The tinny music begins, the isometric hospital outline pops up on screen. Your hospital doesn't have any rooms yet, let alone patients, but you need a reception desk. It's angular, purple. You place it by the sliding glass front doors of the hospital lobby, ready for the first people to file in. Now you'll need a receptionist, maybe a potted plant or two. Benches, of course - I like constructing two neat rows, back to back. And so it's on to hiring doctors, building a GP's Office and a Pharmacy, hiring a nurse to staff that. A handyman to water those plants. A vending machine. So begins every game of Theme Hospital - and so begins Two Point Hospital, as well.
Years ago, holidays belonged to my only true passion. Obviously, I'm talking about healthcare administration. Home from university, my sister and I had a very particular way of playing Theme Hospital. One of us would take the reins - an easy enough level, say Sleepy Hollow or another one of the early stages - and would build out the basic skeleton of a working organisation. We would employ excellent doctors and excellent nurses, and knock up a ward, a staff room, a toilet block. And then? Then we would step away and let the simulation run for a good long while without any more input from us. And when our careful negligence was done, we would hand control over, so that the new player could inherit an embattled shell of a thing: understaffed, underfunded, and utterly under-appreciated. How would they react?
There's a new comedy take on hospital management in the works - and no, it doesn't star Jeremy Hunt.
Two Point Hospital is very much a spiritual successor to Bullfrog's beloved 1997 classic Theme Hospital. There are cartoony wide-jawed characters, comedic ailments and, hopefully, an annoying voice over the PA system.
Remember Bloaty-Head Syndrome? Two Point Hospital has Light-Headedness, where your head is replaced by a lightbulb:
Theme Hospital holds a very special place in my heart - it's one of the first video games I remember playing with my father (apart from Pac Man on the 2600, but nobody could get near my mum's high score). When I found out Aoife had never tried her hand at being a virtual hospital administrator, I vowed to cure her terrible affliction.
UPDATE 21/1/15 1.35pm: In celebration of today's Origin freebie (and because H1Z1 is still down) Ian "Greetings" Higton will be live-streaming Theme Hospital tonight from 4pm GMT.