Dealing with healthcare is a trying experience for just about everyone involved. Facing it as a patient is inherently difficult due to being sick and it’s no better for doctors. They have the unenviable task of trying to both identify and treat just about every illness under the sun. Running a hospital must be even more demanding thanks to having to balance one’s duty to their patients and the need to keep their establishment. It isn’t a funny business, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be; this is something Two Point Hospital is keen to remind its players about.
Two Point Hospital is first and foremost a simulation game; a quality it shares with the likes of Cities: Skylines and Planet Coaster. Just like these games, Two Point Hospital presents its players with various scenarios and tasks them with creating a simulation that will successfully fulfill a specific set of goals. Players can build up their hospitals from scratch, hire employees to staff them and then do their best to keep the various business management plates spinning for as long as they can. Beyond this, Two Point Hospital quickly diverges from its modern peers and hearkens back to the Bullfrog Games and early Lionhead Studios era of sims like The Movies and Populous. This will come as no surprise to veteran simulation fans, as the game is being headed up by none other than Mark Webley and Gary Carr, who are both Bullfrog and Lionhead veterans respectively and whom were heavily involved with Two Point Hospital’s spiritual predecessor: Theme Hospital. All of these games were known for their off-beat sense of humor and satisfying depth of play. It’s these qualities that Two Point Studios aims to bring back starting with Two Point Hospital. Hardcore Gamer recently had the opportunity to sit down and try an early build of the game and Two Point Hospital appears to be well on its way to doing exactly that.
The first thing that stands out about Two Point Hospital is its visual style. It carries the look of a stylized cartoon, but not in the same way that the likes of Overwatch and Fortnite do. The people that inhabit the fictional Two Point County have a look reminiscent of old claymation movies like Wallace & Gromit. The various hospitals and their surroundings don’t follow the claymation style, but still have a great deal of character due to the heavy focus on comedy. Visual gags abound in Two Point Hospital and one of the biggest perpetrators is the medical equipment. The main devices available in the demo, the “Drug Mixer” and the “De-Lux O-Luxe,” are both more entertaining than they would be in any other game. The Drug Mixer looks like a simple dispenser until a nurse turns it on and it transforms into a massive machine with whirling, revolving arms used to mix medicine. The De-Lux O-Luxe on the other hand is a specialized device used to treat one of Two Point Hospital’s unusual illnesses: “Light-Headedness,” a condition which causes the patient’s head to literally become a brightly-burning light bulb. Once the patient is strapped into the unit, it proceeds to unscrew the unsightly bulb and replace it with a brand new head; as if this was a completely normal thing to do. These comedy stylings consist of more than visual gags too. The official Two Point County radio station keeps things lively with its high-as-a-kite DJ and absurd interruptions from the hospital PA operator. All put together, the game’s charm and silliness is already carrying through and it was more than enough to sustain a smirk on one’s face as they play.
Fans of Theme Hospital will likely feel right at home in Two Point Hospital. Through playing the demo, it became clear that the game closely follows its predecessor. That’s not to say that it’s exactly the same; noticeable amount of improvements have been made to just about every aspect. Building rooms is done just as it was in the past by clicking and dragging a box in the hospital space, but now rooms can be made in all sorts of unusual shapes. They still have minimum dimensions, but everything beyond that is fair game. Those same rooms can also now be easily moved around, rotated and edited. Having this ability added more to the experience than expected. Instead of creating the same plain layout with every room hugging an outer wall, it was worthwhile to experiment with new layouts and see how they worked. If they didn’t, then the rooms could simply be changed or rearranged. Unlike in the game’s spiritual predecessor, experimenting with room design is not only possible but often feels like a worthwhile thing to do.
It looks like progress will take an obvious form in Two Point Hospital. New treatments and decoration options consistently became available as our hospital grew. Part of this was automatic; new treatment options seemed to come as more patients were diagnosed and treated. It was also partly up to the player. Decorations, vending machines, entertainment devices for staff and waiting patients and more were all unlocked at player discretion by spending a rarer, secondary currency. It accumulated much less frequently than normal dollars, so deciding when and how to use it was a challenge unto itself. These items aren’t simply cosmetic; it seems no part of building and running a hospital in this game is. Everything has an impact, from building rooms to the items placed inside.
One does not simply build a room and leave it as is if they want to optimize their hospital to its fullest potential. See, every room in a hospital has a “prestige level.” The higher its level, the more it will contribute towards the hospital’s reputation and earning potential. Rooms with more space and better amenities are treated as better than their lesser counterparts. From what we saw patients treated in these rooms seemed to recover more quickly and staff assigned to them appeared to do better jobs for longer periods of time. Just about everything to do with running, building and improving one’s hospital has weight to it. It all feels important, choosing and making effective use of one’s staff in particular.
Two Point Studios has stated several times that they’re trying to make the patients and staff that come through players’ hospitals worth caring about. To accomplish this, hospital staffers have been given unique personalities and they can be trained into the jobs they’re best suited for. Patients are also meant to have personalities and unique reactions to what’s going on in the hospital. The personalities didn’t really seem to carry through in this early build of the game, but the files available for potential new staffers all mentioned traits beyond simple competency. One of the assistants we hired was described as “hardworking, but hangry.” Having a perpetually hangry person work the front desk might be problematic, but hanger can be dealt with. The other candidates available at the time were either unmotivated or disliked dealing with people in general; so they came off as much more difficult to deal with. At this stage, it’s still difficult to care about these characters, but they’re also hard to ignore. Given more time to develop the systems governing them, it seems likely that these simulated people will be as entertaining and interesting as Two Point Studios wants them to be.
Two Point Hospital has a long way to go until it’s ready for release, but what’s been shown so far is promising. Building and improving a hospital is already a painless and even enjoyable process. Building individual rooms, editing them and enhancing them as needed is easy and has gameplay weight to it that makes their construction interesting rather than a dull formality. Hospital staff may not have their scope of personality yet, but their descriptions invite deeper thought to one’s hiring decisions and plans for hospital development. The whole experience is already suffused with comedic elements that, while not often inspiring laughter, are enough to keep a player smiling as they watch their creation at work. Sims fans would do well to keep this game on their radar in the coming months. It has both the personality and depth needed to bring something fun and fresh to the simulations space.