Two Point Hospital (PC, PS4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

I spent a week writing an interesting piece on violence in video games and their repercussions in the real world. I almost got to the end only to realise I hated everything I wrote, so I’ve shelved that for now and looked into something a bit more fun. So as such I was thinking about what game I played recently that I had the most fun playing. This was the first game that came to mind and was the perfect choice to move away from the seriousness of the previous mentioned topic. So please step into my clinic as I prescribe to you a dose of Two Point Hospital.

Hands up who remembers Theme Hospital? I know I do, I spent hours playing it back in the 90’s/00’s. For those who don’t, Theme Hospital was a hospital simulation game on PC and later ported to PSone. It was developed by Bullfrog Productions (co-founded by video gaming legend Peter Molyneux) also famous for The Populous series, The Dungeon Keeper series as well as Theme Park and it’s sequels before they were gobbled up by video game giants EA. Theme Hospital’s lead Producer (Mark Webley) and Lead Artist (Gary Carr) founded Two Point Studios in order to create a spiritual successor to Theme Hospital and I can honestly say they succeeded.

Although there is nothing in the games that directly links the two of them, Two Point Hospital defiantly feels like a Theme Hospital for the 21st century. It’s just as wacky and fun as the original with greater smoothing around the edges. This certainly doesn’t hurt the game in my opinion, I’ve seen a few reviews marks points against it for being “too much” like Theme Hospital which is a concept which I personally don’t understand. You wouldn’t say “I don’t like this delicious cake because it tastes too much like the delicious cake I had a few years ago” would you? Unless you were an absolute cretin.

I feel it easy to connect with Two Point Hospital, this is probably because I am British and the game is also unashamedly British. The characters look like they would be right at home in anything made by Aardman Animations (The guys who made Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run and the like) and the humour is witty and dry with a dark undertone without trying too hard to be funny, just how us Brits like it. The little details too are what I love about the game, I could spend hours reading the compendium about all the different diseases and the causes. They have absolutely no bearing on the game but some of them are that bizzare I can’t help but keep reading and having a giggle.

The game play itself is endearing in being easy to learn and hard to master. This is done by making the in game missions difficult to fail but quite challenging to gain top marks. One slight niggle I have about the game is that once you develop a strategy that works the game play can become a bit tedious. There are a few missions where limitations are put in place or the formulae is mixed up a bit but depending on your strategy it’s not hard to alter it slightly to fit your needs.

At the time of this review there has been 4 major DLC’s for Two Point Hospital. I have played the first 2 (Bigfoot & Pebberley Island). Both of them I have found are a bit samey, you get 3 extra missions with a handful of new diseases, I’ve heard that the third one (Close Encounter) is the same. The fourth (Off the Grid) adds a few new game mechanics too in making your hospitals more eco-friendly but isn’t massively refreshing. If you own the Steam version I wouldn’t buy the DLC’s at full price as compared to the rest of the game it doesn’t really seem worth it, luckily enough the DLC’s are semi-regularly on sale. This currently doesn’t effect the console versions as they are shipped with the first 2 DLC’s and the second 2 have yet to be ported over.

To round it all up I highly recommend Two Point Hospital if you played and didn’t hate Theme Hospital. Sure the game-play may get repetitive at times and it may not be much of a challenge but it is fun, humorous and for all those who have played Theme Hospital oozing with nostalgia. However I’m not sure how the game would hold up without the nostalgia value as I’m finding it very hard to separate my feelings for one on my opinion on the other because of the overwhelming similarities between them. This was also the first game developed by Two Point Studios and I’m hoping to see more spiritual sequels of old Bullfrog games in the future, hopefully if Two Point Hospital is anything to go off of, I’ll be looking forward to hearing of news of Two Point Theme Park.

NOTE: I was originally planning on posting this next week but I have learnt that it’s the game is free to play on Steam this weekend because it’s the games 2 year anniversary. So check it out for free if you like what you read.

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Stardew Valley (MOBILE, PC, PS4, PSVITA, SWITCH, XBOX ONE)

I’ve been trying for the past week to come up with a topic to talk about, I’ve started a couple but never managed to get written down enough to be happy with. I have just started playing the remake of Final Fantasy VII but I’d like at least a couple of weeks under my belt before I let the world know what I think of it, therefore we head as close to casual gaming as I am happy to go. I speak of the wonderful pixelated paradise that is Stardew Valley.

