Two Point Hospital Preview - E3 2018
We get a first look at the spiritual successor to Theme Hospital
When it comes to management and so-called God games, there are a select few titles that comprise my gaming history; namely Roller Coaster Tycoon, as well as The Sims and Sim City games. While few in number, I spent countless hours glued to my computer screen with each, building, managing, and grinding away. I spent many a marathon session trying to generate enough cash flow to afford that huge roller coaster, or upgrade my city to Megalopolis status in Sim City. And while things have been quiet on the sim front for me of late, Two Point Hospital looks to be a game that at least has the potential to join that exclusive list of stand out, addictive sims.
You may recognize the concept of the hospital sim from the 90’s hit, Theme Hospital, and indeed, this game comprises a few former developers that worked on the game as part of Bullfrog Studios. I got an opportunity to sit down with two of the team’s co-founders, Gary Carr and Mark Webley of the recently founded Two Point Studios. They patiently and enthusiastically walked me through a detailed demo of the game, and even let me try my hand at the first stage. In their demo presentation, they had already constructed a large, thriving hospital crawling with staff and patients alike.
While the game is not quite a direct sequel to Theme Hospital, you could certainly say that it acts as a spiritual successor to that game, and runs with its basic premise, just on a larger, more elaborate scale. While Theme Hospital generated individual segmented hospitals and situations for each stage, Two Point Hospital takes the foundational gameplay elements and works them into a much larger framework. You now essentially have a massive overworld, and create a sort of network of various medical centers, whose production, upgrades, and revenue affect and contribute towards one another. You can bounce back and forth between hospitals, invest newly gained unlockables into older constructions, return for higher rankings using new upgrades, and so on.
One standout aspect of the game for me was the charmingly cartoony aesthetic and detailed, often exaggerated animations of each person. Every character model always seemed to be engaged in some sort of unique and individual activity, and in fact, everyone has their own individualized traits. Mousing over a character portrays a sort of information sheet of each employee and patient; their current needs, physical state, and even a unique personality. Their traits could play into various interactions throughout the game via conversations and even fights with others. Their needs could be tended to using an impressively versatile list of actions. You might, for instance, have someone on staff who is in need of energy, which in turn is hurting your hospital’s productivity. What do you do? Well, you can take an elaborate approach by improving the work conditions, or you can use a riskier but shorter-term method by building more vending machines stocked with energy drinks to give them a quick boost. I was impressed by the number of creative routes you can take to ultimately reach the same goal.
There are a number of situational challenges that will somewhat force your hand in playing in different styles and emphases, as well. You may start with a complete blank slate, or you could be thrown into a particularly rough situation where you’ll need to rebuild your finances and reputation. The environments will sometimes play a role in how you work through a situation as well. You might be tossed into a particularly chilly area, and you’ll need to prioritize keeping patients heated, or have to rebuild from the rubble of natural disasters such as earthquakes and avalanches.
Within the hospital walls themselves though, there still seems to be a number of various tasks you’ll have to juggle in order to keep both your staff and patients healthy and happy, which in turn nets you greater earnings and unlockables. All of this will accumulate and eventually be put towards building your utopian hospital empire. Diving right in and building from scratch, as I was tasked with, can be a bit overwhelming at first. Still, the game seems to do a fine job of communicating just what it is you should be focusing on at the moment, progressing in baby steps.
After fumbling and flipping through the plethora of options for a bit, I managed to eventually construct at least a minimally functional hospital. I soon knocked out a handful of challenges, and completed the first stage; granted, my rank was low, but it would have to do for now. A single hands-on demo likely doesn’t do a game like this justice, and despite being rather lengthy at around 40 minutes, I felt I barely scratched the surface. The UI certainly helped me cover a lot of ground in a little time, as it was user-friendly, and most of the informative bits were clearly laid out while still being extensive.
You’ve got simple point, click, and drag controls, along with a subtle but useful function that helps you place items more efficiently by snapping them onto a grid. I was happy to see key commands kept to a minimum, as I tend to live and die by clicking, dragging, and scrolling, particularly with sim games. You simply execute a simple click and drag to lay down a room - be it a ward, general diagnosis room, staff room, etc. These rooms will take care of staff and various patients depending on their diagnosis. From there, you flesh it out to your liking and hire on some doctors, nurses, etc to tend to it, and you can choose from a list of a few people that vary in skills, expertise, and cost to employ. You can also continue to tack onto rooms, move or rotate them, bulldoze them, and initiate other building tasks with relative ease.
You’ve also got a handy checklist of tasks to accomplish on the top right of the screen, and an organized list of items and building pieces, from which the game filters to the essentials for each newly constructed room. Of course, you can also take creative liberties and spruce up rooms to your liking, adding decorative plants for morale, and fire extinguishers for extra safety. In a nod to publisher Sega, you can even eventually throw in a Sonic arcade machine in the hallway that’s sure to help keep people happy. The game then becomes a balancing act of maintaining finances, building up your hospital, and keeping everyone satisfied.
While one might think tending to sick patients and stressing over the finances and upkeep of hospitals can be a downer, the developers were clear that they sought to have as much fun as they could with these concepts. At the same time, they still aim to provide a semi-authentic and detailed experience. There was definitely plenty of cheeky humor in my demo and presentation to help counterbalance the gloominess that one might typically associate with a hospital atmosphere.
To my amusement, I saw one man sporting Elvis garb and trotting along as he rocked out – apparently, he had a psychiatric condition. I also noted people scrambling like a Warner Brothers cartoon to bathroom stalls when sick, and the odd sight of a guy with a light bulb for a noggin, indicating he was “lightheaded.” The game even keeps the concept of death light-hearted, as a deceased patient will turn into a ghost, which must be “busted” by a specialized janitor. As the wobbly Wallace and Gromit-esque art style would indicate, this game clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Based on my experience, Two Point Hospital certainly has the potential to help revive the genre of management sims, despite its many obvious direct similarities to Theme Hospital. There is no official release date of yet, but you can look for the game to hit the PC sometime in 2018.