Bullfrog’s classic management sim Theme Hospital is, legitimately, one of the best games of all time. It’s also timeless, being just as playable today as it was when it came out in 1997. If you don’t know Theme Hospital - it’s a hospital management game that keeps everything easy to play, infused with British humour, and is incredibly addictive to play.
Now a bunch of ex-Bullfrog and Lionhead staff are building a spiritual successor, Two Point Hospital - it’s out August 30th and we’ve played it. As we’re huge fans of Theme Hospital, we couldn’t be more excited.
Two Point Hospital starts very familiarly to anyone who’s played Theme Hospital. You get an open, empty, single-floor hospital and are tasked with filling it with diagnosis offices, treatment rooms, equipment to keep the public happy (like benches or drinks machines), and of course - people.
Build a reception area, and you’ll need a receptionist or ‘assistant’. GP’s Office or diagnostic rooms - doctors. Pharmacy, wards, or certain treatment rooms - nurses. Then get some janitors to keep the place nice and tidy, water plants, and to stop equipment from breaking down. All of these are the same staff types that were present in Theme Hospital, but in Two Point they’ve received a massive upgrade in ways we didn’t even know we needed.
For a simple example, receptionists get tired. I know, extraordinary. In Theme Hospital you had one receptionist who never moved from her single desk, but in Two Point the assistants are actually people with wants and needs. That goes for all patients and staff, in fact. They have different personality traits which affect their mood or the moods of others, and if their happiness drops too low they might quit or walk out. Oh, and all staff can be male or female, a feature we're amazed wasn't in Theme Hospital. Curse those 1997-era memory constraints.
Every feature in Two Point Hospital feels like Theme Hospital was taken as a base and the studio asked “how can we make this deeper and better?”. Every type of staff now can be trained in new skills, not just doctors, whether it’s personality improvement or something specific like Ghost Busting for janitors. Rat shooting is now a Monobrow hunt (yes, really), and picking up objects can sometimes see dozens of the little disgusting hairy blighters scurry out. Toilets can now break down or get clogged, and have to be fixed. Bins can be vomited in. There are now Snack and Drinks vending machines. Excellent.
All the wacky illnesses are new, including the likes of Jest Infection (turn into a clown), Verbal Diarrhoea, Mime Crisis, and Pandemic - not as bad as it sounds, patients just have a pan stuck on their head. Several of these require unique treatment rooms, as a Dehumorfier to remove Jest Infection. Most require just a trip to Pharmacy or a Psychiatrist. Cure patients, get money, continue researching and expanding before moving on to the next level. What’s so tough in that?
A great deal, which you'll know even if you’ve just played Theme Hospital. Patients and staff are now a lot more fussy, and maintaining their happiness is actually pretty tough. It’s not enough to just give them a seat and a nearby plant (although it helps) you also have to make sure they get to the Reception easily, see the GP quickly, have food and drink easily available, have magazine racks or flyers in case they get bored, have a Janitor cleaning any mess, and catch that ghost before it scares them to death. All tougher than it sounds, especially when you have to worry about space and money.
Two Point Hospital has a release date of August 30 - which is on PC only, for the time being.
We only had the shortest taste of Two Point Hospital but we already can’t wait to play it, and totally see ourselves getting fully addicted once the game comes out - like only the best management games.
What surprised us most was that the game was shockingly tough. Not that we failed any level, but no one was particularly happy in our hospitals either. As the queues and bodies began to escalate, we began to question our logic of putting the toilets so close to the entrance instead of a second GP’s Office. Rooms and layouts will have to be re-thought constantly. Two Point Hospital is a game of strategy as much as management, and certainly more so than Theme Hospital in terms of people management. You don’t want patients to die of boredom in your hospital? You’re in for challenge.
We currently only have two minor complaints about Two Point Hospital, which may get ironed out before release. The first is that the ‘Confirm’ tick-box for rooms is currently inexplicably at the top of the screen, and it took me a good while to spot it in the tutorial - even with a huge arrow pointing to it. More importantly, we may have missed the option - but we couldn’t see any easy way of highlighting all your staff members, particularly of a type such as janitor. In Theme Hospital it was always easy to pan around and spot your staff, but with the increase in people and a controllable camera we need an option like this.
We’re at the end of the preview and there’s so much we haven’t talked about, like the way new hospital plots bulldoze over houses and children’s play areas, the Aardman-quality animation, or the radio DJs that introduce each song (including one that sounds like the food critic from Frasier). Two Point Hospital is out in just over a month’s time, and we probably won’t stop talking about it until then. Or after.
Most Anticipated Feature
We’re curious about the hospital site attached to a nuclear power plant...
About Chris J Capel
Chris joined us in 2011 and loves Star Wars, comics and bad videogame movies.