Devotees of dormant gaming franchises have it rough. There are tons of great worlds and characters locked up under the watchful eye of big publishers. Unlike with more passive media, fan fiction usually doesn’t act as a substitute. It’s always clear when a game takes inspiration from the past, and gamers generally want innovation rather than a nostalgic retread. The best case scenario is for remnants of the original team to come together and move forward, creating a sequel by any other name. With that in mind, there’s some good news for fans of Theme Hospital.
Two Point Hospital is the first game from the aptly named Two Point Studios. Taking place in “Two Point County”, Hospital is the first of several planned tycoon games in the same universe. Studio founders Mark Webley and Gary Carr always envisioned follow-ups to the original game while they were at Bullfrog Productions, each one taking place at a different location. If all goes well, we could be learning what wacky happenstance befalls all the businesses of Two Point.
Speaking of, wacky is just the word to describe the early version of Two Point Hospital that I played a few weeks ago at Sega HQ. Just as in the original, your goal is to build out your own personal house of medicine. You start with an empty building and place things as you like. Once you set up reception and establish a doctor’s office or two, your business is off and running.
Looking at the screenshots and footage provided by the fine folks at SEGA, you’ll see a well organized and sensible building layout. This did not match my own personal experience. I ran through the short scenario several times, trying to complicate the setup each time. I felt the need to test the navigation of the poor patients wandering into my asylum.
Order from Chaos
By the time I was finished, my hospital was running with multiple reception desks located in opposite ends of the building and far away from the entrance. Rooms crisscrossed the floor, each flanked by random benches and Sonic the Hedgehog arcade machines. Despite my best efforts, the population seemed to find their way around just fine. My hospital was an inefficient mess, but even the sloppiest of players will have a functional simulation on their hands.
Speaking of sloppy, some of the mechanics of Two Point Hospital don’t seem fully formed as of yet. There’s a concept of leveling up rooms in your hospital as they become more complex. In the version I played, this is tied directly to how many objects are in a given room. Basically, the game rewards stuffing every doctor’s office with ten filing cabinets and a stack of fire extinguishers.
This may seem to simply be the results of the alpha build I was toying around with, but the developers state that it’s partially by design. They’re well aware of how intricate some players have been in past games regarding item placement, and they want to preserve that freedom. In some ways, they even expand on it, since you can resize rooms to any dimension for the first time. My takeaway was that doctors in the final game won’t have to step over ten gurneys for efficiency’s sake in the final product. Still, there may be some room to game the system should you so choose.
Cure What Ails You
As this is Two Point Hospital and not Two Point Realtor, we need to talk a bit about the medicine. This system follows very closely to Theme Hospital’s model, with patients suffering from goofy maladies rather than debilitating diseases. I only really got to toy around with lightheadedness, which literally turns your head into a lightbulb. Once your staff properly diagnose the patient, you have to build a specific facility to cure it. For example, lightheadedness requires a giant machine that unscrews head-shaped light bulbs.
It’s all in good fun, and I can’t wait to see what other specialized facilities I’ll have to build. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to see any other diseases first hand, but I was able to get details on a few more talking to the devs. So, when you play the game, you might have to cure someone of their mummification or bring them back from adult-onset pixelization.
No matter what is bringing the populace under the weather, you’ll have no trouble picking the sick out of a lineup. Two Point Hospital’s cartoonish graphics are a smart realization of what the original game was attempting. After all, It’s been a long road since 1997. It feels like modern times can truly let the developers craft a world that backs up the underlying hilarity.
So, is Two Point Hospital more than a nostalgic retread? I think so. Mark Webley and Gary Carr have crafted the foundation for a worthy follow up to their past works. Nothing has drastically changed, but the iterative improvements on the formula and the presentation make it shine. This is a game that really could please grizzled Bullfrog veterans, and perhaps even convert a few newcomers to the genre. Barring any wild missteps, this game is certainly worth looking out for when it releases later this year.
Two Point Hospital was sampled via an early alpha build at a preview event.