Two Point Hospital is the spiritual successor to management games in the style of Theme Hospital and Mall Tycoon. In it, you manage a variety of hospitals across the fictitious Two Point County, while listening to Two Point Radio talk about the two Pointy Mountains from which the county derives its name. Just for added flavor, the developers themselves are Two Point Studios. They get a lot of mileage out of that name. Despite their apparent infatuation with their own nomenclature, it seems that publisher Sega picked a winner with this up-and-coming developer.
The premise is simple: Two Point County’s health network is in shambles, and you, the intrepid hospital manager you are, are in charge of fixing it. Gameplay starts off slowly, allowing you to unlock a handful of offices and treatments that your doctors and nurses can perform. As you work your way through objectives, more and more of these unlock until you get a Research office, which allows you to develop new treatment techniques at your own pace.
You accrue money by leveraging these techniques on the myriad patients that walk through your door. You then use these funds to improve your hospital through the addition of new treatment facilities, decorations, and plots until you’ve met all the objectives for that map. If you wish, you can keep playing with that hospital for fun, or move on to a new hospital with new quirks and objectives.
JUST A LITTLE UNWELL
While the whole title exudes charm and character, the standout act here is the line-up of diseases. During your journey through Two Point County, you'll treat such harrowing ailments as Grey Anatomy, Mock Star, Lazy Bones, and Denim Genes. Each of these has their own difficulties in diagnosing and methods of treatment. You'll need a smattering of doctors and nurses to run the machines, and in turn, those doctors and nurses will require a salary of some kind each month. You'll also need a group of janitors to keep the place clean, a group that needs payment as well. Finally, someone has to see to it that your patients can check in at reception, and you'll have to pay the assistant at reception, too.
The crux of the game, as with most management games of its ilk, is the delicate balance between income and expenditure. Every month bills come due and, hopefully, you've treated and diagnosed enough patients over the past 30-ish days to cover them. The key, I've found, it not necessarily to avoid debt, but rather to avoid loss. Debt in this entry is not the end, as it only prevents you from buying new things. The game only ends should you acquire $300,000 in debt. Rather, the true enemy is unprofitability.
The only issue is that revenue streams are not consistent. You earn money through the treatment of patients. Treatments, regardless of success, net you the most money. Diagnostics net you a fraction of what treatments cost, but are still a vital part of the hospital ecosystem. Each patient requires a certain degree of diagnosis before they can be sent to treatment. If a patient runs the gamut of your diagnostic offices and still comes up under that threshold, you can either wait and build more diagnostic offices, chance a treatment with diminished success chance, or send them home. Likewise, if you diagnose a patient with a disease that you don't have the facilities to treat, you can either have them wait until you do, or send them home. In both cases, failing to build the requisite office or sending the patient home in time will lower your reputation.
I’M SURE YOU’VE NOTICED BY NOW...
...This game has a lot of moving parts. Much like in Dungeon Keeper, you can only abstractly control any given variable. Patient inflow increases whenever your prestige and reputation increase, thigns that are tied to how many and what rooms and decorations you have in your hospital, as well as how many staff members you have. Each room can only service one patient at a time and requires a staff member of some stripe to operate. As such, more patients doesn't necessarily mean more money. Frequently, you'll run into an issue where your patients bog down your staff and interrupt your cash flow. Worse yet, as patients have a health meter that slowly ticks down the longer they’re in your hospital, many patients start dying, tanking your reputation. Theoretically, firing staff and selling items will allow you to equalize and save yourself, but this takes so much time that it's almost always better to just back out to the menu and restart the hospital.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is poor game design. Two Point Hospital punishes you adequately for expanding too quickly. The issue is, however, how this information is displayed. Every month you’re given a short demonstration of how much money you made and how much you spent, and the difference between the two of them. That’s about it. You’ll be shown how much you’re paying your staff and “other” expenses, whatever that means, but only for previous months. There’s no running tally of how much money you made already in the current month or how much your staff currently costs you.
None of the above issues are particularly condemning. There’s enough good in Two Point Hospital to justify playing it. The title is positively funny, especially the radio broadcasters. Every time one of them chimed in between music breaks, I expected multiple repeats of their voice lines. There are a few that repeat, particularly because they comment on celebrities and other visitors to your hospital, but more often than not the broadcasters have a variety of voice lines to offer. The music, however, is innocuous at best and repetitious at worst.
The visuals match the charm of the entry as well. Everything is rendered in a sort of candy-coated, soft-edge style, much like a Saturday morning cartoon. Animations are exaggerated and expressive, ranging from receptionists laying down from boredom while they check patients in to patients struggling to free themselves from the fluid extractor when it draws their blood. Altogether, the personality Two Point Hospital exudes is enough to keep me coming back for more, in spite of the information issues and bugs I encountered.
Two Point Hospital is not without its bugs. The most prevalent one I found was hitching while it autosaves, which happens semi-frequently. Thankfully, there’s an option to turn down autosave frequency. The worst bug I found was when one of my patients died during diagnosis, but didn't clear out of the hospital. Pearl Brick will be forever immortalized in one of my hospitals, eternally trying to queue into a General Practitioner's Office. At other times characters were unable to navigate places, despite nothing impeding them. However, these issues were few and far between, and usually fixable by picking up a staff member and moving them about, or kicking people out of rooms by editing them. Except for the immortal Pearl Brick, of course.
The Verdict: Great
Two Point Hospital is a charming romp in which you manage a pretend-hospital with challenging mechanics and clever make-believe illnesses. It’s a meditative entry full of personality that’s sure to please any fan of the management genre, despite some of its more negative quirks.