Two Point Hospital is funny, smart and surprisingly deep
I’ve spent a chunk of this week playing Two Point Hospital, an overhead-view commercial management game. It’s made by some of the same people who created Theme Hospital two decades ago, and they’ve definitely been saving up a lot of good ideas, which are implemented superbly in this game.
Two Point Hospital is made by British developer Two Point Studios and published by Sega. It puts me in charge of a series of hospitals, each with their own challenges. My responsibilities are first to lay-out the wards, offices and amenities, next to balance the budget, and finally to achieve medical excellence through staff training, fiscal rectitude and detailed personnel management.
Two Point Hospital is deeply strategic, and I fear explaining all of its systems could serve as anesthetic. So instead, allow me to share the three things I like most.
Two Point Hospital is a rare thing in gaming; it’s genuinely amusing. The gags range from silly puns to razor wire social commentary, and they’re an integral part of this zany world. I don’t want to suggest that each joke is a belly-laugh-riot — taken individually they’re borderline inane with a heavy emphasis on Britishisms — but as a collection, the jokes create a mirthful environment that adds to the overall appeal.
Hospital management is serious stuff, but the Sims-like people in this game have goofy names, and their ailments are jokes. People who are “lightheaded” have actual lightbulbs for heads. Clowns roam around, groaning under the weight of clown-related illnesses.
A radio station and a hospital announcer poke fun at the inanities of modern life, as well as the cruelty of commercialized care.
Eventually, repetition wears out its novelty and I switch off the audio, but by that time, I’m already in love with this world. I’m also full of admiration for the writers of this game, who’ve packed it with fun, all of which add up to a comedic theme of likable dad jokes and wordplay.
This emphasis on humor can be deceptive. In the early missions, I find myself wondering if the jokes are a distraction to a shallow game. At first, the game seems to be little more than placing rooms, decorating them, and filling them appropriate staff, such as doctors and nurses. But as I emerge from the training sections into more challenging missions, my view changes sharply.
Two Point Hospital’s array of rooms, staff, items and resource sliders evolves gently into a detailed simulation of a complex organism, in which errors of judgment or lazy decision-making have far-reaching consequences.
I learn quickly the importance of monitoring my staff and making sure they are efficiently exercising their duties. Cheap-skating on salaries is just as dangerous as incautiously generous remuneration. Likewise, the belief that one doctor is much the same as another, in a simulation where specialization is so important, can be catastrophic. They each have skills and personalities which must be taken into account.
Two in-game currencies are at play. One is basic income, which can fluctuate wildly and must be managed with care. Ambitious expansion projects can take time to yield profits. Sloppy management of floorspace soon creates inefficiencies, or other problems. Another currency, called Kudosh, allows me to unlock new items. This gives me more options for resolving specific problems, such as inclement weather, local pandemics or aesthetic development.
Increasing complexity eventually makes for a weighty workload of stuff that must be attended to, in which speed and accuracy of judgment become essential. There’s nothing casual about this game, when bank funds are low, the inspector is in town, a pandemic is breaking out, and hospital staff are all hopping mad about their miserable working conditions. It gets pretty frantic.
As I play and as I learn, I find that specific use of certain items in specific places can offer benefits, or they can create new problems. Experimentation is as important as good sense.
Hygiene is important to hospitals, but when I say this game is clean, I’m talking about its user-interface and its design.
There’s a lot to track in hospital management. A series of smartly designed overlays, menus and data screens allow me to stay on top of emerging crises, while I monitor underlying systems as I strive for increased efficiency.
Hospital rooms are easy to lay down and to populate with beds, machines and decorations. There’s a fine balance between giving your little people space to work, and making sure all the required resources are available inside finite spaces.
People who enjoy spatial management will appreciate the amount of work that’s gone into designing these areas, and giving players enough room to be creative, without turning it into a frustrating experience.
Likewise, the little people are pleasing to the eye, moving around in a way that syncs nicely with the game’s cartoon aesthetic and its humorous bent. Yes, it’s funny to watch clowns going to the bathroom. Don’t ask me why.
So, bottom line, is that this game is warm-hearted and coldly calculated. It’s smartly designed for beginners, and maddeningly challenging thereafter. It looks great. Two Point Hospital is a carefully-constructed challenging business simulation that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s out now on PC.
Two Point Hospital was reviewed using a final “retail” Windows PC download code provided by Sega. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.