Two Point Hospital

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Simulation
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Two Point Studios
Release Date: Feb. 25, 2020

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PS4 Review - 'Two Point Hospital'

by Andreas Salmen on March 31, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Two Point Hospital is a simulation game where you design stunning hospitals, cure peculiar illnesses and manage troublesome staff as you spread your budding healthcare organization across Two Point County.

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I've always been fascinated with simulation games, but the complexity usually ramps up way too quickly, so it becomes difficult to drop in and out of a game if you're short on time. That's what I loved about titles like Rollercoaster Tycoon, Theme Hospital and Theme Park: They were easy to learn and kept things simple and lighthearted, but they had enough depth to cater to advanced players. It's been a while since we've seen a title that comes close to the nostalgic feeling of creating a hospital that resembles a theme park. After a successful release on the PC, Two Point Hospital may be the title that ends the dry spell for console players.

Two Point Hospital is as close to a sequel to Theme Hospital that we could hope for, and it's more than fair to call it a spiritual successor. It's now available for PS4, Switch and Xbox One, the we're looking at the PS4 iteration in this review. In Two Point Hospital, we are in charge of building a healthcare empire from scratch, and we face new challenges in every new region. There are 15 hospitals to build in the base game, and the console version includes two of the three existing DLCs to increase the number of hospitals to 21. To progress, we need to build a hospital with at least a one-star rating (out of three) and slowly work our way through increasingly difficult settings and issues.

Although the purpose of hospitals should be to heal all incoming patients, that can sometimes fade into the background. Two Point Hospital has a simple but colorful anesthetic, and the title loves humor and puns, so the experience is more akin to building a theme park. All of the diseases that we are treating in the hospitals are mostly humorously exaggerated ailments that need special comical machinery to be corrected. As we move through the various locations that require our hospital expertise, Two Point Hospital slowly increases the pace and introduces new gameplay mechanics and obstacles.

The first hospitals slowly introduce the basics of treating patients. We always start with an empty building, and we need to fill it with décor, entertainment, facilities, seating, and treatment rooms so people feel comfortable and remain happy for as long as possible. Then you get a few general practitioner (GP) offices to diagnose patients, a pharmacy to mix medication, a general diagnosis for more advanced screening, and a patient ward for those who need to stay for treatment. Later on, more specific illnesses require more advanced machinery, such as patients with lightheadedness (shown with a light bulb in place of their heads) that require a "de-lux room" — that's a game pun, not a typo — where heavy machinery unscrews the bulb and replaces it with their actual heads. This is one of the many examples of the game's creative and funny diseases and treatments.

The challenge is not in how the game plays, but rather in how many balls it expects us to juggle at once. In addition to dealing with new diseases and building new rooms, we have to manage staff and keep patients happy. We may face a shortage of skilled staff at a university hospital, or we might encounter a shortage of funds or extreme temperatures and environmental hazards, such as earthquakes.

There's always something new that changes the approach and keeps you on your toes, which is greatly appreciated since it always feels like you're learning new ways to make the hospitals more effective. As an example, in a mountainous area that's popular with hikers (and people tumbling down mountainsides), we need to build a treatment ward to cast various broken limbs. There's a lot more to it. For one thing, we need to ensure that the patient areas make sense and have enough seating for the inevitable waiting that occurs. Patients need to start with a GP and may be referred for further diagnosis or sent on to receive treatment. In some cases, they may even need to return to a GP.

To make the waiting more pleasant, we create opportunities for patients to drink, eat and be entertained. We also need to make sure the prices aren't so high that people walk out when they see the bill. We can add plants to make the hospital more pleasant and add decorations to increase the prestige of the rooms to make the staff happier. Being based in a mountainous area means it's cold, so we also need to have radiators to keep everyone warm. Repair people must also be available to fix our expensive medical equipment when it breaks.

