Theme Park proved that big business could be big fun, and its spiritual successor Theme Hospital became something of a cult classic that kids from the era continue to quote even today. Given the legendary 1997 business simulation’s legacy, it’s curious that it’s taken this long for Two Point Hospital to make an appointment, but if you’ve tried contacting your medical practice lately you may be able to appreciate the delay.
Fortunately, there’s nothing tardy about this PlayStation 4 management game – in fact, it’s a bit of a lifesaver for those bored of all the Battle Royales and roguelikes that seem to infect Sony’s system on a daily basis. With ex-Bullfrog creatives in lead positions, this is every inch the follow-up to EA’s infamous cure-‘em-up: the ailments are fictitious and funny, the gameplay is accessible yet deep, and the loop is dangerously addictive.
You’re the owner of a fledgling health firm in a fictional landmass known as Two Point County. Taking inspiration from smartphone games, you’ll need to build hospitals upon a variety of different sites, each bundling their own unique challenges and gimmicks. Each level includes a list of targets for you to tick off, and as you progress you’ll unlock stars which work into a wider meta-game pertaining to your organisation’s overall influence in the area.
The stages start out simple, but quickly introduce new gimmicks for you to contend with. One, for example, sees you working out of a university campus, where you can only recruit student doctors and nurses. This means that you need to build training rooms in order to teach them the requisite skills to perform at a competent level, and you’ll earn grants from the college to partially fund this. It’s a tricky one, because while staff are learning, patients are, well, not being very patient.
This delicate balancing act becomes central to the experience, as you carefully consider every decision in the interests of ultimately turning a profit. Increasing your staff’s pay and providing them with access to state-of-the-art entertainment on their breaks may improve their mood, but it’ll come at a cost and you’ll need to consider whether it’s worth it. The placement of your treatment rooms and overall patient flow all factor into your hospital’s reputation.
Fortunately, you won’t have to spend too long thinking about the controls, as they’ve been well optimised for consoles. While these types of title are historically hellish to convert from their native mouse and keyboard setup, Two Point Studios has done a good job, creating a consistent scheme that sees you toggling through menus using the shoulder buttons. Our only criticism is that some lists can get a little long as you advance through the game, while the font sizes become a real test at times.
The game genuinely looks great, though, and it runs as smoothly as a sprinter in a cardiology room on the PS4 Pro. This is particularly impressive when you consider just how hectic the on-screen action can get; with each treatment room boasting its own humorous animations and patients subscribing to their own AI patterns, a busy hospital can look alarmingly hectic. This is all part of the fun, of course – especially when you see the dollar sign in the bottom right corner multiplying like a virus.
It’s a genuinely enormous game, too, with a sprawling campaign and two expansion packs included out of the box. Both add-ons expand upon the roster of scenarios and illnesses you’ll have to deal with and inject new challenges into the experience. There are also a bunch of fresh items for you to use in your hospitals, many of which can be unlocked using an in-game currency named Kudosh, which you earn by completing game-wide objectives, such as curing a designated number of patients.
Of course, it’s worth pointing out that at launch the title lacks its standard Sandbox mode, although Two Point Studios has informed us that this will be patched in to all copies of the game by the end of March – and it’ll be a free update to boot. It’s also committed to continued support for the release, with a sci-fi themed DLC already available on PC and sure to hit PS4 at some point in the not too distant future.
We should mention that this is an overall amusing game, especially if puns and Dad jokes are your forte. There’s a fictitious radio station that backdrops the action, with cheerful tunes and quick-witted idents. The diseases themselves are fairly funny, too: Grey’s Anatomy sees patients arrive at the hospital coated in a monochrome colour palette, and you’ll need to use a Chromatherapy machine to effectively colour them in. Meanwhile, a Pandemic sees unsuspecting individuals inflicted with, well, pans on their heads. It’s good fun.
Two Point Hospital is the antidote to our two-decade Theme Hospital obsession. With its strong sense of humour and accessible yet deep gameplay loop, this spiritual successor replicates all the elements that made the 1997 original so memorable. Importantly, it’s been smartly converted to the PS4, with a slick control scheme and a varied campaign.