Galacticare Review: A Fun Space Simulator in the Bullfrog Tradition, with a Great Sense of Humor


The crazy space station management simulator Startopia and the crazy hospital simulator Theme Hospital are two of my favorite older games, so I was very cheerful with the concept of Galacticare, a crazy space station hospital management simulator. And you know what? It’s great! After the early teasers and previews, I thought it might turn into too quirky but hits its mark, has some really striking levels, and the bugs in earlier versions have been ironed out (as well as being able to manually spray little parasites that make their way into your hospital), I can see this becoming a game I’ll be returning to.

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Still, the reason it’s a good comfort game is that you can get the hang of building a good hospital around the second level and rarely have to deviate from it. There are times, especially in some of the less distinguished levels, when the game borders on monotonous. The story works difficult, but there are, by necessity, enormous sections where no one talks to you. The penalty for building a good hospital is sitting around and watching it run smoothly while you wait for the next story milestone to be reached.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though, and that’s not exactly what you’d expect from a doctor. In Galacticare, you’re the hospital director of the titular medical company, tasked with running hospitals as private contractors for various outside companies. You arrange rooms to meet various health and wellness needs, balance expenses with income, and try not to kill too many people. “I’m a private medical contractor?” I hear you shout. “Why could this never result in bad patient outcomes!” Well, thankfully, this is a video game, and in Galacticare, terrible risks to life and limb are simply part of the treatment, because in the grand tradition of Theme Hospital and others, machines and diseases are on a sliding scale of horror.

This feature is something Galacticare absolutely nails. For example, the Bone Lab is a giant machine that’s part dog, part football helmet, that grinds up broken bones and 3D-prints recent ones directly into the patient. Projectile medicine requires a long room, because it houses the machine that shoots medical ammo at patients. Also in for a nice pun is the Parasitology treatment room, where the treatment machine is a biomechanical hybrid of an octopus doctor, or doctopus, for removing parasites. Patients will appear with alien fears, tentacles coming out of their heads, covered in green goo, or looking like they’re made of lava. They’re all wonderfully animated, and it’s fun to sit and watch a recent treatment machine for a while when you first unlock it, or follow a recent type of alien patient around to see what it looks like when they sit down all weird and alien.

Image Source: Rock Paper Shotgun/Cult Games

An information screen about one of the alien species in Galacticare

The Galacticare treatment room where a clairvoyant space clam reads the patient's mind

Image Source: Rock Paper Shotgun/Cult Games

There are many different types of aliens, and they also have slightly different needs that you can consider when building your hospital, such as making sure the biodeck in Startopia has different types of plants to keep everyone cheerful. Tenki are tiny, cheerful creatures similar to capuchin monkeys in terms of engineering, so they love it when your rooms are upgraded with machines that augment the efficiency of your doctors or speed up their learning. My favorites are the Kouber Baly, which are a species of massive creature. They walk on their hands and employ their prehensile feet as, well, hands, and because they are larger than the average bear, they prefer to keep the hallways and rooms wide and the hospital crowded.

These kinds of considerations are a nice touch that comes into play when you’re planning your hospital. If there’s a level without Kuober Balls compared to one with a lot of them, the layouts will be very different. You can also make good employ of the teleportation pads and think about where you put your reception desks. In effect, you’re thinking like a city planner much more than you would in Theme Hospital or even Two Point Hospital. And that’s not even taking into account the traits of your doctors, which can range from good traits like not having to take as many breaks to really bad traits like embezzling or intentionally hurting patients.

Galacticare is very simple to analyze, despite all these variables, and it’s pretty simple to see when there’s a long line for a room, or see why you’re not lowering your hospital rating by four stars (it’s probably the seating or the range of vending machines, those are the massive things). Still, even with all the things that can happen, if you throw in at least two receptions and two diagnostic rooms early on, you won’t have many problems for a while. It’s a shame to press swift forward in Galacticare, because you’ll miss so many frigid animations, but it’s something you’ll be doing a ton of times.

Twiggy Pop Consultant Working at Galacticare
Image Source: Rock Paper Shotgun/Cult Games

It does a good job with the levels, though. Each story level has a great hook that plays with the space setting. One of the first levels has you treating acts at a sort of intergalactic Fyre Fest, then you have a giant (and I mean giant) vegetable-growing competition, and later you start a prison hospital where every patient and doctor is a clone of an evil scientist. Many of them have huge, evolving backdrops, as the festival moon explodes or your giant marrow gets bigger and bigger, floating in space next to your hospital, and they’re engaging and diversely delightful while offering different challenges. One of them takes place in a train station, for example, and it’s very narrow.

All of this is narrated by HEAL, your slightly grumpy AI computer assistant, and Medi, your valiant Medibot assistant, an avatar of the little robots that run around the hospital cleaning and repairing it, and both are really, really entertaining, but not in an intrusive way that’s annoying. It’s a tough thing to do, and I think Brightrock Games has done it incredibly well. I don’t think it’s going to appeal to anyone who doesn’t like the genre – in many ways it’s a love letter to games that have already passed, rather than reinventing the wheel – but it did do some very entertaining things. If these types of management games are your thing, then Galacticare will be a very good choice for your toast.

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

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