Galacticare review: a crazy space sim in the Bullfrog tradition, with a great sense of humor

Crazy space station management sim Startopia and crazy hospital sim Theme Hospital are two of my favorite older games, so I was really happy with the concept of Galacticare, a crazy space station hospital management sim. And you know what? It is awesome! From the first reveals and previews, I thought it might happen at wacky, but the tone is right, has some really standout levels, and bugs in previous builds have been squashed (much like you can manually splatter little parasites that enter your hospital). I can see this becoming a go-to comfort game for me.

That said, the reason it’s a good consolation game is that you can master a reliable formula for building a good hospital at about the second level, and rarely have to deviate from it. There are moments, especially in some of the less flashy levels, where this starts to get boring. The writing is hard work, but there are necessarily large stretches where no one talks to you. The punishment for building a good hospital is sitting and watching it run successfully while waiting for the next plot milestone.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself here, and that’s not really something you would want from a doctor. In Galacticare you are the hospital director of the titular medical company, tasked with running hospitals as private contractors for various alien corporations. You plop down rooms to meet various health and wellness needs, balance your expenses with your income, and try not to kill too many people. “I have a private healthcare contractor?” I hear you crying. “Why that could never result in bad outcomes for patients!”. Fortunately, this is a video game, and in Galactic the terrible risks to life and limb are just part of the treatment, because in the grand tradition of Theme Hospital et al., the machines and diseases are all on a sliding scale of terrifying.

This feature is something Galacticare does absolutely well. The Bone Lab, for example, is a huge machine that is part dog, part American Football helmet, that breaks down broken bones and 3D prints new bones directly into the patient. Projectile Medicine requires a long room because it contains a machine that fires medical ammunition at patients. Also a fun pun is the Parasitology treatment room, where the treatment machine is a biomechanical hybrid octopus doctor, or doctopus, to remove parasites. Patients will experience space horrors, with tentacles wriggling out of their heads, covered in green slime, or looking like they’re made of lava. They’re all beautifully animated, and it’s fun to spend a while looking at a new treatment machine when you first unlock it, or following a new type of alien patient to see what it looks like when they’re all weird and alien sit down. -j.

a zoomed out view of a hospital in Galacticare, with a giant plant in the background

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Cult Games

An info screen about one of the alien species in Galacticare

A treatment room in Galacticare where a psychic space shell reads the patient's thoughts

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Cult Games

There are also many different types of aliens, and they have slightly different needs that you can meet when building your hospital, similar to making sure the biodeck in Startopia has different types of plants to keep everyone happy. The Tenki are cheerful little guys who are similar in engineering to capuchin monkeys, so they like your rooms to be upgraded with machines that make your doctors more efficient or learn faster. My favorite are the Kouber Baly, the huge unit variety. They walk on their hands and use their prehensile paws just like, well, their hands, and because they are larger than the average bear, they prefer hallways and rooms to be wide and hospital congestion to be low.

These types of considerations are a nice wrinkle that comes up when planning your hospital. If there is a level without Kuober Baly, instead of a level where there are many, the layouts will be very different. You can also make good use of teleport mats and think about where you place your reception desks. Ultimately you actually think much more like an urban planner than in Theme Hospital or even Two Point Hospital. Not to mention the traits of your doctors, which can include good traits, like not needing as many breaks, or real bad traits, like embezzling or deliberately hurting patients.

Galacticare makes itself very easy to parse, despite all these variables, and it’s pretty easy to see when a room has a big queue, or to check why you’re not putting that fourth star on your hospital rating (it’s probably about seating or vending machines). machine coverage, those are biggies). But even with all the things that could be going on, if you set up at least two reception desks and two diagnostic rooms early on, you won’t run into many problems for a while. It’s a shame to fast forward through Galacticare because you miss so many fun animations, but it’s something you’ll end up doing a lot.

Consultant Twiggy Pop working at Galacticare

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Cult Games

The levels are going well. Each story level has a great hook that plays with the space setting. One time you’ll see acts handling some sort of intergalactic Fyre Fest, and then you’ll be competing in a gigantic (and I mean gigantic) vegetable growing competition, while later you’ll be starting a hospital within a prison where every patient and doctor is a clone. of an evil scientist. Many of these have a huge, evolving backdrop, as the festival moon explodes or your enormous marrow grows bigger and bigger, floating in space next to your hospital, and they’re captivating and alternately delightful, while offering different challenges. For example, one of them is located in a train station and is very narrow.

It’s all narrated by HEAL, your slightly grumpy AI computer helper, and Medi, the plucky sidekick Medibot, an avatar of the little robots that go around cleaning and repairing your hospital, and they’re both really, really funny, but not in a pushy way. that’s annoying. It’s hard to pull off, and I think Brightrock Games has done an extremely good job. I don’t think it’ll convert anyone who doesn’t like the genre – in many ways it’s a love letter to games that have already disappeared, rather than a reinvention of the wheel – but it did deliver some really fun stuff. If this kind of management game is your thing, then Galacticare will be a great fit for your toast.

This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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