If you are like me and enjoyed games on the PC back in the mid 90s, you are probably familiar with the name Bullfrog.
During that era, Bullfrog managed to produce some of the most exciting games in the strategy and sim genres including Dungeon Keeper, Magic Carpet, Populous, and of course, the Theme series of games. One game from this studio captured my attention like no other, and is one that I still play to this day: Theme Hospital. Now, over 20 years later, some of the team that helped make that iconic game have teamed up with Sega to bring you Two Point Hospital.
Founded in 2016, Two Point Studios—headed by Mark Webley, Gary Carr, and Ben Hymers—with the help of Sega is bringing back the irreverent style sim games we all used to know and love. Two Point Hospital is a spiritual successor to Theme Hospital in all ways possible. Despite the improved visuals and an overall modern polished feel, Two Point Hospital hits all the right beats to make it an instant classic, especially with anyone who used to love playing the original game back in 1997.
For anyone not in the know, or those who have never played a game in the genre, Two Point Hospital follows the classic sim formula very closely. The game tasks you, the player, with managing a hospital franchise in the town of Two Points. You will need to ensure the hospital looks the way you like and that there are enough doctors, nurses, exam rooms, etc. to meet your patient’s needs. As you work to heal the populous, you will be witness to a slew of ailments that are as fun as they are ridiculous. It is a sim that manages tense feeling and challenge without taking itself too seriously, and it is a blast to play.
Visually, the dev team has managed a look that harkens back to classic Bullfrog, with enough visual flair to make it feel modern. The Wallace & Gromit like visuals give the game a very playful and iconic British look. While it is not the best looking game in the sim genre, it manages to be distinct while maintaining that needed feeling of fun. From the way people look and act to the way illnesses are depicted, after a few minutes of play, you will quickly find yourself lost in the world of Two Point Hospital.
The little characters have a personality all their own. Although the people within the game are procedurally generated, they all work and manage to feel alive, or at least as alive as little claymation people can be. From the staff you hire to the way people react to the ghosts that haunt the hospital after people die, it all has a style and personality that makes it stand above other offerings in the genre.
As with any game, if the gameplay is not actually engaging, all the personality in the world cannot save it, but thankfully that is not the case here. The team behind the game is clearly taking on the project as a labour of love and ensuring all the systems, interfaces, and mechanics are actually fun to play. Two Point Hospital manages to not only capture that nostalgic feeling of playing Theme Hospital back in the 90s, but also improves on almost every aspect, from the building of rooms to how hiring and managing staff works.
There has been a great deal of attention put into all systems at play in the game. This is on full display as you start to build your hospital. The way the player builds and resizes rooms as the needs arise indicates that the team has taken care to not just create a decent sim, but to present something that is actually fun to experiment within. A game of this nature is more enjoyable when you can try out new things and see how they work. While challenge is always welcome, it is best when it does not come at the expense of gameplay.
Rewards and cosmetic additions are the name of the game in this genre—look at how many item packs have been released over the years for The Sims. While Two Point Hospital has its share of fun additions you can add to your hospital—such as energy drink machines and Sega arcade cabinets—as you earn the special in-game currency and are able to unlock elements, everything gets a bit more interesting. There is something satisfying about being able to build a mini arcade for all waiting patients complete with soda machines and snack dispensers.
Part of the joy within this style of game is building your new hospital from the ground up, and seeing how all the choices you make culminate into something big. When selecting the right staff and ensuring your operating rooms deals with patients works, the feeling is rewarding. Granted, the segment we got to try was merely the beginning of the game, and as such, there were plenty of systems, ailments, and aspects of the game I did not get to see, but what I did see was promising.
The team at Two Point Studios has created something that captures the feeling of the classic genre while still injecting new life. From the animation to the gameplay, there is a lot to love in Two Point Hospital, and if the full release is done right it could easily become a classic in the genre—but only time will tell. The game is still in a very early stage, and there is a lot of work still to do. If they can keep the game engaging well into the later game content, this could be another winner for Sega. I know I am excited to see more, especially what wacky ailments are shown as the game nears closer to release sometime in 2018.
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