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Galacticare Has Got That Old Bullfrog Spirit

In space, no one can hear you screen

A fantastic part of my existence at Aftermath is that, freed from the need to know about every single game coming out on every platform at all times, I can once again be surprised by something nice and unexpected. And nothing has been nicer or more unexpected this year than Galacticare.

I saw it pop up while browsing Steam the other night, and my first thought was "this looks neat". My second thought was "the algorithms have failed catastrophically if this is the first I'm hearing about this game". My third, a couple of hours later, was "this is neat".

Galacticare is a proud member of a particular type of subgenre that I don't think even has a name. It's a management game, yeah, but it's a very specific type of management game, one that anyone who has played Theme Hospital, Theme Park, Two Point Hospital or even Planet Zoo will be familiar with. Basically you're running a place, things are happening to people in that place, and it's your job to look after them by building things, hiring staff, responding to repeated crises and, most importantly, being amused by a distinctly British sense of humour.

That last one is key because "humour" and "strategy" don't often go together, which is why the 90s classics of developer Bullfrog, who made Theme Park and Theme Hospital, are still so revered within the subgenre (Bullfroglike?) they basically created: they're great management games, sure, but they also had a wonderfully dry and very British sense of humour that perfectly offset the mayhem and mismanagement going on around you. A succession of spiritual successors have never quite got that last and most crucial part right.

Galacticare does! And it plays a big part in making this such a great video game. Developed by Bright Rock--who made War for the Overworld, another "let's remake a classic Bullfrog game" project, only that one was Dungeon Keeper--Galacticare is a robust management game that puts you in charge of a sci-fi medical provider, whisking you around the galaxy for a number of themed "missions" where you open hospitals alongside music festivals, freight terminals, weird space farms and more.

A lot of what you do is to be expected: you open rooms to treat patients, you hire doctors to look after them, then as the game goes on you unlock more rooms to deal with weirder patients and an ever-increasing roster of maladies. Setting Galacticare apart from peers like Two Point Hospital is that these patients are multiple species of alien, and each one has different needs and desires, which makes creating the "perfect" hospital entirely dependent on who is coming through the door at any given time and who you've hired to staff your treatment facilities.

As a management game, it's pretty solid. At no point do you ever feel lost or lacking in any information; anything you would ever want to know about wait times, your budget, treatment types or staff details are only ever a click away, and the game's interface is crisp, clear and a breeze to navigate. Between visual indicators like thought bubbles over people's heads to indicate a particular shortcoming and constant dialogue with a supporting cast, Galacticare always makes you feel like you're fully in control, which I think is probably the most important thing a game like this--which is all about making decisions based on the tiniest variable--can make you feel.

What really elevates it, though, is that this is a genuinely funny video game, one that truly captures that old Bullfrog sense of humour. The writing here is wonderful, and the voice acting incredible, up to and including the inspired decision to cast Ben Kearns, aka the Matt Berry guy, though I should note that everyone here is brilliant, from your asshole AI assistant to the Pinocchio-esque HEAL to a corporate boss who--in keeping with the game's broader anti-capitalist stance--is more Silicon Valley than Alpha Centauri. I love them all, and as fun as Galacticare is to play, I would also just happily listen to them all talk to each other for hours.

Galacticare is out now on PC, Xbox and PS5.

Weirdly, I don't think anything in this trailer is that funny. The actual in-game stuff is much better!

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