Game Time

Two Point Hospital
Nintendo Switch
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
PC via Steam

WHEN Two Point Hospital first made waves on the personal computer two years ago, it became known as the spiritual successor of Theme Hospital, and rightfully so. It carries the genetic imprint and soul of its 1997 progenitor, a business simulation game which has become an enduring hit in the video game industry. To date, Theme Hospital has sold over four million copies worldwide, a feat that Two Point Hospital hopes to equal, if not surpass, as it ports over to the Nintendo Switch. Developer Two Point Studios does have the pedigree; producer Mark Webley was also the project leader, as well as programmer and developer, of Theme Hospital for Bullfrog Productions. Today, with designer/artist Gary Carr and programmer Ben Hymers, former Bullfrog colleagues, they’re meeting the challenge head-on. Given its presence in six platforms all told, Two Point Hospital has become the second most downloaded game in terms of sales in much of the world.

If you remember playing with Theme Hospital, and remember, that was 23 years ago, you’ll definitely find Two Point Hospital a familiar and comforting presence to have in 2020. It looks familiar, sounds familiar, plays almost the same BUT. The BUT is that, in 2020, Two Point Hospital is Theme Hospital on steroids, making the experience better, with fun, three dimensional graphics, seamless camera transitions, and better storytelling overall.

In Two Point Hospital, much like Theme Hospital, the player acts as an administrator and decides which patient needs are best met by the hospital of a specific area at a specific point in time. The hospital comes as an single empty shell, and the player is tasked with filling it with clinics for diagnosis and treatment, as well as the hiring, firing, and training of its employees, from doctors to nurses to assistants to even janitors. There are options for buying extra lots and erecting new buildings, as well as adding new clinics to address the area’s patients. There are plenty of ways to customize the hospital, with extra features and elements that can be unlocked through progress in game levels and areas.

While the bare bones of both Theme Hospital and Two Point Hospital are the same, upgrades have been introduced to completely change the way the latter meets the challenges of this new era. For one, changes in the way characters behave, function, and work within the model hospital make this homage a better version of the original. Traditional gender roles no longer apply; both men and women can be doctors, nurses, assistants, and janitors — and, as such, emphasis is placed on qualifications and training rather than gender.

In Two Point Hospital, training is available for all personnel, thereby allowing the player’s chosen medical professionals to specialize. This enables diagnosis and treatment to go much faster and with less failure. Assistants are no longer mere receptionists; they are a vital cog in the hospital manpower wheel as they perform check-in, basic triage, and even marketing. Janitors no longer just clean, maintain, and upgrade machines; they can also train others as they accumulate skill in other areas.

There are various levels to pass, and each level requires at least a one-star rating for the next one to open up. Three stars make one a superstar in that level’s hospital and VIPs flock to avail of services. As the hospital’s designated CEO and Board of Trustees in one, money decisions are left to the player, and if the player listens to the needs of the populace, decisions on cure, personnel, and material not only earn the hospital a good reputation but also a lot of money to do more things. There are awards to compete for, leading to extra credit for unlockable items. Fortunately, proceedings can be interrupted anytime; the player can choose to go back to previous levels without penalty in his/her last level. Features unlocked in the most current level carry over to the earlier ones so there is always room to improve the hospital, feature and strategy-wise.

As a port from the 18-month-old PC game, Two Point Hospital on the Switch does take a little getting used to, particularly when it comes to Joy-Con controls. It doesn’t feel intuitive from the get-go. That said, it takes only one or two passes and practice runs on the levels to get the hang of things. There might be a couple of tweaks needed to make the menus easier to handle, but all in all, they don’t take away from the beauty of the game. Frame rate drops can and do occur, especially when the screen gets busy, but, for casual gamers, it isn’t really a dealbreaker. In truth, it’s hardly noticeable.

There’s a lot of humor and hilarity in Two Point Hospital, the same way it was in Theme Hospital, and it’s best appreciated in the ingenious way sickness is named, approached, and treated. “Jest infections” never grow old, for one. But it’s also sobering to note that while laughter and enjoyment can be derived from the game, it also reminds us that what passes off as a game may emulate true life and death situations. And as in real life in the time of COVID-19, hospitals that are better equipped, better managed, and better staffed are able to save more people.


• Fun, funny, and, punny

• Faithful homage, but improved experience

• Engrossing


• Can be repetitive

• Cartoon visuals an acquired taste

• Occasional frame drops

• Difficult at first

RATING: 8.5/10


Based solely on how Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom looks and feels, Game Atelier clearly put a lot of heart into its creation. From its stylistic art design to its tight, metroidvania gameplay, it presents itself with aplomb — no small feat considering its history. Having descended from the lauded Wonder Boy franchise that used to grace arcade machines and Sega consoles alike, it had huge shoes to fill upon its release.

In Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, players control Jin, a young boy who journeys out to stop Nabu, his uncle, from causing havoc across the land. Nabu had been turning people into animals, and by standing up to his uncle, Jin put himself in danger, and soon finds himself turned into an animal as well. In order to undo this animal curse, he must find and make use of five special animal orbs scattered throughout the land. Only by harnessing their power can he hope to right the wrongs that his uncle had made, and undo the spell that keeps them bound as they are.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom has a simple a premise as can be expected from the series, and it unfolds pleasantly. From the moment the game starts, its art style simply pops off the screen with its bright visual design and old-style anime aesthetics. Monster designs are particularly nice to look at, and serve as simple but effective callbacks to a much simpler time, when games weren’t rendered three-dimensionally, but were instead two-dimensional art assets made with much care and love.

Just as well-crafted as the aesthetics are the stages themselves. While Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom’s gameplay is standard metroidvania, it boasts of levels that rise above the usual dregs of the genre. For the most part, they manage to be just right, both in terms of presentation and length. They never outstay their welcome, and are often presented with various twists in their design that force the player to make use of many animal forms to progress. While some of these levels require back-tracking, they never really feels like busywork. Every new obstacle surpassed feels like an actual accomplishment, and in many ways, the endeavor encourages and rewards players to explore the environment and to not be afraid to take their time.

This does, however, open up some core issues in the game itself. While exploring Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom’s levels can be fun and entertaining, engaging in combat is anything but. Its controls are responsive, but the general lack of weight of battles feels quite strange. It never kills the enjoyment, but it does leave encounters with enemies feeling less satisfying than they normally should be, as these tend to lack impact and feel more like minor obstacles than challenges of strength.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom’s puddle design is another cause for concern. It varies wildly from straight-forward and fun, to rather cryptic and confusing. While it’s not usually a problem, it can really dampen gamers’ enjoyment and sense of accomplishment, especially when parts of the game can drag along purely because of the puzzle’s existence.

All in all, though, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a worthy purchase for any fan of side-scrolling metroidvania. Minor issues do exist, but gamers can easily breeze past these and tear into its plentiful content without too much of a fuss. Highly recommended.


• Tight, responsive controls, with very fluid and intuitive gameplay

• Great art and aesthetic design

• Plenty of hours of well-designed side-scrolling content available


• Some cryptic puzzles can kill pacing

• Combat tends to lack impact for the most part

RATING: 8.5/10

THE LAST WORD: Heritage Auctions put up the Nintendo Play Station for auction last week, and the endeavor netted it a whopping $360,000. The bidding was won by Los Angeles, California-based entrepreneur Greg McLemore, whose dot-com investments have enabled him to pursue his passion for collecting videogame memorabilia. He plans to build, in his words, a “permanent museum” to house his assets. Meanwhile, he’s engaging others to showcase them, including at the University of Southern California Pacific Asia Museum next year.