CHENNAI: Like many other people who were introduced to gaming in the course of the 1990s, I had a lot of fun with the various business simulations that were around then — Rollercoaster Tycoon was probably the most well-known of the lot, but there were a host of others, including Bullfrog’s acclaimed Theme Hospital. Today, we’re taking a look at a modern-day spiritual descendant of the latter — Two Point Hospital. In Two Point Hospital, you are an administrator who’s tasked with constructing and operating a number of hospitals in various regions of Two Point County.
Each location usually features unique challenges to overcome as well as special illnesses to treat, and it’s up to you to make each hospital as successful as possible. Of course, visiting a hospital at any time can be an ordeal, let alone in the current global scenario; so you’d be forgiven for wondering if this is perhaps a bit ill-timed. Thankfully, Two Point Hospital has its tongue so firmly wedged into its cheek, it might require surgery.
Like Theme Hospital before it, this is an extremely light-hearted game that can be genuinely hilarious at times; from the illnesses themselves, which are universally groan-inducing puns, to the spectacular visual design — calling an illness that makes people think they’re celebrities Mock Star is fine, but making them all look and walk like a cross between Freddie Mercury and Elvis? Genius! Even the random radio announcements that play occasionally have been carefully crafted, and there’s more than one laugh-out-loud gag in there.
This game oozes charm and polish from every pore, and it’s clearly a labour of love. Okay, so it looks (and sounds!) wonderful, but how does it play? The answer to that is ‘pretty much exactly as you want it to’. What that means is that you can play this game very seriously, keeping an eye on all your capabilities, and expanding slowly over time, or you can wing it and launch yourself headlong in various directions as each scenario plays out — you’re going to have fun either way.
There’s a lot of joy to be had in discovering the various new features and opportunities each hospital provides, and that sense of exploration is always rewarding. However, this forgiving nature does mean that people who are looking for a heavyweight nose-to-the-grindstone sort of business simulation are in the wrong place here; although they probably would’ve known that from the almost criminally jaunty soundtrack in the first place.
Overall, Two Point Hospital is a wonderful tribute and love letter to not just Theme Hospital, but that entire golden age of business simulation video games. Don’t be scared off by that ‘business simulation’ tag either — this is one of the most relaxing games I’ve played recently. Perhaps the best example I can provide to illustrate just how charming this game can be is the fact that every single time I booted this one up, intending to play for a short burst at most, I’d inevitably wind up glued to it hours later — something which only the extremely immersive or extremely pleasant games can boast.
(Arjun is a gamer, book lover and an all-round renaissance man)