Two Point Studios made a name for itself when it came careening into the emergency ward with 2018’s Two Point Hospital. That game did incredibly well by recapturing sim fans’ love for the Theme Hospitals of old while injecting its own prescription dosage of charm with tongue-in-cheek humour and making things super-accessible for curious newcomers. Now comes Two Point Campus, a follow-up effort with an entirely new hook that puts players in the virtual shoes of an omnipotent university administrator with a goal of offering the finest and highest education that money can buy. And hopefully that’s a lot of money.
If you’ve played a management sim game in the vein of Theme Park or Planet Zoo or certainly Two Point Hospital, you’ll pretty much know the score here. It’s your job to take the bare bones of a functioning campus and grow it into something spectacular via careful management of your space, your staff, your incoming and outgoing funds and most importantly your students. Where this game differs from a lot of what’s out there is that last bit – the students. Rather than paying customers frequenting your park/zoo/hospital, these people are here for a good time and a long time. Retaining them, catering to their base needs and ensuring they have the support to score high marks is key to getting the best financial return and increasing the prestige of your school to attract even more new students.
It’s this new twist on the management sim formula that’s the most interesting and compelling part of Two Point Campus. On a surface level it’s all relatively simple and accessible but, as you’ll grow to learn throughout its dozen or so campaign levels that throw in all manner of unique twists, spinning the right plates at the right time takes a particularly humanistic approach. Yes, your campus needs to look good and you need to be turning a regular profit, but if you’re not properly taking care of your student body and campus faculty you’re going to wind up fighting an incredibly uphill battle. Creating spaces for people to live, to relax, to seek support and to socialise is just as important as creating ones to learn but as we all know full well there’s little money to be made in looking after people. So what you end up with is a very tight balance between your reputation, your results and your coffers, and it’s an intoxicating challenge if there ever was one.
The best place to start in Two Point Campus is in its campaign, which takes you across a spread of bespoke scenarios in which you’ll take over established or semi-established campuses with their own hurdles or idiosyncrasies to navigate. The first few are basic enough and mostly there to show you the ropes, but eventually you’ll be doing things like helping rebuild a copyright-skirting wizard school after it’s been attacked by an angry witch, trying to strike rich at an archaeological campus built amongst ancient ruins or selling your students’ souls to a creepy orb-obsessed cult at an arts school that otherwise doesn’t charge tuition fees. It’s a great mix that’ll see you spend at least 10-12 hours just bringing your campuses up to a one-star rating with plenty to do and improve beyond that.
Once you’re done with being gently told what to do in the campaign, you can also delve into the game’s Sandbox mode which comes complete with multiple ways to play. You’re able to fire up a standard-difficulty game on any map of your choosing, challenge yourself to a harder mode with fewer starting resources, customise your own difficulty or just go for broke in a creative mode with everything open and free for the taking. Thankfully there doesn’t seem to be any ties to your campaign progress in terms of which maps you have access to, you’ll just need to re-unlock any in-game items or research per map. As fun as the campaign is, Sandbox is a great way to give yourself room to really sink your teeth into the nitty-gritty of campus management without being semi-directed by level goals. There’s a lot to get into and tweak beneath the surface level so hardcore sim fans should get a lot out of the game in the long term.
If it wasn’t already obvious, part of Two Point Campus’ appeal is its tongue-in-cheek approach to its subject matter and general air of silliness. With course offerings like Knighthood, Virtual Normality and something called “Money Wangling” this is far from serious stuff, and the background noise of Two Point Radio serving up nonsense talkback and irreverent advertising further drives the point home. Best of all, the flippancy of its attitude towards any degree of success means that even the most dire situations you’ll find yourself in are routinely hilarious. Case in point, the time that I blew all of my reserve funds on decorating my campus before the school year (and thus, tuition income) had even started. That resulted in me falling so far behind that I wound up selling my school’s fancy fountain to pay for a start-of-the-year student party, which I used to keep everyone occupied while I quickly spent their fees on my unfinished lecture halls.
For all the good that Two Point Campus does I do have some reservations. For a wacky game about the joys of higher education there are relatively few antics to witness. Students from rival schools will occasionally “invade” your campus until your staff run them out, and your own flock are prone to the odd sweeping craze, but it’s all pretty tame. There’s also a notable lack of fanfare for anyone’s individual achievements bar a basic slideshow that plays after each school year.
More genuinely frustrating were a bunch of issues that plagued my time with the game on a PlayStation 5. The control layout itself is mostly okay, an achievement in itself given the very controller-unfriendly genre, but there are a few specific menus and situations where things become finicky or too easy to mess up – especially when building rooms. Worse than that were a host of bugs that brought the experience down, things like inputs not responding or menus getting stuck to the screen, and an especially annoying issue where items I placed would report their positions as invalid until I picked them up and set them down again in the exact same spot. Hopefully these things are ironed out either at launch or shortly after, though.
Two Point Campus is another excellent entry from Two Point Studios that showcases not only more of the team's penchant for humorous and accessible management sim gameplay but genuine love for the genre. With a new spin that makes for a distinctly new-feeling gameplay loop and moment-to-moment decision making there's something here for both hardcore sim fans and casual onlookers. Some missed opportunities and controller-specific issues aside, there's never been a better time to create a ton of student debt.