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

My Top 5 Games of 2019

The year 2020 is just around the corner and we get that much closer to Skynet’s inevitable rise to power. Before that happens though, we can all be actively entertained by its precursor. 2019 was a good year for gaming, no matter what the naysayers preach. Some of my new favorite games were released this year and I am waiting in anticipation for 2020 to knock it out of the park. That being said, it’s good to sometimes take a look back, ignoring what’s ahead, in celebration of all that has transpired in this short year. The following is a list of MY top 5 games of 2019. I have only included the games that I have actually played and am intentionally ignoring many of the great games that I know are contenders for game of the year. It is only because I have not played them and thus cannot speak to their worth, but that does not mean they do not belong on a top 5 list. They just don’t belong on (again) MY top 5 list.

5. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

This is one of the two games featured on this list that I have yet to publish a review on. The colorful, anime-style graphics were enticing, and after playing Curse of the Moon I couldn’t turn this one down. The sheer scale of the boss fights alone make it feel larger than life. The controls were very responsive as well, providing ample maneuvers to slay enemies in style. This Metroidvania is far from my favorite of all time, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a great time with it. While it may not be game of the year worthy, Bloodstained excels in more than one area of interest and I would love to see more games within this franchise. It holds the final slot in my top 5 if for no other reason than the steep challenge it presented. The difficulty common of games from the early 90’s has been lost in more modern titles, but if you’re searching for a 2D sidescroller in the style of old Castlevania games, look no further than Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.

4. Control

I was going back and forth on whether this game belongs at the number 4 position, wrestling with Bloodstained. Both games are incredible, but this one ends up winning out by a fraction. The gameplay was engaging, the story was fantastically weird, and the game was littered with atmospheric tension throughout. It was fun going back and completing all the sidequests long after the main story was completed, and the gameplay never became stale. This is in part due to the abilities you acquire in the game. You can levitate, create shields out of rubble, and just throw your enemies around like you’re on the dark side of the force. This may be controversial and will probably not make a lot of people’s top 5 lists, but it made mine. It would have scored better on the list if it wasn’t plagued with slow-down bugs every time you closed the menu and made for a blurry mess sometimes. For more information about the game and why I liked it so much, you can read my full review HERE.

3. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

I bought this game with the full intention of writing a review for it to be featured on this blog, however I simply never got around to it as life consumed my free time. The Impossible Lair took the characters from the first adventure and reworked the entire gameplay style. No longer is it a 3D collectathon, but a 2D platformer not unlike the Donkey Kong Country games. It plays out very much like those Super Nintendo titles while adding a fun and engaging hub world to tie all the levels together in a top-down adventure. It has quickly become one of my favorite platformers to grace the Xbox One in many years. If you haven’t already picked this game up, do it. You will not regret this purchase.

2. Monster Hunter: World (Iceborne)

While I acknowledge the newest iteration of Monster Hunter released in 2018, I still consider that Iceborne could very well be a game on its own. To view my full review of this expansion you can click HERE. This new DLC takes Monster Hunter: World and really ups the ante on what’s to be expected from Capcom and this franchise. With a whole new area to explore and many new monsters to hunt, this game resides at the very top of the iceberg. The added difficulty provides a greater experience for veteran hunters, and the prerequisite of having to beat the base game before jumping in assures that the player will be ready for it. While I understand it is not technically a game that was released this year, Iceborne adds enough new stuff to maintain a spot on this list. It is truly an incredible experience.

1. Resident Evil 2

I played the hell out of this game and my full review can be found HERE. This is one of the few games of 2019 that I actually got around to reviewing. The reason it holds the number 1 spot on my list is because of one key video game component. Atmosphere. Resident Evil 2 was spine-chilling, from it’s updated, realistic visuals, to its soundtrack, to Mr. X busting down doors; this is probably the most scared I have been while playing a video game. As I mentioned in my review, the constant pursuit from the Titan is incredibly scary, giving me a gut-wrenching feeling of terror whenever I heard his footsteps in the distance. This feeling never left me, only becoming tolerable as the game progressed. The gameplay is fantastic, the puzzles are fun, and the characters come to life (quite literally, after death) throughout this 8 hour battle with the undead. A nominee for Game of the Year, in my experience it’s deserving of that title.

So, that was my top 5 games of 2019. What do you guys think? I know there are a lot of great games omitted due to not having played every release this year, but from what I have played, I think the quality of each game is reflected above. What is your top 5 games of 2019? Agree with something on this list? Disagree with my horrible opinions? Let me know in the comment section below.