Now anyone that’s played a classic Harvest Moon game will know how this goes. You’ve left your hectic, stressful life in the city behind and inherited a farm from a dead relative (usually Grandfather) in a small, remote country setting and it’s up to you to fix it up in order to find the good life. Growing crops, raising livestock, making cheese, keeping bees, getting married, having kids etc. Essentially things you’d rather be doing then questioning where you went wrong in life (I know I do). It mimics Harvest Moon down to it’s underpants then adds it’s own modern elements such combat as well as mining and crafting elements.

The game itself seemed to press all the right buttons in my frontal cortex to keep me engaged for more hours than I care to remember. You could spend the rest of your life and then some imagining, designing and maintaining your own little slice of paradise. If you are one of those 100% completion nutters you best get a shortcut to the wiki on your favourite browser as you’ll soon find the scope of the game to be vast. Between becoming best friends with the whole valley, completing all the collections, exploring all the caves and extra areas the game will keep you entertained for years and given how cheap the game can be bought for it’s defiantly value for money.

I played the game originally on the PC a few years back and more recently on mobile and I do find the mobile version easier to put down, not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just literally easier to put down and walk away from. I can sit there for a few minutes on my phone whilst on the toilet, play though a day or two before my legs get numb and I have to get on with the rest of my day. The PC version on the other hand gave me a case of the “Just-One-More’s” where I would decide to play for an hour or so before breakfast only to walk away when the sun has gone down and it’s time to go back to bed.

Now for a final thought. There are very few things that get under my skin when it comes to Stardew Valley, I think my biggest niggle with it is that it’s too easy to make money and the whole thing becomes more of a vanity project rather than a challenge. Maybe if I had to keep some of my crops and produce aside so that the player didn’t starve then the game might have provided more of a challenge. I know that each in game action costs stamina but you can replenish said stamina at the days end or by taking a dip in the spa so the whole thing become less of a hindrance and more of a minor annoyance. It seems that world hunger was solved by stopping people from needing to eat but then again if that was true why is there still a market for my goat’s cheese?

Resident Evil 3 (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

Given that we are all in the grips of a virus outbreak that’s crippling the world, it seemed only fitting that the next review I post be that of one that involves a virus outbreak that turns people also into mindless zombies (this one however doing so more directly). I bring you all once again back to Racoon City for the re imaginings of the 3rd instalment of the Resident Evil saga.

For those of you that don’t know, the game focuses around that of S.T.A.R.S member Jill Valentine months after the the mansion incident that brought the poor health and safety standards of Umbrella Inc. to light. This is further proven as the infection spreads to that of the local populous of Racoon City. Now Jill must escape the city while being relentlessly perused by the bio-weapon Nemesis who’s sole purpose is the eradication of S.T.A.R.S.

Most of you will be well aware of my affinity with the Resident Evil series. Still giving that, I went into this game with a bit more caution then I did with RE2 as I wasn’t expecting lightning to strike twice in the same franchise so soon. Low and behold I was right to be cautious as the game does fall a bit short when compared to the previous one. It’s not that it’s bad, on the contrary it’s rather good. I just wish there was more of it to enjoy. It is awfully short, I was able to complete the game in about 4hrs on my first attempt followed by just under 3hrs on my second. This wasn’t even me trying to beat the game as quickly as possible. The game feels like it’s the bits of RE2 that ended up on the cutting room floor mashed together with a few noticeable RE3 elements thrown in so it can be branded as such. True, the game is about the same length as one of the scenarios in RE2 but at least there was 4 scenarios to bulk the game out as well as the last survivor games as well. There isn’t even a remake of the Mercenaries mini-game from the original to unlock new weapons and the like. I know that the game is packaged with the Resident Evil Resistance multiplayer game but in all honesty I had and still have absolutely no interest in playing it. I’d rather they have put the extra effort into fleshing RE3 a bit more. Maybe have a second scenario where you play the game from Carlo’s perspective.

