Two Point Campus Review
Study hard, party later
Theme Hospital was a unique management game in the late 90s, that may not have broken sales records but it earned itself a pseudo cult status with some fans. Through a healthy dose of nostalgia and a solid modernization, 2018's Two Point Hospital was a successful reimagining of the original game. The developers seem committed to the series, given they are named Two Point Studios; and it seems so does publisher SEGA, as they purchased them in 2019. The remake's successor is Two Point Campus, a newly released business sim that continues to use the same formula with a few tweaks. While it incorporates many lessons and improvements from Hospital, the foundation remains, which means fans will enjoy it but the game remains a bit easy and repetitive.
In fact, players of Hospital will find Two Point Campus to follow a very familiar structure. There's a campaign map, which lets you take on a number of different campus challenges where you will learn new mechanics and class types with each new level. Each level just needs one set of objectives to earn a star to mark it as complete and be able to move on, but players can save and return to their progress later to earn all three possible stars on each level. There are around 12 levels in total, and depending on how much you want to complete, it can easily take over 15 hours – though, much of that will be passive waiting (more on that later). Around halfway through the campaign levels you also unlock a free play mode, where you can choose your own objectives, difficulty, and locale. There's a decent amount of campaign content here.
Each level begins with a blank slate and a set of objectives to help guide your progress. Much like the previous game, players observe their campus from an isometric view, and can start placing rooms inside of the building(s). There are many different types of rooms: lecture halls, science labs, research and medical rooms, private tutoring, libraries, dorms, student/teacher lounges, and of course bathrooms. You'll only be able to build certain rooms initially, specifically when it comes to student instruction, as not to overwhelm the players. Each room has different requirements for its minimum size, and planning how to squeeze everything in the limited floor space continues to be part of the main challenge. The bigger the room, the more objects and students it can fit, and prevent delays and queues.
Inside the rooms, you have to place a few required items, such as desks or lab stations, but also worry about optional items that increase student learning and also improve the main room attributes – temperature, attractiveness, and hygiene. Much like in Hospital, you get a variety of room-specific items that are usually used for learning, and the optional/decorative items, that improve the other aspects. From windows to floor rugs, paintings, and posters, there's definitely opportunity to stuff the rooms full. In a way, just like its predecessor, this can feel soulless. At one point in the campaign, an objective asks you to raise the attractiveness of the campus to at least 75%. This just means you throw random items into the rooms to raise the artificial meter, without any sense of realistic style or how you actually want the rooms to look like.
Eventually, you'll have to buy adjacent plots of land and build up another wing of the campus, repeating the same processes. The sequel does carry over many of the post-launch improvements from the previous game, including things like an ability to easily move, duplicate, and even template rooms. That makes expanding – and building in future campaign levels – a much quicker process since you can just drop the prebuilt rooms with all their items into a new building/level. The controls remain accessible and easy, and placing objects inside the room gives you lots of flexibility with rotation. You can place misc items, from food vending machines to new student clubs, which provide bonuses for those who sign up, such as faster walking and more energy. You can also now build rooms outside, such as jousting arenas for the knights. Players unlock more decorative and in-room items by spending Kudosh, a special currency that you earn from doing well and completing objectives.
Once you feel ready, you can begin the academic year. A unique aspect to Campus is that the flow of time is structured around a calendar system. You can control time as usual, including pausing it, but there is a calendar which runs from summer to summer and many lectures and other events are scheduled. Time sort of pauses during the summer, as students leave and you can prepare for the next season. A certain number of students enroll at the start of the year, and if you're short of facilities, the game will help indicate that you are lacking lecture halls or instructors. The downside here is that your monthly income also stops during summer, which means if you’re short on cash, there's no choice but to sell something or take out a loan. This is also the time to either upgrade your existing courses, or add new ones to the campus, adjust the tuition costs, and so on. Once you feel the campus is ready, you can start a new academic year.
