Two Point Hospital Review

Running a profitable hospital is no joke and Two Point Hospital makes this quite clear. Well, maybe it is kind of a joke; honestly, after playing this game I don’t know what to think. The sheer depth of the institution-building simulation is concealed by a humorous coat of paint and it is rather brilliant. This game was hard to put down, driven mostly by its incredible, cheeky dad-jokes. My only significant gripe with the game is how overwhelming it can all be at times. Luckily, thanks to full control over time like many sims before it, you can take it all in at your own pace. Two Point Studios has really outdone themselves on this one.

From a developer I have never heard of before (I never played Theme hospital, the game’s forerunner), I was pleasantly surprised with the level of content on offer. The depth of the game comes from the workers for hire. Many of them have their own dispositions and expertise, all while demanding different pays and pay raises, and it all actually matters in the conception of your hospital. Did I mention there are ghosts? Patients who have passed may linger in disembodied forms, and it requires a janitor with the Ghost Capture ability to rein in these abominations. This is just an example of one of many skills that are required to tackle the tasks presented to you. And this is a rather basic one at that. The key is to hire the right men for the job, or to train your staff to perform competently. Personalities play a huge role in the game as well, and too often did I find my workers not carrying out their duties as expected, lounging in the staff room for a bit too long, or simply taking my hard-earned money for doing a sub-par job. The mastery of the management of employees goes a long way in running an efficient business.

This depth is pleasantly concealed by a cloud of great humor. I found myself chuckling at the occasional puns or satirical comments on the sad state of health care. Looking back on it, in totality, the cleverness of it all had me laughing for a good portion of my play time. This created a light atmosphere for otherwise serious conditions. Feeling light-headed? Let me unscrew the lightbulb head you are afflicted with and provide you with a brand spanking new head with my high-tech machine. There’s a pandemic? We must pull the pans off these patients’ heads at once! I was simply engulfed in the wacky humor to alleviate the stress that would present itself with the influx of patients and the lack of accommodations. Of course, this is the only way to keep a heavy simulation light and fun.

The art style lent a lot to the fun atmosphere of the game also, which played well into the quirky humor. Everyone looked like they were ripped right out of Wallace and Gromit and they moved about, flailing their arms at every step. The characters’ mannerisms were hilarious on their own, but paired with the game’s comedic sense, it was all very fun to watch and added to the overall enjoyment. The objects were nicely detailed in a cartoonish art direction that is akin to what you would see in the Sims. It was all easy on the eyes and unrealistic in the most beautiful way.

The sound was something that left me wanting. I got a kick out of the Radio host attempting to hypnotize himself and the listener, but the music was very similar to something you may hear in an elevator. It got repetitive very fast and for the most part I would tune it out as I focused on building a nice bathroom for my patients and staff to enjoy. This is by far the weakest part of this game and were it to have a greater variety in tunes and dialogue, this may have been avoided. As it stands, I had quite the aversion to the repetitive music which I’m sure many people will feel the same way about.

This game draws you in, and while there is no real lure to play it over, retrying levels in order to get the three-star rating that is so highly sought after was a blast. It was so easy to get carried away and spend too much, but multiple tries allowed for me to rein it in and really focus on what I can do to beat each level. In this respect, the game is very replayable, but to start from scratch on a new save is madness. Who would put themselves through all that stress, really?

Two Point Hospital was a pleasure to say the least, and its quick wit drove this game home. For those seeking depth in the way to approach different scenarios must look no further, as the simulation is quite heavy when you get in the thick of it. I had a blast with this one and it’s easily recommended to anyone looking for a quick chuckle and heady gameplay. My hat is off to Two Point Studios and their incredible take on hospital management.

Sound: 2/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 5/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 22/25 or 88/100

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA AGES) Review

After reviewing the first Sonic game right around the same time the second was to be released on Switch, I thought it might be worth my time to take a magnifying lens to the latter as well. And what I have drawn from this is that M2 has done some fantastic things with the Sega Ages titles. Not only does it present the already beguiling speedy gameplay faithfully, it adds upon the game’s foundation through features new and old. You are essentially given two games in this Sega Ages package with the return of Knuckles in Sonic 2, the game mode that used lock on technology that was only possible with the two Sega Genesis cartridges. I dare to say that this may be the definitive version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

While Sonic 1 introduced us to the titular hero, Sonic 2 tightened the previous game’s performance, physics, and level design. Where the first game was plagued with slowdown in some levels, its sequel used the Genesis’ completely made-up, phony “blast processing” to its fullest potential. I never once experienced so much as a hiccup in gameplay during my time with the game. And Sega Ages is quite faithful in this respect. It’s emulated to near perfection, and that, with this iteration’s additions, rockets the game to a “must own” status for any Switch user. Momentum also seems like it works better here than in its predecessor, making the controls tight and responsive, and overall bolstering the way the game feels from a physics standpoint.

