While I thoroughly enjoyed Bullfrog’s humorous take on a hospital sim back in the 90s I never really considered whether Theme Hospital needed a sequel, even today that game holds up pretty well despite looking only a little dated. But then Two Point Games came along with Two Point Hospital to prove that spiritual successors aren’t always good ideas usually executed poorly.
The way I would describe Two Point Hospital is simply “Theme Hospital Remastered”. While some spiritual successors tend to take the idea of the original title, spin it on its head until it’s barely recognizable, aside from one or two familiar mechanics, and call it a day. Two Point Hospital, on the other hand, takes everything that made Theme Hospital great, and have made it even better.
As someone who probably played Theme Hospital to absolute death back on the original PlayStation, I instantly found my footing in Two Point Hospital once I’d been walked through the game’s UI. You’ve got your base hospital building, a bunch of different rooms and items to place, and staff to hire to fill those rooms.
The core idea of Two Point Hospital is to run a successful hospital, but that’s not where the joy comes from in this game, it actually comes from being able to overcome the problems and challenges the game throws at you, whilst allowing you to therapeutically build the hospital of your dreams (if that was ever a thing).
For those unfamiliar with Two Point Hospital or even Bullfrog’s Theme Hospital, it’s basically a lighthearted and satirical take on hospital management. Whereas some sims pride themselves on being as accurate as they can be to real life, Two Point Hospital throws that out of the window and chucks in a healthy dose of “Lightheadedness” an illness in which the patients head is a lightbulb so you must install a De-Lux Clinic which simply unscrews the lightbulb from the patients shoulders and screws on another head.
The ridiculous illnesses don’t end there. Take Jest Infection, for example, an illness where the patient is dressed and acts like a clown. The cure for that? Tricking said patient to enter a clown tent only for it to drop to the ground and show what seems to be an encapsulating circle of nightmares causing the patient to break down into tears and thus be cured of their squeaky-nosed nightmare.
Fans of Theme Hospital will likely already be familiar with these ridiculous illnesses and their equally outrageous cures, as back in the 90s we were curing things such as Bloaty Head which had a doctor bursting a patients head only to replace it with a normal-sized bonce which was inflated with a bicycle pump.
The humor doesn’t stop there, either, as the game includes a hospital radio with an equally daft DJ and radio advertisements which will often have you giggling randomly during the game. Not to mention the hospital’s announcer who occasionally pipes up over the tannoy with quips such as “We apologize for the litter… which you dropped in our hospital”, or “We ask our patients to drive home safely… and soon” – or something to that degree.
Anyway, we’ve established the fact that Two Point Hospital drags the humor found in Theme Hospital kicking and screaming to the 21st Century. What about the actual game itself? Well, I’ve already mentioned that the game is like a remastered version of Bullfrog’s classic, but how exactly? Well simply put the game doesn’t stray too far from the original’s simplistic formula.
You’ve got a selection of rooms, items, and staff, you place a room down, say a GP Surgery, you’ll then have to place the required items in the room, in this case, a desk and a filing cabinet. For the most part, you can leave it as that, but for those who want to really make their hospital fancy, they can place items such as posters, plants, radiators, and more. These optional items were more cosmetic in Theme Hospital, however in Two Point Hospital these count towards a “Room Prestige”.
Each room has its own level which is increased by adding more items and making the room more comfortable for patients. In turn, this increases the value of the hospital you’re building. This is where the next improvement comes in: “win conditions”, while the original game had these, once completed you had the ability to play on but mostly just for fun. In Two Point Hospital, there’s a three-star system. Passing the first set of conditions awards one star and usually, you can move onto the next hospital.
However, to achieve two or even three-star hospitals, you’re required to build and manage your hospital for longer to achieve additional missions and win conditions. It’s actually a pretty nice way of adding replayability to the game. I’m the sort of person who moves on after one star as I like unlocking more treatment rooms, but I can definitely see myself going back once I’ve unlocked more things to improve previous hospitals.
I did find that Two Point Hospital had a similar gameplay loop as the original, which has players developing a blank hospital with a reception, a handful of the same diagnostic rooms, a handful of the same treatment rooms, and whatever is required for this particular scenario’s win conditions. Though this time I found it much tougher to begin with the basics and wanted to slap everything in at once. Unfortunately, that’s wasn’t a good idea as I quickly ended up in debts and had people dying left, right, and center.
It’s honestly difficult to not compare Two Point Hospital with Theme Hospital as the two are almost identical in execution. Sure, there are a few things here and there that are unique to Two Point Hospital such as the art style which kind of expands on the wackiness of the cinematics from Theme Hospital, the illnesses, and the room designs and types.
This certainly isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it’s exactly what I hoped for and then some. Two Point Hospital is a game which successfully builds upon its spiritual predecessor in the best ways possible. It’s instantly familiar but at the same time there’s a certain uniqueness to it which keeps the game fresh for both new and old players of this type of game.