The calendar also means students will be at certain locations during certain times, and your teachers will need to be there too. Staff also have a schedule and so, for example, if you want them to go to training, you have to wait for their availability. There's not much that players need to worry about, as all of this is automatic. You have the ability to schedule events – such as competitions, or a student party – which need to just be slapped into an open spot on the calendar, so there's not much thought needed there either. These events cost money and can boost happiness, but otherwise do not involve the player. Students, like the patients of Hospital, are passive visitors. Sure, you can look at their experience in great detail, and see every detail about their life, but it matters little. The game doesn't require – nor would it be feasible – to get into the weeds of every student's individual experience. The best you can do is provide high quality facilities, and wish for the best. You get notifications if students are refusing to pay tuition or are about to fail, and you can choose to expel them. They can also drop out on their own of their experience is very poor.
Staff is something you have more direct control over. Just like in the previous game, you will have to manage the personnel on campus by hiring, training, and possibly firing them. There are three types of staff – instructors, assistants, and janitors. Each can have a variety of special skills – instructors can specialize in a specific course, and can also perhaps be great personal tutors, which allows them to be used in different types of rooms. Assistants are responsible for everything from operating a food stand to manning the library and medical room, and they again can have special skills that allow them to do more than one. Janitors roam the campus, keeping it clean, repairing items, and even fighting off intruders from rival campuses. You can manually assign staff to specific rooms where they are most efficient – an assistant with a high learning bonus shouldn't be serving hot dogs – but for the most part, it's just a matter of having enough bodies to handle all student needs.
The game maintains its whacky humor, so the courses on offer at the campus range from robotics, to clown school, knight school, cooking, wizardry, and so on. Not a whole lot changes mechanically between these – you just need to build different types of rooms and hire appropriate teachers – so it's more of an aesthetic change. And herein lies one of the downsides of Two Point Campus. It's a game that's very high on detail, letting you observe every single student and staff member, see their needs, and offer a variety of courses. But once you've got the base campus setup, there's not much to do except set the time to fast-forward and observe the school running. You never have to intervene at a low-level, and so you can complete the campaign without once looking at an individual student. Sure you can look at their state of mind, and manually send them to the nurse or for tutoring, but this is never necessary as they can do it on their own. And if they can't, you can just kick them out without any real penalty, same with firing staff. Finances are easily managed and understood, and you almost never have to take out a loan either.
It's a game that is easily played at a birds-eye view for its later stages, which makes it fairly dull. Sure, there are occasional objectives and inspectors that show up, but their demands are easily fulfilled by placing a specific item. There is no difficulty setting except in the free play mode, so beating the campaign and earning three stars on each level is more of an exercise in patience. Sometimes you just need to increase your campus level, which just means building it out enough over time. Other times you have to bring up student and staff happiness or campus attractiveness, which just means placing lots of items that help those stats. You build during summer to prepare for incoming students - versus nervously awaiting a wave of patients at the Hospital - which means you are always already prepared and there are no surprises with capacity.
Campus retains the look and feel of its predecessor, both in terms of UI and visual style. The NPCs continue to amusingly shuffle around the grounds, perform a variety of fun animations and interactions, and so on. There's not much detail to the characters or environments, but the color palette remains warm, as does the soundtrack. You still get the occasional random amusing (but eventually repetitive) announcements and quick commercials from radio hosts. The game also runs well and without any notable bugs or issues, aside from minor cases of someone getting stuck. Perhaps the only notable aspect is that there are a lot of loading screens – even just to go from the main menu to the campaign map.
Two Point Campus is a sequel that's both different enough not to warrant any reskin accusations, but also familiar enough that returning players will be instantly familiar with the formula. It carries with it many of the improvements that Hospital had, but at the same time its legacy of being easy and repetitive also sticks around. The new room templating, course management, and year-by-year calendar structure offer enough of a change of pace, but the late-game dullness of simply waiting for accomplishments to fulfill can get tedious. It's as charming and whimsical as before, and with an appropriate $40 asking price, despite a few caveats, it should appeal to players looking for a solidly put together management sim.