Anyone who grew up with a DOS PC, Mac or PlayStation in the 1990's without any shadow of a doubt remembers the Bullfrog classic Theme Hospital. The sequel to the very popular Theme Park, it turned the jolly fun-fair management sim genre on it's head with what appeared on the surface to be the grim, depressing topic of a visit to the hospital. It's inexplicable success came down to a very special forumla of satire, outragous humor and brilliant gameplay, which others have tried (and failed) to recapture.
So my hopes were high going into Two-Point Hospital, with many of the original team on board with the new game, and the trailers providing a hint of the similar kind of humor and satire that made the original so compelling, but does it live up to the hype?
Starting off with my first hospital definately gave me a strong sense of De-ja Vu. The layout of the building, the initial tutorials, even the reception desk and rooms all felt exactly like Theme Hospital. Infact, I found myself automatically and without thinking building my go-to hospital layout that I would always build at first when starting out with a new Theme Hospital game. Even the receptionist voice-over announcements sound exactly the same as the ones from Theme Hospital. I'm not sure if it is indeed the same voice-over artist, but if it isn't, it's gosh-darn close.
The story is much for the same for my experience of building my first hospital, adding my GP office, general diagnosis, pharmacy and treatment rooms almost identically to Theme Hospital. This isn't really a bad thing, infact I forgot completely which game I was playing at times, almost like I had played this game before. The interface felt very familiar and intuitive, if you've played Theme Hospital, then the learning curve for this game is very, very shallow indeed.
The first difference I picked up on was the radio DJ's that appear from time to time between music tracks with some often tongue in cheek remarks to make, but occasionally they will also drop hints that, say, an inspector is in the area and may soon visit the hospital. The music itself, while original, does seem very much cut from the same cloth as DOS management sims of the 90's, even going so far as to have a bit of a MIDI vibe to them - again, not a bad thing at all, it's all the same special sauce that made Theme Hospital so good.
The real changes come when you move onto your second hospital. Often when playing Theme Hospital, you would level up your first hospital enough to move onto a bigger and better location, only to stay where you were due to not wanting to destroy the progress you had made so far. Two-Point Hospital does away with this problem by allowing you to move onto a new hospital without loosing the progress of your existing ones. This is acomplished by a world map, which you can visit at any time, allowing you to quickly flip between the hosptials you own. You can either let your existing hospitals tick over as they are, or flip back and forth and build them up as you go simultaniously for the extra challenge.
Once you get into the later hospitals, you start to unlock new illnesses, items and diagnostic / treatment rooms that are unique to Two-Point, and although this makes it somewhat different to it's spiritual predecessor, the actual gameplay and management has not changed one bit. What is welcome, however, is the addition of even more fine control over things like room size and shape, item placement, and even day to day management of the hospital such as charges, fees, and access to statisitcs and information.
How deep you go into the actual financial management of your hospital is up to you, but thanks to it's online capability, you will find yourself competing against your friends to build the most popular, and profitable, hospital. Like always with these types of management games, it is a fine line to walk between making profit and keeping your customers happy.
On the whole, Two-Point Hospital hits all the nails on the head, and is as close to an official sequel to Theme Hospital as you're ever going to get - and while it does play a little on the nostalgia card, there's enough new features, as well as modern polish, to make this game a must-have for anyone who enjoyed Theme Hospital back in the day. It's certainly one you will find yourself sinking plenty of time into between your games of Fortnite.