Beware of the inevitable patient death because they may return to haunt the hospital in ghost form, something that can only be remedied with a skilled ghost-catching janitor. None of the systems on their own is overly complex, but as soon as we get more patients and the odd VIP or health inspector, things can quickly get overwhelming, especially if you're aiming for a three-star hospital rating.

Thankfully, the controls are on our side. Porting a game like Two Point Hospital from the PC to a console usually comes with the caveat of having less intuitive controls than a mouse and keyboard, but it's surprisingly well done on the PS4. With a DualShock controller, the game controls remarkably well. The analog sticks control the cursor, the shoulder triggers handle zooming, the shoulder buttons rotate objects, and the face buttons select and access the menu. It helps that Two Point Hospital is an inherently simplistic experience in terms of UI and mechanics, so placing objects or accessing staff or patient lists can be done with a few button taps. There are other great examples of console ports of strategy and simulation titles, but in most cases, I wouldn't consider them close to equal with a mouse and keyboard. It felt like I could do anything on the console almost as well and as quickly as with PC controls, and that's one of the highest honors for this type of game.

Shortcuts also help to speed up interactions. It's easy to pick up and move or sell items by clicking slightly longer, and objects such as plants and radiators show their area of effect when we hover over them, so in many instances, we don't need to jump into a menu at all. Menus only come into play if we want to build objects, hire staff, or get an overview of how the hospital is doing. Two Point Hospital on the console also benefits from a few improvements in the PC version that make it easier to build hospitals, such as copying any room instead of building the same rooms over and over again. It's nice to be able to build a blueprint for each room and then use that throughout your play session. However, the game also inherits the same weaknesses from the PC version in terms of AI behavior and a dose of luck.

The AI behavior is a series of trivial annoyances that mar an otherwise excellent experience, but when things gets busy, it can add up and take a toll. Sometimes, the staff wanders around in weird corners of the hospital while the rest of the building is understaffed, so it can take them a while to respond to calls for assistance. While we can manually place them , this type of micromanagement isn't possible in the later stages of the game, when all hell breaks loose. The AI occasionally gets stuck in everyday objects, and the same thing occurs when building objects in tight spaces. The game has the habit of allowing you to place an object, but later, it decides that the object is out of place or doesn't fit in the space anymore. This means we're unable to build anything new until we remove the item.

Patient deaths are unavoidable, but I often felt that I could reduce the number of deaths, but complete avoidance always felt like it came to luck. It may be due to treatment failing or not being sure enough of a diagnosis to move ahead. We can adjust how sure we want to be on a diagnosis before starting treatment, but it feels like it's not entirely under our control, and that makes it difficult to obtain the challenges and awards for fewer deaths.

Two Point Hospital has an achievement system that is powered by a currency called Kudosh. Don't worry; there are no microtransactions. By meeting certain goals (e.g., number of patients healed) or completing staff challenges (e.g., no deaths for 90 days), we receive currency that can be used to unlock new items, including decorations, prestige items, and other handy additions. It's also fun to go back to previous stages and try them with your new items and newfound experience.

The visuals and animations are simultaneously simple and expressive. The blocky art style evokes nostalgic feelings for the genre greats of yesteryear, but it's still detailed enough and animated to great comedic effect. Each disease has a telling animation, model or sign, and each corresponding treatment machine looks like a unique object that functions in its own way, from a circus tent to heal clowns or a magnet machine to handle pan-demics (another game pun, still not a typo). The game plays and controls well and has quite a bit of content, so it's still a delightful experience on the PS4. A temporary caveat is that the game does not yet have a sandbox mode, which is going to be added in a free update today, along with an online portion where players can collaborate on challenges and earn rewards.

Overall, Two Point Hospital is a treat on consoles and is not to be missed, especially given the inclusion of the DLC and almost all of the features from the PC. It's a funny, addictive and engaging experience that is great if you have fond memories of Theme Hospital or Theme Park.

Score: 9.0/10

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