, you’ll be starting out in a small town just to get your feet wet, and eventually handle larger cities and challenges as your success in the business ramps up.
Every new stage (or town) has its certain conditions for you to fulfill, or challenges to overcome. Some towns will introduce new (and excitingly weird) ailments, and even weirder treatment machines. Treatments often involve over-the-top processes, like 3D reprinting someone’s head after contracting “lightheadedness,” which, you guessed right, is a patient with a literal light bulb for a head. Challenges come in different forms too, like a town ridden with calamities (earthquakes, and hurricanes), or a town where only interns can be hired, which lowers the quality of care they can deliver to the patients. The game is also smart enough to force you to spread your resources and space thin enough to throw a wrench in your plans. It will take a decent amount of planning to juggle your finances with what treatments the hospital will require.
Two-Point Hospital brings the humor up a notch. The patients coming in and out, and even the hospital staff, have their own humorous quirks. Funny looks, and sometimes even funnier names, populate the applying and hired staff. And it doesn’t stop with just the people and ailments. Two-Point Hospital presents itself in a very lightweight tone with its cartoonish designs and a caricaturish art style. The humor ramps up with the addition of satirical commentary from the radio, funny advertisements, and snide announcements from the PA too. It serves a decent distraction to the game’s more serious micromanaging back-end, filled with numerous options, statistical data, and a robust help feature, to ease you through your hospital administration career.
As with big businesses, time is money. Two-Point Hospital is all about efficiency and speed. You’ll need to build a hospital that can quickly diagnose and address the ailments lingering in the town. The longer your patient lingers in the hospital without any treatment, the higher the risk of getting low ratings due to dissatisfaction or (heaven forbid) death. Despite being given free rein on the hospital’s architecture and interior design, your steady progress and profit generation rely on the placement of the diagnostics and respective treatment areas. This is where the game somehow strays off a bit. Patient and staff AI sometimes have trouble locating rooms or areas in certain conditions, like tight corridors or long, winding hallways (Let’s face it, we’d love to make the layout as weird as it can be).
Designing the hospital is guided. Grids and helpful hints are set up for you to determine the minimum sizes for every room. The game also lets you unlock decors and furnishings to improve the hospital’s interior design. And in this game, patient and staff mood is just as important as gaining profit. There is a wide selection of decors and furnishings that address the many aspects of patient and staff needs. Racks of magazines, shelves of books, and even arcade machines stave off boredom, while vending machines and coffee machines (to name a few) alleviate hunger for everyone staying there. Trash bins, toilets, and janitors keep the hospital’s hygiene rate up, while plants improve the overall mood around the area. Rooms are rated according to its Prestige, depending on how you’ve designed the area, and the higher the prestige, the more it increases the overall satisfaction and happiness of the people in the hospital. Everything related to the interior design can easily be tracked with the prestige meters and even a sidequest counter on occasion, which is again, very helpful in keeping yourself organized. More prestige-improving items can be unlocked using a secondary currency called Kudosh, which is gained only through certain achievements and quest completion.
Micromanagement is made very intuitive. The main screen overviewing the hospital is surrounded with helpful information. Popup hints and helpful reminders direct your next objectives, while a sidebar displays a list of your progress in different quests. The main menu has other functions like showing reputation stats and patient overview for you to know areas to focus on in the current hospital setting. Financing options will also allow you to tweak prices at your own risk on your products and services, like professional fees and even vending machine items. Even the hiring process is simple yet smartly presented. Sorted according to four careers (Doctor, Nurses, Assistants, and Janitors), each applicant has their own specialties, undesirable traits, and quirks consummate to their salary. The best example would be janitors capable of cleaning up ghosts, since not all janitorial applicants have this kind of specialty. It’s up to you to hire the best staff given the available applicants. Higher prestige nets you better applicants over time. But if you’re barely scraping by, the weirder, bottom-barrel ones surface more often, with traits like being argumentative, or can easily bore people. It’s a fun and simplified take on the human resources side of the game that doesn’t force you to mull over too much. Together, these modules of accounting and budgeting, human resources, interior design, and corporate strategy all come together to form a highly robust yet simplified approach to the game’s hospital management simulation.
There’s never a boring moment in Two-Point Hospital. The humor and the humdrum of hospital activity never gets a lull. Meanwhile, the layers and layers of management functions hidden beneath the surface is enough to keep you preoccupied for long periods of time. Further, the multitude of challenges and achievements in the game continually sets the pace at a constantly entertaining level, so much so that it’s often hard to quit the game. There’s always something to do in your hospitals, be it hiring new staff, or upgrading your facilities for higher prestige. Perhaps it’s single, most obvious flaw is the repetitiveness of building hospitals from scratch in every town, but is easily alleviated by the challenges that come with it. Despite this, the game is deep enough to sink your time into, without getting bored or frustrated. It’s been a long time coming for the business sim genre to once again make its mark in the gaming world. Two-Point Hospital proves itself to be a worthy successor to the genre.