Bringing an outbreak of silliness to the world of simulation games, acclaimed PC sim Two Point Hospital makes its way to all three consoles with surprising success – and a ton of extra content.
There was a time, back when gaming on PC was its own world almost completely separated from consoles, that the sim game was a rapidly growing genre of its own. While The Sims remains one of the biggest-sellers of all time, the games that paved the way for it are the stuff of legend. From primitive beginnings with the likes of Little Computer People, the genre quickly exploded with simulated goodness. You could control your own metropolis in the Sim City games, simulate an ant metropolis in Sim Ant, manage your own skyscraper in Sim Tower… the genre was big enough that there was even a parody game released, Sim Brick (where you had a single button to press – “Exist”).
It was into that heady environment that British developer Bullfrog launched Theme Hospital in 1997, itself a successor to the much-loved Theme Park from a few years earlier. With Theme Hospital, the player was put in charge of the design and day-to-day running of their own medical business, something that might have ended up a terrifyingly grim simulation experience were it not for Bullfrog’s unmistakeably British sense of humour. The game was attacked by Britain’s National Health Service, without a hint of irony, as being “sick”. Its classic status was assured, it sold by the millions, remained a top seller for a decade and it was even successfully ported to the original PlayStation.
“The game was attacked by Britain’s National Health Service, without a hint of irony, as being “sick”.”
Two decades later, several of the original Theme Hospital designers, led by developer Mark Webley (who’d previously co-founded Lionhead, the studio behind the Fable games), figured the time was right for what’s termed a “spiritual successor” to Theme Hospital (in other words, “we wanted to make a sequel but another company owns the name”!) Two Point Hospital arrived for the PC in 2018, and it was quickly obvious there’d been an audience eager to get back into the light-hearted hospital management business. A huge hit from launch, its success meant a version for consoles was almost inevitable – and, finally, it’s arrived on all three.
Porting a simulation game to console is no easy feat, and history is littered with games that have fallen short of the mark in several areas – the difficulty of translating complex keyboard-and-mouse controls to a game controller, the need to make the graphics and user interface work for a TV viewed from a couch rather than a PC monitor viewed from inches away… Done right, it can be just as intuitive and easy to play as the PC original. But done wrong, it can be a fight between you and the UI (arguably, the console ports of The Sims 4 suffer from this to some extent).
The good news is that Two Point Hospital has made the journey over to consoles intact, with the help of multi-platform conversion specialists Red Kite Games (a name PS4 players may recognise from their seamless port of God of War III). But don’t worry that the involvement of an outside studio means that the game’s a compromise – far from it.
The base game is brought across in full, alongside two of its three paid DLC expansions, Bigfoot and Pebberley Island (the third and apparently final expansion released for PC, Close Encounters, will no doubt arrive later). Coming to the consoles as a free additional update next month are the Sandbox Mode and the Superbugs Initiative already available on PC. This is definitely not a “cut down for console” version of the game – we’re getting a huge amount of content here included with the base game.
“The base game is brought across in full, alongside two of its three paid DLC expansions.”
Unlike The Sims, gameplay in Two Point Hospital is a series of challenges, as you’re tasked with developing ever more challenging hospitals, trying to keep up with adding facilities, hiring staff and dealing with an increasing array of fictional illnesses. You’ll be looking after patients with ailments like Light Headedness (the patient’s head has literally turned into a light globe), Cubism (the entire patient has turned into a 3D Picasso painting), Night Fever (probably more like to happen on Saturdays), Turtle Head (the name says it all) and dozens more – with the two expansions adding tons of clever and amusing surprises that we won’t spoil. There’s even an illness originally proposed for Theme Hospital but abandoned as it was too graphically difficult at the time – Animal Magnetism, where the patient finds themselves covered in, erm, animals.
Needless to say, this isn’t exactly a “grim night in the ER” game, and the big and friendly user interface reinforces the sense of playful fun. Red Kite has done a brilliant job of converting the PC UI over to game controllers, and it’s an absolute breeze to pick up and play – probably the best console conversion of a PC sim we’ve seen to date. Made in the Unity engine, it runs surprisingly smoothly on console (we played on PS4 Pro) and though you’ll see a few hiccups during loading, the game itself runs smoothly (load times noticeably improved with the Day One patch as well). It can still take a bit of getting used to “drawing” rooms and placing fixtures with the controller rather than pulling it all into shape with a mouse, but within minutes it feels easy and frustration-free.
So, is Two Point Hospital your sort of game? Well, if you enjoy The Sims series for its sense of silliness and fun, but also love the build-a-business management aspect of games like Jurassic World Evolution or Planet Coaster (itself making the trip to console soon), you’ll feel right at home here. The colourful design and never-ending supply of silly surprises makes it an easy one to get into – but it can be hard to master, especially in the case of a Pandemic (which, in the world of Two Point Hospital, is an outbreak of people wearing saucepans on their head!).
Two Point Hospital is available now for PS4, Xbox One and Switch.