If you haven’t yet checked out Two Point Hospital, you should know that it’s pretty old school. Despite the best efforts of both developer and publisher, it’s a single-player game first and foremost, an absorbing simulation that can keep you busy during countless podcasts and TV binges. Built from the foundations of Theme Hospital by some of the foremen who laid them, Two Point Hospital is a wonderfully niche title that does what it intends to do very well. Therefore, it only makes sense that its DLC offerings would follow suit, offering long, content-rich expansions for the base game. The latest, dubbed Close Encounters, includes otherworldly diseases and alien tricksters, giving you a bit more to worry about as you manage your place of healing.
Two Point Hospital: Close Encounters Review | Warping to the mothership
As with the base game, Close Encounters encourages new players to start with new scenarios in the campaign. There are three here, each teaching additional mechanics from the DLC and providing a bit more direction than the sandbox. This progression is genre tradition at this point, even though it’s a shaky construct. If you look at it objectively, missions like this just serve to add structure to something best described as a toy. Still, it’s difficult to fault Two Point Hospital too much, as what is present provides hours of careful building and managing budgets.
Of course, you’ll need to spend hours to get to this content. Coming in on a fresh save, I made my through multiple hospitals before I had the option to see what the aliens brought to the table. Most players won’t have this complaint, but it’d be nice to have the option to skip at least some of the most basic tutorial. The first few levels basically end just as they start to get going, giving you the option to continue to get bonus unlocks or start over and make progress towards the extra content you paid for. New Area 51 junkies coming in for laughs probably wouldn’t have the best first impression of this game because of these roadblocks.
Two Point Hospital: Close Encounters Review | Getting to the autopsy
Thankfully, once you do get to the desert towns of Close Encounters, Two Point Hospital continues to fire on all cylinders. For the price of a handful of loot boxes in most games, you get an expansion to pretty much every system this tycoon game has to offer. There are cardboard patients who need a new “character creator” device, appropriate cosmetic items and new quips from the in-game DJ. All this is exactly what a tycoon expansion pack should have, and it should provide hours of fun for players as they explore the new options.
The only place that Close Encounters truly falters is in a few of its unique campaign objectives. One tasks you with finding hidden aliens clogging up your patient intake. You’d think that you’d do this by researching a new skill or perhaps an upgrade to the existing ghostbusting that janitors already perform. Instead, what you have to do is keep an eye out for patients that flash momentarily. This indicates a break in their cloak, and sending them home exposes them as aliens. It feels like busywork, as it barely affects the simulation outside of distracting you momentarily. This mechanic never popped up in the sandbox for me, but I was thankful it didn’t.
There should have been some sort of compromise as it could be a game that could support different game types in the same way as Halo‘s multiplayer. It already has plenty of bespoke maps with different layouts and mechanics. They just need to take the objectives from the single-player and put them into the sandbox. It would make stuff like the alien spotting feel a lot less like a useless addition if popped up outside of its lone mission appearance.
Two Point Hospital: Close Encounters Review | Gaining a cosmic perspective
Things are a bit more straightforward in the second stage. Patients come to your hospital in waves, like Gears 5 Horde mode but with sick clowns. This is unfortunately not really themed to the DLC, but it does provide a healthy challenge considering your tiny starting plot of land. Speaking of which, finding out how to buy new plots of land is up to the player, as the tutorial fails to mention it at all. Because of this oversight, it would easy for a newcomer to jam every room possible into one small building while sitting on a small fortune.
Close Encounters adds content but doesn’t fix many of Two Point Hospital‘s smaller issues. There’s still a rather long loading screen to start things off, although that doesn’t persist to the rest of the experience. The game is also still generally easy if you play it safe. Even if you’re spending like a madman, Two Point Hospital will usually bail you out if you slow down just a bit. The difficulty comes down to learning how the game operates and adapting for some of its more inconsistent moments. It’s not perfect, but it works.
Two Point Hospital: Close Encounters Review | Final diagnosis
In the end, that sentiment applies to everything about Two Point Hospital. In emulating the past so closely, the developers have inherently come out with a product that seems clunky at first glance. It’s only on further inspection that you see all the systems and interactions hidden behind old-minded UI. Add-ons like Close Encounters don’t fundamentally shift that balance, but they do provide a lot of value in their expansions. For a game competing with The Sims and their overpriced Stuff Packs, it’s a welcome trend that’s well worth supporting.
GameRevolution reviewed Two Point Hospital: Close Encounters on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.