Just like the RE2 remake before it, it has a beautiful aesthetic behind it. Both the graphics and sound quality make the game just as immersive. Although RE3 does feel a lot more action based than that of RE2. Where RE2 is set in 2-3 different locations with jumping back and forward between them, RE3 doesn’t keep us in the same areas for long and rarely allows for revisiting old areas. This idea of a more action based game is reinforced with the new bells and whistles added from the last instalment. Unlike Leon and Claire, Jill is able to parry and counter some enemy attacks when timed right leading to more opportunities to stand and fight your enemy even when ammo is scarce.

The next big difference is that of Nemesis himself, much like Mr X in RE2 he will follow you around the map like he wants to talk to you about Jesus, although Nemesis is much more persistent than that of his predecessor, being harder, better, faster and stronger. Should you take Nemesis down at least for the interim, you are treated to some goodies usually in the form of weapon upgrades, a lot of which come in handy as enemies and Nemesis himself become harder.

Now for my final thought. The more I think about it and the more I write this, the less I enjoyed the game. I remember the early days of survival horror, the likes of Silent Hill and the original Resident Evil teaching us subtly and that “less is more”. The atmosphere of the game did draw me in but the action was that constant that the game didn’t give me the opportunity to lure me into a false sense of security, make me believe that I can step out the next door without worry. I find the best way to create atmosphere in a game is to keep them guessing. The less you see of an enemy the scarier it becomes. Nemesis was always there, relentless in his pursuit. Mr X however, you could get away from him loose him for a while only to walk through a door and find him staring at you from the other end of the corridor. That as a metaphor is why I prefer RE2 to RE3.

Resident Evil 2 (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

Things are still going slow so as promised I have another one for you. This time we are bring the past to the present a much loved classic remade for the 21st century. Now we delve into the heart on zombie infested Raccoon City as we play Resident Evil 2 (2019).

Most you are probably more than aware of the story behind Resident Evil 2 but for those who don’t know, Umbrella (ella-ella) has accidentally leaked the T-Virus into Raccoon City and as such the local residents have shown their distaste for this by making the city a huge mess and turning themselves into zombies. It just so happens that while this is going on Leon Kennedy turning up in town eager to start his first day at the local police station and Claire Redfield who’s come into town looking for her brother Chris because she hasn’t paid her phone bill and as such can’t just call him. The two must split-up, look for survivors and get out of there.

This will be the 3rd Resident Evil game I would have written about making it my joint most written about game series (the other being Mass Effect). Iv’e already mentioned my past love of Resident Evil and especially Resident Evil 2. The original was by far my favourite of the series, so with that in mind and how much I loved the re-make of the original Resident Evil, I was super excited when I heard Capcom were remaking RE2. I went into this game with a huge expectation and I’m glad to say that it both lived up and exceeded my expectations.

So, differences between the original and new one. The biggest change in game-play is changing from a fixed camera to the over-the-shoulder camera introduced in Resident Evil 4, which in all honesty is a god send. As much as I preferred the earlier games having a fixed camera and trying to shoot an enemy you can’t see on the other side of it was more than a slight annoyance. There have been a few little story tweaks but nothing that changes the story dramatically. A huge graphical upgrade, the original wasn’t anything great at the time and by today’s standard it lies somewhere between god awful and abysmal. The remake however looks highly polished, the lighting effects cast an eerie feel almost everywhere and the gore physics leave little to the imagination. There’s little on this earth more satisfying then sending your last pistol bullet into a zombies face and watching it’s brains escape just as quickly in every other direction.

Now for my final thought. The game is a much appreciated return of survival horror that I have wanted for many years. Despite it’s niggles I’d put it up for contender for my game of the year. There’s enough ammo to get you though the game but not enough to be wasting it at every zombie/ dog/ potted plant. Each scenario on it’s own feels a little short and can be completed in 2-3hrs but given that there are 4 of them (2 for Leon and 2 for Claire) as well as some added extras it will keep you entertained for a while (It took me about a month from first starting to getting the platinum trophy). The atmosphere is thick which really immerses you into the game. I can only imagine the number of sleepless nights my 8 year old self would have had in both joy and piss-expelling terror had the game looked and felt this good when the original was released.