Sonic Forces Review

Probably the biggest disappointment to mascots across the globe is the trajectory Sonic the Hedgehog’s career has followed. Being one of the most iconic characters in video game history, to dishing out disappointment after disappointment in 3D games, Sonic has great potential that goes unrealized time and time again. The kicker is, I actually like the latest installment, appropriately titled Sonic Forces, as this one comes out in full force. While I experienced moments of unmitigated enjoyment, the game falls a little flat in some very important ways. I wanted so desperately to love this game, to see Sonic make a comeback in the video game world; however, it should not be approached with high hopes that will more than likely be dashed; rather, to go in with low expectations and be pleasantly surprised.

The game starts off in a predictable manner, Eggman hatches a plan, Sonic and friends oppose him, blah blah blah. The truth is, Sonic has never carried a strong story in almost all his games across the last 28 years. It’s been Sonic vs Robotnik in nearly all these games. Sure, new characters are often introduced, like Chaos, Shadow, etcetera; but they have always been allied with Eggman, and Sonic Forces continues this tradition. A new character, Infinite, is introduced and may very well be the strongest foe to fight the blue blur yet. Again, this new character is under the direct orders of Dr. Eggman. Nothing new here. The introduction shows Sonic being defeated by this new enemy. Jump several months later and there’s an all-out war between Eggman’s army and a resistance force led by Knuckles. Shortly after, you are recruited as the new rookie on the team. That’s right, YOU. Sonic Forces has, for the first time, allowed the player to customize his own character to be dropped into the game. Your custom character, along with the rest of the gang, attempt to take the world back from Eggman’s control. All in all, it’s a cookie cutter story that really doesn’t do much to enhance the gaming experience. In fact, most of the story is dealt outside of cutscenes, in little dialogue bubbles between characters. These conversations would have served the narrative way better if they had been part of cutscenes and it all seems lazily put together. There is something left to be desired in terms of narrative here. What it lacks in story is made up for in gameplay. After only 4 hours this is probably Sonic’s fastest adventure yet.

There are three different game variants that you are thrown into in separate stages. You can play as modern Sonic, boosting through enemies on what seems like a race track, flipping from 3D to 2D, reminiscent of the day stages in Sonic Unleashed. These levels are fast, most often allowing the player to boost through most of the action, with a few hazards sprinkled here and there. You can also play as your custom character in stages similar to the aforementioned gameplay. In this mode, you are given a weapon and wisp abilities you can use to navigate the stage, and depending on your weapon you are granted different passive and active effects. These were my least favorite segments of Sonic Forces as I found they were so similar to modern Sonic, without the insane speed. Lastly, classic Sonic has been shoehorned into the game with very little rhyme or reason. The only explanation that is given is that somehow, Infinite is messing with different dimensions. It very loosely fits together. However, I actually enjoyed these stages where I imagine most gamers will be turned off. The glaring issue is the game’s physics when controlling classic Sonic. Jumping seems a little floaty, and momentum works differently here than in previous Sonic games. I personally enjoyed these new changes; I felt the controls were fresh and unlike the mechanics I have seen before. It takes some getting used to, certainly, but if you give it a chance these physics may grow on you too.

I’ve always been a strong believer in the importance of level design, especially regarding Sonic games where the whole point is to get to the end in one fast and fluid motion. It can’t be easy to develop these stages knowing that it has to be long enough to appease players all while the character is travelling at the speed of sound. I actually think the devs did a good job here. The levels weren’t too long to bore me, and they were just short enough to leave me wanting more. While it is a common complaint that these levels may be too short, I don’t see how they could have done it any other way. What’s most important here is that fun is distributed in short bursts over a decent period of time. There are over 30 different stages (albeit some within the same locale) that keep the fast and furious playstyle from growing stale. And if that’s not enough, there is the added challenge of getting S rank and collecting all red rings in each stage. There is plenty here to enjoy and even go back to should you so wish.

I have never really been disappointed by music in Sonic games, in fact, Sonic Adventure 2 holds so much musical nostalgia for me that it is a contender for one of my favorite video game soundtracks. Somehow though, I don’t believe Sonic Forces appeals to me that much. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the music and sound effects immensely, but nothing has left a lasting impression on me. I can’t recall a single song that sticks in my head. Ultimately, an okay soundtrack is just that: okay.

Graphically, Sonic Forces does nothing wrong, with a colorful pallet that is visually pleasing, but it doesn’t do anything exceptional either. It’s very average compared to most other cartoony triple A titles. This is saying a lot considering I always felt Sonic pushed the envelope when it came to its graphical style. Even from the early Genesis years, the colors popped so much that it was one of the best looking games on that console. When I saw Sonic Unleashed for the first time my mind was blown. I wasn’t quite as shocked this time around, but that might be the fault of the graphical style itself. It’s hard to imagine the visuals being improved upon, and it may be the case that cartoony graphics such as these have plateaued. In comparison to other graphical styles, this cartoony aesthetic doesn’t bring anything that we haven’t seen before to the table. That being said, the colorful aesthetic is easy on the eyes at the very least.

