Reviewing games and taking names, including my own.
In February of 2020, I had the pleasure of reviewing Two Point Hospital, a hospital management sim published by SEGA and developed by folks who worked on Theme Hospital once upon a time. You can read that review here, but it's only the second 10/10 score I've awarded across almost 200 reviews. Coming back to the game a year later to try out the new DLC that accompanied the Jumbo Edition re-release got me feeling pensive about review writing in general. Below, you'll find those thoughts along with impressions of the added content.
At NWR, we use a 20-point rating scale with scores out of 10 that can include half points. Without divulging too many company secrets, I can say that giving a game a 10 isn't something we take lightly; there's a discussion that effectively encourages the reviewer to genuinely reflect on whether the game in question is worthy of the accolade our site is awarding it. Reviews matter, and whatever your ultimate feeling about review scores, they have real-world consequences in terms of sales and even bonuses for those involved in making games. For me, the review scores I come up with start as gut feelings and through contemplation become a more concrete figure I’m more than willing to go to bat for. It’s similar to the process of evaluating an essay, which I do as a college professor. Through years of experience, I’m able to arrive at a letter grade range after reading a student’s paper, and then confirm the specific grade (a B+ within the “B” range, for instance) after commenting on and marking up the individual paragraphs.
Without burying the lede any further, I still stand by the 10 I gave to Two Point Hospital. At the time, the experience felt fresh and addictive; hours melted into nothingness as I built up hospital after hospital to varying degrees of success and prestige. Every scenario brought new and exciting challenges that forced me to rethink earlier strategies, but enough about that. You’ve already clicked on the link above and read the review for yourself, right? Coming back to the setting of Two Point County with a pandemic under my belt (in progress, of course), even though performance issues have become more noticeable and crashes a somewhat common annoyance, the gameplay loop continues to be stellar. The drive to want to return to all of my old hospitals to check on their progress and fulfill new objectives is palpable.
And now the other reason you’re probably here: the new DLC included with the Jumbo Edition of Two Point Hospital but also available for purchase separately. Essentially, there are two separate DLC scenario packs—Off the Grid and Close Encounters—and two separate item packs—Retro Items Pack and Exhibition Item Pack. The original release on consoles already included two DLC packs (Bigfoot and Pebberley Island) that are sold separately on PC, and so the new content brought to the game with the Jumbo Edition release means a content-laden title becomes even more so. The Jumbo Edition appears to have replaced the base game, too, so those who haven’t graduated from medical school yet can jump in now with a lot of extras. Original Two Point Hospital owners can upgrade straight to the Jumbo edition for about 20 bucks, which is about the cost of the two scenario packs on their own (you effectively get the item packs for free).
Off the Grid begins in Wanderoff, an especially unique hospital in that it’s smack-dab in the middle of the woods. This means no walled-off buildings in which to lay out pharmacies, GP offices, or staff rooms. Lines of stones do indicate loose guidelines for how you can map things out, but the obtuse physical space provides a stiff challenge. The next unique element of this hospital is that you don’t earn money in the traditional way through diagnoses and successful treatments; instead, a “wellness index” that measures aspects such as staff happiness, hospital hygiene, and cure rate to determine whether you’ll continue to get funding for the hospital. Returning to the game after so many months away made this scenario particularly difficult. With so many minute details baked into running the hospital and attending to its staff, I needed a few restarts before I eventually found my footing here.
Close Encounters, as the name alludes to, revolves around an area not unlike Area 51, complete with aliens attempting to blend in as hospital patients. The scenario begins in the hospital of Goldpan, where one of your first objectives is to carefully monitor aliens walking around the hospital masquerading as patients. A brief flicker in their appearance and the fact that they don’t actually pay for services can help you identify them and then boot them from the premises. It’s fun to focus more on looking at the actual people coming in and out of the hospital rather than just tracking them as statistics in menus. This pack, along with the previous one, adds three new hospitals, new illnesses, and new gameplay, and each feels like a worthwhile expansion to the base game.
Like GRIS before it, the first review game I deemed a 10/10, Two Point Hospital has been on my mind since I posted that review. I don’t often get an opportunity to return to games I’ve reviewed previously, with a backlog the size of the Mayo Clinic and eShop releases popping up as regularly as pimples on a teenager’s face. With the launch of DLC comes an opportunity to revisit past favorites, and I’ve found the experience somewhat therapeutic. I’ve been able to largely justify my earlier published feelings on Two Point Hospital while also seeing it with an even sharper critical eye, a perspective I’m continuing to hone. Without a doubt, the next game I want to bestow with NWR’s highest score will benefit from an even more thorough review process. I’m always learning, striving, and experimenting: strategies that make me a successful (pretend) hospital administrator and hopefully a more effective game reviewer.