I'm no doctor, but medical management simulation Two Point Hospital is definitely a cure for boredom, sadness, and my dreams of having a career in the business sector. A perfect blend of intricate systems, a British sense of humor, and miniature animations of people vomiting into trash cans, this is much more than just a pretty remaster of its 1996 predecessor Theme Hospital.
Like all the best sim games, it seems simple at first. You build a hospital, hire the staff, and sit back while the cash rolls in. Slowly your doctors will uncover new illnesses, so you'll need to build additional treatment rooms. Staff will want training, and breaks, and promotions, so you'll need to set aside the cash for their increasing demands. Emergencies will happen, celebrities will visit, and you'll need a marketing department to get the word out. As you conquer each hospital (you can score up to three stars on each, but one is enough to progress), you can go back to the toy town-like map to choose what to tackle next.
The hospitals themselves get steadily more complicated, but the learning curve is just right. Before you know it, you're overseeing a huge, sprawling town of buildings, filled with different medical offices and machines. Once that feels like second nature, the game adds small complications, like different climates (so radiators and air conditioning become a key part of your to do list) and big ones, like earthquakes and electric storms. Then comes the pandemics - where you have to spot the infected in the crowd and administer vaccines - the infestations of 'monobrow' bugs and, toughest of all, the challenges of running a non-profit hospital.
Two Point Hospital has two different currencies to mange. The cold hard cash you'll spend on building, hiring and that you earn for curing people, and Kudosh, which you'll quickly become obsessed with. This is earned by completing special challenges, like impressing VIPs or treating a certain number of emergency patients in a given time limit, and allows you to unlock special items for your hospitals - a tiny Sega arcade machine, an anatomy model, fancy pop art paintings, that sort of thing. All have an effect - nothing you do or place is for show, everything matters - reducing patient boredom, or raising hospital attractiveness. The fact that my latest project has a painting of a dog on every wall is actually a sign of my strategic genius, rather than mental decline.
Through all of this is a very British humor - think 'Dad jokes' if your old man had a short career on a sitcom set in Surrey. The illness are all fictional and funny, like Turtle Head, where patients need a plunger to pull their heads into the right position, or Jest Infection, where people are turning into clowns. There's a rotation of DJs whose gentle waffle starts off making you chuckle, before settling into a soothing sort of white noise when your mind is busy solving staffing issues. The interjections of the hospital announcer, asking patients not to urinate anywhere in the hospital or alerting you to a fire in a bored voice, becomes actually useful once your hospital spans four or more buildings.
It's easy to play the whole game zoomed right out, so you can see where queues are building and which machine is dangerously close to catching alight, but now and again it's worth zooming in to appreciate the perfect animations in your tiny world. You'll spot a surgeon pulling a rubber duck out of someone, a nude patient lunging (suffering from Emperor's Clothes illness), or a tiny Freddie Mercury wannabe chatting to a psychologist to cure his Mock Star disease.
Between the humor and the visuals, there's no part of playing Two Point Hospital - other than the crippling, thundering stress at realizing that you've forgotten to build any toilets at all an hour into a level - that isn't a delight. Every tiny piece, from the people to the furnishings, has been lavished with attention and care, and it shows. It reminds me of an Aardman Animation, with so much detail and work behind the laughter and slapstick. It's a miniature masterpiece.
The team at Two Point hasn't rebooted Theme Hospital for a new generation, it's taken the funny bones and beating hearts of the original and transplanted them into an entirely new mini-universe of glee and medical mischief.