But most notable still is the game’s incredible level design. This is by far the best showing of what Sega is truly capable of when it comes to world-building. Multiple pathways branch out, providing the player with options as to how they want to get from start to finish. Not to mention it seems fast. I know, by today’s standards, Sonic’s 2D excursions don’t seem nearly as speedy as they did back when they released, but Sonic 2 somehow captures what it really means to be fast. Levels are designed to be just long enough to rationalize the purchase, but also short enough to make it feel like you are zipping through the game. While I am a veteran at these games, I was hard-pressed to break more than 3 minutes on any one act, making it great for pick up and play while also keeping the game fresh if you choose to finish it in one sitting as it was intended so many years ago. You will spend less than 6 minutes in an environment, and then be ushered into the next just as quickly as you entered the first. This is great level design at its very core. There are a couple cheap hits that the player is almost assuredly bound to encounter, but that is where replaying the game can impart the player with a way to attain better times and smoother runs.

The 16bit graphics are just as smooth as a veteran’s playthrough. With the Sega Ages copy, like the first, you can adjust screen size, scan lines, and smoothing to suit your fancy. There is something here for anyone to enjoy, catering to both purists and newbies alike. Even to this day the game looks great. Everything is so colorful and the foreground pops from the background nicely, never confusing the player like so many games of that era did. Overall, the game’s graphics are what is to be expected from a title from the early 90s, but even surpasses its cohorts in some ways. And the games visuals, paired with its killer soundtrack, provides quite the experience. The 16bit sounds are captivating from the moment they reach the player’s ears. My favorite of all the music featured in the game’s many levels are Hill Top and Sky Chase’s upbeat melodies. The way everything ties together somehow makes the game feel greater than the sum of its parts. It’s almost ineffable, and results in an experience that has blown me away since the age of five.

Sure, I may be talking from a nostalgic standpoint, but I also believe the game is objectively incredible, and it holds up to this day as one of the best Sonic experiences out there. If you’ve never played Sonic 2, the Sega Ages version is a great place to start, and if you are a longtime fan there is a lot here for you to enjoy as well. Overall this is a fantastic addition to my game library, and the extremities of the many features included in the Sega Ages rendition (counting the ring chase mode and drop dash ability) are just a bonus; but in all honesty, the game holds up even without those inclusions. Altogether, there is a little something for everyone here, and this game remains at the pinnacle of 2D platformers.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 3/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 23/25 or 92/100

Sonic the Hedgehog (SEGA AGES) Review

With the recent success of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie in theatres now, I thought it would be fun to revisit the game that rocketed the blue blur into the homes of many young and impressionable children of the 90s. The movie has recently reached the status of best box office earnings over any other films based on a video game. I have yet to see it, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling hopeful of video game representations in the film industry.

I decided to jump right back into the series 1991 debut, and what better way than through the Sega Ages collection on my fancy pants, new Nintendo Switch? While the game exudes a 90s feel in charming 16-bit graphics and soundtrack, nostalgia had me expecting more from it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good game, but some design choices had me scratching my head, and in some ways it is far inferior to even the game’s sequels; which capture everything the first game was about, but with far better execution.

For the most part, the Sega Ages adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog is fantastic. The greatest notable feature is the inclusion of the spin dash introduced in Sonic 2, and the drop dash that was featured in Sonic Mania. The lack of a spin dash in the original turned me off from the game in my childhood, as I had experienced it after playing Sonic 3. It’s welcomed with open arms in Sega Ages though, and makes the game feel more modern, akin to the later series’ releases in the 90s.

Sonic’s whole shtick is speed; and zooming through the levels is facilitated with this new feature. My issue with the game comes with poor choice in level design. Where the later releases excel in the presence of multiple routes to take and many discoveries to be made, it is lacking in this first installment. It is still there, just not at the same level of quality as Sonic 2, 3, and Knuckles. It is at it’s best when getting from point A to point B is smooth, seamless, and fast. This simply just isn’t the case for some of the levels featured in this game.

Marble zone, the game’s second level clashes with the whole theme of the game that was introduced in Green Hill. Instead of timing your jumps and spins to get to the finish line in one swooping motion, the level forces you to slow down, push blocks, and avoid spike traps at every turn. This dampens the otherwise fun experience. It doesn’t stop at the second stage though, as the slowdown is also present in the game’s fourth stage, Labyrinth zone. And it is here that not only does the pacing slow down, but the actual game stutters and slows occasionally. In this sense, it is faithful to the original as I remember experiencing the same issue and frustrations in my youth. Outside of that, not much can be said about the game that hasn’t been expressed before, and perhaps where some have articulated better than I can hope to. I love Sonic the Hedgehog, and I believe nostalgia may contribute to that love in no small way.

