If, like me, you’re a 90s kid, you probably grew up playing Theme Hospital and Theme Park. These classic business sims were developed by Bullfrog Productions, and, in their short life span, they had an incredible influence on the genre as a whole. Sadly, it’s been over 20 years now since Bullfrog was closed down for good. But don’t worry, if you missed out on the Theme games in their prime, I’ve got just the game for you!
Bullfrog’s Theme games were all unique in their own right, but they all followed the same basic structure: building, running a business and making a profit, all accompanied with the best sense of humour - which is something that no other business sim has ever been able to live up to. That was until 2016 when Two Point Studios was formed with two previous Bullfrog employees among the founders. They brought their genre-defining style back in a big way.
In 2018, Two Point Studios’ first game was released and it was dubbed the “spiritual successor” to Theme Hospital. And they were absolutely right! Two Point Hospital was so similar, in fact, that it felt like a remake, built from the ground up to bring Theme Hospital back into our lives. And I loved every second of it. Every new addition, every difference from the original, felt like an upgrade to the game.
The original Theme Hospital was built to be a PC game, and the controls definitely reflect that. Released in 1997, it lived as a PC exclusive for a year until it was ported over to the PlayStation in 1998. Don’t get me wrong, I put a lot of hours into the ported version, and it holds a lot of nostalgia for me, but the controls definitely weren’t built for a controller. Two Point Hospital, though, doesn’t have this issue anymore. I can see how the controls can work for both console and PC, and it’s such a welcome adjustment for a game released on both platforms.
Two Point Hospital is everything that Theme Hospital was - and more. The same sense of humour is ingrained in the game, especially on the hospital radio station. There’s a whole host of brand new fictional diseases that your hospital needs to cure, each of them more ridiculous than the last. The staff that you can hire still have the most absurd descriptions, but I do miss hiring people who smell faintly of cabbage. Two Point Hospital can simultaneously be the most relaxing but also the most stressful game ever—depending on how the game is going.
What you might have missed, though, is Two Point Studios’ newest game, Two Point Campus, which just came out in August 2022. It’s everything that their first game was, but this time—you guessed it—you build a university. While largely the same, it does feel like Campus put a lot more time into the building aspects of the game and caters to players who enjoy the creative side of the game rather than the management side. The management aspect is still there, it just feels like Two Point showed some love to their fellow creatives on this one.
Campus also feels like it has a bigger emphasis on characters than previous games have. In both Theme Hospital and Two Point Hospital, I spend most of my time on the fastest speed setting, occasionally stopping to build a room and check that everything is running smoothly. I don’t do that with Campus. The students that study at your university have a little more to them than "what disease do they have?" or "Did we cure them, or kill them?" They can build relationships, go to parties and even get bad grades. I found myself more invested in these little people that I normally leave to just zoom around the screen.
I know there are a lot of business sims out there and, if you enjoy playing them, you’ve probably already got your favourites. But Two Point Studios, from the day they were formed, already had legend status within the genre. It’s clear that the founders had an intense passion for these types of games. Even after Bullfrog shut down and went their separate ways, it was this genre and a rebirth of their Theme games that brought them back together. Two Point Hospital and Campus were an incredible start for Two Point Studios and those games will slide into their legendary back catalogue nicely. If you’re clinging onto your nostalgia for Theme Hospital or Theme Park, now might be the time to let it go and embrace a new contender for the business sim crown.