While there may be no bigger disappointment than Sonic’s evolution, this title is solid enough as a standalone game to provide some enjoyment. While the idea is new, creating your own character to be thrown into the story is not as great as it sounds conceptually. In the end, it’s the fast-paced action within short snippets of levels that make this game hold up as a solid Sonic game. It does some things better than its predecessors but is far from recapturing the essence that made Sonic so fun when I was young. This game is very much average.

Sound: 3/5

Gameplay: 4/5

Story: 2/5

Graphics: 4/5

Replay Value: 4/5

Total: 17/25 or 68/100

Miles and Kilo Review

Nothing is stronger than the bond of a boy and his dog. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what I did when I picked up Miles & Kilo. An 8-bit 2D platformer featuring a boy and an adorable puppy, what’s not to love? I had so much fun with every well-timed jump, slide, and thrown fruit during my time with this game. Miles and Kilo prove that this genre is far from dead.

Miles & Kilo follows the story of a young man and a lovable dog as they become stranded on a mysterious archipelago. Due to the nefarious meddling of a ghastly specter, Miles’ plane crashes and a group of misfit monsters steal the parts to keep the duo landlocked. The protagonists are forced to give chase to these monsters so they can rebuild their plane and escape the dreaded island. With a plot that is easy to follow and a few quick-witted jokes, Miles & Kilo makes for an enjoyable experience that is fun for any age. It appeals to older gamers who like to reminisce about platformers of the late 80’s and 90’s, and younger gamers who will fall in love with the protagonists and fast paced action that is on display here.

The gameplay is a throwback to a simpler time. There are two buttons, jump and action. Jumping can be done at a variety of heights depending on how long the button is held for and is the key to getting through some of the trickier platforming sequences. The action button does anything from sliding under blocks, to throwing fruit or somersaulting into enemies. Although the control scheme is simple, mastering these techniques is essential for the later levels and can prove to be difficult. The protagonists will travel across beaches, over mountains, and even through a volcano, jumping on enemies and landing just right onto certain platforms.

There are a variety of enemies as every bird, frog, and spider on this island is after you. There are enough enemies to keep the game fresh throughout the entirety of the playthrough. The game strikes a great balance between levels chalked full of obstacles while not being too long or overcrowded. The levels are all about 30 seconds long and can be completed in a constant forward motion. Be warned though, there are no checkpoints, so if you die, you’re back to square one at the beginning of each level. I personally did not miss a checkpoint system, and with the levels being so brief, I think the game benefits from their exclusion. You are forced to memorize how to navigate the world and learn from your mistakes. While this does not exempt you from frustration, there is a great sense of relief when you finally complete a section you have been stuck on for a long time. It is that relief that makes each minute of this 2-hour long adventure worth it.

The music and graphics are what is expected from a late 80’s inspired platformer. The game features 8-bit sprites that look surprisingly good from afar. It is hard to objectively critique these aesthetic choices in 2019, because graphically this game can’t hold a candle to contemporary releases, but the developers were never aiming to compete in that respect, and that’s okay. Instead, this game has a very retro look and feel that plays at the nostalgic heart strings of any 80’s or 90’s kid. Even the music is reminiscent of old 8-bit adventures. While no melody is particularly memorable, they do evoke deeply buried memories of the somewhat catchy, somewhat annoying video game tunes of old. From both visual and audio standpoints, Miles & Kilo accomplishes what it sets out to do by throwing the gamer back in time. Why do I get the sudden urge to blow in a cartridge and hang video game cover art pin-ups along my bedroom walls?

Miles & Kilo, while only filling a couple of hours, has a shocking amount of replay value. There is a feature that ramps up the difficulty by constantly motioning the player forward which is perfect to enable on a second run. In addition to this, there are ranks dished out at the end of every level, encouraging gamers to go back and perfect the run. These perfectionist motivators are never over-imposing, and the consistent replays are actually a blast to engage in. Upon completion of the game for the first time, a time-attack mode is unlocked, exploring further ways to engage gamers to put in some overtime hours.

Ultimately, what this game boils down to is a lof of fun in an old-school package. I highly recommend it for every fan of 2D platformers or any gamer reminiscent of an age gone by. With a cute protagonist like Kilo, your local SPCA is praying you adopt this one, if for nothing else than to give this game a good home.

Sound: 3/5

Gameplay: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Graphics: 3/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 18/25, or 72/100