The Sega Ages rendition of Sonic is well worth the entry fee, as it provides a decent level of personalization while also providing outlets for beginners and the more competitive individuals alike. Some basic features include the customization of the screen dimensions, scan-lines, smoothing, etc. While button layout options seem superfluous in a game where every button does the same thing, there are other features that should be commended. It is possible to save your game whenever you so wish, a fundamental necessity that just wasn’t available in games of old. You are also able to jump into any stage you want with the level selection feature. There is a mega-play version that emulates the arcade style gameplay, and a challenge mode that implements the mega-play version and another mode that encourages speed running of the first act in Green Hill zone. All in all, there’s a lot to play with here, and it keeps Sonic the Hedgehog fresh in a way that only the fine folks at M2 (who ported all the Sega Ages titles) can achieve. I highly recommend this to anyone who may have never experienced this 2D platformer before, and to those feeling nostalgic. Personally, Sonic the Hedgehog is the game I have bought the greatest number of times out of any title, as there seems to be a port of these games on every platform imaginable. Still, don’t pass on this one as it is well worth it just to have a portable version of the game. You should especially consider it if it goes on sale. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will be getting it’s own Sega Ages release, and I’m looking forward to that one as well.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 3/5

Story: 2/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 20/25 or 80/100

Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (SEGA Genesis Classics) Review

When it comes to mascots, Alex Kidd may not be the most memorable. This anthropomorphic monkey-man was SEGA’s frontrunning character before Sonic the Hedgehog was a thing. He was in direct competition with Nintendo’s Mario, and it is quite evident why SEGA ended up dropping him after his SEGA Genesis debut. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle is a real stinker.

The game follows the adventures of Alex Kidd, the son of an absent king. When he is tipped off that his father is still alive somewhere on the planet Paperock, Alex sets out to find him and bring him home. In order to do so, he must best the planet’s inhabitants at the game of rock, paper, scissors. There is no further explanation as to why this luck-based game is so important and how any of this makes sense. The story is laughable and holds no real significance to the gameplay, other than explaining why the protagonist engages in dull games of chance throughout each level. Acknowledging that the game is very old, I can look past how awful it all is, but then I remember the imaginative plot to Super Mario Bros (for its time) and I find Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle has no excuse to be as terrible as it is.

Alex Kidd claims to be a 2D platformer, but there is a clear deviation from what is to be expected in the genre. Most platformers involve jumping from one platform to another while avoiding enemies and obstacles. In that respect, this game is nothing like the games it competes with. Sure, there are enemies you must jump over, punch, or kick out of the way, but these are not central elements of the game. Instead, gameplay revolves around a series of rock, paper, scissors matches where Alex competes for a special item that will aid him in his adventure. The items you receive for winning seem to break the game and do not make things any more fun. After winning a motorcycle, you can choose to continue through the level normally, or you can activate it and fly through the whole stage with not much thought or skill. And skill does not seem to be a requirement here at all. Not only does it not take skill to zoom through the level with a game-breaking item, but the rock, paper, scissors matches themselves are games of chance. The game seemingly allows you to skip these matches and carry on in the level using the abilities you were given at the onset. That is, until you get to the first boss which is nothing more than a match of rock, paper, scissors. The “boss fights”, if you can call them that, raise the stakes of these games of chance by forcing the player to forfeit a life should you fail. It all culminates in a miserable experience that left me regretting having played it to begin with.

The game controls atrociously as well. It seems that Alex is constantly running on a sheet of ice, sliding any which way with every sharp turn on the directional pad. The whole feel of the game is just off, and it pulled me out of the experience. Alex floats through the air with every jump, creating some very frustrating mishaps when attacking enemies. This is a huge problem since the player is only afforded one hit and then it’s back to the beginning of the level or last checkpoint. With the consequences of getting hit so high, it is imperative that controls are tight and responsive. That is simply not the case with Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle. This game operates under a two-button system that typically works for games like this. For some reason it just does not work here unfortunately. The jump button doubles as an attack as soon as the button is released, which I find only works under perfect conditions. The punch button is just as infuriating. Alex needs to be at the perfect distance to reach the enemy. When timed poorly, it means certain death. The game relies heavily on repeat attempts to get to the end while struggling with the controls.

Ultimately, this game isn’t very good at all. The whole time I was playing it I was longing to be in control of a speedy, little blue hedgehog. It is apparent why this mascot died with the Genesis. On the bright side, in Alex Kidd’s death, Sonic was born. This game just sucks in comparison.

Sound: 2/5

Gameplay: 1/5

Story: 1/5

Graphics: 2/5

Replay Value: 1/5

Total: 7/25, or 28/100